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Estonian e-government system to eliminate administrative hell in Ukraine’s civil service

Riho Kurg from Cybernetica AS, and leader of U-LEAD support programme EGOV4UKRAINE Mari Pedak handing over the documentation and the rights to use interoperability system based on Estonian X-road to the State Agency for e-Governance in Ukraine, represented by Deputy Director of the Agency Aleksey Vyskub. 26 October, Kyiv, Ukraine. Photograph:
Article by: Vsevolod Nekrasov
Translated by: Peter Koropey
Edited by: Yuri Zoria
One IT system is working to solve Ukraine’s problem of long lines for state services, to rid the country of “corridor” corruption and to reduce the number of state registries by two-thirds.

Ukraine has received an electronic system with the ability to fundamentally change life throughout the country. In Estonia, 98% of civil service is conducted through the internet, elections are held online and corruption has been eliminated from the sphere of civil service –thanks to this system.

 Результат пошуку зображень за запитом "trembita"A trembita is a long wooden horn and Ukrainian folk instrument. It was used in communication throughout the Carpathian Mountains. 

The Internet-newspaper Ukrainska Pravda spoke with the leaders who introduced this IT system to Ukraine.

The system is called X-Road, and it is an Estonian invention. Its chief value lies in that it secures the exchange of data between different electronic state registries in real time. The system has been introduced in this or other aspects in 60 countries across the globe.

Estonia delivered X-Road to the State Agency for Questions of Electronic Governance on 27 October. After an internet survey, the State Agency adopted a Ukrainian version of X-Road called “Trembita” on 2 November.

How Trembita will change life in Ukraine

“This system is the key to undertaking a global re-engineering of all the administrative processes of the country and, by default, the state. The system will become the chief instrument of reform in many spheres of life,” explained Oleksiy Vyskub, the Deputy Head of the State Agency for Questions of Electronic Governance.

“Today the state has thousands of administrative processes – these include the interaction of government agencies among themselves, interaction with citizens, interaction with businesses. Most of these processes are ineffective. They’re over-regulated, carried out on paper, and they require many resources and create inconveniences for citizens. The Trembita system will allow the old, ineffective processes to be renewed into superior services, all based on Information Technology.”

An example of re-engineering

“Earlier, to register for child-rearing assistance the family delivered a packet of documents to the Ministry of Social Policy. The packet contained the child’s birth certificate. The Ministry of Justice already possessed the data on the birth certificate. The Ministry of Social Policy should have received this data from the Ministry of Justice, rather than requiring a copy of the birth certificate from the citizens applying for aid,” Vyskub argued.

“But it has always been the other way around. This created difficulties for the citizens and led to abuse from employees at the Ministry of Social Policy. As an example, state employees were caught issuing enormous amounts of aid based on falsified birth certificates.

The introduction of online service for the registration of assistance for child-rearing has taken seven months. In specific territorial divisions of the Ministry of Social Policy which used this online system, the applicant only shows the number on the birth certificate. A request from the Ministry of Social Policy is automatically sent to the Ministry of Justice. The required information is instantly reviewed and on this basis assistance is disbursed.

Right now one can go online to register for assistance for children. The whole process takes one business day, instead of ten. The service has become significantly more convenient for citizens, and abusing the service is now impossible,” Oleksiy Vyskub stated.

Oleksiy Vyskub, Deputy Head of the State Agency for Questions of Electronic Governance. Photograph:
Oleksiy Vyskub, Deputy Head of the State Agency for Questions of Electronic Governance. Photograph:

98% of state services may be accessible online

“In Estonia X-Road has worked for 16 years. Today 98% of all state services are provided to citizens and business in an electronic format. But people are given a choice. They may also submit paper documents,” explained Mari Pedak, a Representative of the Estonian Academy of Electronic Governance, and leader of the international project EGOV4UKRAINE:

“Thanks to this system Estonia has become the first country in the world where internet elections take place. Citizens of Estonia may vote through the internet from anywhere in the world. Nearly 30% of our citizens take advantage of this service.

We thought that only young people were utilizing this service. But the opposite proved true. The older generation votes through the internet, because the youth are interested in coming to vote at polling places and seeing what goes on there.”

Mari Pedak, Leader of the International Project EGOV4UKRAINE and Representative of the Estonian Academy of Electronic Governance. Photograph:
Mari Pedak, Leader of the International Project EGOV4UKRAINE and Representative of the Estonian Academy of Electronic Governance. Photograph:

The system shows people: who received their data, when, and why?

“In Estonia, all my personal data can be found only in the registry of residence,” Pedak explained. “All state agencies are obligated to take my data from this registry alone. Only those who are fully authorized may receive this data. When someone takes my personal data from the registry, they leave a trail. If this person did not have the authority to review my personal data, he or she will be released from the civil service.

In 2015, an Estonian police officer with 12 years of experience in the civil service looked over someone’s personal data without the authority to do so. He was immediately fired,” Mari Pedak told.

NAZK is the National Agency on Corruption Prevention. NABU is the National Anticorruption Bureau of Ukraine. Both are government agencies charged with fighting corruption.

“When we began to work with electronic state registries, many government agencies began to turn to us,” Oleksiy Vyzkub recounted. “NAZK, NABU, and others said: ‘We need information from the registries, in order to examine income declarations.’

Their approach to using data went like this: we, the State Agency for Questions of Electronic Governance, brought them a physical disk with the electronic state registry, which they would copy. The Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) wanted to upload this data to their own Demographic Registry, so they could ‘analyze’ it. The MIA even resolved to implement special normative rules so they could do this.

We conducted numerous seminars in which we explained a specific point of the question. A request for information must be based on concrete fact, on the basis of authority. If a person turns to you for a subsidy, you have the right to request only certain information and only that which pertains to this person. This request is linked to a concrete matter, to the person’s concrete request for a subsidy.

Most importantly, this system specifies who requested information, when, and what information was received. The system does not gather information itself, it only specifies requests,” Vyskub explained.

In Ukraine, a citizen’s personal data is not protected

The Data Protection Inspectorate is a department of Estonian Law Enforcement.

“Ukraine has no system for protecting personal data,” Mari Pedak continued. “In Estonia, we have the Data Protection Inspectorate, which answers to the government. The Inspectorate has specific authority: its employees have the right to review all state agencies with the object of enforcing rules for the protection of personal data.

If personal data is already collected in a specific registry, state agencies do not have the right to demand that data from citizens. Neither do they have the right to create a registry with data which already exists in another registry. The Inspectorate keeps a vigilant watch against this,” Pedak stated.

There will be chaos in state registries until this law is passed

“For many long years our state registries duplicated data,” explained Oleksiy Vyskub. “For example, the Registry of Acts of Civil Status (birth, marriage, death) and the Demographic Registry duplicate about 80% of each others’ structure. What to do with these registries? Close off some of the required fields of data, which do not pertain to the competency of that government agency which maintains the registry.

How can this be done quickly? We tried to do this via legislation. We prepared draft legislation on the basis of a Lithuanian law. The draft legislation was introduced for debate in the parliamentary committee for business and citizenry.

Without this law, we will not bring order to the registries throughout the country. Now we are working on registries separately, but no one will prohibit government agencies from creating new registries. I, for instance, cannot go to the Central Election Commission and ask them, ‘Why do you need to collect this data?’

With this law, we can end the duplication of data. Today there is a registry with 40 fields of data, but it should only have 16 fields. For example, this specific field of data belongs in the Demographic Registry, and this one, to the Registry of Acts of Civil Status.

We expect that the completed legislation will be passed on to a group of parliamentary deputies by the end of fall, this year,” Vyskub predicted.

How much the system costs

“The acquisition and implementation of this system for the interaction of registries are funded by three donors: the European Union through the program U-LEAD, Sweden via the Swedish Bureau of International Development, and the government of Estonia through the Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs,” Mari Pedak stated.

“The Project is called EGOV4UKRAINE. It costs 1.5 million Euros. The donors finance the project within the framework of international technical assistance. This is not a loan.”

Rights, services, and the cost of maintenance

According to decision No. 606 of the Cabinet of Ministers, the right to a Ukrainian configuration of the X-Road system will belong to the State Agency for Questions of Electronic Governance,” explained Oleksiy Vyskub. “Our Agency will appoint a system administrator as if the administrator were the director of a state-owned company.

Our Agency has received an exclusive property license for the right to utilize the Trembita product on the territory of Ukraine for all government agencies. The license envisions the right for this system to grant external counterparties, for example, banks or businesses, requests for information, but not for commercial purposes.

Assessing the expense of maintaining this system has been difficult. Unlike classic corporations, the central component is minimal here. Right now I am not ready to name a concrete figure because costs are still being studied,” Vyskub said.

“Maintenance of the central component of X-Road is carried on by only three people within the entire Estonian government,” said Mari Pedak of the original Estonian system.

What it will do, and when

Decision No. 606 of the Cabinet of Ministers recognized 20 basic registries which will be interconnected. Now in agreement with all central government agencies, the government has determined on a new project. It will determine concrete terms which belong with each registry.

“We have 16 basic registries to work upon. We can effect much between them, because different services request different information. The peak, for us, will be in 2018, but towards the end of 2017 we expect to have made some of the registries ready for interaction,” Oleksiy Vyskub concluded.

List of state-prioritized electronic information resources for introduction of electronic interaction (decision No. 606)

  1. Unified State Registry of Legal Persons, Businesses and Civic Organizations
  2. State Registry of Property Rights for Immovable Property
  3. State Registry of Acts of Civil Status of Citizens
  4. Unified Registry of Attorneys
  5. State Registry of Movable Property
  6. State Land Cadastre
  7. Unified State Demographic Registry
  8. State Register of Taxpayers
  9. Registry of Taxpayers Categorized by Net Worth
  10. Unified State Registry of Individuals with a Right to Special Privileges
  11. State Electronic Information Resource of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, with Information Concerning Questions of Missing Passports
  12. Unified State Registry of the Ministry of Internal Affairs concerning Registered Means of Transport and their Owners
  13. State Registry of General Obligations of the State Social Insurance Provider
  14. State Registry of Voters
  15. Automated Information System of the State Treasury Service with Calculations of Payments and Expenditures of the Budget on All Levels
  16. Unified State Registry of Court Rulings
  17. Registry of Confiscated Drivers’ Licenses
  18. Unified Registry of Documents with Confer Rights to Establishment of Construction Work, Certification for the Use of Finished Constructions, for the Return to Construction, Conditions for Payment, Cancellation, and Annulment of referenced Documents
  19. Unified Registry of Objects of State Ownership
  20. Registry of Patents

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Translated by: Peter Koropey
Edited by: Yuri Zoria
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