July 29, 2011—Like many former Soviet Republics, Moldova is struggling with the legacy of a vast bureaucracy and corruption. However, the spread of technology – and the country’s proximity to the European Union (EU) – offers real opportunities for empowering citizens for economic and social growth.
Moldova’s Governance e-Tranformation (GeT) project is intended to modernize and improve public sector governance in Moldova, give citizens access to government documents and data for effective public use, improve the investment climate, and increase global competitiveness.
“Through improvements in the ICT infrastructure, the Government is striving to become a proactive player in building a better and less regulated environment,” said Vlad Filat, Prime Minister of Moldova.
The country is one of the first to benefit from the Bank’s e-Transform Initiative, part of the institution’s push for more open development worldwide. Last month, the Bank approved a $20 million credit to support the Moldovan project.
“Citizen’s participation and good governance are recognized today as must haves for economic success,” said World Bank Group President Robert Zoellick, before the 2011 World Bank and IMF Spring Meetings in Washington.
E-Government Empowers Citizens
Many nations around the world have turned to ICTs to support transformative policy. In South Africa and Mauritius, e-Government solutions have allowed municipalities to efficiently manage resources, streamline tax collection, and create a citizen-focused environment. In the United States, the mobile and web tool SeeClickFix allows citizens to report neighborhood issues to their local government representatives. The application provides government officials with a dashboard for tracking and managing reports, enabling them to directly interact with their constituents.
“eTransformation and the use of ICT is not a question of technology and hardware. It is much more about leadership commitment for institutional reform and for citizen-centric governance,” says Philippe Dongier, World Bank ICT sector manager.
The e-Transformation project aims to improve leadership capacity, create an enabling environment, and strengthen the management of ICT in the public sector. Making use of a modern service delivery platform, the Government will be able to improve access to public services and increase transparency.
Though Moldova reports steady 5.5% economic growth and a literacy rate of 98.3%, it remains one of the poorest and least urbanized nations in Eastern Europe: more than half of its 3.6 million people reside in the countryside.
As mobile penetration reaches 90 percent of the population, and Internet usage increases across the country, the Government of Moldova has made a commitment to using these communication channels for improved governance and citizen participation.
"We commend the Moldovan authorities for their leadership and foresight in embracing electronic government,” says Martin Raiser, World Bank Regional Director for Moldova, Ukraine and Belarus. “Our efforts will be targeted at delivering improvements in selected public services quickly, to bring the benefits of transparency and greater efficiency that can come with e-governance to the population early on in this long-term agenda."
Innovating for Open Governance
The Moldova GeT project includes features never implemented before in Bank-funded projects. The Government is supporting the launch of an open data agenda, the migration of e-Government services to cloud computing, and the participation of civil society in application development for public service delivery.
An e-Government Center, set up in August 2010, is charged with developing a digital transformation policy, a government IT strategy, and an open government data roadmap. In April 2011, Moldova became one of the first countries in the region to launch an open data portal; with 186 datasets and 30 more scheduled for release, the site already counts more than 14,600 downloads.
“The initiative is aimed at opening government data for citizens and improving governance and service delivery,” says Stela Mocan, executive director of the newly created e-Government Center of Moldova.
The ministries are under a directive to release three new datasets a month. Under the Bank supported “BOOST” project, the Ministry of Finance recently released a substantial resource – a spreadsheet of more than one million lines, detailing all public spending data from the past five years.
“Publishing information about public funds will increase transparency,” says Prime Minister Filat.
Through “cloud computing” infrastructure – in which applications and data are accessible from multiple network devices – the Government also expects significant savings in public sector IT expenditure.
To stimulate innovations from citizens, this year the Bank’s Civil Society Fund in Moldova – which provides grants to nongovernmental and civil society organizations – is supporting the development of five ICT applications that will increase transparency and social accountability.
One of these applications, developed by the National Environmental Center, is collecting and mapping information on pollution of water resources. In Moldova, where 80% of the rural population uses water from shallow, nitrate-polluted wells, the application can promote transparent environmental policy-making.
By 2016, at least one-quarter of citizens are expected to access public services online or through mobile devices, thanks to GeT-supported programs.
“We are determined to succeed in this journey,” says Stela Mocan.
The Moldovan Government's priorities for e-Transformation include:
- Implementation of a shared platform across government to reduce waste and duplication in multiple data centers, foster innovation and achieve greater agility in the design and delivery of public services;
- Transformation of government processes to increase public administration efficiency through the use of ICTs;
- Development of electronic services for citizens and businesses; and
- Adoption of an e-Governance regulatory framework according to international best practices, including opening government data to citizens and businesses.