E-government - once a bold experiment and now an important tool for public sector transformation - has progressed to the point where it is now a force for effective governance and citizen participation, both at national and local levels.
According to the aforementioned survey the citizen's E-participation index value was ranked as 0,05. In the same category Georgia was ranked as 127 along with Afghanistan, Nepal, Burkina Faso, Chad, Madagascar, Mauritius and Comoros.
The United Nations E-Government Survey is recognized for providing a comprehensive assessment of national online services, telecommunication infrastructure and human capital.
In order to identify the online service index the websites of administrative bodies, in particular the national websites of the ministries of health, education, labor, social welfare and finance were surveyed.
The lowest ranking was given to the websites with insufficient information which appear less interactive and have user-unfriendly interface.
The website of the Office of the State Minister of Georgia for Diaspora Issues can be included in the list of the aforementioned websites. Even though the statute of the Ministry is available on the website instead of the Minister's biography a text of one of his speeches is found. The section titled Georgian Diasporas provides incomplete information on the Georgians residing abroad. According to the information posted on the website www.diaspora.gov.ge Victor Yushchenko is the president of the Ukraine and Yulia Tymoshenko - Prime Minister.
The FAQ section http://www.mes.gov.ge/content.php?lang=geo&id=103 on the website of the Ministry of Education and Science, never answered by the Ministry staff, is one of the bright examples of low level of interaction between the citizens and the government.
In order to find out how the ministries respond to the citizens' questions posed through E-mail Netgazeti decided to perform an experiment: we E-mailed questions to the addresses indicated on the websites of 15 ministries. Only two of them, in particular the Ministry of Energy of Georgia and the Ministry of Refugees responded.
The website of the Ministry of Finance of Georgia offers its users to pay various type of taxes, also provides online declarations and their activation through video call service which is available from10:00 to 19:00.
The websites providing the services of the kind are far more developed and interactive when offering users fast and high quality services. At the same time the Ministry of Finance which enables users to conduct economic activities in a simple way obliges citizens to show up at the Ministry and warns in advance that the answers to E-mailed questions have no legal force.
According to the UN E-Government survey the fourth transactive level of development is achievable through mutual relations between the government and the citizens. Administrative websites in the states of such level offer users 24/7 service to pay taxes, obtain and renew ID cards, birth certificates, passports, licenses.
The fifth level was considered by the UN researchers as the highest step of electronic democracy. At this level a horizontal relation is being established among state agencies and a vertical relation between local and central authorities. The citizens are involved not in the political processes only but in decision-making as well.
Until the end of the year the Center for Effective Governance System and Territorial Arrangement is to finish work and submit the project E-Government for Georgia: essence, importance, prospective and possibilities to the Parliament for approval. For the development of electronic democracy, according to the project, the technical equipment of state agencies as well as an active introduction of information technologies is needed.
Today there are administrative institutions in Georgia having no websites, or keeping them under constant construction. The website of the National Security Council http://www.nsc.gov.ge/ is under construction. The website http://moh.gov.ge/news.php of the Ministry of Labor, Health and Social Affairs is currently offline. According to the press service of the Ministry the website will be fully launched in eight weeks.
Sub-agencies of the Ministry of Finance in particular treasure and revenue services and general inspection; investigative department of the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources; military hospital, hydrographic service and the Military Scientific-Technical Center DELTA of the Ministry of Defense run no websites. Some of the sub-agencies of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia have no websites either.
Out of the local self-government bodies Samtskhe-Javakheti governor's administration and the municipalities of Aspindza, Adigeni and Ninotsminda of the same region have no websites. The Zugdidi Sakrebulo website is under reconstruction. In its Contact Us section the Guria regional administration website provides contact details of the youth council only.
According to Constantine Janjghava, legal consultant for the Institute for Development of Freedom of Information the administrative agencies are not obligated by the law to create official websites, it's up to their goodwill.
"Unfortunately there is no law to set the minimum amount of information to be published on the websites of the agencies," Constantine Janjghava said.
The Georgian National Communications Commission is the only state agency being prescribed, just partially, the information to be posted on the website.
According to Article 24 of the Law of Georgia on Electronic Communications "The Commission's decisions taken pursuant to the provisions of this Chapter concerning competition and analysis of the services market, except for the parts containing information on State and commercial secret or personal data, shall be published on the Internet, on the web-page of the Commission."
The websites of other state agencies are updated following the verbal agreement between PR service and different departments of the same agency.
Reporting to Netgazeti the representatives of the press services of the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development, the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said there is no internal regulation for the categories to be published on the agency websites.
According to Alexander Moistsrapishvili, head of the IT service of the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development there is no document in the Ministry to set the criteria of information to be posted on the website.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, according to the press center, has got no kind of normative act to select the information posted on the website.
The website was funded from the Ministry budget. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has got sub-agency websites, for envoys and ambassadors being independently updated.
"Neither sub-agencies have got any kind of legislation to set the website update process," the Ministry staff reported. It is noteworthy that most of the websites of the Georgian embassies abroad were last updated in 2009.
"The website, from informational point of view, is being updated by the PR service. The head of the service is responsible for the issue... Whatever we post on the website is absolutely correct and any citizen any time can trust it," said Tamar Aladashvili, of the press service the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources reporting to Netgazeti.
Incorrect or unverified information has never been posted on the website, Tamar Aladashvili pointed out.
The same cannot be applied to the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia: On September 29, 2010, at 18:00 hrs the Ministry, through its official website www.police.ge, disseminated information according to which Russian troops occupied additional territories in Niqozi, Ditsi and Arbo. http://netgazeti.ge/GE/27/News/2513/.
In half an hour the publication was removed from the website. At 21:00 hrs the information re-appeared again in http://netgazeti.ge/GE/27/News/2515/ a changed form. MIS reported that Russian troops carried out illegal demarcation works. The information was changed without any notification of the inaccuracy.
Netgazeti tried to contact the press center of the Ministry and Shota Utiashvili, head of the analytical department of MIA to find out who had directed the publication and amendment of the aforementioned piece of news on the MIA official website. Unfortunately our calls were rejected by the Ministry representatives.
According to Tamar Kordzaia of the Georgian Young Lawyers Association (GYLA) in the course of elaborating an anticorruption action plan GYLA requested the state agencies to be obligated to publish some kind of public information:
"We proposed to start work on legislative norms to set special criteria regarding the regular publication of information on the official websites, so that users were aware of what to expect on the website of the ministry. A particular minister shouldn't be making a decision on the type of information to be published," Tamar Kordzaia said.
To support E-governance a special department has been set up at the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development. The goal of the department is the determination and monitoring of the main directions of communications, post and ICT state policy and its corresponding legislative-normative base, definition of the short- mid- and long-term development strategy and priority issues for Communications, Post and ICT networks and applications; Elaboration, implementation and monitoring of corresponding projects, elaboration of Georgian E-governance concept, strategic plan and program for accomplishing efficient state governance, based on the development of Information Communication Technologies. Thus far no relevant legislative base has been elaborated, said Sophio Tvalavadze of the department reporting to Netgazeti.
According to Levan Avalishvili, Chairman of the board at the Institute for Development of Freedom of Information Georgian governmental websites mainly look like marketing type product rather than a mean for obtaining information.
Levan Avalishvili cited President's official website as an example of "marketing type website":
"The website mainly covers the achievements by the President. Whatever is being written in press about him. The information on the activities of the President is very scarce. The website doesn't include the contact information of the staff employed at the President's administration."
In line with the UN e-Government survey 2010 high-income countries enjoy the top rankings in the e-government development index. Among the top five countries in the 2010 United Nations E-Government Survey, the Republic of Korea received the highest score. The website of the president of Korea http://english.president.go.kr/main.php, unlike the website of its Georgian counterpart http://www.president.gov.ge/ doesn't offer its visitors either a video tour around Presidential office or a special section containing President's interviews published in foreign and local press. The website of President Lee Myung-Bak provides links to Youtube stream to view his speeches.
The E-government survey by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs was conducted in 2005 and 2008 too. In 2005 Georgia was ranked as 83, and in 2008 - as 90.
In the UN E-government survey 2005 a recently launched website of the Parliament of Georgia was focused on. For now the visitor to the website should be at least skilled in Mrgvlovani (the earliest alphabet) to successfully navigate on the website. Through the links provided on the website one can access different sections to get aware of legislations, biographies of Georgian MPs, resolutions. In this regard the website of the Parliament is among the second-level websites but if you are not skilled in Mrgvlovani script then you just need good luck to timely find the information needed.
There is another problem in relation to the websites of the Georgian state agencies: there is no sign or message indicating the officiality of the websites. In Western Europe the websites of state agencies are identified from their unofficial analogues through special signs.
"The fear for the creation of the analogues of the official websites is everywhere. Through the analogues of the kind the staff employed at the agency are lured away to find out passwords or the information to help hackers access the restricted database," said Constantine Janjghava.
In terms of E-government development, according to the 2010 United Nations e-Government Survey, only Armenia and Turkmenistan are lagging behind Georgia out of all post Soviet countries.