Local eGovernment Applications - An Example from Romania - dot-ORG
In a context where decentralization is becoming so widespread worldwide, eGovernment applications at the local level are becoming critical in enhancing the efficiency and transparency of local governments.
Under the RITI-Access project, funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), dot-ORG has been implementing a number of eGovernment initiatives in local governments across Romania. This article focuses on one such initiative undertaken with the Giurgiu Local Council.
In March 2003, RITI-Access and the Giurgiu Local Council launched a Document Management and Tax Automation Systems (DMS & TAS) project. This project is part of the Giurgiu Integrated Informatics System initiative that seeks to develop information and communication technology (ICT) applications to increase the efficiency and transparency of the Local Council. The DMS/TAS project supports the RITI-Access key objective of implementing innovative eGovernment projects. Giurgiu City Hall needed to implement this project in order to strengthen the capacity of the Local Council and improve the services for the business environment and for the citizens by providing easy and quick access to public documents and information, implementing a highly developed infrastructure (computers, software, network, and Internet access), and providing computer trainings for the employees of the Local Council.
Going from Paper to Electronic Systems
In the past, the document management system was entirely paper-based. The registration office kept a log in which all documents were registered in handwritten form. Each department that needed a registration number for a document had to call the registration office by phone and reserve a number.
Local decisions issued by the Local Council were also only handled and archived on paper. In order to locate certain decisions, it was necessary to skim through the paper archive. This was a very time consuming task.
Documents transiting between different departments were handled on paper, or on occasions, on floppy disk. The few computers that were in the City Hall were not connected into a local network.
In order to schedule an appointment, people had to come to City Hall and submit their request at the registration office. At the Citizens Information Center (CIC), citizens had to fill in a request to access any information, and then they had to wait for an answer to be written on paper, as the CIC did not use any electronic system.
In the past, the bookkeeping of local taxes and fees was done using an old MSDOS software called VENIS, dating from the 1980s. This application had several disadvantages:
Using the new Document Management and Tax Automation Systems the Giurgiu City Hall is now open around the clock for businesses and citizens, providing efficient services. Documents are no longer handled on paper and taxes are collected with a new application that solved all the problems generated by the old system. The Giurgiu City Hall developed a portal that can be accessed at www.primaria-giurgiu.ro and provides FREE services for businesses and citizens, including:
The employees of Giurgiu City Hall received both ECDL (European Computer Driving License) training in order to familiarize themselves with computer basics and more specific training to use the document management and tax automation applications effectively.
In order to implement the Integrated Informatics System, Giurgiu City Hall purchased high performance computers, connected the three main buildings (City Hall, Tax Department and Public Domain Administration Department) into a secured network and provided high speed Internet access to any computer used by the City Hall employees.
On July 29, 2005 The Ministry of Communications and Information Technology and the Ministry of Administration and Interior joined the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) in officially launching the new Integrated Informatics System at a press conference hosted at the Giurgiu City Hall.
Giurgiu shows us that there is a difference between governance and bureaucracy, said Debra Mosel SDO Director of USAID. Giurgiu shows us that the better the governance, the lesser the bureaucracy.
The press conference has made Giurgiu project known in many municipalities. The local and national press published detailed articles about the systems implemented at Giurgiu City Hall.
The Giurgiu Project showed its first results in September 2004, at a conference organized by ANIAP (the Public Administration Informatics Systems Professional Association), focused on the Interoperability of the Informatics Systems. At this conference, the Giurgiu eGovernment pilot project received "The Debut of the Year Award", for implementing the Integrated Solution containing Document Management and Tax Automation Systems.
The results of the Giurgiu Project were also recognized at the annual conference organized by ANIAP in September 2005, when Giurgiu City Hall received the E-Administration award for transparency in relationship with citizens. This year the conference focused on Informatics Systems, the basis on Decision Making.
Through the Integrated Informatics System, Giurgiu City Hall implemented a highly developed infrastructure (computers, software, network, and Internet access), and increased the computer literacy for its employees. These achievements had a paramount importance in winning other competitions at the national level. In August 2004 Giurgiu City Hall won 3 competitions organized and financed by the Ministry of Education and Research: AMTRANS, INFOSOC and CALIST.
Based on these results, it is envisioned that the DMS/TAS project in Giurgiu will be replicated on a nationwide basis by other Local Councils.
The challenge in implementing innovative technologies is shifting from the old system to the new one and of paramount importance - changing the way government and citizens pay and process their taxes. RITI worked closely with the beneficiaries of the system, explaining the advantages of using innovative information technologies and assisting them in replacing the old tools.
The Project Partners learned that promotion is critical in having significant impacts. Survey results showed that the Local Partner must enhance its efforts to promote e-Services to the citizens and business environment and to find the means to advertise the municipal website so that it can be effectively used.
The Integrated Informatics System model (containing Document Management and Tax Automation Systems - DMS/TAS) teaches other local administrations how to effectively use and leverage technology. Also, the DMS/TAS improves access to information, stimulating demand for ICT.
Through the DMS/TAS project, most of the problems faced by the citizens and businesses accessing public information, and getting feedback from the City Hall were solved. At present, they have the ability to access public documents and information via Internet, this being available 24 hours a day, seven days a week from any computer with Internet access.
This project is the result of a collaborative effort between AED / dot-ORGs RITI-Access Project, the Giurgiu Local Council (local government), one of Romanias leading software firms, Sobis Solutions (selected through a public tender), and the Peace Corps. The Giurgiu Local Council contributed with a substantial cost share of over $220,000, consisting of new equipment: 33 new computers, 17 printers, and 5 scanners, as well as training and office space.
RITI-Access financed the implementation of the Integrated Informatics System project with $62,000, covering consultancy services, software applications, general and specific training, connectivity, outreach and promotion.