The Ukrainian people have a low level of trust in the authorities of their country. The reasons for this distrust include the non-transparent way in which decisions are made, lack of accountability, rampant corruption, difficulty accessing information, and the poor quality of services provided by the authorities. Among other things, the long-term involvement of the SDC in Ukraine is designed to improve this situation and support the democratic reform of public institutions. The main phase of the "E-Governance for Accountability and Participation" project, which seeks to build greater trust in the Ukrainian authorities with the help of e-governance kicked off on 1 April 2015. Specifically, citizens will gain improved access to the services of the administration and be exposed to less corruption. These objectives will be pursued above all for segments of the population in need of protection, such as those who have been internally displaced.
The term "e-governance" has been defined in a number of different ways. Common to all definitions, however, is the notion of public services being provided on the basis of some form of electronic information and communication technology. This could mean that certain forms can be filled out and submitted directly on the website of a local authority, or even that citizens will be able to vote electronically in the future.
Four areas of focus
With its "E-Governance for Accountability and Participation" project, the SDC is focusing on four key areas, namely e-services, capacity-building, e-democracy and national dialogue:
- E-services are electronic public services that enable people to engage with the authorities more efficiently. They allow people to obtain certain services from the comfort of their home without having to visit the authorities in person.
- Training in e-governance is the main way to build the capacity of civil society organisations and public authority officials. This means developing specific certification and opportunities for different organisations and regions to exchange knowledge.
- E-democracy is a term that implies new, electronic tools to promote democracy and participation in political life. This might include broadcasting parliamentary debates on the internet or giving people direct access to the authorities using online petitions.
- Although the first stage is to establish e-services, e-democracy and e-governance primarily at the regional and local levels, the national dialogue on e-governance also aims to put in place the necessary parameters at the national level. The dialogue is designed in particular to take into account the concerns of the different regions and civil society.
Positive experiences with "transparent offices"
The first experiments with e-governance in Ukraine at a local level have been positive. “Transparent offices" were successfully introduced in Vinnytsia in 2010. These make use of various e-governance tools to provide public services. As a result waiting times have been reduced to 5-7 minutes compared with 23 minutes on average previously. In addition, surveys on customer satisfaction show that almost 60 percent of respondents consider the work of the offices to be fair and non-partisan.
The "E-Governance for Accountability and Participation" project is currently being implemented in four regions of Ukraine: Volyn in the west of the country, Vinnytsia in the centre, Odessa in the south, and Dnipropetrovsk in the east. Odessa and Dnipropetrovsk have both been affected by the recent conflicts in the Ukraine, and the regions have a high number of internally displaced persons. The main phase of the project runs from April 2015 to March 2019.