How Kazakhstan Is Making Public Services Inclusive and Sustainable

The digitalization of government services has helped improve efficiency and save time and cost. For example, all customs declarations had been prepared electronically since 2018. Photo credit: ADB.

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Published: 12 September 2022

Putting in place policies, systems, and infrastructure for e-government helped improve efficiency, transparency, and people’s access and participation.

Introduction

Digital government cuts distances and time to provide government services, making life better for all. 

Kazakhstan’s geography and low population density called for the transition to e-government to ensure the effective and sustainable delivery of public services to the people. The upper-middle-income country has a land area the size of western Europe and a population density that is one of the lowest globally.

Transitioning to e-government helped strengthen governance, increase transparency and accountability of government institutions, and ensure results-based delivery of services. It has benefited e-citizens in many ways:

  • It saves much time and mitigates COVID-19 pandemic risks.
  • It ensures better data integration and cohesiveness across various government databases, which eliminates errors and improves the quality of services;
  • It prevents corruption and abuse.
  • It makes services accessible worldwide in Kazakh, Russian, and English (partially).
Improved Public Service Delivery

Kazakhstan has received recognition for making public services more sustainable, inclusive, and equitable through e-government. Its ranking in the United Nations e-government development index (EGDI) rose to 29thplace in 2020 from 39th in 2018. The country ranked 6th in Asia and first among the Commonwealth of Independent States countries. 

Improvements were achieved as a result of the Digital Kazakhstan program, which targeted 100% of state services to be provided online. 

Figure 1: Kazakhstan's E-Government Development Index Rank

Source: UN E-Government Knowledgebase.

In terms of electronic participation (E-participation), Kazakhstan took 26th place in the UN's 2020 E-Government Survey, up 16 spots. The e-participation index shows the involvement of citizens in the decision-making process and the transparency and openness of the state's activities, which is in line with the "Listening state" policy of the country. 

Kazakhstan ranked third among Asian countries in the online services index and 11th in the overall ranking. It was first among Asian countries in the Government Open Data Index.

The UN survey noted that since 2018, all customs declarations in Kazakhstan had been prepared electronically, and a stable and high-speed internet connection has been provided for customs and border services. 

Figure 2: Kazakhstan's E-Participation Index Rank

Source: UN E-Government Knowledgebase.

Evolution of e-Government

The country’s e-government journey started on 9 December 1997 with the presidential decree on the “formation of a single information space in the Republic of Kazakhstan."

Figure 3: e-Government Development in Kazakhstan

Sources: eGov.kz and online.zakon.kz.

The e-government development required substantial political will and commitment from government agencies. 

Zerde National Infocommunication Holding (Zerde) was established in 2008 as a service integrator for implementing the Digital Kazakhstan program and as a competence center for all subjects related to digitalization. It managed e-government until 5 August 2022, when the government reassigned its functions to the Ministry of Digital Development, Innovation, and Aerospace Industry.  

State-owned National Information Technologies (NIT) is in charge of the internal perimeter of e-government, specifically technological and infrastructural development and support, while a state-owned corporation, Government for Citizens, manages the external perimeter, including the eGov.kz portal. Using Canada Service and Centrelink in Australia as models, Government for Citizens integrated all public services into a single system.  

The Open Government portal (open.gov.kz) began operating in 2016, contributing to the creation of a transparent and accountable state, empowering citizens to participate in public administration, reducing corruption, and using new technology to improve the efficiency of public administration. 

In 2019, a Smart Bridge platform was launched. It helps businesses integrate with eGov.kz through API (application programming interface), which enables two or more applications to work together.

In 2020, the eGov.kz introduced online registration of mortgage agreements using blockchain technology. In 2021, Freedom Finance Bank launched a digital mortgage, making it possible for Kazakhstan citizens to apply for a digital mortgage in one day.

The COVID-19 pandemic is one of the primary drivers of recent digitalization efforts of the government. According to Zerde, some notable initiatives are in health care, education, and government services. These include websites that raise public awareness and provide the latest information on the COVID-19 pandemic, online resources for distance learning, and online submission and tracking of applications for pandemic-related state financial aid.

The Next Phase: eGov 3.0

Starting in 2021, Kazakhstan’s e-government began transitioning to eGov 3.0 with additional services launched, information systems being further integrated, and the introduction of artificial intelligence within the framework of the Smart Bridge project. 

From February 2022, the government adopted the National Development Plan until 2025. To implement this plan, it developed the Concept for the Development of the Sphere of Digital Governance and the ICT Industry and the DigitEL (Digital Era Lifestyle) project. The main idea behind the concept is for digital transformation to make public administration effective at solving the needs of citizens. Policy decisions should be based on reliable data.

DigitEL has six directions: (1) provide government services in less than 5 minutes; (2) promote the growth of information technology (IT) businesses; (3) become a listening and effective government; (4) provide high-quality internet and ensure data security; (5) enable paperless transactions; and (6) deploy digital tools to improve social welfare.

Lessons from the Kazakhstan Experience

Some of the lessons learned in developing e-government in the country are:

  1. Establish legal and regulatory frameworks conducive to e-government platform operations.
  2. Use a multi-platform approach to target all groups of users, invest in government IT systems and data centers, and provide internet access for the population by expanding mobile and fiber-optic networks.
  3. Develop the institutional capacity of key government agencies involved in the design, development, and implementation of e-government services.,
  4. Put a face and story behind the e-government initiative and ensure that it benefits the whole of society, not only government agencies.
  5. Support a data and people-centric approach by capitalizing on open-source software and the local pool of talents.
  6. Pay attention to user stories and user interface and experience and teach users to use digital tools.
  7. Launch secure API and integrate e-government services through commercial apps.
Resources

United Nations. Department of Economic and Social Affairs. 2020. E-Government Survey 2020. New York.

Akmal Nartayev
Senior Financial Management Specialist, Procurement, Portfolio and Financial Management Department, Asian Development Bank

Akmal Nartayev joined ADB as a senior financial management specialist in 2017. He has been the financial management focal for ADB’s Central and West Asia projects since 2018. He has more than 20 years of work experience, including 12 years of professional experience in the Big Four auditing firms, providing advisory services in Almaty, London, Moscow, and Nur-Sultan offices.

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Zerde Holding

Zerde National Infocommunication Holding (Zerde)(link is external) was established by the Government of Kazakhstan in 2008 to promote the development of information and communication technology. It led the development of e-government in the country until 5 August 2022, when the government reassigned its functions to the Ministry of Digital Development, Innovation, and Aerospace Industry. 

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