Only 10% of municipalities and cities have fully digitized procedures

The development of the eGovernment Portal and the corona virus pandemic have greatly popularized administrative procedures in a "click", but the full picture of the development of electronic services in Serbia is also provided by local data. Cities and municipalities have so far managed to digitize 20% of procedures within their jurisdiction, and when a small number of particularly successful local governments are excluded from the calculation, the average drops to only 5%. That is why it is not surprising that 95% of requests by citizens and businesses were submitted on paper or at the counter.

NALED’s new survey, conducted with the support of the European Union, within the Local eGovernment Index (LEI) project, confirmed that there is a great need for stronger support to cities and municipalities in the development of electronic services and protection of personal data, improvement of personnel capacities and infrastructure for electronic business.

- Only 14% of cities and municipalities strategically think about the development of electronic services, as seen by the fact that municipalities allocate only 40,000 euros per year on average for the development of eGovernment, and if we exclude the most successful ones, the average budget drops to 8,500 EUR. When these basic prerequisites for development are also absent, it is clear why we are in a situation where only 10% of cities and municipalities in Serbia have more than 90% of digitized procedures. The data from the research will help us rank local governments by the level of eGovernment development by the end of the summer, and the LEI index thus obtained will serve to promote best practice examples from the top of the list, but also to support those municipalities that recorded weaker results through training and the creation of a Best Practices Guide - says Željko Tomić, President of eGovernment Alliance in NALED and director of OSA.

According to him, the state of the infrastructure is such that the majority of the computers used to conduct procedures are between five and eight years old, while only a fifth of the municipalities have newer hardware. The security of the data stored in their databases is also questionable, since half of the cities and municipalities have licenses for all programs, and it is interesting that 14% do not have a license for any of the programs they use.

- Through research, we have identified security flaws in computer networks, which make them additionally vulnerable to hacker attacks. Only a dozen cities and municipalities have web presentations on a .gov domain, while slightly less than half employ only one IT expert, and 11% have none. When it comes to their ability to establish and maintain system security, two-thirds point out that none of their IT experts have received training on that topic in the past few years - says Tomić.

The availability of trained personnel is not satisfactory even when it comes to the officials who provide services. On average, 46 officials per local government are authorized to conduct procedures either on paper or electronically, but only one in four has undergone any type of training for electronic business.

There is room for improvement when it comes to encouraging the use of e-services and involving citizens in decision-making. First of all, none of the municipalities stimulate citizens to use electronic procedures by reducing the accompanying fees or charges. Also, 78% of cities and municipalities did not develop a special application for easier communication with citizens, but on the other hand, almost two-thirds made it possible to electronically ask questions to the mayor and submit requests for obtaining information of public importance.

- Unfortunately, most municipalities do not use data from electronic procedures for better decision-making, and 94% did not involve citizens in designing services, and the result is procedures that are not adapted to their needs and habits. That is why one of the goals of the project is to empower civil society organizations for active involvement in the development of eGovernment in their communities - concludes Tomić.

The LEI index, whose development was supported by the European Union, will be presented in the form of an interactive map of Serbia on the website, and this innovative tool will enable citizens to monitor the level of development of eGovernment in their local government at any time based on objective indicators, and decision makers to see where they are in relation to other cities and municipalities in the digitalization process and what they need to improve.

The development of LEI index was supported by the Ministry of Public Administration and Local Government, and the National Statistics Office, while the Regulatory Agency for Electronic Communications and Postal Services (RATEL), the Office for IT and eGovernment and the Republic Geodetic Institute participated in the research.

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