UN Public Service Day: Using IT to Promote Transparency in Governance in Kyrgyzstan
The United Nations General Assembly recognizes that “democracy and successful governance are built on a competent civil service,” and that strong public institutions require talented and dedicated individuals working on innovations in governance. But the decision to work in the public sector can be a difficult one, even for the most dedicated professionals, in countries where government compensation is far lower than that in the private sector.
For this reason the UN recognizes June 23 as Public Service Day, “an occasion to celebrate the contributions of public servants and encourage young people to pursue careers in the public sector.”
To this end the Muskie fellowship offers the Careers for Alumni in Public Service (CAPS) Program to encourage the brightest young professionals to work in government or nonprofit institutions in their home countries. Through this competitive program, alumni apply to receive a small monthly stipend for up to six months while they serve the public.
Among the nearly fifty recipients of the CAPS award over the last five years, Omurbek Ibraev of Kyrgyzstan stands out as an innovative leader promoting effective use of technology in the public sector. In his work at Kyrgyzstan’s National Statistics Committee (NSC), Ibraev is coordinating a country-wide effort to promote open access to information through the digitization of local government statistics.
Although 65% percent of Kyrgyzstan’s citizens live in rural areas1, policy-makers and civil society organizations find it difficult to access statistics on rural populations, land use, and local government. In the established “household book” system, local governments gather statistical information and prepare a printed book to share selected highlights with federal government ministries.
Ibraev and his colleagues at the National Statistics Committee saw the need for an improved system to collect uniform local statistics and an opportunity to collaborate with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) to create that system. “The aggregate information that policy makers get from local municipalities is not good enough for proper policy making,” explained Ibraev. “Electronic data would help to see the whole picture at the level of rural settlements and make local government much more transparent.”
Ibraev contacted UNDP and worked with them to develop a new software module for local governments in Kyrgyzstan. Ibraev and the UNDP introduced the software, part of UNDP Aiyl software suite for local government, to stakeholders at a roundtable meeting in December of 2011.
Since December, Ibraev has trained government employees in 14 local municipalities to use the electronic household book software. Over the course of the next two years, he expects the electronic system for data collection to be used in all of Kyrgyzstan’s almost 450 rural municipalities.
Ibraev’s exposure to e-governance began when he was a Muskie public administration fellow studying at California State University in East Bay. His fellowship included an internship in Management Services at the East Bay Regional Park Division (EBRPD) in Oakland, California. Ibraev looks back on the position as a transformative experience, “It was amazing how each employee had access to a huge amount of information from his desk to make decisions quickly. The EBRPD posted on its website detailed information on how it spends public funds. The internship was an introduction to how one can put together IT tools and public service and benefit from it.”
In other countries, Muskies are reforming foster care and providing psychological services to children in need. IREX is grateful for public servants like Ibraev, who are initiating positive reform in their governments and will continue to highlight the important work of these individuals on whom communities and countries depend.
The Edmund S. Muskie Graduate Fellowship Program is administered by IREX and funded by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the U.S. Department of State. In 2012, the Muskie Program celebrates 20 years of productive partnerships with leaders of Central Asia and Eastern Europe. Find more stories here.