Award 4: Open government

Meet the winners!

Šiauliai County ‘Povilas Visinkis’ Public Library in Lithuania for their e-government training programme which is creating dialogue between citizens and officials.

Public Law Library ‘B. P. Hasdeu’ Municipal Library in Moldova for their new online legal database which provides free public access to decisions of the Chisinau Municipal Council.

Central Library 'M. L. Kropyvnytskyi ' and the Mykolaiv Centralized Library System for Adults in Ukraine, for their Citizen Service Centres which are promoting interaction between citizens and local government officials.


Šiauliai County ‘Povilas Visinkis’ Public Library, Lithuania

E-government training creates dialogue between citizens and officials

‘Such direct communication with the people is of great benefit to us. I had the opportunity to introduce the participants to e-services provided by Šiauliai County Police Headquarters. Sincere, direct communication encouraged people to ask questions boldly and to discuss a variety of issues. I am very pleased that these meetings are held in the library, because here people feel freer than in the police station.’ - Artūras Šliavas, representative, Šiauliai County Police.

The ‘Open Government in the Library’ service is building respect and encouraging direct communication between local government officials and citizens in Šiauliai County.

‘I had a great chance to meet government representatives directly and get answers to my questions. For example, I learned how to notify the police about criminal activity and how to complete an application for the Lithuania Republic passport. What I liked the most about the meeting is that I was able to get answers to my questions and feel free to talk to authorities.’ – Vladas Urmonas, 52, ‘Open Government in the Library’ trainee.

The service includes information and communication technology (ICT) training and e-government skills. Each course lasts a week. Every day a representative of a different government department is invited to introduce a particular government website and e-government service. Trainees are learning how to apply for identity documents, to register with the labour exchange and apply for jobs, to fill in income-tax forms and to report crime online.

‘The officer’s talk and advice from the Labour Exchange was very useful. Now I feel confident when addressing the authorities. I realized that the people working there really want to help. I also take pride in being able to use the computer and to use online services. For example, now I am going to renew my identity documents – so I will not need to stand in a queue – I will use the electronic service.’ - Angele, 46, who found a job after a training session with an official of the Labour Exchange.

Trainees are encouraged to give feedback to government representatives about their services, to share information about local problems, discuss solutions and to offer suggestions and ideas for improving e-government.

In just four months (2012/13), the service trained 50 citizens. ‘Benefits go beyond teaching people how to use computers and e-government services. Because talking and listening takes place, public servants are becoming more responsible for their decisions and actions, and the project is improving public service delivery,’ said Ms Ruta Zirgulyte, head of the library.

The library’s current partners include the State Tax Inspectorate, the State Social Insurance Fund, the Labour Exchange and Šiauliai County Police – but news about the success of the service has spread, and other government departments are quickly signing up, said Ms Zirgulyte.

The service was initiated after two key pieces of research. In 2011/12, the library surveyed library users about their ICT needs. The majority of people surveyed expressed a desire to learn to use e-government services and to meet government officials. Many also said they were reluctant to deal directly with government officials, because of long queues and – when they reached the desk – impatient responses from officials. A second survey, by the non-governmental organization Transparency International (2011), found that only 29% of Lithuanians had addressed the authorities directly with a specific question – and only about half had received positive responses.

The ‘Open Government in the Library’ service is working to overcome these challenges.

For further information about this innovative open government service, contact Ms Nijolė Prakapienė – n.prakapiene@savb.lt.

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Public Law Library, ‘B. P. Hasdeu’ Municipal Library, Moldova

Online database opens the door to municipal decisions

‘This project means more transparency and more access to public information.’ – Mr Dorin Chirtoaca, Mayor of Chisinau, speaking at the ceremony to launch the database.

The library’s open government service provides free access to thousands of municipal decisions and laws that regulate the lives and work of over 765,000 citizens of Chisinau, Moldova’s capital city.

Every year, the Mayor’s office and the Chisinau Municipal Council approve about 1,500 decisions. Some decisions were posted on the Chisinau City Hall website, but these only went back to 2001. The Municipal Council also publishes a random selection of decisions in the municipal newspaper. However, the complete legal record was not available to the public – and citizens were struggling to find information.

The Public Law Library (PLL) was established in 2001 with support from the Soros-Moldova Foundation and ‘B. P. Hasdeu’ Municipal Library, to provide free access to legal information to members of the legal profession and to the general public. By 2011, the library was already a well-known and trusted resource, serving 350 people a day.

More and more businesses and individuals were turning to the Public Law Library (PLL) for help in finding municipal documents.

Librarians decided to take the initiative in addressing the problem. In 2011 the PLL entered into a Partnership Agreement with the Municipal Council to digitize all decisions from 1991 to 2011, and to create a database with free public access.

This meant digitizing thousands of documents – a major logistical challenge. To ensure a smooth working relationship between the digitization team and the local authorities, the PLL signed a strict action plan with the Mayor of Chisinau. Two people from the PLL led content development, scanning and naming all documents and updating the database.

In October 2012, less than two years after the work began, the PLL launched its web-based database, providing unlimited access to legal documents issued by the Municipal Council. Librarians then began an intensive city-wide marketing campaign to publicize the service, including posters, flyers and leaflets.

‘I could not afford to find part of a local regulation. Then I heard from a neighbor that I could easily trace it through the Public Law Library. Now I have it!’ – Chisinau pensioner, Mr Vitalie Vitcovschi.

Their hard work has paid dividends. The user-friendly database, with clear and easy search strategies, and which makes documents available in PDF format, is attracting thousands of users. Between October 2012 and February 2013, the database recorded over 6,800 visitors and 23,000 page views.

‘Recently I was in a difficult situation. I needed urgently to find local legislation about land ownership and title. I was to get it from the database.‘ – Victor Ciobanu, businessman.

To deepen people’s interest in administration of the city, the PLL invites experts to give public lectures on issues like taxes, marriage, property laws and government decision-making processes. Librarians offer free courses in using search engines to find legal information on the internet and strategies for searching the new database. They have also familiarized 345 civil servants with the database.

‘I accessed the database to find the budget distribution of expenses for education in Chisinau city.’ – Viorica Negrei, representative of the General Directorate for Education, Youth and Sports, Chisinau.

The database is available directly at www.monitoruldechisinau.md, via a link on the City Hall website, and is also promoted through the city’s municipal library network of 31 branches.

For further information about this innovative open government service, contact Ms Mariana Harjevschi – mharjevschi@yahoo.com

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Central Library 'M. L. Kropyvnytskyi' and the
Mykolaiv Centralized Library System for Adults, Ukraine

Public libraries empowering citizens to interact with government

Eighteen Citizen Service Centres initiated by Central Library ‘M. L. Kropyvnytskyi’ in local libraries across the city of Mykolaiv in southern Ukraine are in high demand.

In just eight months since their launch in October 2012, over 2,100 people have visited the centres to use information and communication technology (ICT), to learn ICT skills, to interact with government officials and to access e-government services.

Citizens have asked the Mayor of Mykolaiv 124 questions online, and the Mayor has successfully resolved 32 problems. ‘This infrastructure supports implementation of electronic democracy in our city. The Citizen Service Centres are helping improve citizens’ access to information about services provided by national and local government institutions. The library’s e-government service is helping us to reduce bureaucracy and paperwork, and is empowering citizens. It is making the city government more transparent, understandable, accessible, and, most importantly, more effective.’ - Volodymyr Chaika, Mayor of Mykolaiv.

The Citizen Service Centres support local and national efforts to promote open government.

In 2010 Mykolaiv became the first city in Ukraine to launch a five-year open government strategy: ‘E-governance and e-democracy in Mykolaiv 2010-2015.’ Central Library ‘M. L. Kropyvnytskyi’ and the Centralized Library System for Adults (CLS) are formal partners in the city’s five-year strategy. Their first major contribution to the strategy was to create an open government web-portal in 2011 to encourage citizens’ interest in local government and interaction with the city authorities.

In 2011, Ukraine joined the international Open Government Partnership Initiative, committing to promote transparency, reduce corruption, increase citizen participation in policy development, and to use ICT to make government more efficient and accountable. Libraries joined in these efforts, through the ‘Public libraries - bridges to e-government’ initiative’.

In Mykolaiv, librarians were keen to address two major barriers to open government. Firstly, according to national government statistics, less than 45% of Ukrainians have access to the internet. Secondly, citizens do not understand open government, or know about e-government services and how they work.

The new Citizen Service Centres tackle these issues. The centres are located close to where people live, in branches of the CLS. The libraries are popular and trusted. Together, Central Library ‘M. L. Kropyvnytskyi’ and the CLS serve over 86,000 people a year – almost 20% of the city’s 500,000 inhabitants. Library users come from all sectors – workers, students, entrepreneurs and professionals. In addition, the libraries provide special ICT services for people with disability.

Each Citizen Service Centre offers free access to ICT and ICT training. A total of 53 librarians have been trained to build users’ understanding of the principles and practice of open government, and to guide them in using e-government services.

To establish the centres, the libraries drew on the support of several partners, who provided equipment, funding, training and technical support. Partnerships included the City Mayor and the Municipal Council; the International Renaissance Foundation and Mykolaiv City Development Fund; the Bibliomist libraries programme; the international NGO, PH International; the local META Fund, the National E-governance Centre and the Ukrainian Library Association.

Citizen Service Centres in action

The Mayor responds to villagers’ online appeal

Small Korenikha District, home to 1,600 people, is located on the right bank of the Southern Buh River which flows through Mykolaiv. The district is isolated – it takes 45 minutes to reach the city by bus, or just 15 minutes by boat. In the spring of 2012, the boat broke down and the government cancelled the service. Residents appealed to the library for help. Using the internet, they wrote to the Mayor, asking for the boat service to be restored. The Mayor quickly responded. A week later, the boat was repaired and the service was running normally again.

Thanks to the library ‘my little son has his own bed’

‘I have a small child with cerebral palsy. With the help of the library staff and using the library’s e-government internet service, I wrote a letter to the Mayor asking for help. I did not really believe I would succeed – and was surprised when one day I received a written response from the municipality. A month later, I received some financial support. Now, my little son has his own bed with a comfortable memory foam mattresses. Many thanks to staff of the library!– Tetyana Sadovnycha, aged 28.

 

 

 

For further information about this innovative open government service, contact Ms Liubov Variukhina – avaruhin@yandex.ru.

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