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Public Organiz Rev (2010) 10:3147

DOI 10.1007/s11115-009-0087-6

E-Government in Kazakhstan: Challenges and Its Role


to Development
Shahjahan H. Bhuiyan

Published online: 9 July 2009


# Springer Science + Business Media, LLC 2009

Abstract This paper critically examines the progress made in introducing and
implementing e-government programs and policies in Kazakhstan. It argues that in
order to achieve the articulated development goals, the Kazakh government has
moved toward e-government paradigm to ascertain a people-centered, accountable
and transparent government. Available data substantiates that the initiative faces
several challenges such as political support and relationship between political
institutions, bureaucracy and citizens, digital divide, widespread corruption, lack of
human resources, and inadequate infrastructural development, which needs to be
amputated to improve public service delivery. This study illustrates some
international development experiences to understand the benefit of e-government.
Such experiences may serve as policy guidelines to the successful implementation of
e-government to ensure overall development in Kazakhstan.
Keywords Development . E-government . Kazakhstan . Service delivery

Introduction
Electronic governance has been widely endorsed as a solution to a range of
predicaments in the public sector. With promises of decreasing corruption, cutting
red tape, reducing government costs, and fluctuating participatory governance, the egovernance revolution has swept most nations, capturing the imaginations of policy
makers and attracting the interests of citizens and business alike (Salem 2006).
Electronic government evolves swiftly through defined stages, beginning with a web
presence of public agencies (interaction) to a means for citizens around the clock
seven days a week in the convenience of their homes (transaction) (Netchaeva
2002). This essentially creates a new ground for public sector operation. The
S. H. Bhuiyan (*)
Department of Public Administration, Kazakhstan Institute of Management, Economics,
and Strategic Research (KIMEP), 4 Abai Avenue, Almaty 050010, Kazakhstan
e-mail: sbhuiyan_68@yahoo.com

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S.H. Bhuiyan

sequence of stages was depicted as inevitable, fueled by technology, citizen demand,


and economic realities in the public sector (Mayer-Schnberger and Lazer 2007).
The prime objective of any technological innovation is to improve the quality of
human condition. This cannot be achieved by technological advances alone. First
and foremost, they have to be successfully applied to human society. Such an
approach is significant for governance and public administration because of its
impact on a larger section of the society (Sharma 2002). To reap benefit of the
information and communication technology (ICT), international development
agencies are paying considerable attention to the gradual improvement of egovernment, particularly in developing countries.
The most recent United Nations Report entitled e-Government Survey 2008:
From e-Government to Connected Governance succinctly illustrates the importance
of e-governance: E-government can contribute significantly to the process of
transformation of the government towards a leaner, more cost-effective government.
It can facilitate communication and improve the coordination of authorities at
different tiers of government, within organizations and even at the departmental
level (UN 2008, p.xii). In the same vein, the 2001 Human Development Report
entitled Making New Technologies Work for Human Development, commissioned by
the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), clearly portrays the role of ICT
for development as it stated: [I]t is time for a new partnership between technology
and development. Human Development Report 2001 is intended as the manifesto for
that partnership (UNDP 2001, p. iii). Again, in the United Nations system, the
World Bank launched an e-government website, and in November 2002 its
Information for Development Program released The E-Government Handbook for
Developing Countries. Later on, the United Nations Conference on Trade and
Development convened the World Summit on the Information Society in Geneva in
December 2003, and in Tunis in November 2005. Outside the UN system, many
initiatives were launched. One was the Roadmap for E-Government in the
Developing World, released by the Pacific Council on International Policy in April
2002 (Holliday and Yep 2005, p.239).
Kazakhstan was a part of the USSR until its collapse in 1990. During the Soviet
regime, public documents were largely shelved as classified, and thus restricting
peoples access. Living with such cynic norms of governmental operation for years,
the Government of Kazakhstan (GoK), after independence in 1991, quickly realized
the need of a transparent and accountable government. In the midst of transitional
challenges, the Government has chosen the introduction of e-government for the
twin objectives of providing fast and quality access to public services and of
improving public services effectiveness through the widespread use of ICT in the
public sector (World Bank 2006). In order to measure how far e-government
initiatives have contributed to the improvement of relationships between politicians,
bureaucrats and citizens in post-independence Kazakhstan, this paper: (i) analyzes
the background to the introduction of e-government programs and policies; (ii)
describes the overall development of e-government; (iii) investigates the challenges
facing the implementation of e-government initiatives; and finally (iv) highlights its
contribution to development. In short, the main focus of this paper is to critically
examine the progress made so far in introducing and implementing e-government
programs and policies in Kazakhstan. This paper concludes by presenting a road

E-Government in Kazakhstan: Challenges and Its Role to Development

33

map showing how e-governance in Kazakhstan can be utilized as an instrument of


development.
In reality, Kazakhstan is in transition. Of the many transitions now going on, an
important one is the shift from closed to information society. Here lies the
significance of the present study, insofar as it analyzes how this shift is being
negotiated in a crucial area of development, the public sector. There is much to gain
from a critical assessment of the success of e-government initiatives have so far
attained in post-independence Kazakhstan, as it sheds light on the challenges it is
confronted with at present, which in turn helps to identify some of the ways as to
how they can effectively be overcome. The existing scholarship on e-government in
Kazakhstan is less than satisfactory. This paper is intended to make a contribution to
the steadily emerging area of study focused on e-government in a local as well as
global context.
Methodology
This paper is based primarily on secondary sources. Three sources in particular have
been explored and analyzed: first, published academic journal and newspaper
articles on e-government; second, reports published by the international organizations; and finally, review of websites of both public and private agencies in
Kazakhstan and elsewhere. The latter contributes to our understanding regarding the
contents and services they provide to citizens.

What is E-government?
E-government was introduced in the field of public administration in the late 1990s,
though it has not been clearly defined and understood by scholars and practitioners
of public administration (Moon 2002). The term e-government arises by analogy to
the concepts and practices of electronic commerce applied to the public sector,
referring to the delivery of government services to the public on-line (typically
over the Internet) or to the technological infrastructure required to deliver those
services (Brown 2005, p.242). E-government denotes the strategic, coordinated use
of ICT in public administration and policy decision-making (Haldenwang 2004).
Similarly, by e-government, Tandon (2005) refers to the provision of efficient,
convenient and transparent services by government departments and agencies to
citizens and businesses.
The Global study of E-government, a joint research initiative for global egovernment by the United Nations (UN) and the American Society for Public
Administration (ASPA), provides a comprehensive definition of e-government:
Broadly defined, e-government includes the use of all information and
communication technologies, from fax machines to wireless palm pilots, to
facilitate the daily administration of government. However, like e-commerce,
the popular interpretation of e-government is one that defines it exclusively as
an Internet driven activityto which it may be added that improves citizen
access to government information, services and expertise to ensure citizen

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S.H. Bhuiyan

participation in, and satisfaction with the government processit is permanent


commitment by government to improving the relationship between private
citizen and the public through enhanced, cost-effective and efficient delivery of
services, information and knowledge. It is the practical realization of the best
that government has to offer. (UN and ASPA 2002, p.1)
According to World Bank, e-government means to governmental use of information
technologies (such as Wide Area Networks, the Internet, and mobile computing) that
have ability to transform relations with citizens, businesses, and other agencies of
government (cited in Sharma 2002, p.607). The World Bank definition indicates the
areas of operation of the concept and also lays down the broad benefits accruing out of
this utilization of ICT to the field of governance, namely, to promote citizen
empowerment, improve service delivery, strengthen accountability, increase transparency, or improve government efficiency (cited in Tandon 2005, p.3).
This paper takes a wider view of e-government by adopting the application of
ICT tools to the improvement of governance through building public-private
partnership to achieve development. In this article, e-government and egovernance, despite their subtle conceptual differences, are interchangeably used.

Kazakhstan: context
The Republic of Kazakhstan is located in Central Asia bounded in the West by the
Caspian Sea, in the North by Russia, in the East by China, and in the South by
Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan (see Box 1 for summary information). Extending over a
territory of 2,725,000 square kilometer (Makhmutova 2001), it is the second largest
country of the former Soviet Republics with a population of 15.48 million in 2007
(World Bank 2008), of whom 4.5 million are ethnic Russians (Wilson et al. 2002),
and population density 5.7 per square kilometer (Agency of Statistics of Kazakhstan
website: www.eng.stat.kz).
Kazakhstan continues to negotiate the enormous challenges inherent in any
transition from a planned to a market economy and, in the last decade, has
experienced plummeting production levels (Wilson et al. 2002) and two-digit (now
11%) inflation continues to grow. In recent days, Kazakhstan makes considerable
progress in almost all aspects of life. Although, critics expressed concern about the
limit of the countrys democratic development and the lack of its commitment to
hold free and fair elections. For example, the most recent Presidential elections were
held in December 2005 when President Nazarbayev won a third term with more than
90% of the vote. The elections gained negative commentary from the Organization
for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which claimed they had not met
international standard, citing campaign restrictions, interference in polling stations,
multiple voting, pressure on voters, media bias and restriction on freedom of
expression (Keesing 2005 cited in Knox 2008, p.478). In the same vein, in 2001,
another scholar also observed: It is as yet too early to herald the dawn of real
democracy in Kazakhstan (Robinson 2001).
Kazakhstans economy has gone through stages of decline, stagnation, and high
economic growth after independence in 1990. The period from 1990 to 1997 was the

E-Government in Kazakhstan: Challenges and Its Role to Development

35

period of negative economic growth, or at best stagnation (in 19951997, economic


growth was close to zero) due to transformation in economic arrangements. It was
only from 1998 that Kazakhstan entered the phase of strong and sustained growth
(Agarwal 2008). In the first nine months of 2007, Kazakhstans GDP grew by 9.7%
(ESCAP, 2008). In 2007, GDP per capita was US$ 7,857 (UNDP 2007). However,
GDP growth is projected to fall to 5% in 2008, and a modest increase to 6.3% is
penciled in for 2009 (ADB 2008).
Over the period 19982004, the population living below the poverty line in
Kazakhstan declined significantly from 39% in 1998, to 20% in 2004 (Agarwal
2008). The measures being taken by GoK to raise the living standards of the
population have cut poverty levels by 1.7% in 2006 by comparison with 2005 (to
18.2%), and the figures for 2007 indicate that poverty levels have fallen to 12.7%
(UNESC 2008).
The long-term development strategy Kazakhstan 2030: Prosperity, security and
improved living standards for all Kazakhs was adopted in 1997. It identified seven
priorities for the countrys development: (i) National security, (ii) domestic stability
and social cohesion, (iii) economic growth, (iv) health, education and welfare for the
citizens of Kazakhstan, (v) energy resources, (vi) infrastructure, transport and
communications, and (vii) a professional state. Since 1998 all the programs adopted
in the country are being developed in accordance with the noted development
strategy of the country, which aimed at improving the quality of life for the
population by reducing social exclusion and raising the quality of social services,
improving the environment, and involving civil society in development (UNESC
2008, p.6).
Box 1: Kazakhstan: summary information
Head of State

President Nursultan Nazarbayev, first elected in


December 1991 and re-elected in 1999 and 2005.

National Legislature

Bicameral: 77-seat lower house (Majlis), 39-seat


upper house (Senate).

Language

Kazakh is the state language. Russian is most


widely spoken.

Currency

Tenge

Exchange rate

2007 average US$ 1 120 Tenge

Unemployment rate

8.8 (2003)

Adult literacy rate (% ages


15 and older)

99.5 (2005)

Life expectancy at birth


(both genders)

65.9 years (2005)

GDP

104 billion US$

Internet users (per 100 people)

12

Time required to start a business (days)

21

Sources: Agarwal 2008; UNDP 2007; Wilson et al. 2002; World Bank 2008.
The development initiatives of GoK have contributed to improving human
development index (HDI). In 2007/8, the HDI for Kazakhstan is 0.794, which gives
the country a rank of 73rd out of 177 countries (UNDP 2007). In the contrary, the

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S.H. Bhuiyan

ongoing mammoth development activities also encouraged, it would seem, widespread


corruption in the country. As a result, during the years, Kazakhstan consistently gained
poor corruption perception index (CPI). A 2008 Global Country Report on the state of
corruption launched by the Transparency International ranks the country 145th among
180 countries with a CPI 2.2 (Transparency International 2008).
Admittedly, the backdrop painted a landscape that suggests the critical importance
of implementation of e-government scheme in Kazakhstan with an aim to quick and
quality access to public services, improving its effectiveness, combating corruption,
poverty reduction through income generation, and thus building a breeding ground
for development.

The state of E-government in Kazakhstan


Overall situation: benchmarking
Kazakhstan has envisioned joining 50 most competitive countries in the world by
2030. In achieving this goal, ICT plays a critical role by readying the country for
entry into the forum of competitive world. In doing so, Kazakhstans accomplishments in fostering e-government include (World Bank 2006):
&
&
&
&
&

Recognition of e-government as a priority at the highest political level and the


elaboration of an e-government strategy;
Establishment of the Agency for Informatization and Communications (AIC) as
an independent regulatory authority empowered to implement state ICT policy;
Creation of government agency Web sites (32 out of 42 government agencies
have their own Web sites);
Development of a number of corporate networks and databases (e.g., integrated
taxation, customs, pension information systems) by individual government
agencies; and
Enacting important legislations such as the laws on e-documents and esignatures.

Kazakhstan has made substantial progress in introducing ICT in public sector. In


terms of e-readiness, the United Nations Report on the e-Governance Survey 2008
recognizes Kazakhstan as the leader of Central Asia, while the region has regressed
the most since the 2005 survey. This global survey report has ranked the country 81
among 189 countries with an index value 0.4743 as compared with 65 among 179 in
2005 (UN 2008, pp.3132). Table 1 shows e-government readiness in Central Asian
countries.
The table indicates that the countries in the region had a lower e-government
readiness index than in 2005. In spite of governments efforts, Kazakhstan slips from
its 2005 position partly because 2008s Survey had more focus on the interactive and
transactional stages which largely remain unachievable, and thus the scores were
lower (UN 2008). Another potential reason is its weak telecommunications facility.
A 2004 International Telecommunication Union (ITU) data shows that effective
teledensity in the country was quite low, 16.23 (ITU 2004). However, this number
continues to improve. In 2000, the main telephone lines per 100 people were 12.3

E-Government in Kazakhstan: Challenges and Its Role to Development

37

Table 1 E-government readiness for Central Asia


Country

2008 Index

2005 Index

2008 Ranking

2005 Ranking

Kazakhstan

0.4743

Kyrgyzstan

0.4195

0.4813

81

65

0.4417

102

Uzbekistan

0.4057

76

0.4114

109

Turkmenistan

0.3262

79

128

Tajikistan

0.3150

0.3346

Region

0.3881

0.4173

132

117

World

0.4514

0.4267

Source: UN 2008, p.32

which increased to 19.1 in 2006, while in the same period mobile cellular subscriber
increased from 1.3 to 51.2 (World Bank 2006). The e-Government Survey 2008 data
shows that both mainline telephone and cellular user further increased to 19.77 and
52.86 respectively (UN 2008).
E-government program objectives and implementation
Kazakhstans e-government program incorporates a three-stage approach (World
Bank 2006):
&

&
&

1st stage: creation of the basic components of e-government infrastructure, such


as the governmental portal, a payment gateway providing a linkage with the
banking system, national identification system, government-wide ICT network
backbone infrastructure, creation of cross-agency information systems, provision
of mainly informational and transactional e-government services, promoting
Internet use among the citizens and bridging the digital divide.
2nd stage: expansion of the scope and depth of e-government services
(predominantly of transactional nature) and comprehensive ICT-enabled reengineering of government administrative procedures.
3rd stage: ICT-based transformation of government agencies operation, building
a fully-fledged information society, provision of e-health, e-education, e-culture,
e-democracy and other services.

Some tasks related to the first stage were implemented in 2006. On the April 12,
2006, e-government web-portal (www.e.gov.kz) was launched which provides more
than 900 information services (egov magazine 2007). This portal is tri-lingual:
Kazakh, Russian and English. Laws On Informatization and On Amending
Certain Legal acts of the Republic of Kazakhstan in the Sphere of Informatization
were developed and enacted. Interagency electronic workflow with digital signature
has been implemented in 39 state bodies. A pilot model of National Authentication
Center for physical and legal entities has been developed, and a pilot project on
integrated transportation medium of state bodies has been implemented in Astana,
the capital of Kazakhstan. In an interview with the egov magazine in July 2007,
Kuanishbek Esekeev, the Chairman of AIC, reported that GoK had implemented, on

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an experimental basis, government databases on Physical Bodies and Legal


Entities, in six oblasts (regions). Moreover, 15 interactive services such as land
register and address register software were developed and tested in pilot zones:
Citizens Service Centers (CSC) of Almatinskiy and Saryarkinskiy regions, Astana
(egov magazine 2007).
To connect citizens with the web, till 2006, 460 public access points kicked off.
Eleven classrooms for providing computer literacy were opened in several regions as
a part of capacity development of public sector employees, where more than 1,500
civil servants have been trained (egov magazine 2007).
In 1997, a state program was adopted to incorporate information technology (IT)
into the general education system, so as to create IT network within the international
education space. In 2007, the provision of computers to schools had reached one
computer for every 21 pupils compared with one for every 62 in 2001 (UNESC
2008, p.15). Besides, online instruction has been introduced into the teaching
process, comparing a set of five subject schemas, and work has been progressing to
connect the education system to the Internet (UNESC 2008).
The AIC is currently working to develop interactive services delivery through
national e-government portal. In recent days, the Agency has been successful to
deliver limited e-services. For example, it is possible to submit tax statements to the
authorities as well as to clear mutual payments with the state budget through
electronic channels in real time using digital signatures, which distinguishes
Kazakhstan from other CIS countries (World Bank 2006, p.10). In March 2006, a
service has been launched, which enables citizens to submit applications to five
ministries (e.g., Ministry of Economic Affairs and Budget Planning) and get an
answer to his or her question in 3 to 5 working days. Almost all Akimats (city
government) and ministries opened their virtual reception rooms. Visitors can
download reference-document; get acquainted with legal base and search addresses
of various offices (AIC website: www.aic.gov.kz).
Future plans
The transactional phase of e-government development will allow citizens to pay for
using public services via governmental portal. AIC is in the process to implement a
payment scheme based on existing electronic transactional (payment) system of
second-tier banks. GoK is committed to build a transparent information society that
presupposes gradual increase of the portal users in number. It means this will
eventually transfer public services delivery only in electronic form. As a move to
this, AIC plans to provide 900 different kinds of services that are to be exhibited on
the portal in 2009 (egov magazine 2007).

The challenges
In 2005, the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs has
estimated that more than 60% of e-government projects in developing countries fail
(Salem 2006). Likewise, Kazakhstan confronts with multifaceted challenges to the
introduction of e-government, and some of them are described here.

E-Government in Kazakhstan: Challenges and Its Role to Development

39

Political support and relationship between political institutions, bureaucracy


and citizens
Kazakhstan e-government program receives strong support from the President and
his office. AIC has been given a mandate to coordinate and lead the effort (World
Bank 2006). But problem arises due to the governments tendency to monopolize
political power (Perlman and Gleason 2007), dodging the established norms of
multi-party politics. As a consequence, in the August 2007 elections, the Presidents
political party Nur Otan (father land) received 88.41% of vote and captured all
seats, and thus became the only party in the parliament when none of the parties
were able to meet 7% threshold required to obtain parliamentary seats (Bakenova
2008, p.94; Iqbal 2007). It is corroborated that political elitism is compounded by
the fact that Kazakh opposition political parties are in disarray and fractured, offering
no real alternative to the voting public (Knox 2008, p.487).
Kazakhstan is dominated by a formal political elite and a highly centralized and
power base comprising the Administration of the President of Kazakhstan and key
stakeholders therein: the State Secretary, Head of Administration and Security
Council Secretary (Knox 2008). Cummings (2005, cited in Knox 2008) argued that
the elite system is a compelling factor behind the emergence and maintenance of
authoritarianism in Kazakhstan.
Given disintegrated political context, it is clear that political communication
develops in line with ones party affiliation, which limits the general trust in
government. As a result, the nature of relationship existing between the party in
power and opposition signals low quality of political development in Kazakhstan.
The lack of political participation, however, compartmentalizes the development of
e-governance.
On the other hand, a major means through which interaction between citizens and
politicians occurs is the parliamentary website, which is supposed to facilitate the
top-down flow of information from the legislature to citizens, allow a bottom-up
channel for feedback from citizens to the elected members, increase transparency by
providing detailed information about legislative procedures and activities, expand
the number of avenues for greater public scrutiny of the nature and processes of
public policies and thus enhance the accountability of these elected politicians to
their constituencies (Norris 2001, cited in Haque 2002, p.238). To this point, Kazakh
Parliament maintains a website (www.parlan.kz) and provides a list of basic
information such as parliamentary activities, legislative acts, constitution, and list of
parliamentary groups. It also provides an option to the website visitors to contact
parliamentary secretariat to inform their queries and comments.
The emergence of e-governance has significantly changed the nature of the
relationship between citizens and public servants (Haque 2002). A 2002 World Bank
survey made an assessment of Kazakhstans governance and service delivery. The
survey suggests that general areas where Government can work on to improve the
quality of public services through e-government. For example, the results of the survey
indicated that households were not satisfied with their interactions with public officials
(World Bank 2002). To improve this perception, ICT can be utilized for the reduction
in the time that citizens and businesses have to spend to complete transactions with
public bodies can be set as one of the performance indicators. If the transactions can

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S.H. Bhuiyan

be completed online, citizens do not have to spend the time to visit and wait at a public
office, as long as they have an Internet connection (World Bank 2006, p.20).
Corruption
In April 2005, the President of Kazakhstan signed a decree On Measures to Step up
the Fight against Corruption to strengthen discipline in the activities of state bodies
and officials (Transparency International 2006, p.185). Against this backdrop, petty
corruption in the various form of bribe taking is a fixture of daily life (Gleason 1997,
p.379). High profile corruptions are also rampant. For example, the President of the
state-owned Kazakh Telecom joint-stock company was sacked by Security Council
when it was revealed that his monthly wage was $365,000 (Knox 2008, p.487).
Similarly, in 2007, Kazakh Anti-corruption Agency (financial police) filed charges
against the selection committee of Bolashak (future) program, a presidential
scholarship scheme that enables talented young Kazakhs to study in developed
countries. The charges stated that many scholarships have been actually purchased
through the corrupt jury decisions (Bakenova 2008, p.94).
It is widely believed that e-governance is promised to reduce corruption, which
displeases corrupt political executives and bureaucrats, who, in turn, create building
blocks to the implementation of e-government programs.
Digital divide
Digital divideexclusion of groups within the population to get access to a
computeris another challenge that has received government attention. It reveals
that only 12% of the population in Kazakhstan has skills to use PCs and half of them
can use computer without being helped (egov magazine 2007), and only 12% are
Internet users (World Bank 2008). To bridge the gap, the government is
implementing Digital Inclusion Program for years 20072009. This program aims
to increase number of ITC educated people by 15% and prepare the country to the
transition from the industrial to information society (AIC website: www.aic.gov.kz/?
mod=static&Ing=rus&id=22, accessed November 22, 2008).
Many governments across the world have taken up measures to lessen the
magnitude of the problem. Philippines and Hong Kong, for example, have facilitated
this partly by providing free or subsidized access to computers (and Internet) in
designated public places (Holliday 2002). Telecommunications infrastructure is
relatively problematic, although there are examples of significant public intervention. To this effect, several municipal governments in Germany have facilitated the
development of high-speed network cables, fiber optics, and public access to
improve digital economy (Hasse 2002).
Infrastructural development
E-government operation requires strong technological infrastructure such as
computing and telecommunications. A great deal of financial resources is involved
to develop structure. In Kazakhstan, it is more burdensome due to its vastness and
unique geographical structure. The government has so far (20052007) allocated

E-Government in Kazakhstan: Challenges and Its Role to Development

41

approximately US$380 million (World Bank 2006) for the purpose of e-government
implementation. Let alone government fund is inadequate to meet required expenses,
which warranted a partnership among public, private and donor agencies for the
accumulation of investments. Kazakhstans poor infrastructural readiness for egovernment also reflected in the e-Government Readiness Survey 2008 where it
scored 0.1306 on infrastructure index (UN 2008).
Human resources
There is no denial that in most of the developing countries e-government programs
suffer due to the lack of quality human resources. Kazakhstan is no exception. A
2006 World Bank report points out that even AIC, the lead organization to
implement e-government, is struggling with the shortage of professional staff,
leaving only 1215 for the informatization task (World Bank 2006). To overcome
the challenge, GoK provides continuous training and education to develop
professionals in this field. However, given the low public sector compensation
packages, it is unclear whether the shortage of professionals will ever be overcome.
Admittedly, Kazakh public administration suffers from migration of knowledgeable
employees to its growing private sector due to attractive emoluments. This will
essentially constrain countrys journey toward e-government development.
Poverty
Given the gradual decline of the population living below the poverty line, the
reduction of poverty is still an important policy goal for Kazakhstan (Agarwal 2008).
However, a Gini coefficient (a measure of income inequality, with higher values
denoting more unequal incomes) increased from 25.74 in 1988 to 33.85 in 2003
(ESCAP 2008). Income inequality is on the rise and took a defiant shape due to
onslaught global economic meltdown, which also affects Kazakh economy.
Consequently, rates of rural poverty continue to grow, and the economic necessity
force migration from rural areas to the towns, which contributes to increase urban
poverty too. According to UNDP, nearly 16% of the total population lives on less than
US$2 per day (Euromonitor International, www.euromonitor.com/pdf/indonesia.pdf,
accessed November 22, 2008). In this context, it is argued that a large population is
unable to buy PCs (price of a PC ranges between 40,00060,000 Tenge) and be
connected with Internet (initial connection fee and deposit amount to nearly 20,000
Tenge even with the state-owned Kazakh Telecom).
Apart from the above, there are disparities in the distribution of basic services in
Kazakhstan (Gleason 1997). For example, a study shows that due to ageing Soviet
transmission and distribution lines, electricity losses average 15%, reaching 30% to
remote areas (cited in Cochran 2008, p.1), which causes frequent power cut1 mainly
in rural settlements and thus upset the prospect of their social and economic life.
This poverty-ridden environment is often not receptive to adopt technological
innovations, like e-government.
1

Kazakhstan produced 76.3 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity in 2007 and consumed just over
that amount, 76.4 billion kWh (Cochran 2008, p.1).

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S.H. Bhuiyan

Harnessing privacy
Rapid adoption of global networks and technological innovations has raised many
outstanding concerns from civil society over the protection of their privacy and
personal data and has brought into focus the possibility of the rise of Big Brother
(cited in Bhuiyan 2006, p.114). In a similar vein, referring to Korea, Jho (2005)
illustrates that the Korean government has faced fierce public opposition and
suffered major setbacks in pursuing some of its ICT projects. This symptom worries
yet growing civil society of Kazakhstan and effective dialogue with the government
can reduce tension over the issue.

E-government in the context of development


New ICTs can make a significant contribution to the achievement of good
governance goals (Heeks 2001). The e-governance permeates the four domains of
government: its role in fostering economic growth and social cohesion, its
relationship with the governed, its internal administration, and its relationship with
the international environment (Brown 2005, p.251). In each of these areas
developing countries are faced with limitations on institutional capacity and
infrastructure, financial resources and civil service skills that characterizeand
prolonglower levels of development (Brown 2005). Against this backdrop, efforts
have been made for implementing e-governance in many developing countries and
some of them were successful. The outcomes of those practices have shown
improved government functioning, better service delivery, and triumph over many
socio-economic, political and administrative ills. Among them, three cases are
presented below to help us to understand the usefulness of using e-government to
achieve development goals. Lessons learned from the cases have immense value to
reorganize Kazakh public administration in line with e-government mandate.
Case 1. Brazil: house of representatives e-participation
The Brazilian House of Representatives website allows citizens to talk to their
representatives and to participate in debates directly through the Internet. The
Government of Brazil also provides an e-participation platform that permits
Members of Parliament and citizens to communicate through chat rooms, discussion
forums and the service Falm com Deputado or Talk to the MP. This form of eparticipation has enhanced the interaction between citizens and Members of
parliament. In a country as vast as Brazil and with a geographically dispersed
population, online participation has provided citizens with a greater voice in the
creation of policies and laws. (UN 2008, p.31)
Case 2. Health service in Malta
The Malta Health Ministry is an excellent example of providing customer service
online. The portal allows citizens to apply for the European Health Insurance Card
online. It has an electronic patient library provided through a partnership with a

E-Government in Kazakhstan: Challenges and Its Role to Development

43

private firm, which provides citizens with a medical encyclopedia, information on


surgeries and procedures, and has animated lessons. The portal also provides its
citizens with a list of local pharmacies. (Source: http://www.ehealth.gov.mt/article.
aspx?art=90 cited in UN 2008, p.60)
Case 3. E-seva program in Andra Pradesh, India
The Government of Andra Pradesh has a clear vision to create a knowledge society
by using IT in all aspects of development and governance (www.esevaonline.com,
last accessed November 24, 2008). Consequently, E-Seva (electronic service)
program was launched to effectively deliver public and social services to the
citizens. This program offers services of multiple central, state and local government
agencies as well as some private sector organizations. The salient features of E-Seva
include the following:
&
&
&
&
&
&
&

46 e-Seva centers (with 400 service counters) spread over the Twin Cities and
Ranga Reddy District.
All service counters are facilitated with an electronic queuing system.
Operating from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., on all working days and 9:00 a.m. to 3:00
p.m. on holidays (Second Saturdays and Sundays).
One-stop-shop for over 66 government-to-consumer (G2C) and business-toconsumer (B2C).
No jurisdiction limits- any citizen in the twin cities can avail of the services at
any of the 46 e-Seva service centers.
Online services: eForms, eFiling, ePayments.
Payments by cash/cheque/DD/credit card/Internet.

The Government of India data shows that e-Seva centers offer the total of 132
G2C services from 16 government departments, and 15 B2C services from 10
business firms. Services include, among others, online transaction processing of
payments, issuance of certificates, and licenses.
The number of transactions at e-Seva centers was initially under 5,000/month
(August 2001). It quickly gained popularity and the number surpassed a million in
July 2003. As of May 2004, the level of transaction is above 1.1 million. (Source:
http://www.esevaonline.com/ cited in World Bank 2006, p.42)
The first case makes it clear that interaction between MPs and citizens through
Internet helps the former to better understand citizens opinions, grievances, and
demands, while the latter participates in scrutinizing public policies and laws.
Kazakhstan government needs to implement the practice, contextualizing it to the
local conditions, to boost up contact between parliament members and citizens, a
pre-requisite for ensuring good governance.
The second case is focused on electronic delivery of customer services related to
healthcare in an EU country, Malta. The dismal performance of healthcare sector in
Kazakhstan (Iqbal 2007) warrants a major overhaul. As a part of perceived reform, GoK
may experiment with the transferability of Maltas practice in public healthcare outlets.
The third example illustrates the significance of providing public services through
public-private partnership (PPP) in Andra Pradesh, an Indian state. PPP is now a
common strand of third way government policy, with better efficiency promised

44

S.H. Bhuiyan

from the private funding of public infrastructure through the transfer of risks to
private concerns. In this perspective, GoK may consider to build PPPs as a potential
strategy to deliver effective and efficient services to the citizens.
Over and again, control of corruption and poverty reduction are two important
development challenges that are being facilitated through e-government. These
issues are in some detail discussed here.
Corruption
Heeks (1998) points out that the level of corruption in the public sector sharply
decreases in countries where e-government exists. A survey in India has revealed that,
in the states where e-government has been established even partially, the corruption
rate has substantially fallen. The survey has found that in Kolkata and Mumbai, two
Indian cities, due to implementation of e-governance in some public sector, corruption
rate has declined to 19% and 18% compared to 51% and 38% respectively in 2000
(Kabir 2008). Similarly, in Bangladesh, one may observe that due to computerization
of Railway Reservation System, the number of black-marketers has decreased
considerably. Elimination of the middle-men in citizen-government interaction, in
fact, is the major factor eradicating corruption (Kabir 2008).
Poverty reduction
Admittedly, the Nobel Peace Prize winning Grameen Bank has made a significant
contribution to the development of ICT in Bangladesh. During the years, Grameen
philosophy has proved that ICT can be very useful to uplift the rural and
disadvantaged communities in Bangladesh and beyond (cited in Hossain 2005).
According to the founder of the Bank and Nobel Laureate Professor Muhammad
Yunus identified three key areas ICT can play an immediate role in helping the poor
(Yunus 2004, cited in Hossain 2005) are:
1. Integrating the poor into the mainstream economy by expanding their market,
eliminating the middle-men in their business, and creating international job
opportunities through service out-sourcing;
2. Bringing information, educational programs, skill training, and healthcare
services, etc, all in a very user friendly way, even to the most remote villages;
3. Empowering the poor, particularly poor women, with a stronger voice that can
be heard behind the borders of their villages, better access to information, and
improvement in the democratic process.
The study by Aminuzzaman et al. (2003) found a positive correlation between the
uses of ICT and poverty reduction in Bangladesh. According to the findings, at the
individual level, the Village Phone (VP) of Grameen Bank has contributed
significantly to income generation of rural women (popularly known as phone
ladies). Socially, it has given a new status and image to those women who are getting
Banks support to start this venture both at the family and community levels.
Moreover, at the community level, it has narrowed gaps between cities and villages
by enhancing frequent communication between family members. Economically, it
has increased business transactions and dissemination of information (Aminuzzaman

E-Government in Kazakhstan: Challenges and Its Role to Development

45

et al. 2003, p.327). In an earlier but similar study by Bayes et al. (1999) also
evaluated the role of VP (of Grameen Bank) within the context of rural development
in general and of poverty reduction in particular. They came up with two basic
conclusions: first, pursuance of pragmatic policies can turn telephones into
production goods, especially through lowering transaction cost, and second, the
services originating from telephones in villages are likely to deliver significant
benefits to the poor in Bangladesh (Bayes et al. 1999).
Kazakhstan suffers from rampant corruption and poverty. As a means to control
corruption and eradicate poverty, the government can evaluate the suitability of the
noted (or similarly designed) initiatives for implementation in Kazakhstan.

Conclusion
The paradigm of e-government emphasizes coordinated network building, external
collaboration, and one-stop customer services to facilitate efficient service delivery
to citizens, and, thus, contrasts sharply with the traditional bureaucratic paradigm,
which stresses standardization, departmentalization, and division of labor (Ho 2002).
In order to keep pace with the articulated development goals, particularly to achieve
Kazakhstan 2030, the GoK has started to move toward e-government paradigm to
establish a citizen-centered, accountable and transparent government.
Kazakhstans past political history was linked to the long-standing legacies of
monopolism, clanocracy, and cynicism of the Soviet period (Gleason 1997, p.379).
In the new Kazakhstan, situation has not improved to the extent many had expected.
The country is still marked by widespread corruption, abject poverty, digital divide,
lack of infrastructural development and human resources. In this context, egovernment offers opportunities, though rudimentary at the present stage, to the
government to improve service delivery across the country.
The international development experiences clearly portray the benefit of egovernment. Such experiences may serve as policy guidelines to the implementation
of e-government in Kazakhstan, after careful evaluations to their acceptability in
Kazakh society.
An important challenge to e-government implementation in developing countries
is the lack of financial resources. The case of Kazakhstan is very much the same.
The honeymoon period of booming Kazakh oil economy is under stress. To continue
the systematic implementation of e-government even during the sluggish economy,
public-private partnership is a necessary strategy for the avoidance of huge initial
investment costs. The successful implementation of the program will surely change
the public administration landscape and enable the government to deliver services to
a transparent, accountable, and client-focused environment.

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Shahjahan H. Bhuiyan is Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Public Administration at
Kazakhstan Institute of Management, Economics, and Strategic Research (KIMEP), Almaty. He earned a
Ph.D. in Development Studies from the University of Bonn, Germany. His research interests are in
governance, public policy and administration, public management, organization theory and behavior,
culture, knowledge and development.