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Promoting Transparency by Delivering Services in Local Kyrgyz Communities: Part 1

If you were to look at Kyrgyzstan as the universe, and corruption as the multitude of black holes within it, this would be a fitting way to understand the corrupt practices that have defined the Kyrgyz political system, slowed social progress and prevented effective citizen service delivery for more than 20 years.

For those of us who call Kyrgyzstan home, tackling systemic corruption often feels as difficult as closing all the black holes in the universe. Where does one even begin when attempting to develop a national service-delivery mechanism? This was the exact issue we hoped to understand better on our most recent study trip to Georgia.

In February and March, 2016, IRI and its implementing partner, the Local Self-Governance Union accompanied representatives of the OSCE Center in Bishkek and the Kyrgyz national government, in order to learn from the Georgian experience in public service delivery. After conducting a range of meetings with local Georgian government agencies, including the Public Service Halls (PSH), Public Service Development Agency (SDA), National Agency of Public Registry (NAPR) and Data Exchange Agency (DEA), IRI developed a greater understanding of citizen-oriented policy reforms. From 2005-2009, the aforementioned Georgian agencies digitalized all data in their records. Through their e-data system, the PSH delivers more than 300 services to citizens, in addition to user friendly online and JustDrive services. And in addition to the 16 PSHs in cities and towns, Georgia also has 31 Community Centers (in the regions) and 70 Express Service Centers, each connected to a fiber network, in order to avoid difficulties in data exchange in both urban and rural areas. The DEA takes this one step further, both providing supplementary information and data exchange security for all digitally-connected agencies (in order to prevent inter-state cyber-attacks) and continually improving technical flaws within the system. Not only is the technical system of service provision highly-advanced and accessible nation-wide, but it also contains safeguards for warding off intruders and continually repairing itself.

Overall, the Georgian reform process has taken greater steps in their fight against corruption than many of the former Soviet Republics. One of the methods by which they have achieved this end is through improved service delivery, making it accessible for all citizens and protecting it from human corruption. This is no easy feat. There is no doubt that a system as evolved as the Georgian is an ideal model for any country hoping to improve service delivery, particularly one with equal institutional capacity. The larger question, however, is would such a model be feasible in a country like Kyrgyzstan?

In the years since Kyrgyz independence, many citizens have openly criticized government measures to fight corruption. IRI polls over the past 4 years further support this, consistently identifying corruption as one of the 3 most concerning issues for Kyrgyz citizens. For this reason, we believe that building a successful service delivery system is the first step in combating corruption. While it is not the final answer, we believe that if the system is built from bottom-up – at the municipal-level – then it has far greater potential for success. Thus, rather than investing in a service delivery mechanism that trickles down nationally, we are instead interested in building a successful municipal model, with the support of national structures, that establishes a viable grassroots framework that can be replicated nationally. 

Stay tuned for the second and third parts of this series, where IRI will better define their alternative solution: a model that the Institute has not only spent the past 3 years developing, but which has the potential to standardize and nationally integrate a municipal single window service delivery that would begin to fight corruption from the bottom-up.