Mongolia’s ambitious eGovernment strategy
Mongolia’s digital goals are perhaps no less ambitious than those of its most famous son, Genghis Khan. He may have a reputation as a terrifying conqueror, but he also modernized Mongolian culture and played a role in forging early east-west trade.
Today, the country is at a key stage in its development. With its economy having grown at an annual rate of 12% since 2010 thanks to a mining boom, Mongolia is now seeking to establish a knowledge-based economy to help ensure that this newfound wealth benefits the entire nation.
This vision is spelled out in Mongolia’s national information communication technologies (ICT) policy, an objective of which is to achieve equity in access to social services. To this end, as a member of the international organization Open Government Partnership, Mongolia has launched an eGovernment program aimed at increasing the transparency and efficiency of public services.
Currently ranked 65th out of 193 states for eGovernment, Mongolia is aiming to break into the top 30 by 2016 and has borrowed US$20 million from the World Bank for its Smart Government program.
Tenzin Dolma Norbhu, World Bank lead ICT policy specialist and team leader for the Smart Government Project in Mongolia, says: “The SMART Government project aims to use information and communication technologies to improve the accessibility, transparency and efficiency of public services in Mongolia.
“The project will support the government in achieving its vision and leveraging the ICT sector as a key driver of growth, competitiveness and improved governance. The World Bank supports Mongolia’s commitment towards an accountable, transparent and responsive government.”
Here are a few ways Mongolia is putting its plan into action.
Mongolia is rolling out a national eID system that is being financed independently of the World Bank. The centerpiece of this project is a smart card with an embedded microprocessor that contains the user’s personal data. Biometric facial and fingerprint ID systems are linked to a secure database accessible to government agencies such as the electoral authority, tax, customs, passport and military agencies. All adults in the country (which has a population of about three million) will carry the smart cards, which the government says will allow for more efficient updating of the national registry.
Online tax payment
Mongolia’s tax ePayment system was launched in May 2014. Taxpayers can now submit tax reports, access their history and make payments online. The new system is expected to increase efficiency and transparency within the taxation department by reducing face-to-face interactions and bureaucratic red tape. Seven hundred tax officials are being trained in order to encourage citizens to use the system.
Since the mid-1990s, the Mongolian government has been reforming the telecommunications sector, opening up the market to partial privatization, and has established an independent watchdog, the Communications Regulation. As a result, the ICT sector has expanded rapidly, with an average compounded annual growth rate in mobile teledensity of 30.6% over the past six years. The World Bank believes the use of ICT sector has helped drive economies of scale and increased efficiencies across the country. With 16,100 miles of fiberoptic backbone and access networks being extended nationwide, more than 200,000 internet-connected points are on the map of Mongolia, bringing ICT closer to its people. There were 3.5 million mobile subscribers as of June 2013, with a mobile penetration of 117% translating into significant reduction of mobile tariffs. Internet users have increased from fewer than 200,000 in 2010 to more than 657,000 in 2012, reaching 21.8% of Mongolia’s total population. Today, more than 30% of Mongolian citizens use smartphones and tablet devices.
Challenges do remain; Mongolia now needs to build institutional capacity to consolidate the reforms and measures it has introduced. However, the country is well on the way to greater government efficiency, transparency and accountability.