Keys to Dig­i­tal Era

Be­larus is launch­ing coun­try-wide e-ser­vices

Economy of Belarus - - CONTENTS - An­drei ASFURA

Be­larus is launch­ing coun­try-wide e-ser­vices

Mr. Strukov, how have the in­for­ma­tion and com­mu­ni­ca­tion tech­nolo­gies (ICT) been evolv­ing in Be­larus re­cently?

All in­no­va­tions in the sec­tor can be di­vided into two cat­e­gories: in­fras­truc­tural in­no­va­tions and in­no­va­tions in in­for­ma­tion tech­nolo­gies. These pro­cesses are in­ter­con­nected – it is clear that with­out cut­ting-edge data trans­mis­sion tech­nolo­gies it is im­pos­si­ble to pro­vide in­te­grated ser­vices re­quir­ing in­ter­ac­tion be­tween sev­eral gov­ern­ment agen­cies, to de­velop so­cially im­por­tant ser­vices, like e-gov­ern­ment, e-health­care, elec­tronic ed­u­ca­tion and em­ploy­ment, as well as to en­sure qual­ity de­vel­op­ment of the na­tional con­tent in the In­ter­net.

In re­cent years Be­larus has made a gi­ant leap in the de­vel­op­ment of the in­for­ma­tion in­fra­struc­ture. Thus, to­day In­ter­net users en­joy wire­less broad­band ac­cess tech­nolo­gies (3G). There are over 1,000 Wi-fi spots in the coun­try, Minsk has a WIMAX net­work. High-rise build­ings have In­ter­net ac­cess through XPON (Pas­sive Op­ti­cal Net­work) and Eth­er­net. In the last three years the In­ter­net gate­way has ex­panded from 22Gbps to 200Gbps. All this helped sig­nif­i­cantly in­crease the data trans­mis­sion speed and re­duce In­ter­net costs mak­ing it more avail­able for the public.

In a few years it will be much eas­ier for Be­laru­sians to set­tle the ma­jor­ity of im­por­tant is­sues. It will be pos­si­ble for them to have their cars reg­is­tered by the State Au­to­mo­bile In­spec­torate, to get a loan or sign im­por­tant doc­u­ments with­out leav­ing home. It is ex­pected that by 2015 ev­ery Be­laru­sian na­tional will be us­ing the Sin­gle Por­tal of Elec­tronic Ser­vices four times a year on av­er­age. The ac­cess to this sys­tem will be pro­vided by elec­tronic dig­i­tal sig­na­ture keys (state-run and pri­vate com­pa­nies have al­ready been us­ing them) as well as by stan­dard pass­word au­tho­riza­tion. Deputy Min­is­ter of Com­mu­ni­ca­tions and In­for­ma­tion Tech­nolo­gies of Be­larus Niko­lai STRUKOV tells the Econ­omy of Be­larus Mag­a­zine how in­for­ma­tion in­no­va­tions will change the lives of Be­laru­sians.

In­fra­struc­ture – an es­sen­tial part of in­for­ma­tion tech­nolo­gies - needs to be con­stantly re­plen­ished by in­for­ma­tion re­sources that ba­si­cally make the new data trans­mis­sion tech­nolo­gies rel­e­vant. To sim­plify work with re­sources and to com­put­er­ize the pro­vi­sion of e-ser­vices by gov­ern­ment agen­cies, the Na­tional Au­to­mated In­for­ma­tion Sys­tem (NAIS) has been de­vel­oped. It is ac­ces­si­ble via the Sin­gle Por­tal of Elec­tronic Ser­vices. By the way, I would like to note that since its launch in 2011, more than 250,000 peo­ple have used the por­tal.

In or­der to make e-ser­vices widely avail­able it is nec­es­sary to en­sure their se­cu­rity. With­out this mech­a­nism we will not be able to guar­an­tee the re­li­a­bil­ity of in­for­ma­tion and con­fi­den­tial­ity of per­sonal data of users. That is why the na­tional pro­gram on stream­lin­ing de­vel­op­ment of in­for­ma­tion and com­mu­ni­ca­tion tech­nolo­gies for 2011-2015 places a spe­cial em­pha­sis on ‘dig­i­tal con­fi­den­tial­ity’. For se­cu­rity rea­sons elec­tronic dig­i­tal keys will be dis­trib­uted and sys­tems of mon­i­tor­ing and pro­tec­tion of dat­a­cen­ters will be in­tro­duced.

Can you tell us more about the se­cu­rity sys­tem?

First of all, it will mon­i­tor who uses re­sources and when. Now NAIS is only ac­ces­si­ble to le­gal en­ti­ties that have pur­chased an elec­tronic dig­i­tal sig­na­ture key which is a com­bi­na­tion of sym­bols re­quired for user iden­ti­fi­ca­tion to get an ac­cess to doc­u­ments, ser­vices and in­for­ma­tion re­sources.

For ex­am­ple, when con­sid­er­ing a loan ap­pli­ca­tion from a com­pany a Be­laru­sian bank may need to know if this com­pany has a car, real es­tate or shares as col­lat­eral. This ser­vice is pro­vided to the fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tion through NAIS.

As for in­di­vid­u­als, so far they have had ac­cess to open re­sources of the Sin­gle Por­tal of Elec­tronic Ser­vices only. But af­ter the pass­word au­tho­riza­tion mech­a­nism is in­tro­duced and the sys­tem of in­for­ma­tion me­di­a­tors is cre­ated in the form of Belpochta post of­fices, in­di­vid­u­als will have the same ac­cess as le­gal en­ti­ties.

How are the ser­vices cre­ated?

Part of them is cre­ated un­der the na­tional pro­gram on stream­lin­ing de­vel­op­ment of in­for­ma­tion and com­mu­ni­ca­tion tech­nolo­gies for 2011-2015. These ser­vices are in­cor­po­rated in sub­sec­tions “E-gov­ern­ment”, “Elec­tronic ed­u­ca­tion”, “E-health­care”, etc. By the way, thanks to NAIS it is now possi-

ble to avoid du­pli­ca­tion of ser­vices pro­vided by var­i­ous state agen­cies.

In or­der to run a ser­vice, its provider sub­mits the ser­vice name, its de­scrip­tion, the di­rect URL us­ing a ser­vice or­der, and chooses a cat­e­gory (ac­cord­ing to cir­cum­stances, state depart­ment, and other fea­tures). NAIS op­er­a­tor adds the ser­vice to the elec­tronic reg­is­ter and af­ter that the ser­vice be­comes avail­able to the public on the Sin­gle Por­tal. Users are no­ti­fied if the ser­vice is pro­vided free of charge or not.

I would like to note that NAIS is es­sen­tially an ac­cess point based on state-of-the-art tech­nol­ogy. So far we have de­vel­oped a soft­ware nexus which al­lows adapt­ing public in­for­ma­tion re­sources which re­quire iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of both in­di­vid­u­als and le­gal en­ti­ties and with­out which it is im­pos­si­ble to pro­vide elec­tronic ser­vices. How en­thu­si­as­tic are gov­ern­ment agen­cies about the sin­gle sys­tem and e-ser­vices?

It de­pends on in­for­ma­tion re­sources and a spe­cific depart­ment. Of course, it is im­pos­si­ble to in­te­grate out­dated re­sources with NAIS, while there is no such prob­lem in in­te­grat­ing new re­sources meet­ing the mod­ern stan­dards.

As for gov­ern­ment agen­cies, many of them have been ac­tively de­vel­op­ing re­sources and us­ing the sys­tem due to the spe­cific na­ture of their ac­tiv­i­ties. For in­stance, the State Cus­toms Com­mit­tee has not only been ser­vic­ing Be­laru­sian na­tion­als and or­ga­ni­za­tions but also en­sur­ing cargo tran­sit through the en­tire coun­try. It goes with­out say­ing that the com­mit­tee has to con­form to in­ter­na­tional pa­per­work re­quire­ments which is im­pos­si­ble with­out an in­te­grated com­put­er­ized sys­tem. The State Prop­erty Com­mit­tee and the Jus­tice Min­istry have also been us­ing the mod­ern in­for­ma­tion re­sources.

On the whole, all the state agen­cies in­tend to con­nect to NAIS in line with ex­ist­ing tech­ni­cal re­quire­ments. They all re­al­ize the op­por­tu­ni­ties and the pow­er­ful po­ten­tial the in­te­grated in­for­ma­tion sys­tem of­fers. If the Sin­gle Por­tal of Elec­tronic Ser­vices did not ex­ist, ev­ery min­istry and com­mit­tee would have to set up their own In­ter­net re­source.

It is dif­fi­cult to un­der­es­ti­mate the com­put­er­i­za­tion of in­for­ma­tion pro­cesses. Suf­fice it to say that some time ago it took up to 25 days to have some­body’s prop­erty rights reg­is­tered in Be­larus. Now it only takes two or three days. Do you think the NAIS will play a pri­mary or sec­ondary role in pro­vid­ing public ser­vices by 2015?

No doubt, an im­por­tant one. By 2015 each res­i­dent of Be­larus will get four elec­tronic ser­vices per year on the av­er­age, which means that the Sin­gle Por­tal will process 40 mil­lion trans­ac­tions an­nu­ally. Such is the global trend: a per­son re­ceives an av­er­age of four ser­vices via the In­ter­net, be it sub­mit­ting a tax re­turn or cus­toms clear­ance. Nat­u­rally, the avail­abil­ity of the In­ter­net is needed to make the sys­tem work at its full ca­pac­ity. The is­sue of “ac­cess keys” needs thor­ough con­sid­er­a­tion. Is Be­larus con­sid­er­ing adopt­ing Euro­pean prac­tices of us­ing iden­ti­fi­ca­tion smart cards (ID cards) that can serve both as an ID and an ac­cess to ser­vices?

The de­vel­op­ment of the sin­gle iden­ti­fi­ca­tion sys­tem of in­di­vid­u­als and le­gal per­sons is stip­u­lated in the 2011-2015 na­tional pro­gram for ac­cel­er­ated de­vel­op­ment of in­for­ma­tion tech­nolo­gies. We might as well use the so-called ID cards.

Iden­ti­fi­ca­tion cards or so­cial cards are be­com­ing in­creas­ingly com­mon in Europe. This type of doc­u­ments al­lows ad­dress­ing sev­eral tasks at a time: it serves as a pass to some places (let us say, a night club or a casino, where mi­nors are not al­lowed), a public trans­port ticket and an iden­ti­fi­ca­tion doc­u­ment. Be­sides, a so­cial card can be used to buy goods and ser­vices and get so­cial dis­counts while pur­chas­ing prod­ucts, like medicines.

We plan to use this card for the ser­vices pro­vided via the Sin­gle Elec­tronic Por­tal. The por­tal will have the so-called pen­sion­ers’ ap­pli­ca­tion.

In fact an ID card is a chip con­tain­ing some in­for­ma­tion. It will look like a driv­ing li­cense. It will be next to im­pos­si­ble to forge this card, as it will have an elec­tronic photo of the holder, per­sonal data and crypto keys.

Var­i­ous ap­pli­ca­tions can be up­loaded to the sys­tem ser­vic­ing these cards. All it takes is a con­tract be­tween the card is­suer and the or­ga­ni­za­tion pro­vid­ing the ser­vice. Af­ter an agree­ment is con­cluded, an ap­pli­ca­tion can be in­stalled. It is rather easy tech­ni­cally, but the rel­e­vant le­gal frame­work is needed.

Pen­sion­ers hardly use the In­ter­net and it will be dif­fi­cult for them to get used to an ID card. How will they be able to get elec­tronic ser­vices?

We are fully aware of the is­sue. To ad­dress it, we will use the in­fra­struc­ture of the Belpochta post ser­vice, the most branched ac­cess point all over Be­larus. Be­laru­sians will be able to or­der and re­ceive elec­tronic ser­vices at any post of­fice of Belpochta that will act as an in­for­ma­tion in­ter­me­di­ary.

The scheme will be as fol­lows: a per­son will come to a Belpochta of­fice with a pass­port; the chief of the post of­fice will make an in­quiry into the NAIS, con­firm the in­for­ma­tion us­ing a dig­i­tal sig­na­ture and give it to a cus­tomer. This will be­come a re­al­ity by the end of this year. At present, the State Prop­erty Com­mit­tee of Be­larus, Belpochta, and Bel­t­ele­com are im­ple­ment­ing a pi­lot project to pro­vide elec­tronic ser­vices re­lated to real es­tate trans­ac­tions.

Sim­i­lar ser­vices might be pro­vided at public tele­com ac­cess cen­ters and ser­vice cen­ters of Bel­t­ele­com.

Can you up­date us on the sit­u­a­tion with elec­tronic doc­u­ment man­age­ment? Do Be­laru­sian com­pa­nies cut down on hard copies of doc­u­ments?

By the end of 2011, 77 gov­ern­ment agen­cies switched to elec­tronic doc­u­ment man­age­ment, in­clud­ing the Pres­i­den­tial Ad­min­is­tra­tion, the Of­fice of the Coun­cil of Min­is­ters, the Gen­eral Pros­e­cu­tor’s Of­fice and the Min­istry of Com­mu­ni­ca­tion and In­for­ma­tion Tech­nolo­gies. An­other 100 gov­ern­ment bod­ies are to join them in the years to come. More than that, an ar­chive will be cre­ated to an­a­lyze doc­u­ment flows.

Ser­vice doc­u­ments might be pro­cessed re­motely. This means that an em­ployee will be able to get ac­cess to doc­u­ments us­ing a lap­top, tablet or smart­phone, view them, put their dig­i­tal sig­na­ture, etc. We have al­ready tested the 3G tech­nol­ogy that will be used for the pur­pose.

From the tech­ni­cal per­spec­tive, ev­ery­thing ran smoothly. Data pro­tec­tion re­mains a mat­ter of con­cern. We are busy work­ing on it. By the way, re­mote work with doc­u­ments will greatly ben­e­fit the mil­i­tary and diplo­mats.

With re­gard to the re­duc­tion of pa­per flow, es­pe­cially in busi­ness, this does not seem like a prob­lem. Busi­ness­men eas­ily adopt new so­lu­tions to re­duce op­er­at­ing costs and save time. But there is one “but”. Dig­i­tal doc­u­ments seem like the

best choice if there are many of them: If a public au­thor­ity or any other large or­ga­ni­za­tion pro­cesses a large amount of in­for­ma­tion on a daily ba­sis, the use of dig­i­tal doc­u­ments does make eco­nomic sense. If an en­tity ap­plies to gov­ern­ment bod­ies on a rare oc­ca­sion, pre­par­ing a hard copy of a doc­u­ment and send­ing it by mail would seem a lot eas­ier.

How­ever, Be­larus will have to start us­ing elec­tronic doc­u­ments given its mem­ber­ship in many in­te­gra­tion as­so­ci­a­tions. Thus, the coun­tries of the Cus­toms Union agreed to cre­ate a sys­tem that will en­able cus­toms ser­vices to ex­change rel­e­vant in­for­ma­tion. The coun­tries have re­cently rat­i­fied the agree­ment to use in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy in the ex­change of elec­tronic doc­u­ments in for­eign trade. That is why to­day we are build­ing a cross-bor­der sys­tem which will en­able the ex­change of in­for­ma­tion be­tween states.

The 2011-2015 na­tional pro­gram of ac­cel­er­ated de­vel­op­ment of ICT draws to a close in 2015. What has the pro­gram achieved so far?

In 2011, work be­gan on 82 ac­tiv­i­ties of the na­tional pro­gram. Twenty four of them are ex­pected to be com­pleted in 2012. I will not list them all. I just want to say that they will ben­e­fit lit­er­ally ev­ery cit­i­zen of Be­larus, be it a civil ser­vant, businessman, or a re­tiree.

In the fu­ture we will be in­creas­ingly us­ing home com­put­ers to con­tact gov­ern­ment bod­ies, re­ceive doc­u­ments with cer­ti­fied dig­i­tal sig­na­ture, en­hance our skills, re­ceive dis­tance ed­u­ca­tion, work at home, plan our hol­i­days and make pur­chases. In gen­eral, the Be­laru­sians will be­come more in­volved in the life of so­ci­ety, with­out even leav­ing their homes.

By the way, in 2008-2011 alone, 33 le­gal acts were adopted to de­velop the IT sec­tor. Per­haps this fig­ure gives some idea of the scale of work that has been al­ready done and that still needs to be done for the de­vel­op­ment of the in­for­ma­tion so­ci­ety.

In the long run, the na­tional pro­gram is de­signed to help Be­larus make it to the top 30 coun­tries on ICT de­vel­op­ment in­dex by the end of 2015.

And two more ques­tions, if you do not mind, about the most un­con­ven­tional and most tra­di­tional form of com­mu­ni­ca­tion – courier and postal ser­vice. In Novem­ber last year a bill on courier ser­vice was in­tro­duced to the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives.

The doc­u­ment was fi­nal­ized and sub­mit­ted to the gov­ern­ment in Jan­uary 2012. Con­sid­er­ing close eco­nomic co­op­er­a­tion in the CIS, and also in the Eurasian Eco­nomic Com­mu­nity, the law is im­por­tant in terms of in­ter­op­er­abil­ity of courier ser­vices of these states. Back in Novem­ber 2005, the CIS In­ter-par­lia­men­tary Assem­bly adopted the model law on courier ser­vice with a view to har­mo­niz­ing na­tional leg­is­la­tion. Sev­eral coun­tries have started pre­par­ing the rel­e­vant na­tional laws and reg­u­la­tions. Rus­sia, Moldova, Ar­me­nia, and Ta­jik­istan have al­ready adopted laws on courier ser­vice.

Be­larus started work­ing on the bill in 2011. The work in­volved rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the Com­mu­ni­ca­tion and In­for­ma­tion Tech­nolo­gies Min­istry, the In­te­rior Min­istry, the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the Na­tional Assem­bly of Be­larus and other de­part­ments con­cerned. I would like to note that the new law should cre­ate the le­gal frame­work for courier ser­vice in Be­larus, its sta­tus, rights and obli­ga­tions, the place and role of courier ser­vice in the sys­tem of state au­thor­i­ties. To­day not all as­pects of courier ser­vice are gov­erned by the law.

The new doc­u­ment reg­u­lates fast de­liv­ery of cor­re­spon­dence, its safety and in­tegrity, terms and con­di­tions of us­ing phys­i­cal force and firearms. The doc­u­ment also reg­u­lates lo­gis­tics of courier ser­vice, le­gal and so­cial pro­tec­tion for its em­ploy­ees.

Is Be­larus plan­ning any postal sys­tem re­forms?

Prin­ci­ples of op­er­a­tion of Belpochta are largely based on the rec­om­men­da­tions of the Univer­sal Postal Union (UPU). The in­dus­try is reg­u­lated by the state but op­er­ates in a mar­ket en­vi­ron­ment. There­fore it should be self-suf­fi­cient and self­de­vel­op­ing.

For the pur­pose of com­mer­cial­iza­tion of Belpochta, its in­te­gra­tion into eco­nomic pro­cesses, we ap­plied to the UPU to help us pre­pare a plan of re­forms. They quickly re­sponded and sent their spe­cial­ists. In­ter­na­tional ex­perts have al­ready pre­pared a draft com­pre­hen­sive plan of re­forms and de­vel­op­ment of mail ser­vice in Be­larus. In Fe­bru­ary, we hope to get the lat­est re­vi­sion of the doc­u­ment, and in March-april we will sub­mit pro­pos­als to the Coun­cil of Min­is­ters.

First the Com­mu­ni­ca­tion and In­for­ma­tion Tech­nolo­gies Min­istry plans to up­grade the leg­is­la­tion gov­ern­ing the postal sys­tem in the coun­try. Re­forms will be held to ad­just the struc­ture of Belpochta to the needs of the do­mes­tic and for­eign mar­kets. In turn, this will al­low for more ef­fi­cient use of the net­work and tran­sit op­por­tu­ni­ties of Be­larus.

Un­for­tu­nately, un­til re­cently, Belpochta, un­like Bel­t­ele­com, did not carry out large-scale com­pre­hen­sive re­forms. How­ever, the sit­u­a­tion is rapidly chang­ing: the mail in­dus­try starts us­ing in­for­ma­tion tech­nolo­gies, many pro­cesses get au­to­mated. Stages of re­forms have been de­fined. A pos­si­bil­ity of at­tract­ing in­vest­ment is be­ing ex­plored. So the postal sys­tem of Be­larus is also try­ing to keep pace with in­no­va­tions.

Bel­t­ele­com’s data pro­cess­ing cen­ter

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