Following up on e-government dream

January 01, 2020 | 09:28
Following the launch of the National E-document Exchange Platform in March 2019, the government has continued materialising its dream of constructing an e-government by opening the hallmark National Public Service Portal, which creates a transparent platform to help businesses and people. However, the government will need to double down on its efforts to fully realise this ambition. Nguyen Dat reports.
following up on e government dream
Following up on e-government dream

Over a week ago, Minister, Chairman of the Government Office (GO) Mai Tien Dung sent a letter to all individuals, organisations, and the business community regarding the use of the National Public Service Portal (NPSP) which was officially inaugurated on December 9.

It has been an unprecedented move from the government, which is calling upon all stakeholders to join hands with the government in boosting the construction of an efficient and transparent e-government, as well as the development of a more business-friendly climate for the country to lure in more investment.

“For the NPSP to operate smoothly and serve people and enterprises effectively, we need co-operation from all people and businesses which are the beneficiaries of the portal,” Dung wrote in the letter. “It would be highly appreciated if each citizen and enterprise set up accounts on the NPSP so that they can enjoy its benefits.”

Right after its debut, the NPSP has seen the registration of nearly 8,000 accounts, with the resounding majority being enterprises.

Tran Hai Van, director of Red Lotus Co., Ltd. in Hanoi, has also registered an account on the system.

“We trade in assorted goods and often have to physically work with local departments of planning and investment, finance, industry and trade, and customs. The work is often time-consuming and costly,” Van told VIR. “With the NPSP, we hope our work can be completed more easily.”

She explained that enterprises like hers have been obstructed by staff from the departments who often create difficulties for them, though their very mission should be to help businesses.

“I think the NPSP is a big step in administrative reform and constructing an e-government, and businesses are quite happy about that,” Van said. “Now we can also seek more specific information about investment and business right on the system.”

In another case, Nguyen Thi Huyen is conducting procedures to establish a branch for Minh Chau Anh Consultancy Co., Ltd. in Hanoi. Due to some errors in the system at the General Department of Taxation, the branch could not be established even though the company had submitted the related dossiers four times.

However, after Huyen sent her complaint to the NPSP, which is connected directly to authorised agencies, the issues melted away.

A new shared platform

Van and Huyen are just two of many whose issues have been resolved by the NPSP, which took around nine months to build.

According to Ngo Hai Phan, head of the GO’s Administrative Procedure Control Department, the NPSP will help improve openness and transparency of information on administrative procedures as well as the accountability of state agencies.

The portal is estimated to save the state over VND4.2 trillion ($182.6 million) annually, which will continue to grow with more public services integrated into the system, Phan said.

Initially, the portal will offer five online public services at all 63 cities and provinces – the issuance of driving licenses, announcement of promotion activities, the reissuance of health insurance cards, provision of electricity services, and the payment of electricity bills.

Moreover, it also provides four ministerial-level public services. These are issuing international driving licenses, registration for promotional activities, granting of certificates for origin of goods, and e-tax payments for businesses.

Additionally, other public services will also be provided by localities such as the registration of business households and tax in Ho Chi Minh City, and birth registration in Hanoi, Haiphong, and Quang Ninh.

In the first quarter of 2020, 15 other public services will be added to the NPSP, concentrating on tax, customs, business registration, health, labour, birth registration, security transactions, and collection of fines for road traffic violations.

“With the NPSP and the National E-document Exchange Platform (NEEP), the government is gradually constructing an effective e-government which already exists in many nations,” said Minister Dung.

In March 2019, the GO officially launched the NEEP developed by giant VNPT. The NEEP will help issue about 400,000 new documents and deal with about two million documents sent and received every day. The time it takes to process documents is five times quicker than previously.

The platform will also help save more than VND1.2 trillion ($52.17 million) per year, after subtracting costs charged by VNPT.

All 31 ministries and ministry-level agencies, 63 provinces and centrally-ruled cities, and the Party Central Committee’s Office have connected to the platform with e-documents being sent and received quickly and safely.

“All document managing software from ministries, agencies, and localities have been connected well and systematically. There will be no delays in the sending and receiving of documents, benefitting people and enterprises,” Dung said.

A long drive

In fact, the NPSP and the NEEP are just the first major steps for the government to turn itself into an e-government whose prime targets are to serve people and enterprises, then boost economic growth, and ensure effectiveness and sustainability in the government’s macro-monitoring.

In 2018, in order to realise Vietnam’s dream of streamlining government procedures with online technologies, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc established a national committee on e-government, demonstrating the government’s strong determination to wholly transform the way the governmental system works.

Vietnam has also been seeking experience in e-government development from many nations, such as Singapore, Indonesia, Estonia, France, the Netherlands, and South Korea.

However, according to the GO, online public service provision has witnessed slow progress. As of September 2019, the number of these services provided online by ministries and central agencies was only 1,720, which “fails to meet expectations”.

Commenting on Vietnam’s efforts to develop its own e-government, Ousmane Dione, World Bank country director for Vietnam said, “I am very encouraged by an increased focus of the Vietnamese government’s policies on disruptive technology and the digital economy within the context of Industry 4.0.”

However, he also made some suggestions.

“To forge ahead, or even leapfrog, Vietnam must upgrade the way its government functions. Three types of government relationships are critical – government-to-government, government-to-business, and government-to-citizen,” Dione said. “Technologies can help in many ways, if we can embrace them strategically to reverse potential disruptions to these relationships.”

In his views, the Vietnamese government needs to lead by example and become more digital themselves.

“This means not only streamlining systems on an integrated ‘whole of government’ basis, but also offering digital service platforms that support businesses and reduce transaction times and costs,” he said. “Online licensing and permit approvals are excellent examples of such digital services. Initiatives such as national digital ID can trigger direct benefits in other areas of the digital economy.”

PM Phuc, who is also chairman of the National Committee on e-Government, underlined that, “The e-government must put our people at the centre and consider their convenience and satisfaction as a top priority, ensuring that no-one is left behind,” he said, adding that public services on digital platforms must be convenient.

Tran Hai Van of Red Lotus also has high hopes for an efficient e-government.

“We are still facing some difficulties. For example, last month, we completed all e-customs procedures to import several containers of goods, but were still asked to submit several paper-based documents with the same information we have declared online, all signed and stamped by the company’s leader,” Van complained, adding that it often takes her company more than a year to arrange tax refunds.

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