Can digital governance strengthen democratic institutions in Mongolia? – The Diplomat
In 2021, Mongolia implemented its first-ever e-government services, known as E-Mongolia. The early implementation of E-Mongolia coincided with the spread of COVID-19, which forced Mongolian policymakers to digitize government services. In two years, Mongolia’s digital governance platform has proven to be a positive development. Sandwiched between two world powers – Russia and China – Mongolia is determined not to miss the fourth industrial revolution, the age of information technology.
By March 2022, E-Mongolia had digitized 630 public services, registered 2 million users, and successfully provided more than 8.5 million services. Mongolia’s new digital architecture improves connections between the public and private sectors, modernizes the functioning of financial institutions and, most importantly, brings changes to people’s daily lives.
Mongolian citizens can now digitally receive a variety of public services, such as applying for passports or residence cards, registering new businesses and applying for business licenses without having to queue at the local registration office. Moreover, the successful delivery of digital services also extends to the banking system, processing payments online rather than in person.
The pursuit of digitization naturally modernizes the art of government and the digital architecture of Mongolia. Electronic services eliminate corruption and bureaucracy within state registration services. The implementation of E-Mongolia has enabled government agencies to reduce the number of front-end offices and service operators. By introducing feedback systems, E-Mongolia has become an institutional tool that connects government service and the private sector – as their clientele are the same users.
These changes have had a direct effect on Mongolia’s anti-corruption efforts. The 2021 National Strategic Synthesis Study conducted by the National University of Science and Technology showed a reduction in corruption in the primary and secondary levels of the civil service.
Additionally, E-Mongolia eliminates extra steps for citizens while simultaneously saving government expenses. According to researchers from the Mongolian National University and the Mongolian National University of Science and Technology, E-Mongolia saved about 57 billion Mongolian tugrik in 2021. In fiscal year 2022, the Ministry of Telecommunications expected to save approximately $30 million by reducing paper. , postage, freight and fuel, and employee salaries. These additional funds can be better reallocated to digital technologies as self-investment.
These developments are an important step for a country with a nomadic history to become digital nomads in the age of information technology.
Chairman of the Mongolian Communications and Information Technology Authority, Bolor-Erdene Battsengel, said: “Since I became the President of the Communications and Information Technology Authority, the biggest change what I have noticed is that citizens have started using the E-Mongolia digital platform. The digitized form of public service includes a communications aspect where citizens actively send in questions, comments, and concerns regarding not only the app, but all government services as well.
Mongolia’s ultimate goal is to become a digital nation, inspired by other small states like Estonia, Singapore and Norway. Therefore, the implementation of E-Mongolia is only the beginning of an ambitious plan to use modern information technologies.
The latest research from the OECD’s Digital Government Policy Framework has shown that COVID-19 related lockdowns reinforce existing measures by governments to rely heavily on digital connectivity. The OECD report highlighted six elements needed to become a digital nation: “digital by design, government as a platform, data-driven public sector, open by default, user-driven and proactive “. Based on the E-Mongolia platform, it is safe to say that Mongolia followed the OECD framework while borrowing working mechanisms from other smart states like Estonia.
Digitizing Mongolia’s government services can strengthen its institutions. The digitization of government services enhances transparency and accountability on the part of government and has the potential to strengthen democratic institutions if digital tools enable and increase citizen participation.
For Mongolia, both a small state and a developing nation, digitalization offers new opportunities as well as increased challenges.
The EIU Democracy Index 2021 highlighted the decline of democratic institutions, often linked to repressive modes of governance in the digital space. Mongolia, despite digitization efforts, has been slipping since 2014. Compared to Estonia – which continued to excel, its score dropping from 7.74 to 7.84 – Mongolia’s score fell from 6.62 to 6.42 in 2021. These figures illustrate Mongolia’s vulnerability in political and civil space. By shifting from traditional governance to digital governance, Mongolia could address many of the lingering issues that contribute to its lower ranking.
As Mongolia continues to strengthen its democratic institutions, the government and its agencies will also need to adopt new mechanisms and tools to tackle old problems. A remaining challenge for E-Mongolia is to bridge the digital divide. For any government to pursue digital governance, the implementation process must be a two-way street – digital services are of little use unless people have access to smartphones, apps and internet services. In Mongolia, much-needed assistance will need to target geographically remote populations and disadvantaged communities and ensure their digital inclusion.
Naturally, if properly implemented, digitization efforts can strengthen Mongolia’s institutions and trigger public-private cooperation – combining their efforts to modernize remote areas and enable people to be more engaged and informed. on their government. However, for Mongolia to fully embrace the digital nation model, significant investment will be needed in its science and technology industry. Most importantly, the legal environment must be investor-friendly and open to contributors to entrepreneurship in Mongolia.