«Smart Municipality» - Development and introduction of Municipal Management Information System in RA
Ministry of Territorial Administration and Development of the Republic of Armenia

A. Problem Analysis

 1. What was the problem before the implementation of the initiative?
After collapse of the Soviet Union, in the newly established Republic of Armenia, with new Constitution adopted in 1995, the local self-governing system was introduced. In terms of the policy and context, it is an unprecedented system in Armenia, in this respect it is difficult to overestimate the role that system has in the formation and establishment of a democratic and civil society. However, the newly formed local self-governing system was imperfect: LSGBs operating in 915 communities (49 urban, 866 rural) did not have sufficient capacity and skills for effective management, for making public services more efficient and accessible, and to make their activities sufficiently transparent, participatory and accountable. On the other hand, there were no effective participatory means and opportunities to easily use the services provided, to control the work of LSGBs and to impact decisions made by them. The measures taken throughout the years did not give satisfying results and the situation was not changing significantly. In the communities, the population was not sufficiently informed about the activities carried out by LSGBs, about decisions they made, about public funds and property usage. The citizens’ participation in the local self-governance and the accountability of LSGBs was on the lowest level. The services provided by LSGB were not effective, and some of them were almost inaccessible, especially for various strata of residents in remote communities: It was important to find an innovative and effective way of solving the aforementioned problems. After identifying the needs of LSGBs and residents in the communities, considering the prospects and international experience of the development of LSG system in the country, it was decided to take the path of applying modern solutions with information-communication technologies (ICT) and increasing effectiveness of service provision in communities, which should go along with formation and development of information society in the communities. Wide application of ICT innovative solutions created favorable conditions to increase transparency and accountability for activities by LSGB, to improve the services provided by them, to make them more accessible and affordable for the residents in the communities.

B. Strategic Approach

 2. What was the solution?
Development and introduction of a “Smart Municipality” Municipal management information system in the RA municipalities. The “Smart Municipality” integrated municipal management information system (hereinafter System) was created and introduced in more than 550 RA communities, which consists of numerous subsystems, various registers, information resources, internal and external effective means of communication and has typical e-governance, e-government and e-participation features and functional opportunities. Via the introduced System LSGBs and municipal staff in the communities effectively exercise their functions, provide quality, accessible and affordable services to citizens (including online services), while ensuring high level of transparency and accountability of activities, as well as contributing to the participation of wide strata of citizens in local self-governance. To improve the quality and effectiveness of services provided to citizens, within the scope of the initiative, in large and amalgamated communities of Armenia the so-called Citizen Offices have been established operating with the principle of “One stop-shop”, which, through the “Smart Municipality” system ensure provision of 16-27 various types of administrative services to the citizens from one common and comfortable area.

 3. How did the initiative solve the problem and improve people’s lives?
The goal of the initiative is to increase efficiency of activities by LSGB in Armenia, to improve the public services provided by them to community residents through transparent and accountable management. The initiative is based on the following main principles: • The resident should have the right to choose a convenient for him/her way of using services and collaborating with LSGBs (via visiting the municipality, writing applications, via phone, e-mail and through web-site). • The resident should have the right to choose a convenient for him/her time to use the services and to collaborate with LSGBs. • The services should be as centralized as possible and be provided from one common space (physical, virtual). • The services should be accessible and affordable, be provided in a quality manner, constantly and effectively. • Accountability, publicity and transparency of the LSGB activity should be ensured. • Participation of residents in LSG should be ensured. To achieve this goal, the following problems have been solved: • LSGB capacities have been developed and sufficient skills have been provided to improve the public services provided through innovative methods and means, to ensure accountability, publicity and transparency of their activities, and to engage residents in local self-governance. • Relevant conditions have been created for community residents to participate in the community governance process through modern methods and means, and to receive the provided services in an easy manner. For that end 1. “Smart Municipality” municipal management information system has been created and introduced in RA communities. The System introduction started in 2008, and currently it is introduced in more than 550 communities in all 10 marzes of Armenia, where almost 93% of residents from those marzes live. 2. Based on the “Smart Municipality” system, official Internet websites of the communities have been launched. 3. To improve the services, Citizen Offices have been established in 21 communities, which operate and provide services through “Smart Municipality” system. 4. Awareness raising and publicizing events about the System and innovative solutions have been organized, as well as awareness seminars, presentations, discussions have been conducted. Awareness has also been raised through disseminating information-leaflets, mass and social media. “Smart Municipality” is an integrated information system due to which the necessary information is exchanged and the data are updated. Visitors of the official websites are able to participate in the discussions of issues of community importance, program planning and implementation, to register their opinions, recommendations, complaints, recorded problems, to communicate with local authorities and staff, to submit applications online, to receive replies, etc. Through the System, community residents can receive various online services, which is always available 24/7. Due to implementation of the networking concept, thousands of people (community servants, community leaders, local council members, employees of community organizations, other people registered in the System) who got registered in the System, can directly communicate with each other, as well as through groups of people having common interests (e.g. professional groups), to quickly exchange information, to apply and receive answers to various questions, to organize professional discussions, as well as discussions of issues important to the community and the country. In summary, as a result of implementing the initiative, the capacity of LSGBs in more than 550 communities and thousands of community servants have been improved, on the other hand, favorable conditions have been created for the residents of various strata (including the most vulnerable groups) in communities to make use of public services in a more accessible and easy manner, as well as to participate in local self-governance.

C. Execution and Implementation

 4. In which ways is the initiative creative and innovative?
Based on “Smart Municipality” system the official websites of communities were created. Significant part of its context is generated in an automated manner due to the work of the subsystems. The community leaders, members of local council, community servants communicate with each other and carry out their functions through using the same system while each of them logging in with their username and password, and receiving the respective authority to access this or that component in the System. Via entering the community websites citizens can receive information, submit applications and observe the process of their implementation, see their tax liabilities and the status of received permissions, register community problems and recommendation, participate in the discussion of issues and programs of community importance, ask questions to the community leader, members of local council and community servants, impact the decisions made by LSGB. Citizens can receive certain services online, not going to the municipality and making extra costs. Due to implementation of the networking concept, thousands of users can communicate with each other, create groups, exchange information, ask and receive answers to various questions, organize both professional discussions, as well as discussions on issues related to the community and the state.

 5. Who implemented the initiative and what is the size of the population affected by this initiative?
The initiative was implemented by the “Information systems development and training center” non-governmental organization. “Information systems development and training center” non-governmental organization (ISDTC) wa founded in 2000. Still in 1993, the organization operated as an information analytical center, and in February 2001, it was registered as a non-governmental organization. The organization carries out activities throughout the Republic of Armenia and its stakeholders are the local self-governing bodies, community servants, representatives of the non-governmental organizations, etc. The mission of the organization: to contribute to the formation and development of information society in RA, democratic and effective activity of the local self-government and other bodies through applying innovative technologies and solutions. The initiative was implemented in more than 550 communities of all 10 marzes in RA, where almost 93% of those marzes live. To maintain/operate the “Smart Municipality” system, as well as to provide services to the population in the offices, the ISDTC has trained almost 4000 community servants. All the residents in those communities, the local self-governing bodies and the community servants are the main stakeholders of this initiative.
 6. How was the strategy implemented and what resources were mobilized?
To implement the initiative it was necessary to solve the following strategic problems: • Build the capacity of LSGB and municipal staff, to improve services provided by them via innovative methods and means, to ensure accountability, publicity and transparency of their activity. • Create opportunities for community residents to participate in the community governance process through modern methods and ways, and to easily receive the services provided. Accordingly to develop an action plan: 1. Improve technical capacity of municipalities (computers, networks, associated equipment) 2. Create a modern and developed Municipal Management Information System (MMIS) for LSGBs. 3. Install and launch the created system in municipalities. 4. Launch official websites for communities based on the installed system. 5. Train community servants to operate MMIS. 6. Establish Citizen Offices in large and amalgamated communities to operate with the principle “One stop-shop”. 7. Constantly develop and maintain the installed system. The initiative started in October 2006. Initially Version 1 of the System was created and installed in 217 communities. During the following 7 years and until now the System has been constantly developed and installed in more than 550 communities, engaging more and more users, and serving more citizens in hundreds of RA communities. 4000 community servants have been trained to operate the System. Main stages of implementing the initiative: I. Creation of Version 1 “Smart Municipality” MMIS (2006-2007). II. System installation and launching in municipalities of 217 RA communities (all 48 urban, all 12 districts in Yerevan city, 155 large and medium size rural). Improving ICT Infrastructures in those municipalities), training specialists (01.09.2007-30.09.2009). III. System installation and launching in municipalities of additional 363 RA communities. Improving ICT Infrastructures in those municipalities), training specialists (2010-2016). IV. Establishing citizen offices with system application in 21 large and amalgamated communities of RA (2008-2016). V. Launching official websites of municipalities (2012-2016). VI. Regular monitoring and evaluation of efficiency of the initiative and the gained (2008-2016). VII. System improvement, development and issuing of new versions (so far 20 new versions have been issued) (2008-2016) VIII. Organizing public awareness raising events (conferences, seminars, presentations, meeting-discussions, mass media, social websites) about the System and innovative solutions (2012-2016). IX. System maintenance (2008-2016) Resources attracted for implementation of the initiative Financial costs: For the implementation of the initial stages of the initiative nearly 1.565.000USD have been spent, of which nearly 1 million USD was spent by the RA Government to procure computer equipment, network devices and licensed software for 217 communities and 54 CRO territorial offices. The funds were allocated by the RA Government within the scope of Public Sector Modernization Program. Human resources: To coordinate activities of the event, to control, assess and accept the gained results according to stages, a working group was established at the RA Ministry of Territorial administration with the first Deputy Minister at the head. The initiative was implemented by the professional staff (23 specialists engaged) of the “Information systems development and training center” NGO (Project manager – 1, Programmers– 9, Trainers- 2, Web Designer– 1, Experts for Different Subsystems – 6, Network Specialists– 4). During the implementation of further stages of the initiative, the biggest support was provided by the German GIZ organization. Through cooperation with the RA Ministry of territorial administration and development, the GIZ organization supported the creation of Citizen offices in 21 RA communities and installation of the “Smart Municipality” system in 190 communities. In 62 communities, the System installation activities have been implemented by the “Strategic Development Agency” NGO. In more than 80 communities the System installation and launching activities have been carried out by the own funds of the communities.

 7. Who were the stakeholders involved in the design of the initiative and in its implementation?
The program was initiated by the RA Ministry of territorial administration and development. The program was implemented by the “Information systems development and training center” NGO. The RA Ministry of territorial administration and development, based on the provisions of the “Concept paper for informatization of the LSGB activity and development of local information society” adopted by the RA Government, coordinates the programs for ensuring sustainability of the initiative and institutionalization. During the creation and continuous development of the “Smart Municipality” system, the needs and opinions of the wide strata of the society (including community residents) were taken into consideration. Community servants, representatives of NGOs and mass media, and active citizens actively participated in the designing, processing and development of the System. To decide the directions of further development of the System, and the mechanism of increasing the level of its usefulness, regular conferences, seminars, presentations and working discussions are being organized with participation of various stakeholders. Namely, during the 2010-2017, the ISDTC has organized 17 similar events in which hundreds of representatives from 197 various municipalities, 5 ministries, 10 governor’s offices, 47 NOGs, 10 international organizations, 22 private sectors and 20 mass media participated. During these events, they registered good ideas and the introduced recommendations, and later implemented in the new versions of the System. A consortium made up of 6 NGOs carries out huge amount of work for wide dissemination and coverage of the System, to make public application of the tools for e-participation available in the System, which is carried out by the Civic Engagement in Local Governance (CELoG) Program: CELoG is a USAID funded five-year (2014-2019) activity, aimed at increasing civic engagement in decentralization and local self-government reform. It provides citizens with reliable information and strengthens civil society’s capacity to promote effective, accountable and participatory local governance.

 8. What were the most successful outputs and why was the initiative effective?
The initiative has been implanted for 10 years already. The most successful outputs are: - A developed management information system was created for the local self-governing bodies (“Smart Municipality” Municipal management information system” (MMIS)), through which LSGBs effectively implement functions based on their powers, ensure provision of high quality services, communication with citizens, as well as with public and private entities. - At the initial stage (2007-2009) the System was installed and launched in only 217 RA communities. The received positive results contributed to the dissemination of the System. Currently it is installed in more than 550 communities of all 10 marzes in RA, where almost 93% of the population of these marzes live. Through the use of the System the quality of work by LSGB has significantly improved; the data processing, document preparation, service provision and decision making process has sped up. - Almost 4000 community servants have been trained to effectively use the System, of which almost 67 % are female, and 33% are male. Professional skills of the trained specialists has significantly improved: they have gained knowledge and skills to work with the modern information-communication technologies and management information systems. Along with the System development, respective conditions have been created for the community specialists to participate in training courses regularly and get the required new knowledge. - Through the System the official Internet websites of LSGBs have been launched, which helped to improve the transparency, accountability of activities by the latter has improved while contributing to the reduction of corruption risks. - In already 21 communities citizen offices have been established, the operation of which is based on the “Smart Municipality” MMIS. At the office the citizens receive various types of services, the number of which in communities with different sizes varies between 16-27.

 9. What were the main obstacles encountered and how were they overcome?
-Impediment: Frequent replacement of trained personnel in municipalities, flow of human resources -How it was settled: The System training courses are constant. Respective courses are organized for new specialists. Modern effective opportunities to receive advice and professional assistance are ensured for the specialists. -Impediment: Problems with Internet access and availability, especially for remote and small communities. -How it was settled: At the initial stages of implementing the initiative access and availability of quality Internet was very challenging. Accordingly, in many municipalities the System was operating only in Intranet media. During the last 4-5 years, as a result of enhancing the competitive field and application of new technology, the situation has significantly changed. Currently the Internet is accessible and available in almost all communities. -Impediment: RA legislation did not contribute to the process of making active the informatization of LSGB activity օրենսդրությունը. -How it was settled: The effectiveness of using the System and positive results received during the first years became basis for RA Government to develop and adopt the “Concept paper on the policy for informatization of the RA LSGB activity and development of local information society”, and then to make necessary legislative changes. -Impediment: Low level of development of information society in the communities. Low level fo awareness and using the created opportunities by the citizens. -How it was settled: Due to implementation of a number of programs, during the years various events have been organized to raise awareness, to introduce the official websites and available in them services and e-participation tools to the citizens in the communities. In this respect, in the recent years huge amount of work has been carried out by Civic Engagement in Local Governance (CELoG) Program implemented by a consortium established by 6 NGOs.

D. Impact and Sustainability

 10. What were the key benefits resulting from this initiative?
To effectively operate “Smart Municipality” System installed in more than 550 communities almost 4000 community specialists have been trained of which 67% are female, and 33% are male. The trained specialists have significantly improved the professional skills, and they also gained knowledge and skills to operate modern ICT: Via the System, LSGB official Internet websites have been launched; the operation transparency and accountability of the latter has significantly improved. Through the System, LSGBs implement their functions and provide various services. Significant part of the services can also be provided online. The community residents can receive various online services, which are available 24/7. Citizen offices have been established in 21 communities, the activity of which is based on “Smart Municipality” system. Various services are provided to citizens in offices, the number of which in COs of different sizes varies between 16-27. Work of the CO is quick, effective and coordinated: citizens do not have wait long or come to the office several times to have their problem solved. Results of the survey made in 10 COs during 2015 showed that absolute majority of citizens (97%) is satisfied with the services provided in COs. They think that after establishment of the CO, the quality of community services has been improved: 94% of population feels more informed. 98% of the respondents is satisfied with the quality of service provided by the CO personnel, which shows, that they pay attention to respectful treatment of the visitors and full satisfaction of the latter’s requirements. The citizens, who apply for services, can observe the process of service provision online; if necessary they can ask questions, as well as assess the quality of service provided. Online services provided through websites have significantly reduced the citizens’ costs. The services have become easy and accessible especially for residents in remote settlements of amalgamated communities, as well as for those with health problems. The dates of providing certain types of services have sharply reduced. E.g., if previously it took 10-15 days to get construction permits, now that service takes 3-7 days. The dates for simpler permits reduced 3 times, and in certain cases. the permits are given right after application. Services related to giving various types of certificates, payment of community property and local taxes, dues and payments have greatly improved. Paperwork and time for one single service, extra bureaucracy and queues have reduced. Corruption risk has decreased. Through the website, the citizens can observe and participate in discussion and development of LSGB legal acts. They can watch the local council meetings, community budget income and expenditure performance online. Community development programs have become transparent starting from the designing stage until current management, introduction of results and implementation of the monitoring process. Availability of e-participation tools enables the citizens to make recommendations online, to participate in the determination of program priorities, to supervise over the program implementation process, to introduce the problems that arise during the program implementation, to participate in discussions and monitoring procedures, etc.

 11. Did the initiative improve integrity and/or accountability in public service? (If applicable)
The results gained during the implementation of the initiative, and the identified impediments contributed to legislative changes: mandatory norms were enshrined in the RA Law on LSGB, namely in communities with more than 3000 population there should have and run an official website, and in communities with 10000 and more population, meetings of the local council and public events should be broadcast online. The law defines minimum requirements for contents of the official websites, which are aimed at ensuring transparency and accountability of LSGB activity, and to encourage public participation in local governance and to reduce the corruption risks. Via websites created within the scope of initiative, citizens can receive the necessary information: learn about community news, organized events, community budget implementation, process of community development program implementation and reports, local council meetings, decisions made by LSGB, draft legal acts, public events expenditures, payment of local dues and taxes, observe the procurement process, learn about tenders and auctions, vacancy announcements, etc. In online manner, the citizens can turn to the community leader, members of the local council and municipality staff. The citizens in communities with 10000 and more population are able to follow the meetings of the local council and public events via official websites. Through e-participation tools, website visitors participate in the discussion of issues of community importance, program planning and implementation, express their opinions, make recommendations, complaints, introduce problems and communicate with local authorities and staff specialists. Through the System, the citizens can receive various online services, as well as to learn about the procedures of providing all types of services. Through launching Citizen Offices (One stop-shop), the procedures of service provision have been simplified, the time for necessary paperwork has reduced, direct communication with decision-makers who give (or reject) service provision permits is excluded: The community websites are regularly monitored by NGOs in terms of their contents, having in mind the following: a) to contribute to the publicity of official websites of the communities, to increase transparency and accountability in front of the community members. b) to contribute to the process of publicizing required by law information on the official websites of the communities, and meet the information requirements of the society. As a result of implementing the initiative the level of transparency and accountability of LSGB activity has significantly increased, service provision has become easy and effective, corruption risks have decreased.

 12. Were special measures put in place to ensure that the initiative benefits women and girls and improves the situation of the poorest and most vulnerable? (If applicable)
During the program implementation special attention was paid to its implementation also in remote communities and the ones with little financial resources. As assistance, the LSGBs of those communities received respective number of computers, training of specialists, as well as LANs were created in the given municipalities. One of the most important goals of the program is to reduce the costs for necessary services, to speed up the service provision, to exclude extra visits to the municipality and the corruption risks. Significant part of the services became free of charge for the citizens. 67% of almost 4000 trained specialists to operate the system is women, who have improved their professional knowledge and skills.

Contact Information

Institution Name:   Ministry of Territorial Administration and Development of the Republic of Armenia
Institution Type:   Ministry  
Contact Person:   Ashot Giloyan
Title:   Head of the department of local self government  
Telephone/ Fax:   (+37410)511342
Institution's / Project's Website:  
E-mail:   a.giloyan@mta.gov.am  
Address:   Government House 3, Republic Square
Postal Code:   0010
City:   Yerevan
State/Province:  
Country:  

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