Digital reform in Romania

 

In the past years Romania has undergone substantial political and economic transformation, designed to establish a free-market economy by privatization of state-owned enterprises and deregulation of the economy. Becoming a member of the EU remains the top priority among national objectives. The Government has assumed as a priority objective of its term in office the completion of the process of economic transition and has embarked upon an ambitious attempt to bring the Romanian economy to the stage of operating within the framework of a functional and successful market, capable of withstanding the demands of the competitive environment of the European Union, that Romania is scheduled to join in 2007.

 

Communications and information technology were declared national priorities in the beginning of 2001, as it is considered they can be the development engine of the Romanian economy. One of the most important issues that the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology of Romania has concentrated upon in the last years is the regulatory framework for the development of the Information Society services in Romania, which was established as predictable, simple and consistent. Today, the laws concerning the protection of individuals with regard to the processing of personal data, processing of personal data and the protection of privacy in the telecommunications sector, the electronic signature, the cyber crime, the electronic commerce, e-procurement and e-tax are already in force. Also, a new legislative package regarding electronic communications was approved in 2002, which is in line with the newest European Directives in domain - an European premiere.

 

Romania has a well-developed communications infrastructure, which offers great potential for introducing new services and also facilitates the reduction of the digital divide within the country. The total liberalization of the telecom market on January 1st, 2003 set the conditions for the availability of better and diversified services at lower costs for all citizens.

 

e-Government was aggressively promoted in the past two years as it is considered the best way of organizing public management in order to increase efficiency, transparency, accessibility and responsiveness to citizens, as well as to reduce bureaucracy and corruption, through the intensive and strategic use of Communications and Information Technology in the inner management of the public sector, as well as in its daily relations with citizens and users of public services.

 

Since 2001, approximately 30 pilot projects were finalized, projects that aimed, in the first phase, to simply prove the benefits of a solution to be extended according to a precise calendar in order to assure better ways of solving problems for as many people as possible. One of these projects, the payment of local taxes via the Internet, is currently used in 50% of the Romanian municipalities.

 

Public acquisitions done through electronic means is another pilot project, which is now functional at national level, becoming a key component in the process of modernization of public administration.

 

By procuring electronically, the Romanian Government proved it can lower the cost of inputs, also encouraging the private sector to move to B2B and creating the premises for lowering corruption, reducing bureaucracy and ensuring transparency, in the effort of building efficient and accountable public sector institutions, capable of sustaining long term development. The implementation of this system is part of the governmental effort of building efficient and accountable public sector institutions, capable of sustaining long term development. The system prepared the ground for going further with the digital reform of the Romanian society.

 

Thus, only few months ago, as part of an anti-corruption legislative initiative, the Government promoted concrete measures to insure the availability of all public information on line and the possibility to provide on line complex and complete governmental services. The legal obligations of the central and local public administration authorities will be established very clearly in order to have a functional system allowing all citizens’ access to public information and services - from filling in different forms to processing them on line. This is the actual “desk reform” announced by the Prime Minister and it means that any Romanian citizen will be able to access the Internet, from home or other public place, even from the office, for interacting with the administration. The initiative is meant to improve the access to the information and services of public administration authorities and to simplify the bureaucratic procedures by standardizing the methodologies of work. A few examples of public services, which will be provided by electronic means, according to Art.12 in the chapter dedicated to transparency, are:

  •  Declaring, notifying and paying local taxes, the contributions to the budget of state social insurances and the budget of the national fund for social health insurances;
  • Services to obtain an authorization or a certificate such as: urbanism, construction authorization, on line filling in authorizations and certificates, the payment of different invoices;
  • Services to obtain a license, such as: filling in applications, filling in forms and sending through electronic means the documents necessary for the issuance of licenses, payment via electronic means etc;
  • Services for public acquisitions made by electronic means, including the payment of different invoices by electronic means;
  • Services regarding the setting up of a new business, including the notes in the Register of Companies;
  • Services regarding electronic evidence of the population, such as: filling in the forms for obtaining a passport, identity card and driving license, notification of the change of the address, declaration of the theft or lose of such documents;
  • Services related to vehicles, such as: the notification regarding the purchase of a vehicle, the reservation of the plate?s number, filling in the forms in order to register a vehicle, programming or presenting the documents related to registration of a vehicle;
  • Services regarding custom-house formalities.

The launching of the electronic national system in 2003, a portal organized as an one-stop-shop in the relation with the Government, that will provide forms for download and on line services, means the beginning of a general digital reform in the Romanian Society. The system will make the overall interaction with the administration more efficient and comfortable, while reducing costs for both public and private entities and increasing the public trust in the administration.

 

The portal is developed for the public administration with the purpose that every individual or institution with Internet access, both within the country or abroad, could access online to information and services provided by the government without knowing in advance which specific entity has to contact. This service will be available 24 hours a day and 7 days a week.

 

Also, by the adoption of the anti-corruption Law, a financial disclosure solution is used in Romania since april 2003 (Law 161/2003). By publicizing online the financial statements of public officials, two objectives are served: the first is to monitor changes over time in the economic situation of public officials; the second is to detect and prevent potential conflict of interests between public officials and the private sector.

 

The initiatives of the Romanian Government promoting the increasing use of electronic means and technologies in reforming the administration, tested step by step, from pilot applications to national programs, based on a clear plan of enforcement and realistic budgeting, having in centre the accountability for concrete results, proved successful till now and promise to deliver in short time a new, modern, more efficient and transparent administration in Romania.