Mikhail Doroshevich, Marina Sokolova
Abstract. Major developments of the years of 2001-2002 prove that the ICT sector consisting of various sub-sectors (e.g., telecommunications, electronics, software, hardware, services, etc.) is expanding and infiltrating business, administration, education in Belarus. While awareness of these dynamics is growing, Belarusian government is already pursuing an array of ICT-related laws and regulations. Overview of the governmental ICT initiatives shows that the key focus is the development of telecommunication infrastructure, widespread introduction of information technology to government in order to collect and process data and information security which are regarded as a step of transition to information society. "Electronic Belarus" is oriented generally to organizational and technological upgrading of the public administrations. Issues of wide public electronic access to information and participation in democratic process, transparency of public administration are not mentioned in the programme. But the fact that e-government is proclaimed as a perspective creates opportunities for further work in this direction.
ICT has very quickly come to play important role in Belarusian society being used by companies and private individuals to engage in business, research, the collection of information and, more generally, communications in the country. According to the results of a poll conducted in 2002 by the Institute of Sociology and Social Technologies of the National Academy of Science and published by Belorusskaya Gazeta 40 per cent of Belarus' population is computer literate. More than a quarter (27 per cent) of respondents have access to the internet but only one tenth of them access the internet daily. More than one fifth (22 per cent) of those who access the internet do it more than once during the week, 29 per cent access the net several times a month, while 39 per cent go online less than once a month. One tenth of those polled said they were unaware of the internet. 62 % of Belarusian internet users live in Minsk, the capital of the country. Regional centers make up 23 per cent of internet users.. Meanwhile, cities with over 10,000 inhabitants, claim 13 per cent of Belarus internet users, up from 11 per cent last spring. The most active internet visitors are between 17-22 years old, comprising 40 per cent of Belarusian internet users. 23-29 year olds, meanwhile, make up 28 per cent of users, while 30-39 year olds make up 15 per cent. The 16 year old and younger crowds make up only 8 per cent of Belarusian internet population. 40-49 year olds make up 6 per cent of internet users, while 50-59 and 60-over make up 2 and 1 per cent of Belarusian internet users respectively. Students and young people, therefore, continue to make up two-thirds of internet users. Currently, however, about 3000 elderly people use e-mail, generally to correspond with their relatives abroad. The majority of users are men, at 75 per cent. 41 per cent of internet users have a higher education, while 28 per cent have an unfinished higher education.
At the same year the Information Technologies Enterprise and the Institute of Technical cybernetics together with the University of Mannheim have taken part in the international TeSIAC (Telemedicine System for Image Analysis and Consultation) project to create a system for the analysis of and consultations on thyroid cancer cases in Belarus. TeSIAC is intended to interconnect the Radiation Medicine and Endocrinology Institute, the Minsk city cancer clinic and Tumor Center and the Radiation University of Wurzburg. The TeSIAC database will contain 3D ultrasound images of every patient's thyroid glands before and after operating.
Icetrade.by, the website of the National Marketing and Market-Determined Prices Centre is offering information on international government tenders and auctions. The site is intended to provide Belarusian Ministries and government organisations with updates on more than 5,000 tenders and auctions all over the world. It lists specialized bulletins and reports of trade delegations abroad, along with a review of 600 websites. Icetrade.by also maintains information on national tenders by Belarusian companies and government
In 2001 Priorbank was the first bank in Belarus to issue Visa internet cards for virtual payments. In the end of 2002 Belarusian portal Tut.by has recorded a profit, and return on investment (100KUSD) is expected in 2-5 years. More than 20,000 users visit the portal daily. TUT.BY offers internet, educational, cultural and other resources. Services offered by Tut.by include information on job openings and pager messages. In addition, Tut.by offers hosting and e-mail services to 300 companies and organisations. Furthermore, the scope of the portal's advertising services is constantly growing. Online advertising sales on Belarusian sites reached E39,986 by the end of 2002, according to a report by BelarusMedia agency. This figure doubles 2001 online advertising sales which totalled E19, 993. Belarusian online shopping service shop.by has launched an internet payment system, EasyPay.by, for customers to pay for products bought through its service. Shop.by began two years ago and now has 60 independent shops using its services. The company said the most popular items bought online include electronics, CDs, books and GSM mobile phones through the internet. On average, customers spend more than $100 (E111) on a single purchase. Last year, the company said overall turnover exceeded $2.6m (E2.9m), and $400,000 (E445,000) at Christmas. Combined, all the shops belonging to the system generate about 20,000 hits daily and last year, customers made 27,000 purchases
But in general Belarusian companies are still slow to see the benefits of the interne to raise awareness of their business and connect with companies, but e-mail and electronic accounting systems are well-established. Websites are used by 29.6 per cent of companies in Belarus, according to a recent survey by the Institute of Privatization and Management in Minsk, in cooperation with CIPE in Washington. PCs are used by 88.4 per cent of the 378 respondents, and 70.4 per cent of managers have introduced electronic business accounting systems in their enterprises. The survey also reports that electronic documents are used by 40 per cent of the companies, and that 70.4 per cent of managers use the internet and e-mail services
By the end of 2002 a number of governmental portals were created in Belarus. The Supreme Court for Economic Affairs in Belarus has launched a new website (http://court.by/)., which details the procedures and operating principles of the economic courts. On the website questions about bankruptcy procedure are dealt with in detail and the order of the reference in economic courts of Belarus is described. Visitors to the site can also view the responses of judges of the court to questions about bankruptcy procedures. President Lukashenko of Belarus has signed a decree on the creation of a "national legal internet portal"(http://ncpi.gov.by). According to the decree, the portal created under the authority of the National Centre for Legal Information of the Republic of Belarus is to become the main governmental e-resource on legislation and the government's "Information Programme". The portal is aimed at providing citizens with information about legislation and to improve governmental judicial activities. The Belarusian Ministry of Defence has launched a new military website (http://www.mod.mil.by/) with information about the Office's tenders, recruitment practices, and the military dog-breeding center. There is also a special feedback page for users to get answers to questions about serving in Belarusian army.
This list of major developments of the years of 2001-2002 proves that the ICT sector consisting of various sub-sectors (e.g., telecommunications, electronics, software, hardware, services, etc.) is expanding and infiltrating business, administration, education in Belarus. While awareness of these dynamics is growing, Belarusian government is already pursuing an array of ICT-related laws and regulations. In 1991 Council of Ministers of the Republic of Belarus adopted the Programme of Informatization of the Republic of Belarus for 1991-2000 years. At the same time Belarusian Found for Informatization was established by the government. But because of the lack of funding and political will only few projects were accomplished and in 1993 the programme was suspended. The real basis for the present government policy in the ICT sphere was laid by the Law on Informatization adopted in 1995. In this document such concepts as "data", "information resources", "information network", "information product", "information services" were defined as subjects for law for the first time. In 1998 inter-departmental commission on informatization was organized. The strategy worked out by the Commission was adopted by the Presidential decree in 1999. The Concept states that transition to the information society is the major objective of the Belarusian government strategy in the sphere of informatization. Development of infrastructure and security of information are pointed out as the basis for the transition. National telecommunications policy is based on the following legal acts: Concept of the development of telecommunications of the Republic of Belarus (1993); Programme of telecommunications development 2001-2005 (2001). In 2000 Law on Electronic Document was adopted in the Republic of Belarus.
According to the Concept and Programme "in order to ensure effective state control over telecommunications and in order to create appropriate technical and financial conditions for their development : it is necessary to preserve sate monopoly" for primary telecommunications networks; long distance and international fix phone and fax services and for telegraphy; radio and television transmitters; mail services.
In 2001 President of the Republic of Belarus, has signed a decree that will see the establishment of an association of companies involved in the development and export of IT. Membership in the association, which will be an affiliate of the state university in Minsk, will only be available to those with a legal background, and all members are to be engaged in IT development. Foreigners and enterprises with foreign investments can also be members of the association. The government is expected to give unprecedented tax concessions - VAT amounts of five per cent and immunity from taxation. In February of 2003 the Council of Ministers of the Republic of Belarus published its programme for the widespread introduction of information technology to government from 2003 to 2010. "Electronic Belarus" is aimed at developing governmental ICT infrastructure and the co-ordination of the introduction of ICT into administrative practice at all levels - from local authorities to ministries. The programme also provides measures for the promotion of e-commerce and e-learning in the country. Various e-government initiatives are also mentioned as possible next steps after a successful implementation of the programme. In 2003-2005 the government will allocate E15m (BYR32bn) for the implementation of the programme. The government hopes that implementation of the programme will result in growth of ICT exports of between five and ten per cent annually, and a reduction in the cost of internet access of 50 per cent. The programme highlights the existence of many monopolies in the IT sector in Belarus as one of the main obstacles for the successful implementation of an 'e-Belarus'.
At present more than 50 Ministries and governmental structures have their websites. 16 institutions update their sites on the daily basis. These are the sites of the President of the Republic of Belarus (http://www.president.gov.by), the governmental portal (http://www.main.gov.by) and the web site of the Council of Ministers Council (http://www.government.by/), sites of the ministries: http://www.mfa.gov.by (Ministry of Foreign Affairs), http://www.nalog.by (Tax administration), http://www.mod.mil.by/ (Ministry of Defence), http://www.mininform.gov.by (Ministry of Information) http://mvd-belarus.nsys.by/ (Ministry of Internal Affairs); web sites of National Centre for Legal Information of the Republic of Belarus (http://ncpi.gov.by), of the National Olympic Committee (http://www.noc.by), of the the Supreme Court for Economic Affairs (http://court.by/) and of the State Committee on Aviation (http://www.avia.by/). Sites of local administrations should be added to the list (http://www.minsk.gov.by/, http://www.gorod.gomel.by, http://www.region.mogilev.by, http://www.brest-region.by/). Most of the sites have two versions - Russian and English.
This short overview of the governmental ICT initiatives shows that the key focus is the development of telecommunication infrastructure, widespread introduction of information technology to government in order to collect and process data and information security which are regarded as a step of transition to information society. "Electronic Belarus" is oriented generally to organizational and technological upgrading of the public administrations. Issues of wide public electronic access to information and participation in democratic process, transparency of public administration are not mentioned in the programme and do not form the core of ICT activities of the majority of the governmental structures. But the fact that e-government is proclaimed as a perspective creates opportunities for further work in this direction.
SECOND EGOV CONFERENCE
From E-Government to E-Governance
Prague (Czech Republic), September 1-5, 2003
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