Written by Matej Novak from International Research and Exchanges Board, Ukraine office.
The Ukrainian OGP Action Plan, just like most other country OGP Action Plans, takes advantage of the power of the internet. It contains the creation of new online resources that will improve public access to government information; it foresees new ways of government-citizen online interaction; and it places an increasing number of government services online, making the government’s work more transparent and efficient.
But the best news is that the Ukrainian government understands that it also needs to address the challenge of access to internet and training, the weak point on many contemporary e-governance strategies. According to World Bank data from 2011, only 6% of Ukrainians have fixed internet subscriptions. And even if access to the internet was free and universal, the majority of the population is not confident internet users and can only use a small fraction of what the internet can provide.
Luckily for Ukraine, the country has one of the widest networks of public libraries in the world – 18,000 of them serving about 46 million people. Almost every large village in the country has a public library. According to public opinion polls, the librarians are among the most trusted members of their community, together with teachers. The library is usually centrally located and free for everyone. It is a perfect venue for bridging the digital divide.
Together with donors and partners, the Ukrainian government has recently invested in computerization and “internetization” of public libraries. According to International Research and Exchanges Board (IREX) country office, only 115 out of 490 country’s raions (small administrative units usually containing a small town a neighboring villages) still do not have a library that provides free access to internet. Ukrainian librarians are also undergoing a 3 week course that helps them become online information guides.
The OGP Action Plan for Ukraine integrates Ukrainian libraries into the country’s e-governance strategy. Librarians and government officers will receive special training focusing on access to e-governance resources at the library and on government-citizen online interaction. The plan also envisages a public information campaign that will inform the public about new e-governance services, and the integration of a recently launched library modernization program Library XXI with the OGP Action Plan. That’s very good news for all of those who want to see Ukraine more transparent and efficient.