Diplomat reports on ASAN, Azerbaijan’s high-tech success story, making state bureaucracy simple and more accessible
The Azerbaijani Service and Assessment Network Service (ASAN) marks a real success story for Azerbaijan. ASAN is an e-government-based ‘one-stop shop’ for those who need to access public services.
The main purpose of ASAN is to enhance efficiency and to bring government services closer to the people. A useful by-product is that the IT-driven ASAN service, delivered in airy open-plan offices, eliminates petty corruption. There is no opportunity – or incentive – for bribes to be offered or received.
ASAN was launched in early 2013 to make Azerbaijani state bureaucracy simpler and more accessible. Its central principle is to bring representatives from various government departments under one roof, including those from the Ministry of Justice, Ministry of the Interior, Ministry of Taxes, the State Committee for Property Affairs, and the State Customs Committee. Many administrative tasks, ranging from tax registration to driving licence renewal, can be performed at ASAN service centres or via the ASAN website.
ASAN offers 22 services, including:
• issuing residence permits
• notarial document certification
• Registration of births, deaths, marriages and divorces
• Driving licence renewal
• Identity card services
• Land registry applications and real estate services
• State pension services
• Tax registration
• Customs declarations.
The ASAN concept was initiated in 2011 by Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev. The development follows an international trend, whereby e-services are used to improve, simplify and facilitate interaction between the state and society.
ASAN plays an essential role in enhancing the efficiency and quality of relations between state agencies and citizens, eradicating or minimising direct contact between them and thereby enhancing transparency and eliminating opportunities for corruption. From the outset, ASAN was designed so that all payments are transacted online. All ASAN centres are thus ‘cash-free’.
Azerbaijan now holds a leading position among CIS and some European countries regarding the use of information and communications technologies (ICT) to assist state agencies. The one-stop shop model has also been introduced in other countries, such as the UK, Canada and Georgia.
Mobile ASAN services are also provided for those who are unable to come to the service centres, and volunteers aged from 17–25 years are on hand to help those who are unable to complete applications for themselves.
Due to this integrated approach, the network has changed the way in which public sector organisations think and act, and there have been improvements in performance, management of centres, organisational structure and management culture.
The age range of employees in these centres is between 18 and 35 years, and more than half have experience of studying abroad. ASAN employees are highly-motivated, and pride themselves in providing high-quality, personalised public services. All services provided in ASAN centres are continuously monitored and evaluated, with electronic feedback stations placed at all exit points.
ASAN centres negate the need to queue for services, so long as the members of the public book their appointments online first. They can also check the status of applications online prior to picking up completed forms.
It is now expected that ASAN will cover all Azerbaijani regions by the end of 2014, according to the Chairman of the Azerbaijani Parliamentary Committee on Legal Policy and State Building, Ali Huseynli. Speaking at a recent roundtable, he commented: “ASAN service centres currently provide services to more than 500,000 members of the public, and serve around 1000 people each day.”
The Azerbaijani Taxation Ministry and ASAN have also collaborated to develop the ASAN Imza (simple signature). This enables entrepreneurs to use mobile phone technology to securely digitally sign documents. It is unnecessary to use a special card reader, and the system has been optimised for use anywhere in the world and operates across various mobile platforms. ASAN Imza utilises the X-Road system, regarded as the best e-governance system in the world. Estonia is currently the only other country using this technology in the public sector.
In April, Head of the EU Delegation to Azerbaijan, Ambassador Malena Mard, visited an ASAN centre in Baku. She praised the progress made: “ASAN is a model for successful public services provision that has made a significant positive difference for many Azerbaijani citizens. The EU is proud to have been among the first international partners to cooperate with ASAN, and we hope to continue looking into cooperation possibilities for the future, as ASAN continues developing its services.”