Jeyhun Salmanov is the Deputy Chairman of the State Agency for Public Service and Social Innovations under the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan. The State Agency for Public Service and Social Innovations looks manages Azerbaijan Service and Assessment Network (ASAN), which was established in 2012. ASAN is one stop-shop public service delivery model, where 10 ministries and a number of private entities are presented. It provides more than 320 public services to citizens from under a roof. This integrated service centre has 10 state bodies including notary services, birth, death and marriage registration, identity cards, driving license, and passports under it. The concept of people serving from under a roof not only saves time, money and energy of citizens but they can also get all the government services. Established by decree of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan – to enhance the efficiency and quality of public services – ASAN operates under the supervision and direct control of the State Agency for Public Service and Social Innovations under the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan.
Salmanov, who has recently visited Nepal, talked to Karobar National Economic Daily. In an interview with Kuber Chalise, Editor of Karobar National Economic Daily, Salmanov shared about public services, liberal economy and importance of digital government. The excerpts:
How does State Agency for Public Service and Social Innovations support innovation?
State Agency for Public Service and Social Innovations under the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan was created with the decree of President in 2012 to achieve advance service delivery and encourage innovations and better government service for the greater satisfaction of citizens with more innovative ways. There are several responsibilities of this agency. One of them is management of Azerbaijan Service and Assessment Network (ASAN) service centres. This centre not only provides government services but also private services such as insurance, bank, tourism services. We continuously seek the feedback from the citizens on its service delivery, which helps it provide service more efficiently. The satisfaction level of citizens is more than 99 percent. Our President says that ASAN is our intellectual property and our brain.
In past 7 years, more than 36 million citizen applications were processed within ASAN service centres, while the number of rendered services exceeded 320, of which most of them are private services. At the moment, there are 16 ASAN Service centers throughout Azerbaijan. One of the most revolutionary achievements of ASAN service centres has been a great success in making government services more transparent for public. The State Agency got the United Nations Public Service Award twice – once in 2015 and again in 2019 – due to its contribution to the development of public service delivery system of Azerbaijan. In 2019, ASAN service centres was awarded due to its achievements in digitalization of public service delivery as Azerbaijan put significant effort in development of e-governance – automation of government – and transformation of services from offline to online. We have developed the e-government portal whereby anyone can access public services online. About 450 services are provided through that portal. The development of e-government is crucial for building a citizen-government relationship in the most efficient way. If one needs to get a certain license from state body, one does not need to waste time going there anymore. One can do it online. In other words, all the information is at the tip of the citizens fingers.
Likewise, our third responsibility is innovations, support start-ups. We have innovation centres under our organization. We are supporting our start-ups for building their business and making their ideas work. We provide them all facilities from mentorships to access to investors and also building a bridge for successful start-ups to expand their services outside of the country. We have also created tech-Diaspora, which unites our internal start-ups with external start-ups. We are also going to open a new innovation house, Azerbaijan Innovation House, in Silicon Valley in order to achieve improvement in this sector.
How easy it is to work with start-ups? What can Nepal learn from Azerbaijan?
When it comes to start-ups everything starts from idea. But first of all we need courageous young people, who are not afraid to announce their ideas. For that we need to build environment as you need to build incubation centres to improve their ideas and set up their businesses. The main thing is confidence, confidence on government and on yourself. One should not be fearful to announce idea. Then the government should create environment where they can have access to finance, not government but private investment. To attract private investment the government needs to make private sector confident, show government support them. The government must play the role of regulator and make investors confident that their investment and ideas is secure.
We are trying to transform Azerbaijan as a country of innovation from earlier oil-based country. We are also trying to diversify our economy and encouraging the start ups, who can transform the image of Azerbaijan.
The main income source of Azerbaijan is the oil and gas industry. But we are now dicersifying by developing the non-oil sector. We have heavily modernized the agriculture sector and invested in the development of alternative energy production.
We have also given top priority is the development of human capital as it is the most valuable asset. To develop any field of economy the country needs experts. Azerbaijan has invested in education system lately and our universities are comparable to the most prestigious world universities.
But the main role of government is regulation to achieve all these results. If government starts to be a player, then there will be problem among the public and private sector. And we encourage public private partnership.
Since its independence from the Soviet Union 30 years ago Azerbaijan has achieved significant progress in the field of good governance and social innovations. For the introduction of social innovations in the field of public service delivery, the country should promote innovations that can increase public service efficiency.
How did you improve public service delivery Azerbaijan?
In 2012 the Azerbaijan President Aliyev launched a government reforms to increase the effectiveness of government entities, and make government services more accessible. It also was supposed to ensure transparency in public services delivering entities. State Agency for Public Service and Social Innovations was created under the reforms programme. The State Agency has unified public services delivery under one roof, accelerated the development of e-governance and fostered social innovations. Thus, reforms is key to public service delivery. Also, to improve the public service delivery, we have started implementing modern technologies through ASAN service centres that has minimized time and cost to get public service. Technology is important for improved public service delivery.
How can Nepal learn to improve public service delivery?
From to the airport hotel, one can observe the service processes. Earlier our country also faced the same problem, but we transformed every service from offline to online, which saved time and money and people got efficient public service delivery. So there is always a scope for improvement to develop. Nepal government is also making a great effort to improve the quality of services and apply best practices to achieve a higher level of citizen satisfaction. Nepal has huge potential for the development of tourism. So, the visa application process has to be improved and made online. The improvement in public services like visa application procedure has to be improved using technology, which will make the public service delivery not only efficient but also accessible and transparent.
Is there any possibility of joint investment opportunities between Nepali and Azerbaijani private sector?
We have very good relations with Nepali government and solid cooperation. I have also met with several high ranking Nepali government officials. There is a huge willingness for cooperation for good governance. During our discussions, we have discussed on private sector involvement. We will sign some agreement with Nepali private sector soon to invest in Nepal. We are also ready to assist Nepali authorities in providing our best practice. Azerbaijani private sector can make partnerships with Nepali private sector. In this delegation also we have one company with us that has helped us e-visa system, which can be helpful to Nepal as Nepal has lots of opportunities for tourism in Nepal. Next time, we can bring more delegation to Nepal. Nepal can attract more tourists from Azerbaijan with efficient tourist service delivery.
What can Nepal export to Azerbaijan?
I think, Nepal has good handicrafts products and quality Pashmina to export.