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September 12th, 2016

Romania’s quest for a more connected government started a few years ago and underwent numerous of challenges. At first, building a more connected government and e-services for citizens and businesses was used as an excuse to continue the old practices of corruption and unsmart (to say the least) public spending. This was done under the cover of a new high tech label – it turned out to be a lucrative business for people and companies used with embezzling public funds.

Another challenge which the paperless Romanian administration faced and is facing is the bureaucratic mind-set which is deeply embedded in the Romanian public service, a sad inheritance of the communist past based on what it was then called the nomenclature. This continues to exist to this day. The first two challenges are deeply connected, each one relying on the other.

The third and the most interesting challenge is the barrier between generations. Exponents of the older generations are disconnected from the new. The senior public servants find the practices promoted by their younger counterparts challenging to their position. Yet what is interesting is that the strength of the senior generation was proven by their achievement in influencing generation X. More clearly, the representatives of generation X which entered politics and public service, more or less continued the practices of their seniors, and the ones that refused to do so, never succeeded in the public sector. As for the rest… they plain and simple left the country…

This sad story might repeat itself with the Y generation if the few open minded X gen exponents left don’t take a strong stance against the practices and customs that sacrificed progress for the sake of “the original democracy”. I might have been a bit harsh for the sake of simplifying, of course there are exceptions, of course X gen exponents with the help of some seniors gave us the ‘89 revolution and most of them, living in cities involved in the revolution, have martyr friends. The thing is (and my fellow Y’s have to take this into deep consideration) history sheltered us from the challenges the older generations had to go through, but this is another discussion for another time, now let’s speak “eGov”.

Most of Y gen. exponents are internet natives, they speak cyber, so the government has no chance if it doesn’t learn the language. In our days states and governments have to learn to compete for citizens; yes that’s right, being a citizen now is like buying into a social contract i.e. a constitution. Butmore than this, every citizen is a shareholder of the state they bare the citizenship of, and citizenships can change. So, as clients and shareholders we ask for quality services and respect from our government. Currently, the administration lacks both. This is why Romania is bleeding brains and workforce.

Don’t jump to conclusions, I am not talking exclusively about Victoria Palace here, I mean all the three branches of the state, they all have to do a better job.

To ease the tension, let us all remember the beautiful story of Pandora’s box. Zeus was so mad that humanity got the secret of fire from Prometheus that it gave Pandora a box containing seductive gifts, and of course she opened it and all the evils spilled into the world of humans “only Hope was left within her unbreakable house…”

So is there still hope?

Some say there is. Lately, there seems to be developments at Victoria Palace. The creation of GovIT Hub came with promises of modernising public services and prime-minister Ciolos announced that he supports this reform if not by climbing the mountain I spoke about, by going around it. This recipe looks to be new but it’s still at the stage of a promise.

What is there to be done?
To put it simple we need: Transparency, Accountability and Efficiency.

First of all, there is a burning need for IT-able public servants; and fast. We need public servants that not only know how to use IT&C, but can also bring performance to the state by doing so. Also, interoperability is key, this can be done in multiple ways, including a governmental intranet and interoperable databases (please no more “go to counter 1 then go to counter 5 and then to institution a, then again to counter 5…”; it is undermining, disrespectful and pure and simple an offense to our intelligence).
Second, we need to be able, those that know how to use a PC (adequately), to go through all our main life events online. These include getting a job, getting a permit or starting a business. It’s not just something we can do, it’s something we have to do. And for it to happen everybody has to pitch in, and us, citizens, have to learn that we are as responsible for our situation as our leaders are.

Let me draw to a conclusion by saying that the challenges all of us have faced and still face, don’t have to be barriers, they don’t have to be burdens, they can be lessons that make us all stronger and smarter, because, in the end, we all want the same thing, we all want to live long, happy and prosperous lives, and we can help each other achieve this.

The 2017 edition of the Strategikon Annual Book – The Year of Challenging Choices

The 2017 edition of the Strategikon Annual Book – The Year of Challenging Choices

It’s not easy to be a leader, but the solution is closer than people may think and it has to do with returning to some good old fashioned traits that shaped leaders in past decades: will power, values and vision. Launched at the Good Governance Summit, The Year of Challenging Choices strives to understand the fault lines in international relations and the relevant actors, as they are and not how they appear to be.

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