On 6 July 2021, the OECD organised an EU supported capacity-building webinar for the government of Afghanistan on Digitalisation for Private Sector Development.
The event was an opportunity to support Afghanistan’s efforts in digitalising the country, and its government services to the private sector in particular. The webinar was conducted as part of the OECD Policy Component of the EU Central Asia Invest initiative, with the capacity-building theme based on the OECD Peer Review of Afghanistan that was conducted in 2019. The webinar brought together experts from Estonia and Georgia, who shared their experience with stakeholders from Afghanistan.
Opening the session, Acting Governor of the Da Afghanistan Bank, Mr Ajmal Ahmady highlighted that Afghanistan’s Central Bank has been pursuing a double digital agenda. Not only has the Central Bank increasingly moved towards the digitalisation of its internal procedures, it has also been developing digital payment infrastructures, with a focus on interoperability between payment systems and commercial banks. Under the supervision of the bank, mobile payments are also increasingly introduced for administrative services. Echoing the need for more digital services for businesses, Deputy Minister of Industry and Commerce Mr Sulamain Bin Shah shared the Ministry’s plan on that end, noting their efforts in digitalising services for businesses.
Ms Talisa zur Hausen, Policy Analyst in the OECD Eurasia Division, presented trends and figures on Afghanistan’s digital transformation since the launch of the OECD 19 Peer Review. She noted that Afghanistan’s digital infrastructure remains limited, leading to low levels of internet penetration, and expensive connectivity costs – yet, mobile internet speeds have slightly improved and are relatively better than broadband compared to other countries. This may help the government to prioritise efforts towards mobile services. Mr Hoyat Fazli, CEO of Harakat displayed their efforts in co-operation with the Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCI) in expanding digital services for businesses, such as the merger of all existing databases to ease the issuance of licenses.
During the first session, Ms Amélie Schurich-Rey, Economist and Policy Analyst in the OECD Eurasia Division mapped Afghanistan’s digital infrastructure capabilities and presented selected key principles from the OECD principles for digital government. She noted that e-government services in Afghanistan have been progressing in recent years, but remain hindered due to lacking co-ordination among the different public stakeholders. Ms Jana Krimpe Partner in the Estonian ICT cluster illustrated how Estonia undertook its digital agenda, by highlighting a number of principles such as: the need for a digital-minded leadership, the once-only principle, and digital by default – hence, all services should by default be offered digitally. Thanks to these principles, Estonia now offers 99% of its government services online.
The second session dealt with e-government services for the private sector in particular. Ms Mari Khardziani, Head of the International Public Law Department at the National Agency of Public Registry of Georgia (NAPR), explained the legal procedure to offer digital government-to-business (G2B) services. Mr Nikoloz Gagnidze, Deputy Chairman of the Digital Governance Agency of Georgia described how to foster the interoperability of different systems provided by government bodies
Closing the webinar, Mr Ajmal Ahmady stressed the importance of an updated digital strategy which can help foster an integrated approach to offering digital G2B.
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