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Armenia

Portal for Community Decisions. (AM0031)

Overview

At-a-Glance

Action Plan: Armenia’s Third National Action Plan 2016-2018

Action Plan Cycle: 2016

Status: Inactive

Institutions

Lead Institution: Ministry of Territorial Administration and Development of the Republic of Armenia

Support Institution(s): Marzpetarans (regional governors’ offices) of the Republic of Armenia; Information System Development and Training Center NGO (upon consent), Armavir Development Center NGO

Policy Areas

Capacity Building, E-Government, Public Participation, Regulatory Governance

IRM Review

IRM Report: Armenia End-Term Report 2016-2018, Armenia Progress Report 2016-2018

Starred: No

Early Results: Did Not Change

Design i

Verifiable: Yes

Relevant to OGP Values: Access to Information , Technology

Potential Impact:

Implementation i

Completion:

Description

Issue subject to regulation: Currently, the decisions of councils of elders and heads of communities in the Republic of Armenia are electronically posted in PDF format on various official websites, particularly on the websites of relevant marzpetarans of the Republic of Armenia. The name of the link of a legal act mainly indicates the number and date of adoption of the legal act, which makes it impossible to use the search engine with other parameters. There is no single unified platform for publishing the decisions of councils of elders and heads of communities in the Republic of Armenia electronically, as is the case with other legal acts (www.arlis.am). This makes it difficult for users to find the legal acts they need.; Main objective: Ensuring accessibility of decisions of councils of elders and heads of communities, providing a search function (simple and advanced search), ensuring usability, increasing transparency of activities of communities.; Brief description of commitment: Creation of a unified legal information system for publication of decisions of councils of elders and heads of communities based on the "public data" principle.; OGP challenge addressed by the commitment: Improvement of public services Enhancement of public integrity; Relevance to OGP values: Publication of the decisions of councils of elders and heads of communities based on the “public data” principle conveys new quality to the introduction and persistent development of the value of public accountability in terms of access to information.; Ambition: Ensuring accessibility of decisions of councils of elders and heads of communities, increasing the transparency of activities of communities, increasing accountability and confidence.

IRM Midterm Status Summary

5. Portal for community decisions

Commitment Text:

Title: Portal for community decisions: Creation of a unified legal information system for decisions of council of elders and heads of communities

Creation of a unified legal information system for decisions of council of elders and heads of communities, based on the 'open data' principle. Ensuring accessibility of the decisions of councils of elders and heads of communities, providing a search function (simple and advanced search), ensuring usability, increasing transparency of the activities of communities.

Publication of the decisions of councils of elders and heads of communities based on the 'open data' principle conveys new quality to the introduction and persistent development of the value of public accountability in terms of access to information.

The activities under this commitment are as follows:

1. Discussion with representatives of civil society and private organizations on possible technical solutions for the creation of a single unified electronic platform for publishing the decisions of councils of elders and heads of communities (Sep 16 - Nov 16).

2. Creation of a single unified electronic platform with search function for publishing the decisions of councils of elders and heads of communities (Dec 16 - Jun 18).

3. Organizing and conduct of training courses for community servants (Jul 17 - Dec 17).

4. Creation of a repository for previously adopted decisions of councils of elders and heads of communities (starting January 18).

Responsible institution: Ministry of Territorial Administration and Development of the Republic of Armenia

Supporting institution(s): Marzpetarans (regional governors’ offices) of the Republic of Armenia

Start date: September 2016 End date: June 2018

Context and Objectives

By the time of undertaking the commitment, the decisions of councils of elders and heads of communities were electronically posted in PDF format on various official websites, particularly in communities (if available) and relevant marzpetarans (regional governments). However, Armenia did not have a single unified platform for this purpose. Thus, it was difficult for users to easily find the community legal acts they needed. National legal acts, however, are posted on the online platform—Armenian Legal Information System (ARLIS)—providing possibilities to search by criteria as well as to download specific legal acts.[Note129: Armenian Legal Information System, http://www.arlis.am ]

This commitment intends to create a web platform which will serve as a unified information system for the publication of community decisions. Thus, the commitment is relevant to the OGP value of access to information.

The commitment specifies that decisions of community heads and councils will be published according to the open data principle in a unified legal information system. However, the commitment does not specify the exact format and structure in which the data will become available.

If fully implemented, the commitment will ensure better access to decisions of various communities and facilitate decision searches by specific criteria. Currently, in order to find a decision on a specific topic, users have to visit the websites of all 10 marzpetarans and search among a number of scanned PDF documents for each community separately. The expected potential change in the government practice is minor, as the decisions are already available in various platforms, however, the commitment implementation would facilitate access to information on a unified platform.

Completion

The commitment is limited in completion. In July 2016, a new LSGB Acts section was introduced on http://www.arlis.am, where the decisions of councils of elders and heads of communities were published in the format of a quarterly bulletin in PDF format.[Note130: Susanna Grigoryan (Pashtonakan teghekagrer CJSC), interview by IRM researcher, 17 November 2017] According to the responsible Ministry, the technical capacities of the ARLIS website were considered, and it was found purposeful to publish the information of community acts on the same platform as national level legal acts.[Note131: Ashot Giloyan (Ministry of Territorial Administration and Development), interview by IRM researcher, 16 November 2017] The CSO representatives have different views on whether the portal should be on a separate website. Some CSOs state that a new portal should be created as specified in the commitment text, while others mention that it can serve its aims on the ARLIS website, as it is better known and cost-efficient.[Note132: Focus Group discussion in Yerevan, 26 October 2017] However, virtually all CSOs agree that the format of the published decisions does not allow for user-friendly search and information retrieval, taking into account the lack of machine-readable options in PDF file and its downloading capacity.

The platform provides a table of contents where the name of each legal act is provided, including the community, the number and the date of adoption, and often the subject of the decision. This makes it possible to use the search engine of the browser to find a specific decision in the content table and further find the relevant legal act in the PDF bulletin. However, if the year of the decision is not known, one should conduct a search for each year. Further, the IRM researcher noticed that not all the decisions published on the websites of governors’ offices are posted in the bulletin. Particularly, the 'community council decision' section of the websites of Aragatsotn and Armavir marzpetarans have been reviewed for decisions of communities adopted in 2016.[Note133: Aragatsotn Regional Administration website, Community Council Decisions, http://aragatsotn.mtad.am/community-council-decisions, Armavir Regional Administration website, Community Council Decisions, http://armavir.mtad.am/community-council-decisions ] Agarak community from Aragatsotn marz had 40 decisions published, and Alashkert community from Armavir marz had 45 decisions published on their regional governments’ websites. However, out of these 85, only one decision from the Alashkert community from 2016 was included in the bulletin at http://www.arlis.am.

In 2011, the government approved a concept on community consolidation[Note134: Extract from RA government protocol decision No 44, 'On approval of the concept on community consolidation and formation of intercommunity units' 10.11.2011, http://www.arlis.am/DocumentView.aspx?DocID=73958], and from 2015 most of the communities in Armenia (915 communities as of 2011) have been merged into larger administrative units. According to the ministry, as soon as reforms on consolidation of municipalities are completed (expected in 2018), it would be feasible to publish the decisions of consolidated municipalities on the searchable section of ARLIS.[Note135: Ashot Giloyan (Ministry of Territorial Administration and Development), interview by IRM researcher, 16 November 2017]

Early Results (if any)

It is currently difficult to make conclusions on the usability of the platform. The stakeholders interviewed, particularly representatives of CSOs and media, noted that the collection of all community decisions in one platform is useful and they might use the resource created within the commitment. They also note that the availability of online publication of decisions can have minor effects on the quality of document development by community governments, but not on the content of decisions.[Note136: Focus Group discussion in Gyumri, 23 November 2017] There are no usage statistics available for the section of LSGB decisions, but overall statistics for http://www.arlis.am show around 80,000-90,000 unique users and millions of page uploads each month[Note137: Susanna Grigoryan (Pashtonakan teghekagrer CJSC), interview by IRM researcher, 17 November 2017], which reflects the popularity of the portal. However, because of limited data search and processing options and an incomplete list of community decisions, the portal might not serve as effectively as it could.

Next Steps

It is recommended to improve the commitment implementation in the remaining period of the action plan. In particular, the following recommendations are suggested by the IRM researcher based on discussions with stakeholders:

· Ensure the portal covers all decisions of all Armenian communities;

· Publish the decisions in machine readable format, providing structured data;

· Consider further revision of the portal to make it compliant with the commitment text, in particular providing simple and advanced search possibility;

· Make the bulletin more user-friendly for reading from the website (e.g. providing possibility of full screen view).

IRM End of Term Status Summary

5. Portal for community decisions

Commitment Text:

Title: Portal for community decisions: Creation of a unified legal information system for decisions of council of elders and heads of communities

Creation of a unified legal information system for decisions of council of elders and heads of communities, based on the “open data” principle. Ensuring accessibility of the decisions of councils of elders and heads of communities, providing a search function (simple and advanced search), ensuring usability, increasing transparency of the activities of communities.

Publication of the decisions of councils of elders and heads of communities based on the “open data” principle conveys new quality to the introduction and persistent development of the value of public accountability in terms of access to information.

The activities under this commitment are as follows:

1.Discussion with representatives of civil society and private organizations on possible technical solutions for the creation of a single unified electronic platform for publishing the decisions of councils of elders and heads of communities (Sep 16 - Nov 16).

2.Creation of a single unified electronic platform with search function for publishing the decisions of councils of elders and heads of communities (Dec 16 - Jun 18).

3.Organizing and conduct of training courses for community servants (Jul 17 - Dec 17).

4.Creation of a repository for previously adopted decisions of councils of elders and heads of communities (starting January 18).

Responsible institution: Ministry of Territorial Administration and Development of the Republic of Armenia

Supporting institutions: Marzpetarans (regional governors’ offices) of the Republic of Armenia

Start date: September 2016 End date: June 2018

Commitment Aim

Prior to the drafting of this commitment, the decisions of local self-government bodies (LSGB), represented by councils of elders and heads of communities, were electronically posted in PDF format on various official websites, particularly in communities (if available) and relevant marzpetarans (regional governments). However, Armenia did not have a single, unified platform for users to easily find community legal acts. National legal acts, however, are posted on the online platform—Armenian Legal Information System (ARLIS)—providing possibilities to search by specific criteria as well as to download specific legal acts. [Note39: Armenian Legal Information System, http://www.arlis.am ] This commitment intended to create a web platform to serve as a unified information system for the publication of community decisions, including decisions of the heads of communities and community councils of elders.

Status

Midterm: Limited.

In July 2016, a new “LSGB Acts” section was introduced on http://www.arlis.am, where the decisions of councils of elders and heads of communities were published in the form of a quarterly bulletin in PDF format. [Note40: Susanna Grigoryan (Pashtonakan teghekagrer CJSC), interview by IRM researcher, 17 November 2017] According to the Ministry of Territorial Administration and Development, the technical capacities of the ARLIS website were considered, and it was found expedient to publish the information of community acts on the same platform as national-level legal acts. [Note41: Ashot Giloyan (Ministry of Territorial Administration and Development), interview by IRM researcher, 16 November 2017] The administration of ARLIS website is done by “Pashtonakan teghekagrer,” a closed stock joint company (CJSC) owned by the government and responsible for publishing law bulletins. Thus, there was no need for trainings of community servants, as the latter are not responsible for posting the decisions in the platform.

However, the format of the published decisions does not allow user-friendly search or information retrieval, considering the lack of machine-readable options in PDF file and its downloading capacity. The platform provides a table of contents where the name of each legal act is provided, including the community, the decision number and the date of adoption, and often the subject of the decision. This makes it possible to use the search engine of the browser to find a specific decision in the content table and find the relevant legal act in the PDF bulletin by following the page number indicated in the content table. However, if the year of the decision is not known, users must conduct a search for each year. Furthermore, most of the decisions published on the websites of governors’ offices were not included in the bulletins. For more information, see the Armenia IRM Progress Report 2016–2017. [Note42: IRM Armenia Progress Report 2016-2018 (Year 1), 05 Portal for Community Decisions, https://www.opengovpartnership.org/commitment/05-portal-community-decisi... ]

End of term: Limited

The Ministry of Territorial Administration and Development did not undertake any additional actions in the framework of the commitment during the second year of the action plan. The review of the quarterly bulletin published in 2018 [Note43: Bulletin of Community Normative Acts, No 1(60), 30 March 2018, http://www.arlis.am/VL/Downloads/2018/2018-1-1.pdf ] shows that many community decisions available on the websites of governors’ offices are still not included, and the machine-readable option is not provided. According to the Staff of the Government, the technical capacity of the http://www.arlis.am portal is expected to be improved to provide better search possibilities for the platform. [Note44: Lilia Afrikyan (Staff of the Government), interview by IRM researcher, 19 September 2018.]

Did It Open Government?

Access to Information: Did Not Change

The IRM researcher finds that the available portal has not contributed to the improvement of the scope or quality of information disclosed due to several reasons: the limited search and processing options provided in “LSGB decisions” section of the ARLIS platform, the difficulty to download and use the bulletins of community decisions, an incomplete list of community decisions included in the bulletin, and the discussions with civil society carried out in the during the assessments for Armenia’s 2016-2017 IRM Progress Report.

Carried Forward?

At the time of writing this report (September 2018), Armenia’s fourth action plan is not available yet. During consultations for the fourth action plan, this commitment has not been suggested to carry forward. The IRM researcher recommends the following steps to improve the implementation of the commitment, which have been highlighted in Armenia’s 2016-2017 IRM Progress Report:

·Ensure that the portal (bulletin) covers all decisions of all Armenian communities;

·Publish the decisions in machine readable format, providing structured data;

·Consider further revision of the portal to make it compliant with the commitment text, in particular providing simple and advanced search possibility;

·Make the bulletin more user-friendly for reading from the website (e.g. providing possibility of full screen view).

For Commitment detail, see Armenia End-Term Report 2016-2018.


Commitments

Open Government Partnership