Skip Navigation
Estonia

Transparent and Inclusive Policy Making (EE0048)

Overview

At-a-Glance

Action Plan: Estonia Action Plan 2018-2020

Action Plan Cycle: 2018

Status: Active

Institutions

Lead Institution: The Government Office

Support Institution(s): All ministries, constitutional institutions and national associations of local governments, Network of Estonian Nonprofit Organizations, Estonian Cooperation Assembly, e-Governance Academy, etc.

Policy Areas

E-Government, Public Participation, Records Management

IRM Review

IRM Report: Estonia Design Report 2018-2020

Starred: Pending IRM Review

Early Results: Pending IRM Review

Design i

Verifiable: Yes

Relevant to OGP Values: Access to Information Civic Participation , Technology

Potential Impact:

Implementation i

Completion:

Description

Information technology supporting transparent and inclusive policy-making
Commitment Start and End Date
July 2018 – June 2020
Lead implementing agency/actor The Government Office
Other Actors Involved State actors involved All ministries, constitutional institutions and national associations of local governments
CSOs, private sector, multilaterals, working groups Network of Estonian Nonprofit Organizations, Estonian Cooperation Assembly, e-Governance Academy, etc.
Commitment description
What is the public problem that the commitment will address? The e-Consultation Information System (EIS) was introduced in 2011 to coordinate draft legislation between ministries and manage documents of the European Union. Back then, it was a unique information system combining three earlier ones that was also open for the public, enabling searching for information and commenting of draft legislations.
By now, the system is technically outdated and the expectations of the users, both officials and stakeholders, have increased. The stakeholders are interested in an open platform that would allow them to participate in the earlier stages of policy-making (not just in the final stage of coordinating or commenting documents) and observe the process history and forming of decisions. Although EIS has been developed further, e.g. by adding a notification function to share information regarding initiatives earlier than previously, the new functions are not used sufficiently and do not help in meeting the goal of allowing early access to the public. Additionally, instead of being user-friendly, the environment is slow and complex.
Another channel for participation in addition to EIS is osale.ee, which is also technologically outdated and insufficiently used.
What is the commitment? The Government Office in cooperation with other agencies, and stakeholders will define requirements for creating a new information system that would at least cover the functions of the current e-Consultation system and osale.ee.
How will the commitment contribute to solve the public problem? Defining the requirements together with stakeholders is a precondition for a new environment that would support transparent and inclusive policy-making and meet the needs of different users.
Which OGP values is this commitment relevant to? Transparency
Civic participation
Additional information Efforts to promote EIS as a main channel for participation will be continued while developing the new information system.
In addition to updating EIS, the Ministry of Justice has initiated the pre-analysis process necessary for developing a collaboration environment for policy makers. It is important that the possible new developments be seamlessly compatible.
Milestone Activity Start Date: End Date:
Assessing current situation and needs of the citizens, stakeholders and state agencies, including analysis of user experiences. July 2018 December 2018
Considering alternatives and describing the functions and interfacing of the new environment. January 2018 June 2019
Preparing terms of reference, including describing the requirements of the information system and making a prototype. January 2018 June 2020

IRM Midterm Status Summary

1. Information technology supporting transparent and inclusive policy-making

Language of the commitment as it appears in the action plan [1]:

“The Government Office in cooperation with other agencies, and stakeholders will define requirements for creating a new information system that would at least cover the functions of the current e-Consultation system and osale.ee.”

Milestones:

1.1 Assessing current situation and needs of the citizens, stakeholders and state agencies, including analysis of user experiences

1.2 Considering alternatives and describing the functions and interfacing of the new environment

1.3 Preparing terms of reference, including describing the requirements of the information system and making a prototype

Start Date: April 2018

End Date: December 2019

Context and Objectives

This commitment continues the previous action plans’ work on increasing the transparency of public decision-making processes. According to the problem statement in the 2018-2020 action plan, CSOs often learn about the government’s plans too late in the policy cycle and lack information on when and how they can participate in policy-making processes. [2] The government’s e-participation platform Osale.ee has been in use since 2007 but users consider it to be outdated and unable to facilitate meaningful participation. [3] In 2011, the government adopted the Information System of Draft Acts (eelnõude infosüsteem or EIS) for inter-institutional coordination of draft legislation and other policy documents. Although the system is accessible to the public and allows any user to register and submit comments, users find the technical platform and user interface too difficult to use. [4] According to CSOs, the main gap that needs to be addressed is citizens’ lack of access to complete information on the process whereby proposals become an actual policy, and limited understanding of where and how the public can have a say. [5] Furthermore, information on the policy-making process in the executive branch is currently detached from the subsequent proceedings in the Parliament, making it difficult for the public to track the status of a policy initiative that interests them. [6]

The government has attempted to address the problem in previous OGP action plans by adding new functions to EIS and providing information on public participation opportunities across government websites in a standard format (see Commitment 2.2 in the 2016-2018 action plan [7]). However, the new action plan and the IRM End-of-Term Report [8] note that EIS’s new functionalities are barely used in practice and fail to provide the public with early access to policy processes. According to Kai Klandorf from NENO, government agencies sometimes add information about ongoing policy processes to EIS more than a year into the process, as recently happened with the new civil society development strategy. [9]

In order to address this problem, this commitment aims to prepare a new online tool that would aggregate the currently dispersed pieces of information into one user-friendly system. This system would enable citizens to track the status of policy initiatives throughout the policy cycle and participate in different stages of policy development. In addition to improving transparency, the system also aims to increase the efficiency of policymakers’ work flows and encourage policymakers to assess the impacts of policies before adopting them. [10] To this end, the government plans to engage government agencies and civil society in analyzing user needs and defining the requirements for the new system.

According to stakeholders’ assessment, the commitment clearly addresses the current gaps in government transparency and public participation. [11] Firstly, it aims to create a single access point for citizens and policymakers to the full cycle of policy development, reducing the burden of having to consult a number of different websites and information systems to acquire an overview of ongoing policy processes. Secondly, the government will prioritize the creation of an easy-to-use interface, aiming to engage experts and users to the system development from the outset. [12] This focus on usability has the potential to fix the shortcomings of the existing EIS that both CSOs and public officials have criticized. The government also foresees creating online participation opportunities for citizens in different phases of policy development, which citizens could access through that single window.

The description of the commitment in the action plan does not give a detailed overview of the exact methods that will be used for user engagement in the information system development. However, interviews with the Government Office [13] and the CSOs involved in the commitment’s implementation [14] suggest that the government has designed a participatory process that starts from involving different types of stakeholders and users through thematic working groups. The scope of this work not only involves discussing the desired functionalities of the new system but rethinking the policy development process more deeply from the perspective of different stakeholders. [15] Since several government information systems that contain information about different parts of the policy development (EIS, Osale.ee, State Gazette) need updating, and the Ministry of Justice is planning a new online legislative drafting tool for policymakers, this commitment aims to link all these developments together to ensure the systems’ compatibility, interoperability and integration. [16] As evidence of an integrated approach, the government has given the responsibility for coordinating the first phase of the development process and stakeholder consultations to its inter-departmental innovation team. [17] As planned, this commitment therefore constitutes a notable shift towards a citizen-centric and whole-of-government approach to policy making that has been previously lacking.

The commitment includes verifiable milestones that are reasonable given the complexity of information system development. Although the intended outputs of the two-year action plan (requirements and a first prototype of the new system) only constitute the first steps in the process, the commitment has the potential to transform policy-making practice towards a whole-of-government approach, provided that the activity is continued in the next action plans.

Next steps

If implemented in practice, the planned steps constitute a good basis for reaching the intended goals. However, in order to unlock the transformative potential of this commitment, the following recommendations could be considered:

  • First, it is important that the activity is continued in the next action plan(s) with a clear statement of the desired impact on government openness and the time perspective in which this impact would be achieved. The commitment wording in the next action plan should clearly describe the activities and milestones for the two-year action plan but also provide an outlook on the next steps that would be taken in future action plans. This gives the public a better understanding of the contribution of each milestone and action plan to the final outcome (change in government practices), which may require more than one action plan cycle to achieve.
  • In order to reduce the risks of adoption failure, it is important to engage different groups of users into all phases of the system design to shape the system according to their expectations. This may be challenging – for example, CSOs expect the system to be able to send customized notifications based on the user’s interests, show who gave input to policy and how the government responded, [18] and allow comments. [19] Hence, the government is encouraged to dedicate ample time and human resources to facilitating feedback collection from different types of users. The Estonian Chamber of Disabled People recommends information system developers also consult with the Estonian Blind Union to ensure the system’s usability for visually impaired people. [20] They also suggest government institutions provide summaries of policy documents in plain language to enable the participation of people with hearing disabilities for whom Estonian is a “foreign” language.
  • The application of agile development practices and an iterative approach to system development could be a good way of integrating user feedback into the core of the process. Working through a number of quick cycles of prototyping and feedback can help speed up the learning process and reduce the risk of failing to meet user needs.
  • The government should also prioritize the system’s integration with the platforms that citizens commonly use. Teele Pehk, former director of the Estonian Cooperation Assembly, suggests that integration with the Eesti.ee single window for citizens should be key. [21]
  • Even though a well-designed technological solution may do a lot for transparency and engagement, the barriers to citizen participation are often not technological. It is therefore important that the government continues developing policymakers’ skills regarding public engagement. The training program conducted under Commitment 2 in this action plan is a useful step in this direction. In addition, the government could consider providing funding to increase the volume of ministries’ public engagement projects and CSOs’ capacity-building initiatives, such as those funded under the previous action plan. [22]

 

[4] ibid.
[5] IRM researcher’s interviews with Liia Hänni (e-Governance Academy), 27 March 2019, and Maarja-Leena Saar (Estonian Cooperation Assembly), 29 March 2019.
[6] IRM researcher’s interview with Liia Hänni.
[8] Independent Reporting Mechanism (IRM): Estonia End-of-Term Report 2016-2018, http://live-ogp.pantheonsite.io/sites/default/files/Estonia_End-of-Term_Report_2016-2018_EN.pdf
[9] IRM researcher’s interview, 15 March 2019.
[10] IRM researcher’s interview with Merilin Truuväärt (Government Office), 19 March 2019. Merilin Truuväärt left her position as the OGP point of contact at the Government Office in November 2018 to join the government’s innovation team where she is responsible for facilitating stakeholder engagement in analyzing the needs and developing the requirements for the new information system.
[11] IRM researcher’s interviews with Liia Hänni; Maarja-Leena Saar; Teele Pehk (former Estonian Cooperation Assembly), 12 March 2019; Kai Klandorf (NENO), 15 March 2019.
[12] IRM researcher’s interview with Merilin Truuväärt.
[13] Ibid.
[14] Liia Hänni (e-Governance Academy), Maarja-Leena Saar (Estonian Cooperation Assembly), Teele Pehk (former Estonian Cooperation Assembly), Kai Klandorf (NENO).
[15] IRM researcher’s interviews with Merilin Truuväärt (Government Office), Liia Hänni (e-Governance Academy), Maarja-Leena Saar (Estonian Cooperation Assembly).
[16] IRM researcher’s interview with Merilin Truuväärt.
[17] Ibid.
[18] IRM researcher’s interviews with Teele Pehk and Kai Klandorf.
[19] IRM researcher’s interviews with Liia Hänni and Maarja-Leena Saar.
[20] IRM researcher’s email communication with Anneli Habicht (Estonian Chamber of Disabled People), 2 April 2019.
[21] IRM researcher’s interview with Teele Pehk.

Commitments

  1. Transparent and Inclusive Policy Making

    EE0048, 2018, E-Government

  2. Inclusive Policy-Making

    EE0049, 2018, Capacity Building

  3. Riigikogu Transparency

    EE0050, 2018, E-Government

  4. National and Local Government Action Plans

    EE0051, 2018, Public Service Delivery

  5. Presentation of Local Public Services

    EE0052, 2018, E-Government

  6. Participatiory Democracy Capacity-Building

    EE0053, 2018, Capacity Building

  7. e-Tax and Customs Board 2020

    EE0039, 2016, E-Government

  8. Reducing Bureaucracy and a Simpler State – the Zero Bureaucracy Project

    EE0040, 2016, Capacity Building

  9. Implementation of the Principles of Open Governance at Local Level as a Result of the Administrative Reform

    EE0041, 2016, Capacity Building

  10. More Inclusive Policy-Making on a Central Government Level

    EE0042, 2016, E-Government

  11. More Open and Transparent Law-Making

    EE0043, 2016, Anti-Corruption Institutions

  12. Increase of the Engagement Capacity of State Authorities and Participation Capacity of Nongovernmental Organisations in Policy-Making

    EE0044, 2016, Capacity Building

  13. Intensify Participatory Budgeting on a Local Level

    EE0045, 2016, E-Government

  14. Increasing the Transparency of the Funding of Non-Governmental Organisations

    EE0046, 2016, Anti-Corruption Institutions

  15. Defining Participatory Democracy and Development of Digital Competence in School Education

    EE0047, 2016, Capacity Building

  16. Visualisation of the Policy Making Process

    EE0016, 2014, Public Participation

  17. Upgrading Participation Channels

    EE0017, 2014, E-Government

  18. Improving Government Website

    EE0018, 2014, E-Government

  19. Standard for Information Requests

    EE0019, 2014, E-Government

  20. Early Notice on Policy-Making Processes

    EE0020, 2014, Public Participation

  21. Participation in Early Stage Policy-Making

    EE0021, 2014, Public Participation

  22. Early Access to Tax Policy Decisions

    EE0022, 2014, Public Participation

  23. Better Feedback Mechanism

    EE0023, 2014, Public Participation

  24. Selecting and Funding Participation Projects

    EE0024, 2014, Civic Space

  25. Web Tool

    EE0025, 2014, E-Government

  26. Civil Servant Guidelines for Participation

    EE0026, 2014, Capacity Building

  27. Training Civil Society Organizations (CSOs)

    EE0027, 2014, Capacity Building

  28. Central Government Transactions

    EE0028, 2014, E-Government

  29. Local Authorities' Transactions with Private Entities

    EE0029, 2014, Civic Space

  30. Public Spending for Non-Profits

    EE0030, 2014, Civic Space

  31. Guidelines for Citizen Budgeting

    EE0031, 2014, Capacity Building

  32. Guidelines for Redesigning Public Services

    EE0032, 2014, E-Government

  33. Registry of Public Services

    EE0033, 2014, Open Data

  34. User-Centric Public Services

    EE0034, 2014, E-Government

  35. Access to e-Services for Non-Residents

    EE0035, 2014, Citizenship and Immigration

  36. Open Data Portal

    EE0036, 2014, E-Government

  37. Opening Data

    EE0037, 2014, Capacity Building

  38. Supporting Nongovernmental Open Data Use

    EE0038, 2014, Capacity Building

  39. Drawing up a Green Paper on Organisation of Public Services

    EE0001, 2012, Public Service Delivery

  40. Implementation of the Eesti.Ee Action Plan

    EE0002, 2012, E-Government

  41. Drawing up a Green Paper on Making Public Data Available in a Machine-Readable Form

    EE0003, 2012, E-Government

  42. Creating a Repository of Public Data

    EE0004, 2012, E-Government

  43. Launching Pilot Projects of Public Data Services Based on the Cloud Technology

    EE0005, 2012, E-Government

  44. Interactive Guidelines and Training in Implementation of the Good Practice of Public Engagement

    EE0006, 2012, Open Contracting and Procurement

  45. Launch of the Impact Assessment System

    EE0007, 2012, Legislation & Regulation

  46. Overview of Ministries’ Work Processes

    EE0008, 2012, Capacity Building

  47. Integration of Impact Assessment Into the Process of Public Engagement

    EE0009, 2012, Legislation & Regulation

  48. Creation of a Database of Declarations of Economic Interests

    EE0010, 2012, Conflicts of Interest

  49. Adjustment of the System of Funding Non-Profit Associations and Establishment of a Disclosure System

    EE0011, 2012, Private Sector

  50. Starred commitment Drawing up a Proposal for Drawing up an Anti-Corruption Strategy

    EE0012, 2012, Anti-Corruption Institutions

  51. Draft Anti-Corruption Act

    EE0013, 2012, Anti-Corruption Institutions

  52. Establishment of the Public Ethics Council

    EE0014, 2012, Conflicts of Interest

  53. Organisation of Ethics Training for Employees of Various Public Sector Organisations (Incl. Public Servants)

    EE0015, 2012, Capacity Building