Interview with N.Shahnoza

Ms. Deputy Minister, thank you for your consent to give an interview for our newspaper. Our teamwork and cooperation are continuing since 3 years and I would like to hear your opinion about the benefits of using the DHIS2 information system both in the work of the civil registration bodies, and for the population of the Republic of Tajikistan. 

Firstly, I would like to note the positive experience with the project "Technical assistance to support the strengthening of the health information system in Tajikistan", and namely with the team of EPOS Health Management. During these almost 3 years, we established a good cooperation with the project experts and generated the degree of trust that allows us to listen to each other and work together for achieving the set goals.

Global information systems link the world and make all states interdependent through information, imposing maximum attention to the quality of information interaction in various spheres of society life on the one hand, and on the other one they dictate the need for the establishment of their own public information space, its development and protection. This requires that solving information exchange issues is, in time, ahead of each successive step in the establishment of cooperation in a particular area.

In recent years, Tajikistan has adopted a number of legal documents directly related to information and communication technologies. These are: Law of RT "On information" (from 2002), Law of RT "On information protection" (from 2002), the Presidential Decree no. 1174, dated November 5, 2003, "On the state strategy of information and communication technologies for the development of the Republic of Tajikistan", the Presidential Decree no. 1707, dated February 27, 2006, "On the establishment of the Council for Information and Communication Technologies under the President of the Republic of Tajikistan", the Presidential Decree no. 1175, dated November 7, 2003 “On the concept of information security of the Republic of Tajikistan", Government Resolution of the Republic of Tajikistan dated May 28, 2009 "On the Implementation Programme of the Concept of state information policy of the Republic of Tajikistan" and others.

This led to an increase in the number of operators to more than twice and the widespread use of ICT in all spheres of the vital activities of the country – a certain progress in the development of information infrastructure, the implementation of various sectorial projects and information programs. The achieved level of ICT development in the country allows to proceed with the formulation of government policies on the establishment and development of a common information space in the Republic of Tajikistan - databases and data banks, technologies for their use and maintenance, information and telecommunication systems and networks, operating on the basis of common principles and according to general rules, ensuring information interaction between organizations and citizens, as well as meeting their information needs. 

With regard to the implementation of an information system in the Civil Registration Offices, it is not a fad, but a necessity. In 2011, the Republic of Tajikistan started a process of computerization of the country by the approval of the Government of the RT Regulation no.643 dated 30.12.2011, "On the concept of establishing the e-government". 

Prior to 2012, the Department of the Civil Registration Service (DCRS) and the Civil Registration Offices (CROs), were under the jurisdiction of local executive bodies of the public authorities and in 2012 were transferred under the Ministry of Justice. 3 years have passed since then, and they proved the correctness of that decision and demonstrated the need for reform and modernization of the service. We are grateful to the European Union, UNDP and other donors for their support in this area. 

The project "Technical assistance to support the strengthening of the health information system in Tajikistan" has provided the opportunity to start working on the establishment of an information system that will create a national database of civil registration acts and will simplify a lot the work of the CRO staff. This is certainly only the beginning of work in this area. The needs of the country cannot be solved by only one project. These include the creation of a national digital archive and a National Population Register, implementation of the law on electronic signature, introduction and assignment of a unique registration number at birth, connecting the Jamoats to the information system and other tasks. 

What problems will be solved with the help of this system? 

In the first phase, starting from January 2015 it is planned to enter the 7 types of civil status events in on-line mode throughout the country, thereby creating a database. The information system provides the ability to link the civil status acts to each other, thus facilitating the work of the CRO employees. This could serve as the start of the establishment of a population register, which is essential for the successful implementation of an integrated information system in any area. This is a huge task, which is now being tackled by the Government of the Republic of Tajikistan. 

This system also allows the exchange of statistical data on births and deaths with the Ministry of Health and Social Protection of Population (MHSPP) and the Agency for Statistics (AS) under the President of the Republic of Tajikistan. As a result, it is planned to create assessment groups for the reliability of birth and death data involving specialist from the CRO, MHSPP and AS. The work in this area has already started, with the support of the project.

A very important task for MJ and CRO is to create a digital archive of civil status acts. This is a time consuming and very expensive process and involves the following steps: the restoration of paper media, scanning and linking them to electronic copies and metadata (name, surname, patronymic, date of birth, address etc.). At the moment, this task cannot be performed with the help of the project "Technical assistance to support the strengthening of the health information system in Tajikistan" and its implementation requires additional resources.

The project organized several study tours to other countries, which experience can you mention as being useful for Tajikistan and what was new?

The project has organized six study visits, 3 of them with the participation of employees from the MJ and the CRO. One of the organized trips was to Norway and two to Moldova. All trips were very informative and interesting. Norway is a country with a highly developed information system in all areas, including the civil registration system. The members of the delegation had the opportunity to get acquainted with the national population register, the process of assigning a unique identification number of a citizen at birth, which is used by all involved public bodies and creates a new platform for cross-sectoral cooperation, and the coordinated work and cooperation between the civil registration system, the health system and the tax committee. 

Moldova appeared to us in a different aspect. It is a country that has much in common with our country, and for many years, during the Soviet Union, we had the same legal and regulatory framework in the CRO system. However since 2000, Moldova has implemented the e-government and held a series of reforms in the Civil Registration Office system, which brought it about 10 years ahead.

To date, Moldova has: a national population register, which is linked to all the national information databases, an approved law on the electronic signature, a personal identification number, which is issued to the new-born at the maternity hospital by the CRO information system, digital archive of civil status since 1915 and others. A very important point was the possibility of communicating with the reformers of the CRO system who shared not only their successes but also their problems and possible ways to solve them.

Unfortunately, it is not possible to list everything seen in one publication, but for us, the participants of the study tour, it was obvious that the experience of Moldova deserves attention and is a good example to follow.

Especially I would like to emphasize the hospitality of the Moldovan people, which, in my opinion, are very similar to us, Tajiks, by their openness, friendliness and hospitality. 

The implementation of such complex projects is impossible without difficulties; can you say a few words about the difficulties that had already been resolved in the course of project implementation into real life and the ways of overcoming them?

The difficulties have started from the very beginning of the project and consisted of the fact that the terms of reference of the project only provides for the collection of statistical information on the events of birth and death. For us, this was not enough, and we have insisted on adapting the DHIS2 information system for data entry in accordance with Article 3 of the Law "On state registration of civil status acts", on 7 civil status events (birth, death, marriage, divorce, adoption, establishment of paternity, change of surname, name and patronymic). Fortunately, the project staff and the Delegation of the EU agreed, and today we have the first information system for the CRO service functioning in all towns and districts of the Republic of Tajikistan.

The second difficulty, which cannot be solved within the framework of this project, is connecting the Jamoats to the CRO information database, as at this level, 4 out of 7 civil status acts are being registered, including the act of birth and death. This task is complicated due to the fact that it requires additional equipment purchases, as well as providing training to more than 500 professionals to solve it, and these were not included in the terms of reference of this project. The lack of qualified staff at the Jamoat level is another task to be solved. 

The information system has been tested off-line in 4 Jamoats with the support of the project and proved its efficiency. However, as there are more than four hundred Jamoats registered in the country, the implementation of an off-line information system is a very expensive and time-consuming process, from the perspective of human resources that will be needed for its maintenance. At the same time working in off-line mode does not provide for data exchange between different users of the system.
Currently, the inclusion of Jamoats, as users of the CRO information system, is an important task. The Ministry of Justice seeks the opportunity to expand the information system to the Jamoat level, with the support of international donors and projects.

What are the implementation plans and when will the system work in its full capacity?
Since the beginning of 2014 there was significant progress in the development of the CRO information system. To date, more than 250 professionals were trained in the basic computer skills training and user training for DHIS2. The Civil Registration Offices in 68 cities and districts of the Republic of Tajikistan are connected to the central servers. The civil registration acts, registered in 2015 are entered into the system in on-line mode.

We are currently working on project sustainability issues, including hiring and training of personnel, payment for internet connection and maintenance of the servers, as well as the development of necessary instructions for the information system operation and maintenance, with the assistance of the project.

We hope for the support of the established information system at the CRO by international donors and projects that will have a positive impact on the sustainability of the project.

I would like to thank the project team for the good cooperation, and wish all of us success in achieving our common goals.
Special thanks on behalf of the MJ to the project manager Maximenco Elena for her hard work, initiative and good will.