Information Society Development in Lithuania

Date

2003 06 25

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 From its very establishment in July 2001, the Information Society Development Committee under the Government of the Republic of Lithuania has become the principal institution responsible for harmonious and consistent information society development in Lithuania. When the state faced new challenges posed by knowledge economy, it was necessary to appoint a coordinator, who, within its competence, would take part in the formation of the state policy on the development of information technologies and telecommunications in the Republic of Lithuania and would coordinate its implementation. The Committee has undertaken important tasks that conform to the programme of the Government: to coordinate the designing, creation and development of the ITT infrastructure complying with the requirements of the European Union; to coordinate promotion of ITT in the country in accordance with the documents of strategic planning of information society development approved by the Government of the Republic of Lithuania, i.e. to guarantee equal opportunities for ITT access to all Lithuanian users, to promote competition among the suppliers of ITT services, to promote communication between the population and legal entities on one side, and state and local authorities on the other side; to coordinate the introduction of modern technologies, to shape the technological and innovatory development policy of Lithuanian economy together with ministries and other state authorities and institutions.


COORDINATION OF INFORMATION SOCIETY DEVELOPMENT

In the summer of 2001, Lithuania pressed ahead with the development of information society, and there was a breakthrough in this process, when the Information Society Development Committee under the Government of the Republic of Lithuania was set up. Nevertheless, the responsibility of shaping the policy in this field was still vested in several institutions concerned. Therefore, even after having formulated the key problem areas in the ITT sector (promotion of competence among the population, development of the integrated systems of state registers, introduction of the electronic signature and the development of the e-government services related to it) it was only possible to evaluate the current situation, while putting off concrete actions indefinitely.

Having analysed the current situation, the Committee has taken active steps from the very foundation. The Committee has drafted the Information Society Development Programme, which is being implemented now. The programme is oriented towards four main trends, which comply with the priorities provided for in the Strategic Plan of Lithuanian Information Society Development approved by a governmental decree. These priorities are competence, public administration, business and the Lithuanian language and culture.

Consequently, the task of the Information Society Development Committee under the Government of the Republic of Lithuania is to develop strategic plans and implementation measures at the state level in accordance with the guidelines of the European Union, to draft, revise and review the outline of the state information policy and to coordinate the implementation of the work in this field, thus ensuring effective, fast and systematic development of the Lithuanian information society.


THE LITHUANIAN POPULATION: COMPETENCE AND POSSIBILITIES TO USE IT

In a global information society a particularly important role falls on the knowledge and competence of the population. This factor has become the main indicator in the process of studies, acquiring education and speciality, work and creation of welfare.

Up till now, the majority of Lithuanian people have not been able to or had no access to the advantages offered by information technologies. That is why the Committee has tried to create the conditions for the Lithuanian people, which would ensure a possibility to get and improve knowledge in this field. For that purpose a pilot project called “Digital Community” was implemented in the Municipality of Jurbarkas in 2002. Recommendations concerning the provision of public e-services to community members were drafted on the basis of the data received in the course of the project. These recommendations are going to be implemented in the municipalities of Lithuania in 2003 – 2004. The implementation of the recommendations will include provision of e-services to the members of community, evaluation of their ability to use them, establishment of the need for new and higher-level e-services and partially satisfying this need.

In the course of implementation of the pilot project that was carried out in Jurbarkas Municipality, the main problems of rural local authorities became apparent: obvious shortage of computer equipment, absence of Internet access and conditions to use e-services. When carrying out the “Digital Community” project, the initiators of the project made detailed analysis of the possibilities of Jurbarkas Municipality to provide e-government services of all levels to the population. In order to raise public awareness and to simplify the procedure for servicing general public and business entities at the municipality, it was decided that a possibility to fill in different application forms and to submit them to the municipality online was the most important and the most desired electronic service that should be provided to the community. Consequently, standard application forms in different areas have been drafted, based on which services of filling in electronic application forms have been introduced. Such standard forms have been drafted in accordance with the rules of office work approved by the Decree on the Approval of Standard Order of Servicing Citizens and Other Persons in Public Administration and other Authorities adopted by the Government of the Republic of Lithuania (Official Gazette ….). The application forms have been drafted together with the Municipality of Jurbarkas Region. Apart from that, a system of links of the e-services provided by state and local authorities has been developed. The list includes the e-services that have been already provided by:

1) state authorities or their territorial branches,

2) local administrational authorities of the Municipality of Jurbarkas Region, their enterprises or branches, and

3) new e-services developed in the course of the project.

All electronic services have been classified according to their subject and target user groups. They can be accessed via the website of Jurbarkas Municipality at www.jurbarkas.lt.

In 2003, it was decided to continue to implement the “Digital Community” project.

THE INTERNET FOR EVERYONE

Another very important task is to create conditions for the population to study and acquire qualification, to gain experience of using IT and to use Lithuanian and foreign information resources. Last year a project on public Internet access facilities, particularly in rural areas, was developed. The project was discussed at the meeting of the Information Society Development Commission on 25 September 2002. Following a governmental decree that has amended the implementation measures of the Governmental Programme for the Years 2001 – 2004, the works specified in the programme have been passed for implementation to the Ministry of the Interior. In 2003 – 2005 an investment project called “Public Internet Access Facilities” had to be implemented. The aim of this project was equipping public Internet access points in rural authorities and small towns. The “Development of Mobile Computer Classes for Training Population” was another project, which had to be implemented during the same period. The aim of this project was to train the people living in rural areas to work with a computer and to use the Internet. However, as in 2003 these investment projects did not receive budget for their implementation, they would not be carried out. Instead of these projects a measure, which is smaller in scale is going to be implemented. It will include training of the population of the country – the potential users of public Internet access points – in the area of IT. Special training material should be developed and delivered to the potential users for that purpose. It should be noted that promotion of competence of the population by ensuring equal opportunities to access information sources via ITT is a crucial task of the information society development. That is why the Committee has drafted and has taken part in the PHARE-funded Socio-economic Cohesion Programme of 2003 with the project called “Internet Access Facilities in Rural Areas”. The project is aimed at establishing 300 Internet access points in rural areas. The estimated price of the project is € 3.19 m.

Each such newly established public Internet access point is to be equipped with up to five computerised workplaces with Internet access. All costs related to the acquisition of computers and other equipment, their maintenance and Internet connection services should be covered from the funds designated for the project. The general public will be able to use the Internet access point 40 hours a week, and 18 months the costs of the Internet connection will be covered from the funds designated for the project.

Public Internet access points are to be established in the places that are visited by the largest number of people: in libraries, cultural centres and post offices. It is expected that in the course of implementation of the project a network of Internet access points will be created in the selected regions, and the people living in such regions will have easy access to such points from any location. Internet access points will be connected to the network of the centres of distance studies situated in Klaipëda, Marijampolë and Utena.

This project is intended to supplement the initiative of the “Window to the Future” alliance, which provides for business support to the development of information society. Thanks to this initiative, an integrated network of public Internet access points has been successfully developed in Lithuania. The PHARE project ”Information Technologies Access Points in Rural Areas” is oriented towards rural areas, which have poorly developed telecommunications infrastructure.

MODERNISATION OF STATE MANAGEMENT

Modernisation of state management by introducing information technologies in the management processes will enable to develop e-government, to provide services and information to people and business entities more efficiently, will make the work of public institutions easier and more efficient, will help to save time and money, will guarantee faster, more convenient and effective servicing of the citizens and business entities, and this will consequently lead to further development of information society.

In this context, a particularly important role should fall on an Internet portal, via which people and business entities would be able to receive all public information related to state authorities and their functions, as well as the services of public administration (the implementation of this task has been assigned to the Committee under the measures of implementation of the Programme of the Lithuanian Government for the Years 2001 – 2004 and under the Strategic Plan of Lithuanian Information Society Development). Aiming to get ready for the implementation of this task, back in 2001 the Committee did research on public e-services that were available in information society and drew up technical specifications for the creation of the portal, which was known as “Government Electronic Gate”. In 2002, a draft of a very important document was devised. This document is the General Requirements for the Management Systems of E-documents of State Authorities and the Terms of Their Implementation. The document provides for the requirements for management systems of the e-documents of state and local authorities, institutions, enterprises and other entities authorised to carry out the functions of public administration. It also governs the main processes of drafting, administration, management, transmission and storage of e-documents, thus ensuring that the general public will receive all public information related to state authorities and their functions online. In 2003, an investment project called “Creation of the Government Electronic Gate” will be implemented. The purpose of the project is to unite all state authorities of Lithuania into an integrated system of official information management, thus enabling people to get easier and faster access to the information related to the activities of state authorities and providing public administration services online.

In 2002, another crucial area of the modernisation of state management was the creation of an integrated system of state registers.

An integrated system of state registers is the basis of the information systems of all state authorities, as what the state management primarily needs is objective information about the key objects of the country.

Trying to reflect the actual relation of the objects of different categories by informational means, we should demonstrate them through the interaction between certain registers. The interaction of registers can be realised by using uniform identification, establishing the standards for providing and coding the main data, creating the flows of data provision and updating between the registers, establishing procedure for informing about the registration errors noticed and reacting to them. Thus separate registers with their respective functions are being united into one uniform system, which becomes a single source of objective information on the national assets of the state, its condition and dynamics.

Today, the main task in the creation of the integrated system of registers is to improve essentially the effectiveness of the functioning of registers and to ensure their interaction, to create systems of data management and provision (not destroying the already existing ones) and to guarantee constant improvement of the quality of information services.

The key trends in the activities related to the development of state registers are laid down in Decree No 1332 on the Strategy of Creation of the Integrated System of State Registers approved by the Government of the Republic of Lithuania on 22 August 2002.

The Strategy of Creation of the Integrated System of State Registers provides for the objectives of the creation of the integrated system of registers, the priorities of its implementation, and the tasks and means for each such objective. The measures provided in the strategy lay down the main requirements for the formation of the legal and methodological environment of the registers, their interaction, uniform identification of objects, integration of registers on the basis of descriptive and geographical data.

The strategy was developed in accordance with the conclusions of the audit of the state information systems carried out by international company Computer Associates, taking into account the results of the study on the current situation of state registers and databases made by the Lithuanian Information Society Development Committee at the end of 2001 as well as the overview of foreign systems of registers devised by the Information Analysis Department of the Office of the Parliament. The strategy was also based on the guidelines of the integrated system of state registers drafted by the Information Society Development Committee, which were approved by the Information Society Development Commission of the Government of the Republic of Lithuania at the meeting of 27 November 2001.

The Information Society Development Commission chaired by the Prime Minister generally approved the strategy at the meeting of 21 May 2002. Taking into consideration the comments made at the meeting, the Strategy of Creation of the Integrated System of State Registers was approved by decree No 1332 of the Government of the Republic of Lithuania on 22 August 2002. At the moment the plan of implementation measures of the Strategy of Creation of the Integrated System of State Registers is being devised. In addition to that, a database of the State Registers List has been developed.

In the course of further works related to software licensing in state authorities, licences for anti-virus software (eTrust Inoculate IT with 3-year updating, Norton antiVirus Corporate Edition’s server part with 3-year updating and Norton antiVirus Corporate Edition client part with 3-year updating) and localised standard office software (Office Pro Win32 Lithuanian Lic/SA Pack OLP C) aimed for state authorities have been acquired.

DEVELOPMENT OF E-BUSINESS AND KNOWLEDGE ECONOMY

Alongside the creation of the electronic signature infrastructure, special legal acts aimed at the development of the legal basis for the functioning of the electronic signature have been drafted. Based on these legal acts, the Electronic Signature Supervision Institution has been organised. Apart from that, requirements for the providers of certification services, who issue qualified certificates, have been established, as well as the requirements for electronic signature equipment have been drafted. Moreover, the procedure for registration of the certification services providers and regulations on the implementation of supervision of the electronic signature have been devised.

In order to stimulate competition in the telecommunications and data transmission sector, the Committee in cooperation with other competent institutions has developed the Draft Law of the Republic of Lithuania on the Amendments to the Law on Telecommunications, amendments to the Law on Telecommunications in accordance with the decision of the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania as of 19 September 2002 and the Conceptual Framework of the Law on Electronic Communications.

One of the main tasks in this area in 2002 was to develop the Draft Law of the Republic of Lithuania on the Amendments to the Law on Telecommunications. The draft law was developed after detailed analysis of the peculiarities of the telecommunications market and the EU legislation. This helped the Committee to create proper conditions enabling to develop a draft law, which complied with the requirements of the EU established for the regulation of the telecommunications sector in the conditions of a liberal market.

In addition to that, for the purpose of stimulating the development of e-business and knowledge economy, a number of different seminars were organised in 2002 (e.g. “Information Society Development in Finland and Lithuania”). Apart from the seminars, various other events took place, such as presentations (e.g. a section of the international conference “Information Society 2002”, aimed at presenting the information society development programmes in the EU), discussions (a round-table discussion “Creating National and Regional ITT trademarks in the Digital Economy”) and other events, whose task was to provide the information that was crucial to the information society development in a systematic and open way (e.g. about potential Lithuanian and foreign funding sources, international communication, etc.).

THE LITHUANIAN LANGUAGE AND CULTURE

Aiming to promote the Lithuanian language and culture in information society, a series of important works were carried out in 2002, i.e. works related to the creation of software localisation (adaptation to the Lithuanian user), automatic translation, recognition and synthesis.

Legalisation and “Lithuanisation” of software has become one of the most pressing problems in all organisations. A high price of software, complicated licensing policy, globalisation and Internet technologies have made the management of software licences a complex process. Thus open source software or free licence software has become a serious alternative to the commercial software popular all over the world.

Upon the order of the Information Society Development Committee, software on informing about free open source software, which may be used for scientific research and in practice, was devised in 2002, as well as a database on the information system about the open source software was created. These works were carried out in the course of implementation of the objectives set out in the Plan of Implementation Measures of the Governmental Programme for the Years 2001 – 2004 and the Strategic Plan for Lithuanian Information Society Development, which are aimed at encouraging research and practical work by adapting free open source software for that purpose. In addition to that, in the summer of 2002, a project called “Creation and Development of Localised Open Source Software” was launched and implemented. In the course of implementation of the project, a working group comprised of Lithuanian scientists and specialists of computing, localised the following open source software: a text preparation programme and calculator “OpenOffice.org” 1.0.1., an Internet browser “Mozilla” and an electronic calendar programme called “Calendar”. In the process of localisation the menu, the inscriptions in the dialogue windows and computer notices (more than 21 thousand lines) were translated into the Lithuanian language. The results of the work were adapted to and tested in the already functioning programmes.

This project was aimed at helping and encouraging Lithuanian state authorities and other organisations to use open source software in their everyday work. During the project open source software was installed in three pilot state institutions: the Ministry of Environment, the Centre of IT Education and the Informatics and Communications Department under the Ministry of the Interior of the Republic of Lithuania.

The pilot project on open source software installation was completed successfully in all the three organisations. No interruptions in the work of the organisations were noticed in the process of installation. Finally, the open source software installed in the three institutions was left there for further work and the study of possibilities.

For more information on the open source software projects implemented by the Information Society Development Committee under the Government of the Republic of Lithuania in 2002, please visit the Committee’s website at www.ivpk.lt. Meanwhile, the Committee intends to continue works in this field in 2003 and to maintain the database of the information system on open source software devised in 2002. The database, which can be found on the website of the Information Society Development Committee at www.ivpk.lt, provides for constantly updated information on more than 80 software products, thus ensuring immediate and user-friendly access to the information on the open source software products that might interest users.

In addition to that, in 2003 the Information Society Development Committee is going to implement an investment project called “Open Source Introduction into State Institutions (Acquisition of Group Licences)”. When the project is implemented, state institutions will be able to use cheaper (in terms of updating, too) open source software products.

Plans of the Committee for the Near Future

Lithuania has opened a new page of its development. It has practically achieved the aims set back in 1990s: independence, democracy and the rule of law, market economy and integration into the West. A new stage of development offers new opportunities and poses new challenges. (The National Agreement on Economic and Social Advance of 2002).

In this context, the Information Society Development Committee under the Government of the Republic of Lithuania intends to develop its activities in the following main directions:

• Development of universal and public Internet access possibilities by taking part in the establishment of public Internet access facilities, devising training material for their potential users, carrying out works related to the adaptation of websites to the people with disabilities, and implementing the measures aimed for the adaptation of information technologies to Lithuanian users, etc.;
• Promotion of the development of public e-services by devising governmental electronic gates, continuing works in the integrated system of state registers, legalising the provision of public information via electronic means, and improving the infrastructure of the electronic signature, etc.;
• Promotion of open source software by supporting its creation, organising its adaptation to state authorities, educational and research institutions and informing potential users on software products, etc.;
• Promotion of the initiatives of local authorities and the institutions of regional development in the field of information society development by continuing the works on the creation of digital community, supplying methodical and other sort of support to local authorities and regions in the process of planning and implementation of information society development, e.g. in drafting investment projects.

These plans generally comply with both the key national planning documents and the initiatives declared by the European Union, such as eEurope+ Plan of Action or the Northern eDimenion Plan of Action, whose primary objective is to create an information society to the whole population.