the innovative service
Eighteen Citizen Service Centres initiated by Central Library ‘M. L. Kropyvnytskyi’ in local libraries across the city of Mykolaiv in southern Ukraine are in high demand.
In just eight months after their launch in October 2012, over 2,100 people visited the centres to use information and communication technology (ICT), to learn ICT skills, to interact with government officials and to access e-government services.
Citizens asked the Mayor of Mykolaiv 124 questions online, and the Mayor successfully resolved 32 problems.
Library joins city’s five-year plan
The Citizen Service Centres support local and national efforts to promote open government. In 2010 Mykolaiv became the first city in Ukraine to launch a five-year open government strategy: ‘E-governance and e-democracy in Mykolaiv 2010-2015.’ Central Library ‘M. L. Kropyvnytskyi’ and the Centralized Library System for Adults (CLS) are formal partners in the city’s five-year strategy. Their first major contribution to the strategy was to create an open government web-portal in 2011 to encourage citizens’ interest in local government and interaction with the city authorities.
In 2011, Ukraine joined the international Open Government Partnership Initiative, committing to promote transparency, reduce corruption, increase citizen participation in policy development, and to use ICT to make government more efficient and accountable. Libraries joined in these efforts, through the ‘Public libraries - bridges to e-government’ initiative’.
In Mykolaiv, librarians were keen to address two major barriers to open government. Firstly, according to national government statistics, less than 45% of Ukrainians have access to the internet. Secondly, citizens do not understand open government, or know about e-government services and how they work.
The new Citizen Service Centres tackle these issues. The centres are located close to where people live, in branches of the CLS. Together, Central Library ‘M. L. Kropyvnytskyi’ and the CLS serve over 86,000 people a year – almost 20% of the city’s 500,000 inhabitants. Library users come from all sectors – workers, students, entrepreneurs and professionals. In addition, the libraries provide special ICT services for people with disability.
Skilled librarians support citizens’ open government needs
Each Citizen Service Centre offers free access to ICT and ICT training. A total of 53 librarians have been trained to build users’ understanding of the principles and practice of open government, and to guide them in using e-government services.
To establish the centres, the libraries drew on the support of several partners, who provided equipment, funding, training and technical support. Partnerships included the City Mayor and the Municipal Council; the International Renaissance Foundation and Mykolaiv City Development Fund; the Bibliomist libraries programme; the international NGO, PH International; the local META Fund, the National E-governance Centre and the Ukrainian Library Association.
The Mayor responds to villagers’ online appeal
Small Korenikha District, home to 1,600 people, is located on the right bank of the Southern Buh River which flows through Mykolaiv. The district is isolated – it takes 45 minutes to reach the city by bus, or just 15 minutes by boat. In the spring of 2012, the boat broke down and the government cancelled the service. Residents appealed to the library for help. Using the internet, they wrote to the Mayor, asking for the boat service to be restored. The Mayor quickly responded. A week later, the boat was repaired and the service was running normally again.
‘Thanks to the library my son has his own bed’
“I have a small child with cerebral palsy. With the help of the library staff and using the library’s e-government internet service, I wrote a letter to the Mayor asking for help. I did not really believe I would succeed – and was surprised when one day I received a written response from the municipality. A month later, I received some financial support. Now, my little son has his own bed with a comfortable memory foam mattresses. Many thanks to staff of the library!” said Tetyana Sadovnycha.