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Civil Service Transformation and Digitalization: Case of Uzbekistan

Digital technology has facilitated the automation and integration of various HR functions.

By Lee Jon Young 

 

The following article was contributed by Otabek Khasanov, First Deputy Director, Agency for the Development of Public Service under the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan, to the Diplomacy Journal. –ED.

 

We are living through the greatest technological transition since industrialization, with Artificial Intelligence and automation precipitating major transformations in the nature and experience of work. Structural transformation driven by technology raises concerns about the future of work among policymakers, as well as employers and employees.

 

 

As technology advances, there has always been a fear that automation will “take” jobs away from people. But as in the past, with the advent of new technologies, the role of humans in the work process simply adapts and changes. Today, Artificial Intelligence may be taking away certain jobs, but at the same time, it is creating new opportunities and jobs. A report published by the Institute for the Future of Work found that out of the nearly nine hundred organizations that have implemented new technologies, 78% have reported the creation of new jobs as a result of these technologies.


But we should not be afraid of change. Artificial intelligence is coming into our lives, whether we are ready for it or not. Therefore, it is important to be optimistic and curious about the potential and opportunities it can provide each of us. The rapid development of digital technology has revolutionized the way we manage, motivate, and develop human resources in public sector organizations. It has brought about significant changes that have reshaped the landscape of HR practices and opened up new possibilities for HR professionals. 


Digital technology has facilitated the automation and integration of various HR functions. Tasks such as payroll, recruitment, performance management, learning and development, and employee engagement can now be streamlined through digital tools and platforms. This improves efficiency and accuracy while reducing administrative burdens and costs for HR professionals. By automating routine tasks, we can devote more time and energy to strategic initiatives that add value to our organizations.


Additionally, digital technology empowers HR professionals to leverage data and analytics to make informed decisions. Through digital tools, we can collect, analyze, and visualize vast amounts of employee data, identifying trends, patterns, gaps, and opportunities for improvement within our workforce. This capability enables us to align HR strategies with organizational goals and drive meaningful change.


However, these advancements also bring new challenges and responsibilities for HR professionals in the public sector. Employees now need to possess digital literacy, creativity, problem-solving abilities, and adaptability to thrive in the digital era.


As HR leaders, we have a critical role to play in navigating these challenges and maximizing the opportunities presented by digital technology. By embracing innovation and staying abreast of technological advancements, we can leverage digital tools to drive organizational success. We should cultivate a culture that encourages continuous learning. And above all, we should lead with empathy and a human-centered approach, recognizing that technology is a means to enhance, not replace, the human element in HR practices.


This is our cornerstone philosophy while keeping up pace with the world trends and implementing advanced digital technologies in the public sector of Uzbekistan. 


In 2020, the Government of Uzbekistan accepted “The Digital Uzbekistan 2030” Strategy. It recognizes that today's technology is not only a strategic driver for improving public sector efficiency but can also support the effectiveness of policies and create more open, transparent, innovative, participatory and trustworthy governments.


In line with this policy, the Agency for the Development of Public Service under the President of the Republic of the Republic of Uzbekistan has been implementing a range of crucial reforms since its establishment in 2019. Namely, we succeeded in adopting the Law "On Civil Service" last year, which defines the legal framework for digitalization in the civil service domain.

 

 

To ensure meritocracy and transparency, we introduced an online platform for recruitment to the civil service – “vacancy.argos.uz”. To foster the culture of lifelong learning among civil servants, we launched a special platform – “ilm.argos.uz”. To further contribute to a data-driven culture in the public sector, we developed “hrm.argos.uz”, which allowed us to digitalize all HR processes in public sector organizations. 


Besides, the Agency for the Development of Public Service under the President of the Republic of the Republic of Uzbekistan employs many other online platforms serving its specific purposes, like the platform for civil servants’ performance evaluation – “samaradorlik.uz”, talent pool management – “zaxira.argos.uz” and civil service portal open to all citizens – “my.argos.uz”.


All of these online platforms are in the stage of full integration with each other to ensure full-scale digitalization of public HR sector.


At this point, I would like to shed light on HRM platform. The HRM digital platform in Uzbekistan was initiated in 2022. By early 2023, the system had entered a pilot phase. A significant turning point unfolded this year in May, with the introduction of Presidential Decree, which mandated that all government agencies must exclusively adopt the electronic personnel management system.


On September 22, 2023, the Cabinet of Ministers of the Republic of Uzbekistan issued the Resolution, which specified that in republican and local executive authorities, all information and documentation related to human resource management would exclusively be generated and recorded on the electronic platform “hrm.argos.uz”.

 

This HRM platform allows us to facilitate the following processes:
-    Now we can monitor all vacant positions in the civil service;
-    All information on personnel, departments and units is gathered in a one database;
-    Attendance of employees, their business trips, vacations, and sick leaves are recorded electronically;
-    Personnel documents are accepted only through the system after being approved by digital signature;
-    Automatically generated data analysis saves time by 70%;
-    Paper consumption is reduced by 90%;
-    From now on, HR professionals can spend more of their time on human resources development.


At this instant, more than 4,000 government agencies use HRM digital platform in their work process. To ensure smooth implementation and efficient use of the platform, we have been training HR professionals throughout the country.


Even though we are making leaps and bounds in this direction, there is always room for improvement. The public HR landscape in Uzbekistan confronts several challenges as we navigate the digital era:


Firstly, we have yet to fully embrace the potential of digital technologies and introduce AI technologies into the public HR processes. 


Secondly, we still need to develop the human capital required to meet the changing demands and expectations of the digital era. A comprehensive and strategic approach to learning and development, coupled with a culture of innovation and experimentation, is still being developed.


Lastly, effective engagement with various stakeholders, including citizens, the private sector, academia, and international partners, to co-create and co-deliver solutions remains crucial. Addressing the complex transformation challenges in the civil service necessitates collaborative efforts.


To adapt to the digital era and fulfil its role of creating public value and outcomes for citizens, public HRM in Uzbekistan requires radical transformation. This transformation calls for a holistic and multidisciplinary approach encompassing political will, institutional reforms, organizational changes, cultural shifts, technological innovations, human resource development, stakeholder participation, and international cooperation.