A historic opportunity to achieve great development can be seized if countries like Mongolia, which have a small population but large territory, can truly utilize the cyberspace we have today. On the other hand, if Mongolians do not start taking advantage of modern communications technology, it will become harder for us to develop and catch up with other countries. We have no choice but to enter cyberspace, adapt our lives and work accordingly, and increase individual competitiveness.
Today, nations are creating e-societies, which allow people to vote in elections without leaving their home, access all kinds of reports, applications and information, and sign agreements and contracts through their cell phone. Furthermore, people are registering their newly established companies in a matter of minutes, checking financial and legal information on their phone, and selling their products and services on the internet in a secure way. Government organizations have started linking their databases together and providing online services to citizens. It is making bureaucracy fade away into the past.
Those countries that have successfully created an e-society established a decentralized, open information and communications infrastructure, with various interconnected databases available. As new industries and products are created over time, such communications infrastructure expands itself and becomes able to meet emerging needs and demands.
Estonia, a country building one of the world’s most efficient e-societies, has successfully created an e-environment where the transparency and openness of public governance have been ensured, and the exchange of information between citizens, businesses and government is allowed in a highly secure cyberspace. Estonia’s e-society allows its citizens to receive social services faster than ever and enjoy improved healthcare. It has significantly increased the average life expectancy of the nation. Their education sector has also seen positive changes and is acquiring more competitiveness internationally. Estonia has developed their technology universities into knowledge transfer centers with Ericsson and Samsung laboratories, and Mitsubishi electric car research facilities. As a result of such new projects and programs, Estonia is attracting the most skilled engineers and technology gurus in Northern Europe. Having an improved business environment and a knowledge economy, Estonia has been leading Europe in its socio-economic development for the last ten years.
Mongolians are nomads who naturally possess a sense of curiosity, which makes us always try to find out the reason why something is happening. We are also quick learners when it comes to foreign languages. Also, Mongolians can adapt to a new environment easily. If we compare the total number of Mongolians who are residing abroad to our local population, the percentage will be relatively higher than that of other countries. However, these factors are simply not sufficient to take full advantage of the cyberspace we find ourselves in today. What we need today is a good business environment that encourages innovation and new initiatives, and an information and communications technology (ICT) infrastructure supported by transparent government policy.
In the 2014 Global Information Technology Report released by the World Economic Forum, Mongolia was ranked 61st out of 144 countries, which was two places lower than the year before. The criteria of the ranking included dozens of factors such as internet access, download speed, adult education, use of mobile phones, and the number of investors in the information and communications industry. In the 2014 Global Information Technology Report, Finland, Singapore, and Sweden were ranked in the top three, and Hong Kong and South Korea were other Asian countries in the top ten. These countries were superior to others in many aspects including having a good business environment, advanced ICT infrastructure, and a more tech-savvy population. For example, Finland has one of the best education systems in the world, has become the hub of international e-initiatives, acquired the most number of ICT patents in proportion to its total population, and 90 percent of its households are connected to the internet (the figures are 85 percent in England, 70 percent in the United States, and 14 percent in Mongolia).
Mongolia was ranked 95th in importance of ICTs to government vision, 45th for its government online services index, and 103rd in its government’s success in ICT promotion.
The transformation into an e-society allows economic growth and the creation of new jobs. Digitization is a term that describes the act of connecting smart databases based on ICT and converting data into digital formats. Booz and Company, which ranks countries on a scale from one to 100 using a digitization index, discovered that an increase of 10 percent in a country’s digitization score creates a 0.75 percent growth in its GDP per capita, and reduces the unemployment rate by 1.02 percent. In this digitization index, Mongolia scored 35-50 out of 100, the range of points shared by transition economies. Establishment of an e-society (developing and implementing an e-Mongolia project) will be essential to reducing economic dependence on the mining industry, carrying out economic diversification, and building a knowledge economy.
About 27 percent of our total population is under 14 years old and 20 percent are 15-24 years old, which means that almost half of our population is young people under 25 years old who are learning and developing. One could say that most of our younger generation never knew how life was without the digital world, mobile phones, and the internet. If all Mongolians become bilingual by learning English, and are presented with a good opportunity to learn other languages along with advanced development of ICT, our country can achieve rapid development in a short amount of time.
In order to achieve that goal, our ICT infrastructure must be highly secure so that the confidentiality of personal, business, and government information is well protected. However, it does not mean that there should be restrictions on internet use due to security reasons. Every person must have the right to access the internet. Protection of personal information and internet freedom has become one of the biggest challenges that needs to be tackled by democratic countries to achieve development today. It was recently discussed by about 400 delegates from 64 countries at the Fourth Conference of the Freedom Online Coalition that took place in Tallinn, the capital of Estonia.
Mongolia was elected to chair the Freedom Online Coalition’s next conference to be held in Ulaanbaatar next year. It is a clear indicator that Mongolia is a democratic country that protects internet freedom. It should be noted that, thanks to this coalition and conference, Mongolians now have a great opportunity to learn from and cooperate with the other member countries, and supporting companies such as Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft to create an e-society. Ban Ki-moon, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, and John Kerry, the United States Secretary of State gave speeches at the Tallinn Conference along with the President of Estonia, President of Georgia, Speaker of the National Assembly of Kenya, and foreign ministers of other member countries. The Tallinn recommendations for Freedom Online were approved at the conference and measures to be taken under the goal of “delivering free and secure internet to everyone” were agreed upon.
It is time for our government, civil society, private sector, and people to understand that creating an e-Mongolia is one of our foremost objectives, as well as our responsibility, for future generations. Therefore, we need to carefully develop and successfully implement an e-Mongolia project.
Translated by B.AMAR
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