Nuria Kutnaeva is alumna of 2005, MA Programme in Politics and Security from Kyrgyzstan. Director and Founder of the Public Foundation "DigitalTechnology”. Nuria introduced the electronic interoperability system “Tunduk” in the Kyrgyz Republic.
Q: Dear Nuria, you are famous within our Alumni Network for your direct contribution and development of "Electronic interoperability center ‘Tunduk’”. What motivated you to move from security issues to the e-governance sphere?
After graduating from the OSCE Academy and then several years later after defending my Ph.D. thesis at the Kyrgyz-Russian Slavic University on the topic of security, I was invited to work in the secretariat of the Security Council of the Kyrgyz Republic in the direction of preventing corruption in government agencies.
Working directly with ordinary public servants and high officials of state agencies, and analyzing legislation I had the opportunity to study deeper the reasons of corruption in public agencies. It turned out that corruption risks are connected not only with small salaries of civil servants, but also with corruption mechanisms already laid down in the legislation. Furthermore, since there was weak automation in state agencies, it was easy to forge paper documents, signing everything retroactively. Or another example: in order to get paper documents, citizens are forced to go to different agencies, where everything depends on the goodwill of an official. It was painful to see how our citizens – pensioners, the poor, young mothers or entrepreneurs - are forced to go through all the circles of hell, obtaining paper documents!
When I was invited to help implementing such a digital state platform, which connects the information systems of government agencies with each other, I agreed beyond a shadow of a doubt.
In 2018 we started from scratch the state enterprise "Center for Electronic Interaction ‘Tunduk’”, under the Ministry for Digital Development of the Kyrgyz Republic, where I worked as the director (2018-2021). We introduced the interoperability system "Tunduk" to combat corruption, make people’s life easier and improve the efficiency of public administration in Kyrgyzstan.
Q: Please tell us about the project and how you came to realize you wanted to build the project?
I believe we made it possible to build a fundament for the digital transformation in Kyrgyzstan. For three years (2018-2021) the team of our enterprise implemented the "Tunduk" system, which was transferred to Kyrgyzstan by Estonia back in 2016.
By 2021, state agencies and commercial organizations exchange information with each other about citizens in paperless digital form (from zero transactions in 2018 to 150 mln transactions in 2021). This meant excluding necessity to inquire paper documents from ordinary citizens from state agencies.
Additionally, in 2020, we modernized the state portal of electronic services (portal.tunduk.kg) and introduced the digital ID (unified system of identification). Now every citizen can enter this portal, go through identification and receive more than 100 e-services on the portal. In 2021 the team introduced the mobile application Tunduk, with digital documents in it.
Besides, together with the team of IT-lawyers we suggested some changes in digital legislation. All these steps led to the fact that Kyrgyzstan received the award from of the most digitally developed state – Estonia, and also achieved improvement of the UN E-government ratings.
Q: What challenges have you faced before achieving progress in e-governance in Kyrgyzstan?
The state policy fully supports implementing e-government. At the same time there were officials who, under various pretexts, delayed the processes we needed, because they were not very interested in introducing electronic forms of interaction with citizens. Nevertheless, we tried to move forward, notwithstanding the latent resistance and lack of understanding of some officials.
There was also the personal challenge – I had to learn many new things. After work, in the evenings I studied online several data privacy, digital transformation, and cybersecurity courses. What I am very proud is that after several months of very intense studies I received international certification in cybersecurity: Global Information Assurance Certification (GIAC) Security Leadership.
Q: This has become a rather traditional question by now – what role did the OSCE Academy play in your professional or perhaps even personal life?
Our graduation class was the first one to graduate from the OSCE Academy. It was very responsible to be the graduate of the institution, which already at that time had such a high reputation and impressively high image in the country and abroad.
We became good friends with our course-mates. Interesting lectures with professional lecturers from all over the world had a deep impact on our further career. With some professors we still keep in touch. Besides, the knowledge I obtained from the OSCE Academy I tried to pass further during my academic career at different universities in Kyrgyzstan.
Q: What are your aspirations for the future?
I believe in our progressive, smart, initiative, and courageous youth. I met a lot of people who had studied abroad and returned to the country and are still working in the civil service and contribute their efforts to the society and state.
Q: Finally, what would you like to advise to our graduating class? Any professional tips?
Recently, I was asked to be a volunteer-mentor for girls in STEM for 5 months for 17 schoolgirls of schools from suburbs in Bishkek (“zhilmassivs” and “novostroikas”) – in the framework of the joint project of the UNICEF and the foundation "Initiative of Roza Otunbaeva".
The goal is to show different directions in the IT field to these 14-17-year-old girls. I compiled a weekly program for 5 months and personally teach them computer and leadership skills with a co-trainer starting from the simplest ones (MS Office applications), resume writing, online self-study platforms, to more complex like cybersecurity, cyberbullying resistance, financial literacy and other issues. We want to show to these girls that the field of IT is not an area restricted only for men. Girls can and should learn information technologies, too.
Since this is a completely unpaid, volunteer project, I do this in my free time from the main work. I call this my service to society – to transfer those knowledge and skills for free.
I am sure that smart young leaders from the OSCE Academy also implement many such initiatives. That is how we can make a difference in the society.
I advise graduates whatever happens to stick to their principles, not to give up and try to make a difference for the sake of the society and further development of our states, for the better future of our parents and children.