Azamat Sakiev (West Chester University)
Jeanne Féaux de la Croix (University of Tübingen)
Send message to Convenors
- Sigur Center Room 503
- Thursday 10 October, 17:00-18:45 (UTC+0)
Author:Bakhytzhan Kurmanov (M.S. Narikbayev KazGUU University)
Paper long abstract:
In the recent years the introduction of e-government and digitalization of public services has been actively promoted in the Post-Soviet region both by governments and international donors. Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic and Uzbekistan have made tremendous progress in establishing ICT infrastructure, creating e-government websites, pushing government officials to respond to citizens in internet and social media. The countries in Central Asia seek to promote not just e-government, but open government that is defined by the OECD as the governments being responsive to citizens.
Certainly, most authoritarian governments pursue e-government as anti-corruption or economic development measure. Some authoritarian countries aimed to maintain control over population and limit the freedoms of people when they introduced e-government reform . However, scholars noted that that "e-governance is intended to change the way that citizens relate to governments, how citizens relate to each other, and how the governments relate to citizens". Hence, the puzzle is how can authoritarian government introduce more e-government and digitalization while avoiding citizen engagement and responsiveness component.
How does open government impact citizen engagement in authoritarian settings in Central Asia? This is a major research question that this paper will address. I plan to focus at Kazakhstan as the most critical case since the country is ranked the highest in UN e-government index in Central Asia. To answer this research question, I will focus at two critical incidents of engagement between authorities and citizens. Through the analysis of secondary data, process tracing and qualitative methods (including interviews) I will be able to identify the impact of open government on citizen engagement.
This study will also discover the limits and opportunities of Open Government in fostering democratic engagement citizens in Central Asia. This paper will contribute to the Open Government theory and generate new critical lessons for citizen engagement and democratization issues in Central Asia and broader Post-Soviet Region.
Author:Ajar Chekirova (Lake Forest College)
Paper long abstract:
Drawing from the literature on urban informality and taking into account the particular institutional context of a post-Soviet city, this paper explores how citizens gain access to welfare benefits through informal everyday interactions with the state at the street-level: in public schools, health clinics, and crowded offices of public bureaucracies. These interactions often entail informal arrangements, which involve exchange of favors, gifts, and bribes. As a result, we observe a peculiar form of urban governance, where the state scales back distribution of welfare but at the same time tolerates the informal and at times extralegal arrangements between the people and the street-level bureaucrats. This paper explain why the state tolerates and even encourages informality by maintaining old and introducing new unenforceable regulations. This research is informed by ethnographic fieldwork in Bishkek.
Paper long abstract:
The literature on mass mobilization in Central Asia has long posited that elites, both state-affiliated and non-state ones, play a central role in mobilizing or immobilizing the masses that can challenge the authority of ruling governments. Yet, in what appears to weaken the elite-led theory of protests in Central Asia, the April 2010 anti-government protests in Kyrgyzstan and the December 2011 Zhanaozen and May 2016 nation-wide protests against perceived Chinese expansion in Kazakhstan demonstrate that players with few resources and non-elite status have emerged and they are capable of organizing nationwide protests. The main purpose of the paper is to closely examine this new phenomenon in Central Asian politics. The chief claim of the paper is that relying on various tools of control, the Central Asian governments have curtailed the capacity of both elite and non-elite actors to mobilize masses. This development is both a blessing and a curse for Central Asia. In the short-term, without much leadership, most protests are likely to remain localized and disorganized.In the long-run, the lack of leadership over protests makes protests more unmanaged and thus "deadly" for the Central Asian governments, turning the whole Central Asia politically wobbly.