As you read this article, I am prepared to bet that you do not like bureaucracy, you do not like people who render bureaucracy disservices to you, in government offices, the DMV, the post office, the courts, and the list goes on. You many also be clueless as to how to complete many of the documents they put in front of you.
Well, there is a solution, and I saw this solution in Azerbaijan. Mr. Ilham Aliyev, the president of Azerbaijan, came up with the ASAN – ‘State Agency for Public Service and Social Innovations under the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan’ idea. It is the president’s unique initiative and approach to solve the bureaucracy nightmare that intimidates most people.
When my hosts took me to ASAN’s offices in Baku, one of ASAN’s eleven offices in the entire country, I was first wondering what am I doing there among Azerbaijani citizens seeking daily service. But when my host, the ASAN Chief Advisor started explaining to me where I was and give me the rundown of ASAN’s operational model, I was simply stunned. Really amazed.
They call ASAN the ‘one stop shop,’ make life easy shift, in Azerbaijan.
It is unfathomable culture shock for a post Communism society and probably for anyone who faces domestic daily bureaucracy.
What is ASAN all about?
The main purpose of ASAN is to bridge between civil servants and civilians with efficiency, put a smile on its workers’ faces, make people comfortable, and eliminate bureaucracy to the minimum. To assist in achieving this atmosphere, ASAN has a call center for improvement and innovation.
ASAN is part of Azerbaijan’s development vision, one other indicator of the country’s trajectory toward total independence and progress, along the lines of preserving its national heritage and features while being able to compete in a global world.
ASAN’s model is not the world’s first, however, by comparison, it offers comprehensive and advanced services with a smile, that is required of its working force.
ASAN’s purpose is to streamline bureaucracy. All services are at low cost subsidized by the government as a public service.
The principles of ASAN are based on maintaining transparency. To help maintain this image, there are no walls in ASAN’s offices.
Basically, “ASAN service” is a “one-stop-shop” entity, where 10-state bodies and a number of private companies render more than 230 services. Without wasting time and money and encountering unnecessary bureaucracy, the citizens benefit from the services offered in this “one-stop shop.” The uniqueness of “ASAN service” is defined by the complete exclusion of conflicts of interest during the process of rendering its services.
ASAN’s mobile services come to the periphery
ASAN’s especially equipped buses and train coaches travel to the regions where “ASAN service” centers are needed but do not operate. These fully equipped buses and train coaches render ASAN’s services and so far over one million citizens’ applications for service were received through mobile “ASAN services.”
Azerbaijan’s “ASAN service” proudly wears the badge of honor being 1st place winner of the United Nations Public Service Award in the category of “Improving the delivery of Public Services” for 2015. This is the most prestigious international recognition of excellence and professionalism in the public service sphere, rewarding creative achievements and contributions of public service institutions that lead to a more effective and responsive public administration in countries worldwide.
ASAN uses all social media outlets to enhance its services and for prompt response. It also provides “ASAN Radio,” a unique service, specializing in the field of public services, to raise public awareness about “ASAN service” centers’ activities and provides citizens with the necessary information about the laws, regulations and practices.
ASAN’s ABAD, for start-ups, entrepreneurship, marketing and merchandising
“ABAD” supports the expansion of community and family-based initiatives in the areas of agriculture, agro-processing, handicraft and tourism.
“ABAD“ manages activities related to the development and production of goods by family businesses in the various regions, helping to promote production and consumption of quality products, in line with the supplier’s needs. It creates market demand by applying a professional approach and innovative methods throughout the entire business process.
Innovations and the principles of transparency, ethical behavior and the sense of responsibility that are applied in ASAN service centers are built upon the best characteristics of the people of Azerbaijan and are directly linked to the development of the country. “ASAN service” is an inherent component of the political and economic system established in Azerbaijan, a system that brings to the forefront important issues, such as accessibility for the citizens, social responsibility before the public, future perspectives, etc.
ASAN is a platform for young interns and volunteer Azerbaijanis to learn to render service and how to deal with the public. Since it was opened, four and a half years ago, approximately 10,000 people worked in the ASAN offices and received valuable training. The staff, made of many volunteers and interns receive training in stress and time management and ethical behavior. Some of the interns remain to work in ASAN, others go to work as interns in government agencies while others break into the private sector jobs with worthy basic training on the job.
Working two days on and one day off, no service station remains unmanned. When a staffer goes on a break his or her station is manned by another staffer.
“ASAN service” has been a sensation in public services, and in public relations in general.
So what happens when you walk into an ASAN office?
Modernizing life and cutting down the run-around from office to office. With approximately 250 services offered under the ASAN’s service umbrella, altogether, “ASAN service” centers provide services to about 20,000 applicants, daily. In the course of its first four and a half years, since opened and up date, approximately 16 million applicants received access to services through the ASAN’s centers.
Besides acting as a bridge and coordinating with other services that ASAN is not providing, among many others, one can obtain the following services at ASAN ‘one stop shop’:
“ASAN Visa” Portal for easy and expeditious entry visa application and issuance procedure for foreigners traveling to Azerbaijan. Any foreigner can apply online to obtain an electronic visa to Azerbaijan in just 3 simple steps and receive the visa within 3 working days. With ‘ASAN Visa‘ it is possible to receive an entry visa to Azerbaijan within 3 hours. A driving license takes 7-10 minutes to be renewed.
As well as driving licenses, all these services are handled:
Buy theatre tickets
And there is babysitting while one is busy taking care of business in ASAN.
ASAN’s future plan is to go totally electronic. Until then, ASAN’s job is to make life easier for the Azerbaijanis. I get the impression that Azerbaijan is a castle of optimism and by visiting one of ASAN’s branches, I can see where this optimism is leading the country and to that I applaud with much respect.
An exit poll held among citizens who applied for services in “ASAN service” centers showed that the public satisfaction rate is 99%. That means that the vision was right, the platform created works, and Azerbaijanis, avoiding redundant bureaucracy, are enjoying an easier, relaxed and more pleasant life.