Electronic Document Management: Reform Must Continue Despite the War

30.06.2023 |

The Law on Electronic Documents and Electronic Document Management in Ukraine entered into force as far back as 2003. However, much later, namely in 2020, the Law on Electronic Trust Services contributed to spreading electronic document management. Thus, the initiative terminated the electronic digital signature (EDS) and replaced it with a qualified electronic signature (QES), which, according to national law, is the legal equivalent of a handwritten signature without any additional conditions.

Thus, thanks to these initiatives, Ukraine has been able to make progress on the path to digital modernisation. However, in practice, despite its undoubted advantages – from saving time on document processing to improving the quality of their implementation – electronic document management is still being introduced. This is especially true when it comes to digital modernisation of the workflows in government agencies and authorities.

Accelerating the digitisation of government agencies has become an urgent issue since the beginning of the full-scale invasion. After all, in addition to the above, it is also a way to preserve the functionality of the state in the most difficult conditions, such as those we are facing today. At the same time, it is worth noting that Ukraine has taken significant steps in this direction.

Back in 2019, EU Project Pravo-Justice helped the Ministry of Justice of Ukraine to develop and begin implementing a large-scale plan to convert paper-based workflows in the ministry’s regional offices into digital ones. The North-Eastern Interregional Department of Justice (Poltava, Sumy, Chernihiv regions) was the first to join the Electronic Document Management System. The innovations proved to be effective. They significantly accelerated and simplified the otherwise lengthy bureaucratic processes, so a year later the Ministry of Justice headquarters switched to electronic document management as well.

The main advantage of transforming the document flow from paper to digital became apparent when the war started. For example, when part of Sumy region was under occupation, it was thanks to the fact that all regional structures of the Ministry of Justice had previously switched to digital format that it was possible to ensure the continuity of their work and preserve all documentation! And these are undoubtedly important property, family, judicial and other issues for different people. Thus, in a critical situation, digitalisation helped the state to keep functioning and protect the citizens’ interests and rights.

The electronic document management system in the Ministry of Justice of Ukraine and its territorial bodies was implemented in accordance with the following principles. Firstly, the project was implemented in all regional subdivisions of the Ministry of Justice’s territorial body. Secondly, management information was documented electronically using electronic signatures, seals and time stamps. Thirdly, all databases were located on servers transferred to the State Enterprise “National Information Systems” along with some hardware and a data storage system. Thus, it was the timely implementation of these principles that saved a huge amount of documentation of the Ministry of Justice from destruction during the temporary occupation of certain territories of Ukraine.

Therefore, the war should not become a factor that would hinder the introduction of electronic document management. For example, in 2022, EU Project “Pravo-Justice” also supported the transition of the South-Western Interregional Department of Justice (Ivano-Frankivsk, Chernivtsi, Zakarpattia and Ternopil regions) to technologies relying solely on electronic document processing. In turn, the databases were transferred to the servers of the State Enterprise “National Information Systems”. The Project also purchased additional licences for the Electronic Document Management System to integrate other administrative and territorial units into the Unified System in addition to the regional centres.

The next stage in introducing paperless document management technologies is the piloting electronic archive of the Ministry of Justice of Ukraine (hereinafter referred to as e-Archive). It is aimed at introducing technologies of accumulation, recording, storing archival electronic documents in the system of archival institutions of Ukraine by and using the information contained therein by:

  • using technologies of preparing and transferring electronic documents accumulated in the course of activity of legal entities – sources for formation of the National Archival Fond, to temporarily store them in archival units of these institutions and organisations, to ensure that data from these documents are used for official, production, scientific and other purposes;
  • developing standard technological procedures for transfer and acceptance of archival electronic files and archival electronic documents of the National Archival Fond from archival units of state bodies, local self-government bodies, state and municipal enterprises, institutions and organisations to remote electronic storage of archival institutions in order to ensure permanent storage of archival electronic files and other information objects;
  • unifying the formats of information objects – archival electronic documents of the National Archival Fond and electronic documents based on which electronic documents are accepted and transferred for state archival storage;
  • developing integration, software and interface solutions for providing authorised access to specialised archival electronic documents, electronic records and metadata to archival staff in accordance with the principle of origin of documents and requirements for their placement and registration;
  • ensuring interaction of e-Archive with other automated information systems used in the European Union and Ukraine.

The pilot project was successfully completed in June 2023, including drafting and submitting proposals to amend the applicable legislation governing the requirements for electronic document management in central authorities.

We expect the reform to go ahead despite wartime, and we hope that the judiciary will eventually switch to electronic document management in full.

The text was first published in EU Pravo-Justice Project’s regular blog in LB.ua