Governments across the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries are ramping up their e-government services in order to meet the demands of constituents, according to industry experts.
Across the region, e-government has taken off in a big way in recent years, with the GCC eGov Committee highlighting initiatives such as the UAE’s “Government Portal’ and Dubai’s “Smart Government”, The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s “Yesser”, Qatar’s “Hukoomi”, Oman’s “Omanuna”, Kuwait’s “Kuwait Government Portal”, and Bahrain’s “eGovernment Portal”,.
According to the United Nations “2012 Global E-Government Survey”, UAE recently witnessed the highest jump in the world e-government development ranking from No. 49 in 2010 to No. 28 in 2012.
Dubai’s “Smart Government” is one of the country’s many e-government success stories, having earned a United Nations Public Service Award earlier this year. ePay transactions grew from 1.89 million in 2010 to 3.32 million in 2012, and mPay transactions from 19,433 in 2010 to 36,325 in 2012, according to government statistics. With users increasingly being able to access information on their own, Ask Dubai calls dropped from 206,266 in 2010 to 172,018 in 2012, and Ask Dubai emails are down from 5,399 in 2010 to 1,601 in 2012.
Fady Kassatly, a specialist on technology in the public sector for consulting firm Booz & Co., said: “E-Government allows the delivery of services in a much more efficient way than traditional government offices and government service counters. It has been at the forefront of every government agenda in the GCC, and the UAE in particular over the last decade.”
The region now set to expand on its e-government credentials to embrace mobile in a big way, with the Government of Dubai again leading the charge. In May, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, announced the launch of the Middle East’s first mGovernment service, joining a select group of countries actively pioneering greater government interaction via mobile platforms. The service is set to be fully accessible across all government departments in the country within 24 months.
Dubai’s wholehearted embrace of all things mobile comes as no surprise. According to a recent survey by Google, the UAE has a smartphone penetration of 62%, one of the highest in the world. The figure is set to rise to 71 per cent by 2016, whereas overall mobile penetration is said to exceed 230%. On average, the GCC’s mobile penetration rates are estimated at 180 per cent, higher than that of Russia at 160%, USA at 108% and China at 78%.
“Since Dubai’s m-government announcement, there has been an unprecedented momentum created across all government levels in the UAE to support this vision. This has not only affected the UAE government, but other governments in the region are also very seriously evaluating the mobile channel to offer their government services,” explained Kassatly.
Mukesh Chulani, who studies e-government in the Middle East and Africa at the IT research firm IDC, agrees.
“In the MENA region, governments need to sync process, people and policies to form a connection with citizens,” he said. “A major focus is on building awareness, and mobile is the best way for citizens to interact with governments. Mobile is not a passing trend.”
The growing influence of e-government and the shift to mobile will be top of the agenda at this year’s GITEX Technology Week.
Featuring ministries, regulatory authorities, free zones and CERTs, GITEX Technology Week’s Government Sector commands the highest government participation of any trade event in the region. This year will be the event’s biggest yet, with government participation up 25% compared to 2012.
Sponsored by headline sponsors E-Dirham, the National Bank of Abu Dhabi, and the UAE Ministry of Finance, the Government Sector will see key decision-makers network and discuss how the increasing demand for knowledge-based economies will be heavily shaped by digital integration and ICT innovation.
Business software giant SAP is one of several companies at this year’s GITEX Technology Week seeking to highlight its government ambitions, and will raise awareness of how its global m-government capabilities can play out in the region.
“The ability to provide scalable, adaptable and mobile solutions for government entities is more pressing than ever,” said Sam Alkharrat, Managing Director, SAP MENA. “Revealing how SAP can make a difference in this hugely exciting and game-changing space will form a central part of our GITEX Technology Week presence this year.”
Trixee Loh, Senior Vice President, DWTC, organiser of GITEX Technology Week, said: “As governments increasingly seek to meet the demands of youthful, connected populations, GITEX Technology Week’s Government Sector is proud to do everything it can to fuel the region’s already encouraging e-government and m-government momentum. The fact that we are welcoming more government entities than ever this year bodes extremely well for this sector.”