E-Government Initiatives on a Nation's Thesis

Excerpt from Thesis :

A study of e-government initiatives in Canada by Ayert, for example, found that, "Each department valued its own information system, its own database, and its own information culture. Malevolence was not involved; rather, the systemic goal was perceived through the departmental filter" (770). Moreover, despite mandates from the government's top authorities to develop seamless e-governmental systems and approaches to deliver services in an online setting, governmental departments engaged in a series of "turf battles" in order to protect their computer systems. In this regard, Ayert adds that, "Senior managers continued to hoard information and protect their own department's system. They declined to participate intensively with their peers in other departments, thus effectively ending the possibility of creating a new organizational culture cutting across departments" (770). In these types of environments, the cost savings that can be achieved using e-government techniques are not realized and the costs of administering governmental operations may actually increase. For instance, Bourquard notes that, "Sharing data is the real golden nugget because that is where true efficiencies come in. When you talk about really saving money, it is going to come from business reengineering because of data sharing" (25). In a number of ways, the United Arab Emirates has succeeded in this business reengineering aspect of e-government in ways that have contributed to its success to date, and these issues are discussed further below.

E-Government in the United Arab Emirates

The government of the UAE has embraced e-government in major ways, and an increasing number of national and local government departments have integrated their Web sites with Dubai eGovernment's portal in an effort to deliver e-government services from the single portal that only requires a single sign in on the part of the user Dubai eGovernment to conduct usability audits to ensure uniform standards for government departments' websites 2004). A listing of UAE ministries and federal government entities that have already implemented e-government online portals linked with the Dubai eGovernment's Web site is provided in Table 1 below.

Table 1

Ministries and Federal Government Entities with e-Government Online Portals Available


Federal Government Entities

Ministry of Finance

National Media Council

Ministry of Interior

Central Bank of the UAE

Ministry of Presidential Affairs

Real Estate Bank

Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Federal Customs Authority

Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research

General Authority of Islamic Affairs and Endowment (Awqaf)

Ministry of Public Works

Federal Environmental Agency

Ministry of Defense

Federal Electricity and Water Authority

Ministry of Foreign Trade

Sheikh Zayed Housing Programme

Ministry of Cabinet Affairs

Telecommunications Regulatory Authority

Ministry of Energy

General Transport Authority

Ministry of Economy

General Civil Aviation Authority

Ministry of Social Affairs

Civil Service Council

Ministry of Education

Zakat Fund

Ministry of Health

Marriage Fund

Ministry of Culture, Youth & Community Development

General Authority of Youth and Sports Welfare

Ministry of State of Federal National Council Affairs

Emirates Authority for Standardization and Metrology

Ministry of Labor

Institute of Training and Judicial Studies

Ministry of Justice

Red Crescent for the UAE

Ministry of Environment and Water

General Pensions and Social Security Authority

Source: UAE e-Government Portal, 2009 at http://www.government.ae/gov/en/index.jsp

At the national level, e-government initiatives in the UAE have mirrored those that have been implemented elsewhere and focus on providing ease of access to information and provision of the ability for citizens to accomplish interactions with governmental agencies online rather than requiring a face-to-face transaction or by mail. In fact, more than 1,400 services are available via electronic channels to date and more are planned (Sudanese officials visit Dubai eGovernment to get first-hand knowledge of eServices 2009) For example, the UAE's Department of Economic Development (DED) now provides online access to information through multiple channels on two key areas: Licenses and Commercial Permits. According to press release from the UAE's e-government Web site, the Department of Economic Development ". . . is the seventh government department to go live on the AskDubai platform for providing a more dynamic and interactive communication channel to the public" (Department of Economic Development joins Dubai eGovernment's AskDubai platform 2009:3). Using this e-government portal, UAE citizens and businesses can obtain information on a wide range of topics, including licensing (including applicable fees, changes of trade name, registration amendments, renewal requirements and cancellation of licenses) and registration of companies (i.e., professional business company, capital requirements, branch of a foreign company, representative office of a foreign company or banking liaison office) (Department of Economic Development joins Dubai eGovernment's AskDubai platform 2009). As part of its e-government strategic plan targeted for completion by 2015, the UAE government has also implemented a federal Employee Performance Management (EPM) system. The recent press release announcing the launch of the EPM states that its goals are to:

1. Facilitating procedures electronically via self-service and covers aspects such as aligning team and individual goals with organizational goals;

2. Promoting a culture of distinguished performance;

3. Defining a clear vision for the employees and communicating to them as to what is expected from them; providing efficient mechanisms to appreciate and reward distinguished performance;

4. Establishing an enhanced channel of communication between managers and employees; and,

5. Creating opportunities to improve performance (Dubai eGovernment launches Employee Performance Management system and electronic training program 2009:2).

At the local level, e-government initiatives in the UAE have received enthusiastic reception by citizens and businesses alike. For example, the Dubai Municipality's e-government initiative was ". . . dubbed as one of the most successful online initiatives in the region as most of the civic services are now online and customers are increasingly dealing with the Municipality electronically rather than visiting its offices" (Lootah 2004:3). Yet another local governmental initiative that has been received with growing enthusiasm has been an e-learning program designed to help government employees as well as the country's citizenry become more skilled at using online resources; the program also provide instruction in English and specific training on how to deliver governmental services in an online setting. The eEmployee program is a Dubai e-government initiative that has partnered with various educational institutions and corporate partners to develop a comprehensive set of curricular offerings that can be readily accessed by government employees or ordinary UAE citizens seeking to improve their computer fluency (First group of government employees completes Dubai eGovernment's eEmployee programme 2005). According to a press release published by the Dubai eGovernment portal, "The topics covered in the program include Basic Concepts of computer, Using the PC and Managing Files, Word processing, Spreadsheets and Introduction to e-learn. The program is designed to enhance the ability of government departments to deliver improved eServices to the public and the business community" (Dubai eGovernment's eEmployee initiative evokes good response from government employees 2004:3). The program content is provided in both Arabic as well English and consists of four 48-hour long modules that are required to be completed in order to attain a certificate of completion which is termed the "International Computer Driving License" (Dubai eGovernment's eEmployee initiative evokes good response from government employees 2004).

Although UAE citizens can complete this online program of instruction, the Dubai eGovernment initiatives have also included an initiative termed "eCitizen," which targeted specifically at UAE citizens and expatriates living in the UAE. This initiative is described by the press release announcing it as "an instructor-led cost effective certification program, designed to increase the level of e-literacy among Dubai public. The 16-hour programme aims at increasing the level of awareness and usage of Dubai government's online services apart from teaching basic e-mail and Internet fundamentals to the nationals and expatriates living in Dubai" (Dubai eGovernment launches eCitizen initiative to increase level of e-literacy among Dubai public 2004:2).

Based on a survey of what types of services its citizenry and businesses wanted, the UAE government responded by launching the first mobile e-governmental portal in the Middle East in September 2005. According to Lootah, the UAE's e-government services director, the mobile portal currently provides access to about 1,550 of the total 1,900 public services provided by the UAE government, including payment of utilities bills and traffic fines, job searches, flight information and public transport information; the mobile portal also provides for airline bookings, stock quotes, entertainment and Dubai city information in a partnership arrangement with industry and business communities (Lootah 2007). According to Lootah, "Our pioneering portal http://mobile.dubai.ae has increased channels for people's interaction with the government and lowered administration costs while at the same time ensuring higher levels of public participation in governance" (2007:52). By providing access to its e-governmental services with either personal or laptop computers, handheld peripherals and mobile telephones, the UAE e-government initiative is truly in the vanguard in the Middle East as well as in the international community. In this regard, the e-services director emphasizes that, "The Dubai government now bills its service as a multi-channeled approach because in addition to e-government, a bilingual call-centre and the mobile-based Internet portal, it also offers a mobile channel where…

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