By Mark Sutton
Dubai E-government taskforce has signed up EDS and management consultancy AT Kearney to handle strategic planning and project management for the first stages of e-government in the emirate - first details.
Building the vision|~||~||~|Dubai’s e-government initiative took an important step closer towards reality with the signing of a deal between the government and IT consultancy Electronic Data Systems (EDS). EDS, a global consultancy specialising in government projects and outsourcing, is being brought in to assist with the task of re-engineering government processes and bringing them online as part of the e-government vision of HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.In the deal, which was signed just before the end of Ramadan, EDS and its management consultancy arm, AT Kearney, will provide consultation and project management for the implementation of e-government across fourteen different departments, reengineering the business processes within and between governmental agencies. The 18 month contract is expected to deliver the services by the end of the year.EDS and the E-government taskforce will initially target four core processes: the issuance of trade licences, health cards, certificates of no objection; and bill presentation and payment for many of the government and utilities organisations in the Emirate, including the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA), PTT Etisalat and the Municipality, which handles a wide range of civic affairs.At present the bureaucratic and paper intensive processes for these areas are closely interwoven, with many licences and permits relying on authorisations from several different departments, resulting in a huge duplication of paperwork and data. The confusing process normally calls for visits to many different offices.One of the main aims of the project is to create a single point of call for services, cutting out the inconvenience and the paper trail. “The final outcome of the e-government project is that the customer should look at the government as one unit,” says Salem Al Shair, director of e-services for Dubai Government.“Currently we are in the process of meeting the government departments to see how we can pull all our efforts together and reduce the bureaucracy. Frankly it is useless to transfer the processes as they are done currently to the Internet. We are collaborating to re-engineer the processes that will be delivered.”||**||E-government in 18 months|~||~||~|The various parts of the project will build upon existing initiatives where possible, according to Al Shair, in order to leverage the experience and awareness that has been gained already. In many of these projects, rationalisation of bureaucracy has begun already he says.The initial projects were chosen both because of the suitability and ability of the departments involved to deliver on time, and to begin providing useful services to both private individuals and commercial customers immediately.EDS has already begun an assessment process of government procedures, says Norbert Steiger, executive director of EDS Middle East. “[We’re providing] the government with the strategy of how to do it, not the implementation as such,” he said.“We’re looking at the processes the government has today, and then suggesting changes to the processes and bringing in the aid of technology to implement a fully integrated system.”To handle the initiative from the government side, it’s likely that a new official e-government entity will be formed, says Al Shair, probably within the next two months.The project task force will serve as a base to build the different dedicated project teams from, such as portal management, legal, content management, and media relations.The other ten services to be tackled by EDS and the E-government taskforce will be announced in the next few weeks. At present, no decision has been made on where the hardware for the project will be hosted, although it was originally supposed to be situated at the Ruler’s Court.The exact number and nature of the portals to the government service will also be determined after the initial assessment.To service the deal, EDS has opened an office in Dubai, currently with a staff of eleven working on site with various government departments, although this number will vary.The project management company will also bring in an international law firm with a local subsidiary to help build the legal framework for e-government, and also manage contractors and suppliers.EDS has worked on a number of e-government projects in the past. In 1996 it began a $500m outsourcing project with the government of South Australia, which streamlined the State’s bureaucratic processes, cutting the number of government agencies in South Australia from 140 to 80, saving $55m in costs, and creating an estimated $123m in economic growth in the region in just three years.However, Dubai e-government will not be just outsourcing on a grand scale. One of the requirements specified by the tender was that knowledge transfer between EDS and Dubai e-government staff will enable the business to be run without EDS by the end of the contract.So far EDS reports that it is very encouraged by the enthusiasm of those involved for the project. Al Shair too recognises the importance of winning the hearts and minds of the people involved in the project: “Community outreach is one of the crucial things - the humans in this project, whether they are the people working on the project, the people who will be receiving the services or the people delivering the services from within the departments. To accept change is a difficult task for everybody, but for this project to succeed, it has to be taken seriously.”Steiger says it is also the first attempt at creating a complete e-government infrastructure: “They are setting new ground here,” he commented. “We have done various bits and pieces for Hong Kong, Malaysia, South Australia and a lot of work with the UK government. But there is no one country that can say it is an e-government.”||**||