Moussalam Dalati, General Manager in the Middle East at Liferay, talks about the trends in digital government services, key areas that need more development in the governments’ digital evolution and future strategies in government services.
A citizen’s relationship with the government is evolving, driven by new self-service models which are revolutionising the way people interact with the administration. The demand for personalised, connected experiences for citizens has seen an increase in the need for digital experience platforms. In recent years, governments in the Gulf Cooperation Council (Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman and Kuwait) embarked on a large number of initiatives to enhance government services to citizens, residents and businesses both at the national level and at the GCC level.
In the UAE, Abu Dhabi Digital Authority (ADDA) is driving the digital transformation of the government across key areas including government services, shared government solutions, data and artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, and ecosystem and governance.
In the Middle East, Bahrain adopted a forward-thinking national Cloud First policy, with the aim of reducing costs, increasing security, and increasing productivity and agility to improve citizen services.
The eGovernment programme (the use of technological communications devices, such as computers and the Internet, to provide public services to citizens and residents) in the UAE is a key initiative of the UAE Government Strategy 2011-2013 that lays the foundation to achieve UAE Vision 2021. According to a survey by Serco Institute, 90% of UAE citizens and residents are happy with government services. Despite this, they want increased digital access, more unified platforms (multiple services accessible from a single app, website, or location), and greater personalisation.
The report also said that people felt services could be “generic” and sometimes lacked “attentiveness”, but these issues could be solved by creating more digital access.
Liferay has identified 4 key areas to develop the digital evolution in the government of the sector:
1. Self-service as a strategy to facilitate the access of citizens, companies, and employees to public services. Self-service models in the digital field have brought a wide range of advantages to this ecosystem: reduction in the number of calls and consultations or face-to-face appointments, freeing up internal resources and optimizing the available means; the improvement in response times; reduction in maintenance costs; greater flexibility and autonomy for the citizen who selects how and when to carry out the procedure or consultation, etc. Self-services enriches digital experiences, improves relationships, and ultimately achieves greater satisfaction in the citizens’ relationship with the government.
Implementing self-service strategies is a way to facilitate the access of citizens, companies, and employees to public services.
2. Systems integration to achieve a single access point for both digital and physical elements. The government has taken important steps in recent years to interconnect new legacy systems and tools that prevented it from having a unified and connected digital ecosystem. In addition, achieving a single access point, avoiding dispersion, and the heterogeneity of information, has been one of the keys to reducing barriers to consulting information and using public services.
The trend points towards the adoption of a cohesive ecosystem, where both digital and physical elements have a place. The citizen perceives the integral seal of the government, while optimizing the processes and the TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) of IT solutions. Because getting the most out of the investment made is more important today than ever.
3. Modern web portals as a vehicle for communication between organizations and citizens: Modern outlets are much more than just a technology platform used to add content and other applications. With user profile management capabilities, integration with legacy systems, content management, social collaboration and as enablers of digitization and automation of processes – speeding up time and reducing paperwork – these solutions stand as base for most web projects, becoming the main communication vehicle between government entities, citizens, and public servants, enabling the offer of public services.
4. Management of remote and collaborative work environments for citizens: Another key area is the development of solutions aimed at responding to the needs of the current public profile. Keeping offshored citizens and residents connected, informed and at the right productivity rate requires an effective set of tools, an intranet or employee portal, that supports the critical functions of a digital workforce. With the right technology and strategy, public bodies can use their intranets as hubs to connect offshored users, information, and departments through a common interface, unifying internal and external processes to create a centralized workspace.
Excellence in experience
The objective is to guarantee the offer of public services with the best experience to citizens and companies. The typology of users in the Public Administration is very heterogeneous regarding their levels of digitization and preferences and public bodies must serve both millennials and elderly people, with the same level of excellence in their experiences and regardless of the context in which society lives.
This represents an additional challenge that requires providing a good omnichannel experience through all contact points: in some cases, it will be totally digital experiences, but in most cases, it will be hybrid with the use of several channels (telephone, portals website, administrative windows, virtual offices, etc.).
Future digital strategies in government services
Results of the new GCC E-Performance Index 2021 revealed that the six Gulf countries are progressing steadily in their digital transformation with UAE topping the list. Thanks to government initiatives such as UAE Vision 2021, the Middle East’s public sector will continue to lead data-driven innovation to enhance citizen experiences.
As a great example, in February this year, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, launched a ‘Invest in Dubai’ platform which enables investors to obtain trade licences and launch their business in only a few minutes.
However, since digital transformation is a journey, more than a destination, efforts to further cement GCC’s position among future-ready economies, will have to remain ongoing and evolving.