E-Government:  The Dubai Experience

 

George K. Kostopoulos

School of Business and Management

American University of Sharjah

Sharjah, United Arab Emirates

 

 

Abstract. This paper presents a review of e-government services being offered in the Emirate of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, where extensive efforts are being made to capitalize on the cyber technologies in order to enhance the government to citizen service. While the e-government efforts vary in size and intensity, what appear to be evident is that the Dubai e-government initiatives receive top level support that offers them visibility and warrants their eventual success.

 

 

1   Introduction

 

The Digital Age that has revolutionized the marketplace through e-commerce, is slowly transforming the model and protocol of interaction in extra-government and intra-government communications. The result of this transformation has been e-government.

        Considering that governments are mainly information producers, rather than information receivers, the Internet presents itself as the ideal intermediary becoming the 24/365 call center for government to citizen interaction. Responding to the society’s continuously increasing cyber skills, and wanting to capitalize on the power of the Internet, governments around the world, and in Dubai in particular, are funding numerous e-government initiatives to enhance their own productivity and that of their constituencies.

        Government administrations have recognized that an e-government portal – serving as the gateway to a  National Web Depository - can simultaneously meet two important objectives, a national one and an international one. The national objective is operational and dual. On one hand, it is to serve as a Depository of Documents and a one-stop information center - and on the other, to be a fully interactive service provider with call center capabilities functioning as the government’s Transaction Processing System offering tactical automation. The international objective is strategic and also dual. On one hand, it is to serve as a worldwide showcase, and on the other, to be a permanent promoter of that country’s political, cultural and business aims. In that respect, Dubai leads in e-government initiatives and in e-government services delivery.

Over the past few years, country after country, has initiated programs attempting to Web-enable the government-to-citizen and government–to-business interaction, also making it impersonal.  This is significant governance transformation having a positive impact on the path toward a transparency. G2C relationship. In the area of education, the information and communication  technology has become a cornerstone, and it is identified as “…the one and only international language…” [1]

In Dubai, a program has been implemented where citizens can subscribe with the police department and receive “… up-to-the-minute traffic reports …” and other information via SMS (Short Message Services). Another high tech service is the department’s WAP site. Here, citizens can scroll through it, viewed on their cell phone, and find information needed on the road, such as the nearest police station. The department also has in its website a link to the stolen cars database. In addition, kiosks located in shopping malls help motorists find out if they have any outstanding speeding tickets that have been entered by the radar cameras. [2]

Dubai has also introduced an e-wallet called m-Dirham, after the name of its currency. In this scheme citizens deposit money in a third party financial institution from where they may transfer to pay permit fees, fines and the like. [3] The above is only a sample of a long list of currently operational e-government services offered by the Dubai police department. It is apparent that the Dubai e-government effort is one of the most citizen-centric serving as an example not only in the Middle East but worldwide.

 

2   e-Government Experience

 

Below are some of the author’s actual and some potential experiences with the Dubai e-government. While in other parts of the world getting adjusted to a new place takes a lot of time and effort, in Dubai a new resident only needs to visit the emirate’s portal from where numerous online services are made available with an e-smile. By clicking on the “Just Arrived” link, the author was able to reach several portals and get very easily established at his new place of residence. [4]

 

a.   After viewing a demo at the Dubai Municipality utilities website he enrolled for online payment of the water and electricity service. [5]

b.   At the website of the Dubai Naturalization & Residency Administration he was able to register his address and telephone numbers, and he received a login code and password, for future access of  related information. [6]

c.   At the secure site of the Department of Health and Medical Services, DOHMS, he registered his health card online. [7]

d.   At another web page of the DOHMS he obtained comprehensive information about  the recommended vaccinations and immunizations. [8]

e. While visiting the Dubai e-government website he also checked the schedule of the local state television station at the Department of Information portal. [9]

f.  The author was concerned about the UAE laws as they affect the foreigners. He did not know of any attorney.  He simply went to the portal of the Department of Residence and Naturalisation and read the main laws that pertain to the status of foreigners. [10]

g.  On the coming weekend, which is Thursday and Friday in Dubai and in most of the Moslem world, he was planning to call several local friends he had met at a conference, but he did not want to disturb them during their prayer time. So, he clicked at “Prayer Times” and entered the dates of interest. The page returned the prayer times for each of the selected dates. [11]

h.  He was about to buy a car from an associate, and he wanted to do some checking about the car. He was concerned should there be any violations on this car, but he did not want to directly ask the car’s owner. He first went to the parking fines website of the Municipality of Dubai. He enter the car’s particulars and found out exactly the car’s standing vis-a-vis this matter. [12]

i.   He wanted to have an, as special as possible, plate number and he was willing to pay extra for it considering that the payment was going to a local charity. He simply went to the Dubai Traffic Police Portal and bid on a number of his liking. The same portal led him to all necessary information regarding registering and operating a car, such as, fine inquiry & payment, driving license, vehicle inspection and registration, and even eye test information. While at it, how about reviewing the road signs and other traffic rules in a Q&A page. [13] [14]

j.  The next day, he was going out to sea on a friend’s sailboat, and the friend asked him to register the trip with the Dubai Police General Department of Rescue and Transport. This way should they not return by the specified day the Dubai Police Rescue team will be out searching for them. [15]

k. Considering his anticipated frequent travels in and out of the UAE using the Dubai airport, the author is currently considering getting an e-identification. With the e-ID he will be able to bypass the long and slow queues at the airport passport controls, and he will zoom through using the e-gate. "The e-Gate at Dubai International Airport represents a totally new concept in air passenger clearance through the implementation of best of breed  . . .  to leverage the benefits of technology to ease the lives of citizens."  The implementation of the e-gate utilizes a smart card that facilitates a “. . . very user-friendly and quick . . .   passage through passport control, reducing queuing time from several minutes to few seconds. The e-gate service has been available since August 2002, and the two year smart card costs about 40 euro. [16]

l.  The author was expecting a colleague from Baku, Azerbaijan, and he wanted to check all arrivals to the Dubai airport for the next 24 hours. The information was accessible online from the airport’s online services web page. [17]

m.  Being very concerned about reports on communicative diseases around the world, and not knowing any physician in town, the author turned to the Dubai  Department of Health and Medical Services portal and placed online a few questions for a doctor. It was a same day response. [18]

n.  In a new place safety is always a high priority,  to receive reliable information an sound advice he visited the portal of the Dubai Civil Defence where advise is posted for cases of emergency. [19]

o.  He had just finished the writing of a new book of his, and had decided to publish it himself. Finding a printing shop could be a  problem. Not necessarily, a search engine at the Dubai Chamber of Commerce website produced 74 printing shops to chose from. [20]

 

3   Conclusion

 

In researching e-government in the Arabian Gulf, in general and in Dubai in particular, the following three issues stood out as areas in need for attention.

a. Change Management. How the old bureaucracies will give place to the e-technocracies? How the old rules and regulations that provided importance and job security to the mandarins of the ministries will be declared irrelevant in today’s e-society?

 b. Cadre Creation. The realization of any e-government has two very important requirements, a critical mass of hard core techies  to design, develop and maintain the e-government, and an army of IT savvy civil servants who would efficiently and effectively use this e-government machinery. Where will the former come from and how will the latter acquire the necessary IT enthusiasm and savvy?

c.  Public’s Cyber Literacy. When a government builds a motor superhighway, soon thereafter motorists flood it; this is because they have a car and know how to drive. On a parallel, when a government builds its e-government information superhighway will the citizens use it?

       In closing, in the Arabian Gulf, the e-government vision is slowly, but surely, becoming a reality creating a trilateral win-win-win situation for all – the government, the business and the citizen. Giving the credit where it belongs, it must be said that the Dubai e-government is the asymptote model all others try to reach. But how can an asymptote be reached when it continuously attains higher and higher levels?

 

References      

 

[1] Al-Khalifa, Hessa, Keynote address, Eighth GCC e-Government, Internet & Telecommunications Forum, May 28-29, 2002, Dubai, UAE.

[2] Dubai Police m-enables its officers with SMS and WAP services

http://www.ducont.com/press_release/ACN_2000.htm

[3]'Mobile Dirham' service launched http://www.gulf-news.com/Articles/ News.asp?ArticleID=29361

[4] Dubai e-Government Portal

http://portal.dubai-e.gov.ae/http://web-vgn.dubai-e.gov.ae:8083/egovd/cda/main/Home_Page

[5] Dubai Water & Electricity Authority Portal  https://ebpphome.dewa.gov.ae/

[6] Dubai Naturalization & Residency Administration http://eform.dnrd.gov.ae/

[7] Department of Health and Medical Services https://195.229.186.147/default1.asp

[8] DOHMS vaccinations and immunizations.

http://portal.dubai-e.gov.ae/http://portal.dubai-e.gov.ae/http://web-vgn.dubai-e.gov.ae:8083/egovd/cda/main/Display_Page_New?parent_id=7599&child_id=7640&deptName=DOHMS_Dept

[9] Department of Information Portal http://portal.dubai-e.gov.ae/http://web-vgn.dubai-e.gov.ae:8083/egovd/cda/main/Display_Page_New?parent_id=508&child_id=2908&deptName=Dubai_ae&langID=en

[10] Department of Residence and Naturalisation http://www.dnrd.gov.ae/english/dnrd_index.htm

[11] Table of Islamic Prayer Times http://www.awqafdubai.gov.ae/awqaf/vEnglish/praytime.jsp

[12] Parking Fines Enquiry

https://portal.dm.gov.ae/http://app.dm.gov.ae:8080/NASApp/ParkingFines/search.jsp

[13] Dubai Traffic Police Portal  http://www.dxbtraffic.gov.ae/en/default.htm

[14] Traffic Signs Test   http://www2.dubaipolice.gov.ae/tsigne/copyrec.asp

[15] Pre-sailing Form    http://rescue.dubaipolice.gov.ae/sailing.htm

[16] Dubai Airport e-Gate  http://www.pressreleasenetwork.com/pr-2002/aug/mainpr2031.htm

[17] Dubai Airport Online Flight Services

http://www.dubaiairport.com/online_services/flight_information/index.htm

[18]  Ask the Doctor  http://portal.dubai-e.gov.ae/http://web-vgn.dubai-e.gov.ae:8083/egovd/cda/main/Display_Page_New?parent_id=root&child_id=5222&langID=en&deptName=DOHMS_Dept#

[19]  Dubai Civil Defence  http://www.dcd.gov.ae/page.asp?P=795

[20] Dubai Chamber of Commerce   http://www.dcci.gov.ae/bizdirsearch.asp