The United Arab Emirates is one of the leading economies in the Middle East. Although it used to be a poor nation some 4 decades ago, there is no doubt it has become the most developed nation in the region, thanks to the adopted open economic policies and excellent leadership that is business-oriented. Globalization made the country consider implementing technology in the way it runs its affairs. E-governance is a practice the country tried to adopt through Information and Communication Technology (ICT). In this report, e-government strategy and implementation in the UAE are analyzed to examine its capabilities as well as importance in public administration. The discussion reports that the United Arab Emirates has successfully implemented an effective e-government system, thus improving transparency, efficiency and also service delivery.
Users and problem description
With not much land mass and relatively small population, the United Arab Emirates has some disadvantages over other nations in the region, especially due to a small local market and limited resources. The implementation, adoption and use of ICT has been a major challenge in the country, especially because of various economic and political hurdles as well as limited states of technology and lack of code of practice among others. Nevertheless, these problems have been solved with effective strategies as described below.
The UAE has a good strategy in the development and implementation of ICT infrastructures (Maswood 34). Also, it has the aim of becoming a leader in the region especially in matters concerning ICT and information society. It is witnessing a comprehensive plan for ICT implementation designed to include the creation of alliances with global ICT leaders. It also concluded the Home PC initiative aimed at giving its citizens computers enhanced with internet connectivity. The main drivers in the growth of ICT in the United Arab Emirates are rooted in many reforms. The convergence of media and telecommunication has been on the rise in recent times (Maswood 34). This increased the access its people have to information on a global scale. The regulatory measures were improved, as well. In addition, more internet accessibility was granted with minimal censorship.
Of late, the country created more connection with the World Trade Organization. In turn, this enabled more avenues to access funds that guarantee the growth of the industry. The regulations and liberalizations in the market engaged many agencies to venture in private-public partnerships, which boosted ICT development and usage. This was made possible through many promotional events, which in turn increased the adoption of ICT services and products and hence improved the productivity in all sectors. The application of ICT in Emirati public service has found an application in the creation of managed services and channel development. E-Commerce, for example G2B and B2B, has risen in recent times, hence enabling the simplification of information acquisition and exchange (Alrawi and Sabry 511).
The United Arab Emirates has many national projects that include smart cards and e-trade among many others. The Emirati ICT market can potentially grow since the United Arab Emirates got the World Trade Organization (WTO) membership.
Despite the improved development, readiness for ICT infrastructures in the United Arab Emirates was met with mixed feelings. Code of practice lacks in this country. For a long time, it depended on the US’s code of practice in ICT management in the private sector whereas the public sector had none at all. In terms of compatibility and language were a constraint in the adoption process. Most applications and user interfaces are developed based on English language, making them less popular in Arab-speaking countries (Chatfield and Alhujran 152). The security of sharing information through the internet is not popular in United Arab Emirates. Most business-oriented people use the internet in activities such as communication and as a source of information gathering, thus limiting the adoption of e-commerce in return.
Complexity of e-service was seen as one of the main problems followed by privacy and compatibility issues among others (Awan 26). The e-service advantages also depend on gender, meaning that women adopt technology faster compared to men due to conservative nature of the Arab culture. This is true since women can conduct their businesses at the comfort of their homes owing to many restrictions imposed on them by the culture. The readiness of any country in the adoption of ICT infrastructures will be dependent on the awareness of the people across all economic and social sectors (Maswood 41).
How the problem was solved
For the achievement of e-governance, the Emirati government launched an ICT plan that accomplished in late 1990s (Maswood 43). The plan had some seven strategies that were to act as guidelines in its implementation. One of the strategies was based on efficiency and productivity increase. This stated that all government institutions would deal with the utilization of e-services, hence incorporating ICT in the management of many institutions. To enhance local and international investments, the Emirati government vowed to organize the ICT sector in such a way that it would be appealing. Also, the sector was to be enhanced by the incorporation of research-oriented infrastructure.
In turn, a strong industry with a high degree of competitiveness, compared to others in the regional as well as global markets, was expected to be achieved. To build a strong background in ICT, the government established its use in all levels of training. This was made to provide an earlier exposure to matters concerning information management. With regard to shortening the digital gap, the UAE introduced the use of ICT in its society where capacity building was to be carried at all ages (Alrawi and Sabry 519).
Implementation, status and traction
The phenomenon of globalization involves the need of many countries and organizations to adopt internet services. Either willingly or unwillingly, internet provided a channel for many organizations to have competitive advantages over other ones. In many sectors of economy, the strategies are being designed with special focus on the internet so that maximum benefits can be achieved.
One main aim of the services provided online includes operation cost reduction, with increased Return On Investment (ROI), efficiency and productivity, the availability of services throughout the day and a coverage that is wider, meaning that access is made possible from and in many locations (Awan 26). The information provided is accurately presented in a fashionable manner and in a timely manner, as well. The internet makes the information gathering process easy. With no available resources in terms of software or hardware, Emirati relied mostly on western countries for these services (Ayish 386).
The main reason for adoption of e-governance in Emirati is to enhance growth in all sectors of the economy and to improve the quality of life in cities and all parts of the country alike. This in return was made to catalyze the development of economy through faster connectivity of broadband and to enhance the use of ICT by private and public sector collaborations. For example this creation of smart cities has taken the economy to a new level and knowledge status (Alrawi and Sabry 522). Another economic reason for the adoption of e-governance is the need to have social security. This is expected to raise the efficiency in terms of production where cost will be reduced greatly. System adoption was expected to reduce frauds, a common problem in monetary transactions
Politically, e-governance relies on the services provided to the citizens by the public sector. The adoption of ICT enhances the provision of information that is paramount in the management of the country. This also enhances accountability by the political class, hence raising efficiency in the public sector. Such activities include the communication of government related activities via emails and e-communication channels. In the political scene, e-government minimizes the reliance the country has on the provision of public related services using the traditional methods. These methods have been blocking the development of the country from the time it was founded. For political reasons, government now allows transformation and implementation of major plans by allowing the inclusion of all entities. In turn, it allows comprehensive agreements across all sectors.
Managerial e-governance allows the improvement of the ICT infrastructures where the skills are improved for employment purposes. The application of ICT in any organization means the decline of traditional and set way of governance. In the past, work was done manually and this had a negative effect on the management of most business related activities. Also, these activities were paramount in revenue generation and once slowed, revenue was lost. The upgrade of previous computers and communication systems gave a start to an overall growth in the economy. This was achieved in the telecom sector where numbers are automated and can be assigned to service providers online. It allowed an appealing environment for more investment in the information sector owing to simple application processes.
The adoption and implementation of e-governance has met many different challenges in the United Arab Emirates. Technical barriers involve lack of development in most public organizations. These barriers made the government stop providing citizens with proper online services. The challenges are associated with factors like poor security, poor ICT infrastructures and many privacy issues among others that surround the adoption process.
Organizational barriers are also prominent in the e-governance adoption in the UAE. Lack of qualified personnel has been a serious issue owing to the late introduction of technological courses in most institutions. This caused lack of IT experts to lead the implementation of ICT governance in most organizations found in the country. A concentration of experts is found in the private sector and this has been evident due to the shift of experts from the public to the private based on salaries (Ayish 382). The public sector salaries are low compared to those offered in private sector since the private sector is inclined in the provision of better services where efficiency and accountability are key components. For this reasons, there appeared the need for training of available staff if new technology has to be implemented.
The resistance to adopt electronic ways would also be a challenge since most public offices are using traditional ways of management. The new systems would require a change in environment, a notion many would not like, mostly the older generation who might display inflexibility at some point (Ayish 388). This has also been influenced by the fear of losing jobs if the new system is adopted. For this reason, majority of the older generation in the country fear that that the younger generation might take their jobs hence they have opposed the implementation of the program. E-governance lacks comprehensive regulation of e-usage; this has been displayed with reference to policies and strategies. This made people fear its adoption since most of them fear frauds that might cost them considerable amounts of money.
Promotions of the e-government programs weren’t popular owing to the lack of good communication channels to cut across the cultural division found in the UAE. This made the implementation of the programs slow down due to lack of capacity building by both private and public sectors.
Conclusion and recommendations
The e-government tool should be used to improve the way a country conducts its business. This should not be seen as an automation of the way business is done, but as the change in the way, government conducts it business. Being a new notion in the developing countries, e-governance should be a good competing platform on the international arena. Also, roper strategies need to be implemented for a sound implementation process.
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Awan, Mahmood A. E-government: assessment of GCC (Gulf Co-operating Council) countries and services provided. Berlin: Springer, 2013. Print
Ayish, Muhammad I. “Virtual public relations in the United Arab Emirates: A case study of 20 UAE organizations’ use of the Internet.” Public Relations Review 31.3 (2013): 381-388. Print
Chatfield, Akemi Takeoka, and Omar Alhujran. “A cross-country comparative analysis of e-government service delivery among Arab countries.” Information Technology for Development 15.3 (2009): 151-170. Print
Maswood, Syed. “The Concept and Legal Aspects of E governance: The United Arab Emirates’ Perspective”. Electronic Transactions Conference (2012): 24-56. Print.