Jewel in the Middle East

A citizen-centric monarchy? There's an oxymoron. At least that's what I thought before recently attending an international e-government conference in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. The conference featured 20 speakers from around the world lecturing prominent Arab government officials on all facets of electronic government.

The crown prince of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, is leading his portion of this friendly and modern country into the Information Age. He has mandated that Dubai will incorporate e-government by October to better serve its citizens. To accomplish that, he is building an "Internet City" complex that will be the only Web-hosting data center between Europe and Singapore.

As governments shared stories about moving to e-government, the similarities of their approaches and obstacles were amazing. "To move to e-gov, there must be a vision, approach to delivery, technology, community outreach,, security and cyber laws," said Salem Khamis al Shair, director of e-services for the Dubai government. He summarized these goals:

Vision—It must be lucid with achievable goals. There is a need for key performance indicators to measure progress. Approach to delivery—The driving force behind the e-government project should be the need for improving quality of services, increased ease of use and customer care. Customer-centric delivery of services—The design and channels used should suit the needs of the customer. It is imperative to collaborate and have an active partnership with the private sector and learn from business about customer service. Technology—Standards must be established for uniformity of services. Community outreach—"This project has to be marketed to government employees, the public and even outside our country," he said. "We have to let the world know what we have to offer because our drive is to bring in business and tourism." Security—Systems must be secure to ensure continuous availability of services and protection of information. Cyber laws—Laws should be developed ac-cording to the needs of e-governing. The process has to be gradual, but the laws must comply with international guidelines developed under the United Nations. Joiwind Ronen of the Council for Excellence in Government, a private group that promotes improved performance by government and that helped sponsor the conference, made the final point. "[Governments] do not have to accomplish this move to e-gov alone," he said. "Governments, private industry, academia and not-for-profits need to continue to partner, sharing best practices and lessons learned."

Conference organizer Gulfnet CE plans to make the conference an annual event. Who knows? Maybe this worldwide e-government movement will next time feature people from Libya or Iran as the keynote speakers on citizen-centric e-gov. There is hope.

Molaski was chief information officer at the Transportation Department from 1999 to 2001 and is now a principal at the Council for Excellence in Government.

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