e-Government initiatives ‘lack comprehensive strategic approach’
Considerable room for improvement exists in the way governments interact with their citizens in the Middle East and Africa (MEA) region, according to recent analysis by IDC Government Insights.
Drawing on its Smart Government Maturity Model, IDC assessed the progress of the region's governments in terms of fostering greater citizen participation in the business of government, increasing intra-government collaboration, and providing greater transparency.
As highlighted by the model, the key failing among MEA governments is the lack of coherent and unified IT strategies, with projects often undertaken in silos. "Within the MEA region, the efficacy of government electronic service delivery initiatives is uneven," says Mukesh Chulani, research manager for the Middle East, Africa, and Turkey at IDC Government Insights.
"National IT strategies are non-existent in some countries, or where they do exist they only loosely link organizations with somewhat related mandates. With the absence of a clear roadmap that straddles all government agencies, individual departments tend to move at their own pace, driven by the initiative and vision of their respective leaders. While this results in some one-off successes, it does not help chart a course towards delivering optimal citizen services."
The region is well represented when it comes to such one-off successes. In terms of citizen participation, Qatar's General Retirement and Social Insurance Authority uses both Twitter and Facebook to engage with the public it serves, while the Emirate of Abu Dhabi and the Greater Municipality of Istanbul utilize mobile applications to support and enhance dialogue with their end users.
In terms of information transparency, the Saudi Food and Drug Authority's online database puts device-recall information at the public's fingertips. But while these individual agencies may be taking the initiative to move towards Smart Government, there is a distinct need within the region for a larger, more overarching vision that unites such agencies under one common goal.
"Governments within the MEA region are generally still playing catch-up in terms of their overall levels of automation compared to more developed economies, so they have the opportunity to leapfrog more mature nations when it comes to architecting citizen-centered services," says Chulani. "Savvy IT decision makers across the region should step up now to evangelize the need to introduce smarter services to citizens, encourage the harnessing of shared resources, interact with citizens to evaluate their requirements, and create the strategic frameworks required to integrate these solutions across areas that meet specific public policy goals and department mandates."
IDC Government Insights believes that as MEA government enterprises embrace new application frameworks and make business processes transparent, there will be a greater focus on the use, management, and availability of information to provide greater visibility of government processes to all stakeholders. But the number-one priority for all governments across the region at this juncture is to conduct an analysis of the key areas in which electronic services can make a positive and notable difference.
Only then can they leverage technology to increase government accountability, responsiveness, and transparency through the stages to achieving a Smart Government status, says IDC.