Arab Governments Innovate Services to Drive Smart Cities and Global Competitiveness

451Arab governments are adopting innovative government services to drive Smart Cities and global competitiveness, according to new reports by the Mohammed Bin Rashid School of Government and SAP.

Mohammed Bin Rashid School of Government (MBRSG) and SAP have been jointly working on three strategic areas: Social Media, Employment, Entrepreneurship and Economic Empowerment of the Arab Youth, as well as the “Arab Government Services Outlook 2014” and “Innovations from Across the Arab World” series of case studies, which were published under the patronage of the UAE Prime Minister’s Office in the Government Summit held earlier this year. The two organisations also collaborated to host the Smart Cities Forum that MBRSG held in June 2014.

In the face of urbanization, socio-economic challenges, tighter budgets, and technological change, technology-infused Smart Cities are rising across the Arab World. Navigant Research predicts the Smart City technology market will grow from USD 6.1 billion in 2012 to USD 20.2 billion by 2020.

Fuelled by the six engines of technological innovation - mobility, big data, mobile applications, cloud computing, analytics, social media – Arab governments are reinventing public services, according to the “Innovations from Across the Arab World” report.

“As the Arab World’s Smart Cities come online, visionary leaders are delivering best-run citizen-centric government services by driving collaboration across government agency silos and signing public-private partnerships,” said Sam Alkharrat, President, SAP MENA.

“Internally, governments need to continuously monitor, analyse, and revise their governance of these services, which will lead to excellence in internal savings and efficiency,” added Alkharrat. “At the same time, these services will empower stakeholders including agencies, citizens, and communities.”

“Arab public sectors have been suffering from mounting deficiencies in terms of quality, efficiency and accessibility. Meanwhile, rising citizen expectations have made efficient, relevant, and quality public sector services the key government products requested by citizens and business,” said Fadi Salem, Director of the Governance and Innovation Program, Mohammed Bin Rashid School of Government.

“We live in an era where technology is increasingly empowering citizens and allowing for real collaboration models with government entities. With the increased adoption of smart cities and smart government initiatives, government services across the Arab World are set to become personalized to individual’s needs – potentially enhancing decision making, citizen engagement and satisfaction,” added Salem.

Thanks to increased connectivity, several Arab countries scored highly on the World Economic Forum’s Network Readiness Index 2014, with Qatar (No. 23), the UAE (No. 24), Bahrain (No. 29), and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (No. 32) all ranking in the top quarter of the 148 countries.

As a result, most GCC countries rank in the top 10 on e-government development in Asia and Africa, according to the United Nations Global eGovernment Survey 2014.

Enhanced Services across Education, Healthcare, Job Creation, Travel and Tourism

Innovative government services in the Arab World have effectively enhanced fields such as education, healthcare, job creation, and travel, according to the report.

For example, government services in 1,000 schools in Oman and 700 schools in Jordan have enhanced public education at a reduced cost, while increasing transparency and availability.

Innovative healthcare services have enabled Bahrain to enhance birth certificate issuance from four weeks to five days, Lebanon to streamline medical professional licensing with a dedicated website, and Morocco to enhance waiting time for doctor’s appointments from several weeks to several days.

Egypt has supported 21 ICT-related start-up companies by providing access to up to EGP 120,000 in consultancy, marketing, software, and hardware; working space; technical support, and mentoring.

Airport e-services in Dubai and Abu Dhabi aim to enhance annual operating costs by 54 percent and operating time savings of 68 percent, and fuel the airports’ expansion plans.

To deliver even better innovative services, Arab governments need to enhance customer needs assessment, technological accessibility, efficient service delivery, customer-centric culture, bureaucracy and red-tape, accessibility in rural areas, and evaluation of service performance, according to the accompanying report, “The Arab Government Services Outlook 2014”.

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