Bahrain hosts Middle East’s first e-government facility

IBM is working with a number of governments in the region on open source projects, according to senior executives at the company.

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By  Peter Branton Published  May 22, 2005

IBM is working with a number of governments in the region on open source projects, according to senior executives at the company. This month saw the formal launch of the region’s first e-government solution centre, in Bahrain, which was developed by the vendor in partnership with Bahrain’s Central Informatics Organisation (CIO). The centre is designed to help Bahrain government departments and other governments in the Middle East establish and roll out e-government projects using open-standard solutions. The centre is the culmination of two years work between CIO, IBM and its local partner, Gulf Business Machines (GBM) to build an end-to-end e-government infrastructure for Bahrain on a platform based on open standards. Bahrain is the first government in the Middle East to adopt such a solution, IBM executives said, although the company is currently discussing similar projects with other countries. Basher Kilani, IBM Middle East’s software group manager, said government departments in Qatar, Jordan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Oman are all looking at e-government initiatives based on the open source Linux operating system and on open standard solutions. The Bahrain e-government solution centre was officially opened in an inauguration ceremony by Sheikh Ahmed Ateyatalla Al Khalifa, president of the CIO, Tom Francese, vice president, EMEA of IBM Software Group and Abdulla Ishaq, general manager of Bahrain Business Machines (BBM). “Standards based technologies offer unprecedented opportunities for modernisation throughout society in our country and we believe that this is the best way to move forwards with e-government projects not only in Bahrain, but in the whole Middle East region as well,” said Al Khalifa. “We have a unique experience in that we’ve built our e-government infrastructure on open standards and I am proud to say that it has been a successful project. The establishment of the centre today will allow us to share our experience with other government organisations and enable them to access the latest open standards solutions they can use for their own e-government initiatives.” The Bahrain e-government solution centre will be linked to a network of IBM e-government centres worldwide, with other centres based in the US, Germany and Moscow in Russia. Staff at the centre will also be able to draw on the expertise of IBM’s development centre in Cairo, which has been heavily involved in a project to Arabise Linux. IBM has 200 developers working on this project, executives said. The solution centre will feature a number of open standard solutions that enable the successful rollout of e-government projects and services, IBM said. “Obviously, the expertise about how government is run is locally based, but what we’re going to do is see what other environments have done,” said Francese. “We can take tested application environments and utilise that to streamline what we’re doing here.” For instance, IBM was looking at an Italian project, which had seen services delivered via handheld devices, Francese said. The centre is being developed as “a collaborative effort” according to IBM, although Francese did acknowledge that “we’ve received some money for this”.

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