The road ahead

A recent roundtable featuring representatives from both A-brand vendors and government representatives has been held to examine Middle East strategies and roadmaps for the future of e-Government.

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By  Andy Tillett Published  August 4, 2005

A recent roundtable featuring representatives from both A-brand vendors and government representatives has been held to examine Middle East strategies and roadmaps for the future of e-Government. Delegates from Qatar, Lebanon, Dubai, Abu Dhabi and consulting firm Deloitte met in Dubai with executives from Sun Microsystems, Microsoft, Raya Holdings, and Oracle. The discussions centred around how Middle East authorities are implementing technology to deliver services through the internet to improve the efficiency and functioning of the public sector, and increase its quality of service to citizens. The government representative for Lebanon, Raymond Khoury, said e-Government evolves over three stages. The first level is one-way communication through the internet. The second stage in development is online processing and a two-way communication through the internet. The most advanced stage is an e-community, with many channels of information interacting with each other. All Middle Eastern e-Government initiatives are currently within either the first or second stages of development, but the vendors present claimed they were very impressed by the speed of development in the region. “My view is that absolute monarchy has driven e-Government faster than a democracy would do. Frequently you see the success stories come down to the efforts of one or two people. When one person has a vision and drives it and makes the different ministries work together, it can happen,” said Graham Porter, marketing manager at Sun Microsystems Middle East. Public private partnerships (PPPs) in e-Government have had mixed results in the region, with Egypt’s push to give its residents low cost loans to buy PCs hailed a success. Initiatives have provided a platform for governments to invest in home-grown, or regional IT talent, rather than outsourcing. However, PPPs have to work from both sides, and not all governments have fully understood the implications of this. Samir Mirdad, regional business development manager Middle East and Africa at Sun Microsystems, said that it has entered into many PPPs in the region, but unless governments understand that it needs to be win-win situation which Sun can make money from. “With the exception of these few countries and Qatar we lose money in nearly every big transaction we enter into as a PPP, because the governments squeeze until there is no blood left,” said Mirdad Some vendors, such as Oracle are offering alternatives to PPP relationships, such as services on demand, where users pay for services as they use them, which have already proved a success in this region. Nader Srouji, partner in charge of consulting at Deloitte, representing e-Government said that e-Government bodies and the private sector need to work together. “If you wish to achieve e-Government objectives, it is the destiny of the public and private sector to work together. There is no going back,” he concluded.

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