New Saudi e-government service could be world-beater

Saudi Arabia will have one of the world’s leading systems of e-government, a prominent figure in the project told delegates at the Government Technology (GT) Summit, held in Dubai this week.

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By  Daniel Stanton Published  September 5, 2006

Saudi Arabia will have one of the world’s leading systems of e-government, a prominent figure in the project told delegates at the Government Technology (GT) Summit, held in Dubai this week. Dr Fahad Al Hoymany, minister’s advisor for IT, head of e-government infrastructure, ministry of communication & IT, Saudi Arabia, told delegates that the Kingdom’s late introduction to e-government was not necessarily a disadvantage. “Saudi Arabia will probably have one of the best e-government infrastructures in the world,” he said. “We started late and there is always an advantage in starting late. You can learn from what everyone else is doing.” Al Hoymany added that the e-government project in Saudi was particularly focused on including all of its citizens. “By 2010 we want everybody in Saudi Arabia from anywhere in the country to enjoy world class e-government services,” he said. “We are not talking about an elite group of people that are going to be enjoying this service, we’re talking about everyone. “Even the King is really interested in this. He’s the honorary chairman of the Saudi Arabia Computer Society, which for a society that’s supposed to be for geeks is very good.” The Kingdom’s e-government scheme will make use of a Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) as a way of verifying user identities. “We’ve been working on it for four years so far,” said Al Hoymany. “It allows people to authenticate themselves online and sign documents.” He questioned whether Gulf countries needed to cooperate on matters of online authentication. “If you think of GCC countries as countries that have common interests, maybe they should start thinking about ways to make their electronic signature laws at least similar to each other,” he said. “If I get a digital certificate in Dubai, will I be able to use it easily in Saudi Arabia?” A delegate suggested that cost-benefit analysis would find that the PKI system was an over-priced means of providing online authentication. Al Hoymany replied: “Once you ask everyone in the country to come online and do business with people they have never met before, this is the best way.”

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