DDB invests in e-services for landlords

Dubai Development Board has signed a MoU with Dubai e-government that will see it roll out a number of online services for its network of tenants and landlords.

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By  Vijaya Cherian Published  July 2, 2003

I|~||~||~|Dubai Development Board (DDB), which oversees the development of rental properties in the emirate, has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Dubai e-government that will see the two bodies work together to help the DDB develop e-services for its network of landlords and tenants. The MoU will enable DDB to leverage Dubai e-government’s infrastructure to develop its e-services cost-effectively, while ensuring that DDB will be able to integrate its systems with all other government departments in the future.

“The optimum objective of this [project] is to e-enable services for our customers while also working in harmony with Dubai e-government. They are the custodians of this initiative, so they want to see all the departments coordinating and synchronising their efforts. And we, in turn, can really leverage on their investment, infrastructure and their experience,” says Mohammed Saleem Saeed Alwahedi, head of IT centre, DDB.

DDB already admits to having saved money by working with Dubai e-government. For instance, when the government body required web solutions to develop its e-services, it decided to use Dubai e-government’s infrastructure instead of investing in one of its own.

“This means we don’t have to get more resources for maintenance. We can use whatever they have, and they have the latest infrastructure and the latest in security,” explains Al Wahedi. “This would have cost us a lot of money to develop on our own, not to mention the hassle of finding the right vendor, agreeing to the technology, designing it and so on,” he adds.

||**||II|~||~||~|DDB will also use Dubai e-government’s mobile gateway infrastructure and facilities to send SMS notifications to clients. Dubai e-government currently has its own messaging servers and DDB will use these to process the messages it wants to ‘push’ to customers. The same servers will be used to service any pull-and-push messages, where a person who sees a vacant flat can send an SMS query that will be processed in XML, and responded to in SMS format.

Apart from mobile services, DDB also hopes to offer e-payment, e-jobs and several property related services to landowners and tenants. Currently, the DDB web site allows people only to search for vacant flats in different parts of Dubai. However, when the project is completed, users registered with DDB will receive SMS messages on vacant flats, tenants will be able to renew or cancel their contracts online and send e-complaints requesting immediate house maintenance, while landowners will be able to check their financial status online in terms of number of vacant flats and the amount of rent credited to their accounts.

“Once this is up, we will have 24/7 support and our maintenance people will be on call round-the clock for emergencies,” explains Al Wahedi.

Both teams are working closely to prioritise these services and ensure that all deliverables, including security and payment features, are incorporated into the system by June next year. However, the development board hopes to offer at least mobile services to its ends users by Gitex 2003.

Despite these combined efforts from Dubai e-government and DDB, Al Wahedi admits that completing the project within the stipulated timeframe will be a challenge. One of the biggest hurdles is the need for internal automation and change management.

“If this automation is not done, there will be a lot of firefighting and a lot of bugs to fix because our systems are not centralised and we will have to keep tackling technical issues. Secondly, we have been managed by function so far, not really by services. Now, we have to see things from a customer’s perspective and become more service oriented. This will take time,” says Al Wahedi.

Looking forward, the ultimate goal on the government’s e-roadmap is to arrive at an “e-services design and standards development.” Currently, when a tenant shifts to a new residence, they have to apply for a new telephone line with Etisalat and go to Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA) to get supplies reconnected. “Instead, we should be able to offer a complete package to our clients,” says Alwahedi.

However, this will be possible only when there is seamless integration between all of Dubai’s government departments. “And this is what Dubai e-government is aiming at. Only when this is done will a customer-centric e-government be fully realised — to really serve the customer,” explains Al Wahedi.
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