Dubai e-government trains its citizens

Dubai is looking to increase the usage of its e-services by offering residents cost effective IT packages and cut price training.

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By  Vijaya Cherian Published  July 28, 2003

I|~||~||~|Across the region, governments are working to develop e-services that will make the lives of their citizens easier. However, whether anyone but the most IT savvy of citizens will actually use these services has proved to be a lingering doubt. Dubai e-government has begun to address this issue by actually training its residents to use the services it has created for them through its ambitious community outreach programme, called e4all.

“Two years ago, when His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, crown prince of Dubai and UAE defence minister, launched Dubai e-government, his mandate was to transform Dubai into the regional hub of knowledge economy and ease the lives of people by providing public services through electronic channels,” says Salem Al Shair, e-services director, Dubai e-government. “Today, as we are getting closer to that goal, there is a need for accelerating people’s readiness for e-services. e4all is a step designed to fulfil that need,” he adds.

The project will enable people to purchase comprehensive and cost-effective IT packages that include customised hardware and software, 32 hours of free IT training, special instalment schemes, end-user warranties and free subscriptions to some IT magazines. The packages, developed in conjunction with Intel, Fujitsu Siemens Computers, Microsoft, Epson Middle East, National Bank of Dubai and three leading training institutes, are currently available at Jumbo Electronics and Carrefour outlets.

“The focus of the programme is to make the training affordable, accessible and application-oriented,” says Al Shair. “As the world moves rapidly towards integrated online services, it is in the interest of all people to acquire skills that are essential in today’s world, whether at work or at home. e4all has been created to deliver twofold results of acquiring competency in e-services, and, more importantly, helping people learn advanced IT applications at a cost-effective rate,” he continues.

||**||II|~||~||~|The e-government team has also developed a special methodology to include women at home, students and the physically challenged in this initiative. “An elaborate programme has been designed to penetrate these segments and provide them with an unmatched opportunity for learning advanced applications and achieving greater understanding of e-services,” explains Al Shair.

The project has also tried to address some critical issues, such as the lack of funds and training that have deterred people from using the services on www.dubai.ae. In order to facilitate easy payment, the National Bank of Dubai is offering buyers an attractive financing scheme, which includes low interest and free credit card renewal for life. Furthermore, to ensure that the initiative is truly user-friendly and meets the objective of the Dubai government in addressing the IT requirements of the people, Dubai e-government has also launched a contact centre that will handle all queries related to both e4all and its portal.

“Dubai e-government has been working diligently with Dubai government departments to make e-services a reality,” explains Al Shair. “The integration of services of the different departments has now made it convenient for users to access and transact with the various departments through one portal. The electronic payment facility as well as other advanced services, is also in place. Now we want the people to use this service and we will do everything in our capacity to help them,” adds Al Shair.

“Economic growth in the information age does not come from physical strength or tangible equipment. Rather, it is the creation of knowledge and information that drives growth,” says Abdullatif Al Mulla, general manager of Microsoft South Gulf, which is one of the e4all partners. “The e4all initiative ensures that this knowledge and awareness is not confined to sectors of society, but brings the benefits of e-government to members of the community who may not have previously felt confident enough to use these services. It is in addressing this digital divide, and breaking down these barriers, that we shall see the true benefits,” he adds.

Looking forward, Dubai e-government has announced that it has plans to introduce a similar scheme that will specifically cater to the needs of the business community as e4all primarily targets families and small businesses.||**||

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