Online verification

Saudi Chambers of Commerce and Industry hopes online verifications of documents will help streamline its day-to-day operations and bring in efficiency.

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By  Sarah Gain Published  March 3, 2005

|~|Ahmed-Badrais--Marketing-Ma.gif|~|Ahmed Saeed Badrais, marketing manager at HOD: “End users in Saudi Arabia are now more accepting of online business processes"|~|Saudi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCI) has deployed an Oracle solution so that it can verify documents online. The implementation, which was managed by independent software vendor House of Development (HOD), enables companies in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) to apply for legalised documents over the internet.

The deployment means that all departments of the SCCI can now maintain their own legalised documents, company seal and authorised signatures in a secure environment that is continuously available online.

The electronic certification solution allows legal documents to be prepared and submitted online by SCCI members. These documents can then be authenticated, legalised and stored in a centralised database for future access.

The solution uses the Oracle Database 10g, Application Server 10g and JDeveloper 10g, combined with components from handwriting verification company Softpro. A pen-based signature-capturing facility manufactured by Wacom captures and encrypts a handwritten signature electronically, eliminating dependency on paper and reducing the risk of fraud.

The solution will enable SCCI to maintain a lower total cost of ownership as hardware, human resources and other IT resources are now used more efficiently. The SCCI was already familiar with the vendor’s technology, having deployed versions of the software from Oracle 6 through to the current installation of Oracle 9.9.

Mohi Al-Din Hakmi, information sector and e-services director at the Saudi Chambers of Commerce, believes that remaining with the vendor’s products was a logical choice: “We chose the new applications because of the strength of the database itself. We were also looking for high availability. The connectivity of our business processes is extremely important to the Chambers and the Oracle solutions can provide that,” he says.

The main objective behind the development of the certification software was to help the government body deliver on its promise of increased efficiency and cost reduction, as Ahmed Saeed Badrais, marketing manager at HOD, explains: “Both public and private sector users in Saudi Arabia are now more accepting of online business processes, especially when they realise the benefits in terms of time, effort and money saved through services like online legalisation of records.”

Prior to the implementation of the automated verification solutions, the process of authentication involved paper-based preparation of documents. The company seal had to be manually applied and the documents had to be presented in person at the relevant Chamber of Commerce where hard copies of the records were retained.

The global trend toward improving efficiency and simplifying interaction in the public service sectors meant that there was a need for organisations to scrutinise and update their practices and procedures.

“The Oracle-based system will not only save considerable time and effort for the Chambers and their member organisations, but also create a streamlined process and an availability of public services that is unprecedented in the Kingdom,” says Fahad Al Askar, IT general manager at the Saudi Chamber of Commerce.

Using the manual authentication processes meant that the SCCI was failing to meet the demands upon it. “With as many as 3000 people passing through the SCCI’s doors on a daily basis, the Chamber simply did not have the human or mechanical resources to process the number of requests that were being generated,” says Hakmi.

“The new verification solutions allow things to run much more smoothly. Having systems that can be used from outside increases the quality and quantity of customer service,” he adds.

The implementation was a relatively uncomplicated process. HOD provided the organisation with the necessary skills and expertise to integrate the Oracle solutions. The HOD consultants were able to transfer the knowledge required for the successful implementation of the project and ensure a timely completion.

HOD followed Oracle's standard applications implementation methodology, establishing the business objectives and related requirements before defining a project work plan. Analysis was carried out to determine the fit between SCCI’s requirements and the standard application functionality before detailed designs were developed to enable the solutions to meet the specific needs of the government body.

The main concern for the project managers was to make sure that the database met the high standards of security and accessibility that the SCCI demanded. Electronic smart pens and pads were installed to capture signatures that could then be verified at the server and document templates, the organisation stamps and its letterheads were made available online with encrypted barcodes, allowing users to print the official documents.

HOD trained the IT department of the SCCI, who will in turn pass on knowledge of the new systems to the other departments. “The Chambers will carry out the management of the system themselves with each individual Chamber managing their own members. If there is a technical problem, however, we will rely on HOD for technical support,” explains Hakmi.

The SCCI is running the applications on a HP server, which provides high accessibility and stability. “Users access the system via the internet from within one LAN which requires a username and password to ensure security,” Hakmi says. The relevant forms and documents can be downloaded with the Chamber of Commerce’s header and footer and can then be completed and viewed on screen.

The stamp of the Chamber of Commerce and a three-dimensional barcode are then applied, certifying the document. It is then possible to print the form, or send it via email, and it can subsequently be verified by reading the electronic barcode.

The solution allows the Chamber to keep a soft copy of all legal documents in the archiving system for future reference, and according to Hakmi, the system is simple but secure: “The signatures are hosted in a protected environment that can only be accessed after comprehensive identity verification procedures. All captured signatures are also encrypted electronically using state-of-the art technology,” he explains.

The process of electronic document certification is simplifying SCCI’s procedures, making them more accessible and user-friendly. “The registration of a company via the internet should not take more than half an hour,” Hakmi says.

“It is clear that by using the new solutions the services for our members will be improved. By using the system the SCCI can provide users with access to vital services from their offices which saves a great deal of time.”

The applications can be seen as a good investment according to Hakmi, who believes that SCCI will have many opportunities to leverage the system’s scalability. “It is like a door has been opened now and it is important that the SCCI maximise on that. This is just the beginning — there are a lot of services that can be added to the system,” he says.

“There are a lot of projects running now and during 2005 there will be further improvements made, specifically to the services of the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce.”

Plans are in the pipeline to introduce facilities that will give SCCI members the ability to access Chamber information and services from their mobile phones via the short message system (SMS). Hakmi says, “Soon Chamber members will be able to request essential information not just over the telephone but by using SMS or even through fax."

"The SCCI use an interactive voice recognition (IVR) system, which allows access to Chamber information over the phone but if the two systems are integrated together users will be able to make the most of the e-services that Chamber of Commerce is providing,” he explains.

The organisation is also looking at strengthening the Oracle solution to enable SCCI employees to seek internal verification and information through their mobile phones.

Authentication technology of the type deployed by the SCCI can be seen as relatively progressive within the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, according to Abdulrahman Al Thehaiban, managing director of Oracle Saudi Arabia: “This is a revolutionary approach taken by the council of the Saudi Chambers in order to improve its services to the public.”

He anticipates that other government bodies in the Kingdom will be sufficiently encouraged by the success of the SCCI to consider adopting the internet to improve their own public services in the future.

As Saudi Arabia’s public and private sector maintain their plight for enhanced efficiency and comprehensibility within their organisational procedures, e-government solutions will continue to gain popularity in the Middle East region. ||**||

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