Dubai needs online push

The government’s e-Services tsar admits not enough people are on the net. This should be a week of celebration for the UAE when it comes to e-Services. After all, it has just been named as one of the world’s top countries in terms of e-government readiness, by the United Nations' “e-Government Readiness Report.”

  • E-Mail
By  Richard Agnew Published  January 1, 2006

|~||~||~|The government’s e-Services tsar admits not enough people are on the net. This should be a week of celebration for the UAE when it comes to e-Services. After all, it has just been named as one of the world’s top countries in terms of e-government readiness, by the United Nations' “e-Government Readiness Report.” But whether the cheers are being heard in the Dubai government’s e-Services department is a matter of greater concern. As the excellent story by Diana Milne in this week’s issue (page 15) shows, the man at the very heart of the scheme — e-Services Director Salem Khamis Al Shair — doesn’t share the UN’s optimism. He reveals that people simply have not got into the habit of going online to carry out transactions. To quote him: “It’s a cultural change … People don’t trust it really.” This doesn’t bode very well for the Dubai government’s deadline of ensuring that 50% of all transactions carried out by the public are done online by 2007. It is one thing to set a deadline of putting 90% of government services online by 2007 — the real question is who will use them? Right now, 84% of government services are available online, but usage is a poor 20%. As Al Shair himself says, “There are not as many users as we would like there to be.” Maybe the Dubai government should look closer at its many e-government success stories. Of the 350 plus services available, the most popular has been the application for medical certificates. In other words, services that do not involve paying significant amounts of money through the internet. Apart from traffic fines, few other payment facilities are used. It is clear, as Al Shair himself now admits, that there may be a serious lack of trust. It is one thing to download a form on the net, another to hand over your credit card and bank details. There is no reason for such a lack of trust. The site for the payment of traffic fines is proof of this. What is needed is a strong marketing and awareness campaign, to assure users that it is safe and secure. Otherwise, even the best designed and easiest to use website is of little use.||**||The comeback kid|~||~||~|This magazine has not been alone in giving Egyptian-born tycoon Mohamed Al Fayed a bit of stick in recent months. In fact, in our annual rich list this year, we placed him at No.34 with a personal wealth of US$1.2 billion. To be precise, a drop from 18th place and US$1.63 billion the year before. The reason was the fall in profits at his flagship Harrods store. However, Al Fayed has a habit of always having the last laugh. And he has done so again. The latest accounts filed in the UK’s Companies House show that nearly US$75 million in dividend payments were made to the Al Fayed family. According to the accounts, Harrods managed an operating profit of just under US$80 million in the year to 29 January 2005, compared to around US$60 million the year before. Revenues at the shop were also up by a similar margin, touching close to US$700 million for the year. Given the same accounts value his property assets at US$1.2 billion alone, it is not unreasonable to assume his wealth has now crossed US$2 billion. The Al Fayed story goes on.||**||Happy New Year|~||~||~|The last twelve months have seen Arabian Business convert from a monthly to a weekly format. But it is more than our production cycle that changed. Over the course of 2005, we are proud to have brought you some of the biggest stories and interviews from the world of business and politics. International figures such as Sir Richard Branson, Tony Blair, Sheikh Ahmed and Shah Rukh Khan all were interviewed exclusively in this magazine. And we set our own high standards and levels in news reporting, leaving the opposition out of sight. But none of this could have been done without the excellent support of our many readers. We thank you for your efforts in 2005, and look forward to keeping on the same course during the next twelve months. And as always, please let us know what you like and dislike about the magazine. ||**||

Add a Comment

Your display name This field is mandatory

Your e-mail address This field is mandatory (Your e-mail address won't be published)

Security code