A mixed e-government bag

The recently-publishedUN e-government readiness report 2005 makes interesting reading for the Middle East, with good news for some countries and less welcome reading for others.

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By  Eliot Beer Published  December 29, 2005

|~||~||~|The UN e-government readiness report 2005, recently published, makes interesting reading for the Middle East. The report is designed to gauge how effectively the governments of the 191 UN member states are communicating and empowering their populations through the use of information and communication technology (ICT). Overall, the report is complementary to the ‘Western Asia’ region — which includes most Middle Eastern nations — saying it has “performed very well in 2005”, largely on the strength of Gulf countries. The report says the Western Asia area is now above the global e-government readiness average, major progress from 2004. Unsurprisingly, the UAE tops the list of Gulf and Middle Eastern Arab states, at number 42 in the list, up from 60 in 2004. Bahrain, Turkey, Qatar, Jordan, Lebanon, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia are all in the top half of the table, and many have made rapid progress in the ratings over the past 12 months. But Oman, Iraq, Syria and Yemen are all firmly in the lower part of the table, the latter 154th out of 179 countries with any online presence. Also of note is the fact that Yemen, one of the largest countries in the Gulf, was in the same position a year ago, and has apparently made no relative progress. The aim of the UN report is not just to provide a record of e-government readiness, but also to share best practice and help identify areas of particular concern. And while governments must shoulder the main part of the burden of driving e-government, the report is clear that enterprises must do their share too. “The onus lies, collectively, on the national governments, the private sector and the civil society, on the one hand, and the international organisations and the donor community on the other to come up with new initiatives for ICT-led development,” says Guido Bertucci, director for the Division for Public Administration and Development Management at the UN Department for Economic and Social Affairs. For the Middle East, currently riding on a wave of high oil prices and surging demand, international aid has not got the same relevance as it might for less prosperous regions. Governments and private enterprise, then, must work together not only to develop useful e-government services, but also to give their countries’ populations the means, and the ability to make use of these services.||**||

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