The public must trust in UAE online services

There is a certain irony to the fact that last week’s lead story about the slow uptake of e-government services in Dubai co-incided with the publication of a report from the United Nations praising the UAE for its e-government readiness.

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By  Peter Branton Published  January 8, 2006

|~|Al-Shaircommentbody.jpg|~|Al Shair made plain last week that he believes that it has been the “minimal” levels of PR and marketing that have been conducted for online services that are to blame for the slow uptake.|~|There is a certain irony to the fact that last week’s lead story about the slow uptake of e-government services in Dubai co-incided with the publication of a report from the United Nations praising the UAE for its e-government readiness. While the services may indeed be ready, are the public? The UN’s e-Government Readiness Report — published by the United Nations Online Public Network and Finance (UNPAN) body — defines e-government readiness as the extent to which the country is ready and equipped to use the opportunities offered by ICT to access basic social services. According to UNPAN, the UAE has made great strides in this regard, with a number of government portals being singled out for praise, including such elements as discussion forums and other participatory features. Which is all well and good, but as Salem Khamis Al Shair, e-Services director at Dubai Government told us in last week’s issue many people still “don’t trust” going online to perform key functions, especially making payments online. While some services do very well, most have performed poorly. While over 300,000 people have been happy to apply for medical certificates online, another 350-odd e-services have managed only just over one million transactions between them in the past four years — poor returns considering the size of the population in Dubai and the 1.9 million internet users registered with Etisalat. As Al Shair pointed out in last week’s story, these figures can at least partially be explained by the comparitive lack of PR and marketing that has been conducted to support uptake of these e-services. The Dubai government has set itself a dual target of putting 90% of all government services online and ensuring that 50% of all transactions carried out by the public are done online, both targets to be achieved this year. With 84% of services currently online, but just 20% of transactions taking place in cyber-space, it is fairly clear to see which target is going to be tougher for the Dubai e-Government to achieve. Al Shair made plain last week that he believes that it has been the “minimal” levels of PR and marketing that have been conducted for online services that are to blame for the slow uptake. Interestingly, according to an exclusive survey carried out earlier this year for ITP by polling firm YouGov, 90% of those respondents who had used the UAE’s e-government services said they would recommend them. Clearly, once users can be persuaded to get online they will stay there, it is the getting them there that is the issue. ||**||

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