Best Practice: Public services

The Ministry of Public Works needed a solution that would allow it to keep track of projects, which eHosting Datafort provided

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Best Practice: Public services The Ministry of Public Works wanted a solution that met its strict access and security policies.
By  Ben Furfie Published  September 29, 2010

The Ministry of Public Works has a tough job to do. It has been tasked with modernising the country’s roads, highways, hospitals and other state-of-the-art infrastructure to keep it at the forefront of international investment. But in order to do that, it needed to update its own infrastructure first. Ben Furfie investigates.

Dubai is a metropolis under construction. Even after the recent recession and the debt crisis that spawned it, the city is still creaking under the vast amount of construction work being done.

From the road networks necessary to service the hundreds of new super-skyscrapers that are growing by the day, through to the multi-billion dirham Dubai-Fujairah highway, the government body responsible for overseeing these projects, the Ministry of Public Works (MoPW), has a lot on its plate.

One of the big challenges facing the MoPW was that the overwhelming number of projects that were ongoing was simply too much for its existing IT system to deal with.

“Authorised government officials and contractors needed to have real-time access to information relating to respective projects,” explains Zahra Al Aboodi, executive director for House and Urban Planning at the Ministry of Public Works.

Unfortunately for the MoPW, the disjointed nature of its systems meant that much of the information that needed to be accessed regularly was on separate systems. This resulted in inefficient practices: not just for the senior government officials, but also for other key partners, such as contractors. “Over the course of a project, users including senior government officials, contractors and clients need to access the system to make and check updates,” reveals Al Aboodi.

The sheer amount of information that the department needs to access is staggering. Project planning, risk assessment, cost control, budget tracking and control, time control to project management and reporting — essentially everything related to the project is monitored and managed through the system with the help of real-time information.

In order to do this, the Ministry looked at a number of solutions from a number of suppliers. It eventually settled on an Enterprise Project Management system from eHosting DataFort. “The Enterprise Project Management (EPM) system makes the project management process much easier, and importantly, more effective, allowing internal staff at the MoPW — as well as contractors and clients — to track budgets, oversee the planning and management of the project through an end-to-end technology system that processes information that is real time and consistent.

“The EPM software unified multiple systems that were in use across the federal government at the time, so that staff and contractors could authenticate and authorise access to the same system,” says Al Aboodi.

“By providing a single sign-on service and all-in-one accessibility, the Ministry’s eproject portal allows a more convenient working mechanism for users, raising operational efficiency and enabling a quick response to IT service demands,” she adds.

More importantly for the MoPW and the wider UAE government, it has transformed its eproject portal into a real-time business platform through integrating IT operations across all ministry departments.

However, the sheer amount of information that needed to be handled by the new system was just one thing that the ministry had to worry about. As with any government department, the security of its data was paramount.

“The sensitive nature of the information meant that the outcome of tender awards could be compromised due to information being leaked — either by accident or maliciously — due to it becoming compromised. The result could be that a company is given access to the information surrounding a competitor’s bid. Therefore, it was crucial that the information was secured and was neither exposed, nor accessible, to those who were not privy to it. Contractors can now view the status of their bids online without the risk of their competitors seeing then,” she explains.

This is enabled through the hosted security system, which is comprised of virtualised network firewalls, which protect the system from hackers, while an intrusion alert system provides an extra layer of security, should someone manage to breach the firewall.

As with any major organisation, issues such as uptime and reliability were just as important as usability. The way the ministry dealt with this was to remove most of its IT infrastructure from its building, instead opting to use a managed services solution — including elements of cloud computing — from eHDF.

“Not only does the system integrate information, but it also brings the rest of the team and the IT staff closer together, enabling the Ministry to quickly respond to changes in real time,” concludes Al Aboodi.

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