Smart govt as an initiative for business transformation
Building a unified platform is key to automating and streamlining smart city processes, says Tareq Hussein of Omnix
When municipal governments around the world develop their Smart City plans for the future, rarely do they face the challenges of the Holy Makkah Municipality.
A city steeped in history and religious significance, the Holy Makkah Municipality is one of the world’s largest migrant cities, with its metropolitan population of 1.7 million expanding to more than one-and-a-half times its size when welcoming pilgrims performing Hajj, with the most recent Central Department of Statistics and Information showing nearly 2.8 million pilgrims in 2010.
The Holy Makkah Municipality needs to not only determine the application process for pilgrims applying for visas, but also the practical demands of urban development, transportation, and the environment, while maintaining its sacred rituals.
In anticipation of the number of pilgrims set to increase in line with the global Muslim population growing from 1.6 billion in 2010 to 2.2 billion by 2030, according to the Pew Research Center, the Holy Makkah Municipality recently embarked on a master plan that supports a coordinated and sustainable approach to its long-term development.
Unifying and Consolidating Legacy Systems on One Platform
While the Holy Makkah Municipality recognised that technology would play a critical role in planning for the future, the government entities ran on legacy systems across different proprietary platforms, which did not easily communicate to one another, and duplicated processes and lowered productivity.
Instead of upgrading each individual system, which could have been a potentially lengthy and expensive process, Holy Makkah Municipality turned to systems integrator Omnix International to converge IT and government services on a single platform, which also enables the government to work with external and third parties, and to develop citizen-centric apps that run over multiple platforms and devices.
Currently the Holy Makkah Municipality runs more than 30 core e-services on a single government e-portal, which enhances the quality of life for people and businesses, and provides 48 key performance indicators to measure performance and identify how e-services can be enhanced.
Users can now submit multiple applications to one platform, which then re-distributes the information to the proper department, each checking and supporting the application. For example, opening a new restaurant used to mean visiting several departments to coordinate building permits, health certificates, utilities, and safety inspections; it can now all be processed via one portal utilising eServices needed to start the business.
Long-Term Planning and Back-End Efficiency
The advanced integrated GIS system adapted by Holy Makkah Municipality expands system efficiency by providing multiple GIS related information that enhances the capabilities to the various municipality geographical related eServices.
In turn, the GIS data combined with aerial photographs provides a great capability to utilise all the tools necessary in order to show or clarify land use boundaries and plans, road classifications, and showing topography and paths of utilities and infrastructure services.
On the back end, the Holy Makkah Municipality is becoming more efficient and cost-effective, by using GIS Data to better manage financial and human resources processes, and freeing up employees from mundane tasks to focus more on driving innovation.
Smart City Solutions Across the GCC
Beyond the Holy Makkah Municipality, Omnix International is involved with a wide range of Smart Cities and public sector e-projects in the Kingdom – essential as the Kingdom implements its eGovernment Second Action Plan (2012-2016) that aims to enable everyone to easily use effective, secure, and integrated government services.
These include working with the Ministry of Agriculture to implement the first set of e-services to protect farmland, providing the Ministry of Interior with a single electronic view of criminal cases and trends, and implementing at the Saudi Commission for Health Specialists an online registration, classification, training, and exams for medical professionals.
On the other hand, in the UAE, the Statistics Centre Abu Dhabi’s ESTATISTICS project has automated, streamlined, and centralised its data collection process from all Abu Dhabi government entities, enabling users to securely interact with their analytics content on mobile devices.
One recent report pegs the global Smart City market at $3.3 trillion by 2025, and with Smart City projects lining up in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Qatar boosted by strong network infrastructure and mobility, the user experience will be paramount in the next generation of personalised and location-aware mobile government services.
Systems integrators have a key role to play in helping the Middle East’s Smart Cities to capture this value – especially in delivering dashboards and KPIs that monitor and provide user feedback on e-services, and ensuring that services are delivered on time, are easy-to-use, and maintain the brand.
Tareq Musbah Hussein is the GCC Director of Professional Services at Omnix International.