Tech woven into the fabric at Saudi MoI
KSA ministry deploys the latest networking technology to drive efficiency
Providing e-Government services is a key focus area for the Ministry of Interior (MoI) of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, backed by some of the leading technology from top vendors.
The e-services, aimed at clients both inside and outside the MoI, allow ministry employees on one hand complete their tasks efficiently and effectively while citizens are enabled in their daily lives with services like electronically renewing their passports, clearing their enter/exit issues and other next generation services.
The e-Services are part of the MoI's broad vision regarding its IT infrastructure, says Eng. Fahad Ata Al Hezayen, head of IT networks department at the General Department of IT, Ministry of Interior, KSA. "We are focused on having a simple, easy to use but powerful network that is also highly secure. This enables us push on with our ongoing growth of different applications used with the various Ministry divisions to make sure we obtain the highest possible level of each service we provide."
The ministry's IT requirements and services are elaborate, says Al Hezayen. "We have our own exchange server, our own ERP, a large number of software programmes some of which are licensed and some that are developed internally. We also have our own security policies as well as being connected to other IT departments that are related to the ministry although operating separately, such as the National Information Centre," Hezayen explains.
The threat of hacking hangs over all organisations in the region, large and small. "We face continuous challenges on a daily basis," says Al Hezayen. "We have to be aware of all the technologies around the world and around us so as to keep your network safe. We also have to be alert to all the hacking threats, both old and new ones, so they do not impact our network. We handle this task in conjunction with the sub-contractors that we have working with us," Al Hezayen adds.
That being said, the ministry has not faced any serious attacks on its networks, a fact Al Hezayen attributes to their proactivity. "Our policy is not to wait until we are attacked-we strive to stay ahead of threats and keen to find the latest technology to implement to enhance our own security mechanism. That is why we are always trying to update our systems and use best practices in our networks by either upgrading existing systems or deploying completely new systems available in the market," says Al Hezayen.
To keep these systems up to date, Al Hezayen says the ministry maintains fruitful relationships with leading global IT companies. An example is Avaya, with which the ministry is working with on Fabric Connect solutions which makes network configuration and deployment of new services faster and easier. "This particular solution will ultimately help us build our network around fabric which will simplify our network and make it both simple to operate and powerful enough. This is especially crucial in the virtual world as we do not need to make new configurations in order to transform our processes," Al Hezayen adds.
Maintaining trained personnel at the highest level is crucial to be able to maintain the best levels of customer service. Al Hezayen says the ministry has a team of well-educated personnel at hand. To keep their skills updated, the MoI invests significantly in training them on the latest and best technology. "We have support programmes running between us and partner IT companies under specific agreements that they support our people, train them and even send them to relevant training internationally to gain the requisite knowledge. For whatever solution we have implemented, we have a training and support mechanism built into the contracts."
In the end, Al Hezayen says, there needs more imparting of knowledge for people to really understand how to gain the most benefit from the systems they already have in place. For instance, instead of just data, IP telephony allows voice and video on the same IT system. "An important issue I care about is to spread the information so that people understand the new era of technology and get the most benefit out of their systems rather than having a system and utilizing just a fraction of it," Al Hezayen concludes.