Many countries in this region and the world have now adopted e-government services in order to make the lives of their employees and those of their citizens easier. This is an area that IT firms have seen as good markets for their products.
“We see governments are more interested in putting their services online and at the same time to align the quality of their services and security models they want. You will find that most governments have tackled the back end very well, so now you will see the game is changing in the front end. And there is a lot of leveraging of the back office applications such as the Oracle E-Business Suite, which has a lot of government specific processes embedded” explains Fadi Abdulkhalek, vice president, public sector MEA-Applications at Oracle.
“There is a lot of focus from governments across the region on quality and speed of service, so this is a big market,” he adds.
E-government systems already implemented in Middle East
The success of e-government systems has been widely debated. While some countries have seen tremendous results, others appear to have spent huge amounts of money on systems they do cannot make the most of. Alfonso Di Ianni, senior vice president Eastern Europe, CIS, Middle East & Africa, Oracle, believes this is due to the different attitudes of governments.
“[A key question is] how serious is the government on ITC? Is this a strategy for the country or is it a political item? Depending on the answer you have different results; if it is a political item then it changes according to political leadership. Today it is about a website for children going to school but tomorrow that has faded away and it’s about something else. When governments have this political issue embedded they cannot build a solid system and a solid set of services. That is a problem. Governments that have a ministry of ICT go faster,” Di Ianni states.
One major factor in a government’s IT spending is whether it has a ministry or department dedicated IT. In some governments responsibility of IT services are shared between several departments, and this can cause confusion to firms selling their services as well as within the government itself. However, problems can run deeper than the set up of departments.
End user acceptance is crucial
“Another issue is end user acceptance within the government. Not in this country, but government employees are usually low paid and nobody cares about their development. Here it is different but in other countries in general nobody cares about it. And that is too bad because e-government and new technologies are a good way for them to learn and be more interested in what they do. If there is no internal programme within the government to make them understand why this system is better for them then it will fail because they will tend to go the other way,” reveals Di Ianni.
Government deals being signed
Another company which targets the government sector heavily is Avaya. The firm recently announced a deal with the Dubai Civil Defense to supply the organisation with the Avaya Flare Experience, which is communications software. Nidal Abou-Ltaif, vice president – Emerging Markets, Avaya, comments on the company’s activity in the sector: “The government sector is one of the main sectors Avaya focuses on. In Dubai we have partnerships with Dubai Police, Dubai Immigration and of course Dubai Civil Defence. And the RTA, the RTA is running Avaya technology across the board. What this will do is introduce to them technology that allows them to serve better faster and with less expense than before. Dubai Civil Defence has always been ahead, trying to react faster and trying to reduce losses.”
With technology at such a level now, it is foolish for any government to ignore the benefits of properly executed IT services and the companies are more than keen to provide them. “We would love to see governments around the world using technology to improve their efficiency. As a social implication, we believe the way to advance a society is through technology, the people in Oracle believe that. So it is very important to us that they are advantages that citizens can take from ICT services,” Di Ianni concludes.