Saturday, November 29, 2014

2014 Social Media Outlook in the UAE and a Brainstorming Case, #uabrainstorm

Currently, there are more than 85 million social media users in the Arab world. For example, we can all make a quick guess on the Arab country having the largest number of Facebook users as we all have fresh memories on how the Arab spring had started. There are 20 million Facebook users in Egypt. But when it comes to the percentage of Facebook users in the total population, then Qatar is at the top with 62.9 %.

The Governance and Innovation Programme at the Mohammad Bin Rashid School of Government (MBRSG) and the Dubai Press Club cooperatively conducted an interesting research on social media use in the region. Three thousand people participated in the study “2014 UAE Social Media Outlook; Increasing Connectivity Between Government and Citizen”.
Some highlighted results of the study will be mentioned below. Besides, the whole report can be seen from the link: mbrsg

Internet search engines are more popular method to reach information as 37 % of the participants reported that they prefer doing so when they need a governmental information. The second most favored method was surfing on the official governmental webpage (30 %). However, only 4 % of the respondents stated social media as their preferred method. Nonetheless, the participants favoring mobile applications was only 2 %.

The main reason that the UAE wants to use social media as a communication method with governmental agencies is to make citizens more involved in the decision making process of the government.  In the foreword of the study it is stated by Dr Ali Sebaa Al Marri, Executive President of MBRSG, that “Today, citizens and residents in the UAE are not just passive recipients of government services but are active partners in the development of these services.”, however, the results of the research suggest that citizens use social media to seek governmental information rather than interacting with governmental bodies. According to the Director of the Program, Racha Mourtada, people still do not feel themselves comfortable when they are sharing their personal information. But she says this is normal for a new way of communication and people will be more trustful within time.  (gulfnews)

For example, people were asked if they have ever provided a feedback to the government on service delivery. As it can be seen in the figure below (retrieved from the report), 44.7% of the respondents never left a feedback. Dr. Al Marri points out the importance of the feedback and he says there should be more public awareness on this issue. Respondents favored the answer ‘training and capacity building for government employees’ when they are asked about increasing the role of social media in citizen engagement.   

“Have you ever provided feedback to the government on service delivery?”

In the final part of the report, there is a brainstorming case. In December, 2013 a brainstorming session via Twitter was initiated by the Vice President and Prime Minister  Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum to get citizens’ opinions on education and healthcare issues. He announced from his Twitter account that they want to hear citizens’ opinions on the issues they are facing with on the aforementioned areas. At the end of a few days long brainstorming session, over 82 thousand of suggestions were received via Twitter under the hashtag of #uabrainstorm or emails to  In the report it is stated that the results were promising for more public participation in UAE’s future. Such an integration will help government activities to be more transparent and encourage citizens to communicate more with the government with using technology.

Friday, November 28, 2014

A Brief History and Milestones of E-Government in Turkey

There is not any unique and specific legal bases with regard to e-government in Turkey. But a State Minister was assigned to coordinate all e-government preparednes and implementations. This minister is responsible for determining all e-government policies and reports directly to Prime Minister. Although central and local administrations in Turkey had some e-government applications,  Turkey’s e-government approach has mainly a central character, having a belief that e-government policies and strategies should prepare and coordinate centrally.  Concidering that independent applications would be ineffective and might be create uncertainties, the government decided to commence an e-Transformation Turkey Project in 2003. The main benefits that the government is expected to gain through e-government applications and Transformation Project are listed as follow:
·         Equal enjoyment of and easy access to services,
·         To eliminate bribary,
·         To increase individual participation,
·         To provide governance,
·         To make institutions work rapidly and effectively,
·         To eliminate red tape and to respond the need of citizens just in time,
·         To provide low cost and high quality service,
·         To decrease staffs’ mistake ratio to mininum,
·         To enhance accountability and transparency

According to the Project, a four-phase action plan was devised:
·         To provide information in agency web pages,
·         To provide on-line services by institutions,
·         To form a single point to provide all public services through a portal,
·         To create new kind of services
On contrary to weak, scattered and seperate efforts of each institution in the previous, e-government efforts were started to be handled in a strategic and centralized manner. This organised endeavors were flourished immediately. 2003 - The Central Civil Registration System (MERNIS), The Identity Information Sharing System (KPS), Central Address Registration System (AKS) were the first fruits of this initiative. 2004 –E-Signature Law came into force, Information Acquisition Law introduced which makes it possible for all citizens to request all kind of personel or governmental information which is not classified. E-declaration system that allows all public or private parties sent documents and tax declarations pertinent to health insurance and retirement process,  2006 - e-school system, 2007 – National Information Community Strategy Paper and Standarts for Public Web Pages were introduced, E-identity Card Pilot Project (which also has biometric properties) launched, 2008 – Electronic Communication Law and a secondary regulation to put into effect e-public procurement system was enacted,  e-Government Gateway, e-invoice Project and e- land registry and cadastral transactions were launched.

The e-Government Gateway is a website which offers access to all public services from a single point. With the Portal 3. Phase of e-Transformation Project is achieved. The aim of the Portal is to offer public services to citizens, businesses, and government agencies in an efficient and effective manner through information technologies. Services offered to the citizens through the e-Government Portal are grouped as follows; Information services, e-Services, Payment transactions, information and document sharing among public institutions, Shortcuts to agencies and organizations, Information updates and announcements, Messages to citizens from agencies. As of 11/09/2014 there are 19.447.147 registered users,  1028 service offered by 142 institutions in the Gateway. 2009 – e-Centralized Electoral Roll, National Judiciary Informatics System 2009 -2014 Scientific and Technologic Researchs Institution of Turkey (TUBİTAK) is assigned to help transformation of and develop e-services for public institutions. From that time TUBİTAK worked with government agencies, helped them to design e-services and integrate them into e-Government Gateway.

It’s clear that central approach to coordinate efforts of different government agencies paid off for Turkey. It seems to be a good time to go further for the fourth planned stage of the Project which needs much more sofisticated action. However, taking a step back at this stage of operation and collecting feed backs from institutions might be useful to consolidate rapid improvements before jumping to forward.

Electronic and Open Government Initiatives in Kyrgyzstan

The overview of the United Nations E-Government Survey 2014 shows that Kyrgyzstan is losing position in the global ranking of e-government - it came down to 101-th place, while in 2012 it was on the 99-th and in 2010 it was on the 91-th place. Political instability, lack of coordinated policy and funding constraints are the main obstacles for development of e-government in the Kyrgyz Republic.

In 2002, Kyrgyzstan adopted a National Strategy of "ICT for development" outlining main directions of development of e-government. Action Plan has been established and gets updated in order to implement the strategy. The National ICT Council under the Office of the Prime Minister of the Kyrgyz Republic exists for the same reason. Due to the lack of a separate executive body that would coordinate activities for the implementation of e-government,  the work carried out on e-government is very fragmented and does not reach its goals. Donor organizations play a huge role in the development of e-government by providing financial investment and resources outside the state budget. These efforts have led to isolated initiatives and became non- complex and unstable.

According to the model by the Department of Economics and Social Affairs of the United Nations, there are 4 stages of development of e-government - 1) common information services, 2) advanced information services, 3) transaction services, and 4) network services. Kyrgyzstan has now reached the 2-nd stage of development - when the government websites offer extensive unilateral or basic bilateral electronic services. (Brimkulov and Baryktabasov, 2013).

However, on November 10, 2014 the Prime Minister of the Kyrgyz Republic signed a program of implementation of e-governance for 2014-2017, with the main focus on the development of electronic public services. Also, the program notes the need of Kyrgyzstan in entering in the "Open Government Partnership" initiative that will give additional impetus to ensure transparency and improve relations in civil society.

The Open Government Partnership is a new, global, multi-stakeholder effort to improve governments. The OGP aims to secure concrete commitments of governments to drive open government reform and innovation at the country level, in an effort to stretch countries beyond their current baseline in the areas of transparency, accountability, and citizen engagement. The OGP was formally founded on September 20, 2011, with 8 founding governments. Since then the partnership has grown to 64 participating governments. More information is available on the web-site -

The new Action Plan on e-government indicates that Kyrgyzstan will have all necessary documents to enter the Open Government Partnership ready by end of 2015. This Action Plan was presented by the Prime Minister of Kyrgyzstan during the Forum on e-leadership and e-government, which was  recently (November 17-18, 2015) held in Kyrgyzstan with the support or World Bank, UNDP and Open Society Institute. This action plan will also focus on creating a list or e-services and web-site on open data. All these will increase participation and innovation for using new technologies in the public sector.

Customer there such a thing in government?

As we have progressed through this course there has been constant discussion on the importance of “open” government and what efforts have been implemented by the federal government to comply with Pres. Obama’s “open government” directive. The sad truth however, is significant and troubling. While steps have been taken to implement some channels for open government such as websites, social media connections and challenge exercises such as those on, the question remains, has the government really embraced the concept of inviting its citizens into the thought process and practices of government? This issue is addressed in the article published in the Washington Post,, “According to the American Customer Satisfaction Index the government ranks lower than nearly every private-sector industry measured.”
Prior year
% change
Energy Utilities
Health Care & Social Assistance
Accommodation & Food Services
Manufacturing/Durable Goods
Manufacturing/Nondurable Goods
Finance & Insurance
Retail Trade
Public Administration/Government

The current design of government websites can be seen as an initial stride toward a more accessible and interactive administration. However it must only be considered an initial phase. The current system is complex and cumbersome and deters citizen’s interaction with government. Robert McDonald, the Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary, provided sound cause to support this charge. He states, “The agency currently operates 14 different websites that require a different username and a different password for veterans to access the VA…that’s just flat wrong!”  
Another troubling example of this is benefits and services provided to those low income families who need it most. The Partnership for Public Service contends that, “government delivers a wide array of benefits and services to low-income families, but these services are organized in a complex web. They are structured according to the funding appropriated to specific programs and located in different agencies scattered across the government, making it hard for the citizen to navigate the complex maze.”  Here you have a strata of the citizenry that depends upon government assistance who must now jump hurdles and navigate a digital labyrinth in an attempt to get the goods and services they need. If government truly wants citizen engagement and the embrace of a philosophy of exceptional customer service, it must minimize the complexity and reduce the bureaucracy so the average person can become accurately informed and significantly engaged with government. A method or pathway must be developed to identify services that are often associated. The effect of this form of streamlining will help people navigate the system easier, get the goods and services they need, and develop a more positive and satisfactory relationship with the administration and their procedures. The articles refer to two government websites that have reduced the complexity and simplified the process. is a collaboration of among 12 agencies, and shares customer data across federal agencies. The deliberate acts of these agencies to eliminate the “silo effect” of information transfer and develop a more customer oriented or consumer friendly approach should be applauded and utilized as a blueprint for other agencies to follow.

Often times people employed in government forget they are there to serve the people. They also forget that if people could understand how government operates they would have a better knowledge base and therefore, appreciate the efforts made for them. True engagement requires understanding, access and motivation by all parties. Right now, government controls the information flow and the access points; if they relinquish some of that power, the people would respond with the motivation.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Citizens’ Portal – the Open Government Partnership iniciative the portal's main goal is to increase accessibility to public services for citizens, simplify the procedures, enhance service standards and ensure the effectiveness of government agencies. Portal brings together different state services, from totally different structures in one-space and available for any interested person.
Portal has launched by “data exchange agency” since May 2012.  In September 2013 the public portal integrated up to 50 public services up to the 80 utilities. The portal also added an online business registration module, from which the citizen can register business and receive the relevant documentation. The portal also allows citizens pay fines, debt or even utility bills.
As portal is very usercentric it is not mandatory to have information about the service provider agencies or organizations. It is enough to know what type of service citizen wants. Services are grouped thematically.
In addition, throughout the portal citizens can directly communicate (submit letters, request information and receive feedback) to the public organizations under the electronic communication service. This module was launched in September 2013. In this process participate 60 public organizations, which currently have electronic proceedings).
Portal has well designed user help tools and frequently asked questions, information about responsible organization and useful links from which user can access to international organizations and domestic public and non public organizations
Based on above mentioned portal functionalities and capabilities can be concluded that as the portal allows citizens to use state and private agencies on-line services from any country, home or the office, significantly saves citizens time and financial resources.
Finally I think this portal is one more successful step for government becoming more transparent, more transparent, accountable, innovative and open to citizen participation, through e-government services.

Monday, November 24, 2014

More ways than one to examine the "Digital Divide"?

As we have progressed through this course, the term “digital divide” continues to echo through numerous conversations. It is discussed through the same lens time and time again. The divide refers to the difference in economic and social importance. Those who have more, get more; the difference between those of privilege and those lacking privilege. Now for a minute I want everyone to consider other lenses to view the “digital divide”.
In the article,, a new view, a new look at how technology and knowledge can separate us as a society. It is not based on money, or privilege, or social status. This “digital divide” crosses all economic boundaries to inflict its debilitating effect on a specific age group of Americans, the elderly. The article speaks to the availability and proliferation of the use of digital technology to assist patients in becoming more informed and participate in a comprehensive overview of their medical records. Healthcare providers are utilizing technology in order to enable citizens to participate in their treatments and streamline auxiliary functions. Medical providers have created online applications such as online bill pay, insurance provider information, and patient portals for direct access to patient records.
The problem is that less than one third of Americans use the web for health information. If you couple that with less than ten percent of that one third have the competent ability to navigate the online healthcare system. These numbers are alarming. (1) The elderly as a group are the largest consumers of healthcare products in the U.S. However, it would seem that the progress and innovation that has enabled healthcare to evolve so much has left its largest consumer in the dark. The question that can now be presented is: how can this population become literate of web-based healthcare and actively utilize these new options? Here is a case of market failure. Private industry has not recognized a method for profitability to educate the elderly in this technology. The government has either been unable or unwilling to create and implement resources to assist the elderly in obtaining the needed education so they may navigate through this new technology. Could a not for profit organization be created with a mission to help and enable the senior population to employ these new avenues of communication and information? Or does this segment of our society continue to fall behind and dwell in obscurity?
The next alternate lens to examine the concept of “digital divide” comes from the article, Here the author examines the New York State educational system and the gaps that exist in the technology sector. The author exploits the fact that many teachers in the classroom today have to consider and accept that in all likelihood many of their students know more about technology than they do. Here the educator is being taught by the student. This is a confusing and troubling role reversal. The article discusses the heightened need for professional development, for educators, in technology while also discussing the desire for implementation of computer science in the core curriculum. Now we have a digital divide of knowledge and comprehension of technology between educator and student, with the student being more advanced.  Also included in the article is the City of New York’s intent to bridge the “digital divide” as far as some of the hardware involved. In an attempt to bring more and better technology to NYC schools there is a heightened urgency to enhance the fiber and broadband components as well as other computer hardware. Along with NYC efforts to overcome the problem of “unequal access to broadband technology… there is an initiative to convert 8400 public payphones into Wi-Fi hotspots.” This program will help address two major concerns for the city. It will reduce both the “digital desert and the digital divide.” This is a novel idea with a fantastic opportunity for innovation and renovation. This futuristic vision will make use of the existing infrastructure while implementing new technology to support the people.

E-service Development in Georgia

“The vision for the e-Georgia strategy reflects this wider scope and it is defined as “Georgia will become a more efficient public sector offering integrated, secure, and high quality e-Services. Improved usage and participation enable an ICT driven sustainable economic growth.”

Significant developments in terms of e-governance in Georgia is apparent in the latest years. So-called “Digitalization” process has started about ten years ago in many governmental agencies. “Georgian Electronic Government Procurement System” [1]and “Online Asset Declaration System”[2] development is an obvious success story of this process.
“According to 2014 UN E-Government Survey Georgia is ranked 56th out of 193 countries, with E- Government Development Index of 0.6 and Online Service Component score of 0.59, which has improved overall ranking of Georgia by 16 positions as compared to 2012 data” (Ministry of Justice of Georgia, 2013).
Another important area of e-service development is Public Finance Management System (PFMS), where e-budget, e-treasury, and electronic debt management system, National Resource Management System, electronic revenue service, etc. are developed. Should be notices that all these services are provided under the MoF supervision. was developed for the special purpose for better access and participation in legislation issues. Participation, grievance, accountability and transparency issues are well developed. Another important issue is that information regarding legislative amendment are constructed in a user-friendly manner, which means that adjustment are visually attractive.
New strategy vision and significant improvement was established in the healthcare field and e-health is currently on the stage of development and implementation. E-health combines a lot of direction, thus, implementation process is gradually managed, services such are e-prescription and registry of pharmacies are already implemented.  E-health is under the Health Management Information System (HMIS) umbrella.
E-libraries, e-meteo, e-stamp and etc., this is not full list of public services, which are in the transformation process to achieve e-service requirements, with the consideration to assure full and comprehensive, modern and technologically sustainable outcomes.
E-service development strategy combines three main directions: Government to Citizen, Government to Business and Government to Government.
In 2012 citizen’s portal was created, where all e-services were accumulated in order to provide not only public but also private e-services as well.
The main disadvantage of e-service development is disparities between central and local government and public and private sectors. Still, the main challenge is integration of municipal services in the overall e-service framework, and decrease differences between central and local public services.
Another important target of e-service development is consumption issue, where Internet access, poor awareness and weak skills should be considered as a main challenge and obstacle. Thus, not only provision, but also consumption challenges should be under the equal attention.
Affordability and financing sustainability should be guaranteed, not only for development, but also for current maintenance purposes.

[1] Winner of UN Public service Award in 2012
[2] Winner of UN Public service Award in 2013