The UAE has missed the number one spot in the Middle East this year because the UN surveyed the federal portal, which Salem Khamis Al Shair, Director-General of the UAE General Information Authority (GIA) said has been “lagging behind”.
“Dubai and Abu Dhabi local governments are doing well in terms of e-government practices and standards. It’s the federal level – the ministries, authorities and councils that are lagging behind,” he said.
He said Dubai used to represent the UAE in evaluation but when federal websites begin to be up online, UN began to evaluate their sites.
“After the federal government started to have its own websites for its several ministries, they get evaluated hence we dropped in the ranks,” Al Shair said in an exclusive interview.
The UAE used to rank highest among all Arab countries. In 2008, the UN e-Government Survey has ranked the UAE in fifth position in terms of transactional services, just behind countries such as Sweden, Denmark, Norway and the US.
The survey also placed the UAE 32nd among 192 UN member states in the 2008 e-Government Readiness Index, while the country achieved the 12th position in the worldwide web measurement index, which rated the online presence of national websites and the selected ministries.
From rank 32, the UAE went down to 49, paving the way for Bahrain, which previously ranked 42, to go up to 13, the highest index in the Middle East.
In the whole GCC, only the UAE and Qatar’s ranking went down.
Kuwait improved from 57 to 50, Saudi Arabia went up from 70 to 58, Oman from 84 to 82. Qatar went down from 53 to 62.
The UN e-government survey presented various roles for e-government in addressing the ongoing world financial and economic crisis. The public trust that is gained through transparency can be further enhanced through the free sharing of governnment data based on open standards. The ability of e-government to handle speed and complexity can also underpin regulatory reform.
While technology is no substitute for good policy, it may give citizens the power to question the actions of regulators and bring systemic issues to the fore.
As per a study done by a consultant, GIA would need Dh1.4 billion over the next four-and-a-half years to pursue its projects. But because the UAE has moved to a zero-based budgeting where each agency would have three-year budgets, GIA would have to make the Dh75m it is allotted until the end of 2010.
“Hence in 2009 and 2010, we don’t have the budget to execute all the action plan of our strategy… without the budget to do it, we are handicapped,” he said.