The UAE has been ranked 32nd in a UN survey of the electronic government readiness of nations around the world.
The rating is the highest in the GCC and represents a major improvement since the last survey in 2005 – then the country was in the 42nd place.
And the country came top in the region for web measurement, a rating of the online presence of national websites and selected ministries including health, education, welfare, labour and finance. The UAE was ranked 12th worldwide.
All the GCC states have significantly improved their readiness, according to the 2008 e-Government Survey produced by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (Undesa).
Bahrain moved up from 53rd to 42nd, Qatar from 62nd to 53rd, Kuwait from 75th to 57th, Saudi Arabia from 80th to 70th and Oman from a 112th to 84th.
The strong performance by the GCC countries has been attributed to heavy investment in broadband infrastructure coupled with increased implementation of e-government services for citizens.
Countries such as the UAE and Kuwait have upgraded their government portals and the Dubai Government has developed an extensive online presence.
The website of the UAE’s Ministry of Labour (www.mol.gov.ae) is regarded as an excellent example of a one-stop shop offering transactional features such as payment by credit card, online submission of forms and permits and creation of personal accounts.
It is one of the few sites that has an electronic signature.
Kuwait Ministry of Social Welfare (www.mosal.gov.kw) is another example of a website that offers e-mail notification of citizens’ requests and allows online submission of forms and payment and the creation of personal accounts.
“The Undesa survey reaffirms information and communications technology is radically transforming public service delivery,” said Jamil Ezzo, Director-General of the ICDL GCC Foundation, which was set up to promote computer literacy.
“We strongly support the notion that the potential of e-government as a tool for economic development can be realised through the achievement of certain prerequisites, which include a high level of technological infrastructure, e-connectivity for all and a strategy for e-government readiness that will make all members of society competent to use computers and the internet.
“We commend the GCC governments for their efforts and call on them to invest in more programmes that will improve the people’s ability to utilise electronic services.”
The e-government readiness and web measurement assessments are intended to guide governments in gauging their progress and continually improving their e-government programmes.
Several e-readiness initiatives have been launched including the e-Citizen programme, a basic computer skills initiative developed by experts from across Europe.
The need for implementation of this programme has been recognised by leaders and governments in many countries including the UAE and the rest of the GCC states.
The scheme is designed to increase computer and internet use by the general public.
“Citizens must be afforded the necessary skills to use online services being offered, which will ultimately build trust and confidence between citizens and the online service provider,” said Ezzo.
“This can only be achieved through concerted efforts from stakeholders in the public and private sectors to support national digital literacy programmes.”
UAE leads Gulf in e-governance