Electronic government (E-Government), also commonly known as connected government, online government or digital government refers to the employment of technology, ad particularly internet-based applications by the government for the purposes of enhancing access and delivery of information and government services to its citizens, employees, businesses, other governments, and other agencies. This also includes the transmission of information from these sources to the government. This model provides benefits such as building better relationships between these entities and the government, enhancing interaction, and improving core business operations. The government benefits by being able to deliver information and services faster and cheaply simultaneously to a large array of interested parties (Layne and Lee 123).
- Background Information
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has been a keen investor and adopter of Information Communication Technology (ICT), both in the public and private sectors in recent times. It has come to enjoy the benefits of the role ICT can play in economic diversification and empowerment. In 2010, the UAE was ranked 8th globally in Cisco’s broadband quality survey, ranking broadband quality and rate of penetration (Abbas).In accordance with this, the e-Government program was recognized among the seven major focus areas in the UAE government strategy of 2011-2013. This was in line with the achievement of the UAE Vision 2021, which was launched by HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, who was the reigning Vice President Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai. The e-Government strategy of the UAE involves availing more government services online. Its flagship project, adopted in the year 2011, was the enabling of payments for government services. Since then, the government has launched an official portal to act as a central point for all government-provided services. The services have been diversified to include provision of employment opportunities in the public sector, delivery of education certificates by the Ministry of Education, Pension fund and retirement benefits calculation, and also business registration and licensing services, which are now available through a mobile application (“Smart Phone App for Business Registration and Licensing Unveiled in Dubai”).
The United States of America (USA) on the other hand has become more and more linked with the adoption of e-Government since the election of current president Barack Obama. One of his first directives since taking up office was to issue a memo to the heads of government agencies to make government “transparent, participatoryand collaborative” (“Transparency and Open Government | The White House”). In 2009, the US Congress commissioned the development of a plan to ensure that every citizen is able to access the internet, hence enabling the reception and enjoyment of government online services. This was the inception of the National Broadband Plan, which recognizes the importance of broadband as a tool for aiding the nation to achieve its objectives of improving the education system, public safety, energy efficiency, and overall to enhance the delivery of public services. Since then, the government has embarked on a number of initiatives to increase transparency throughout the various levels of government. These have included making government data available to the public, the establishment of a National Contact Center to provide information about government services, and the enhancement of these platforms to enable accessibility of these services from the convenience of a mobile phone.
One of the similarities that are evident in the e-government adoption strategy of the two countries is their recognition of the role of e-Government plays, hence their early adoption of e-Government strategies. The United States was among one the first countries to advocate for the adoption of e-Government, through the enactment of the E-Government Act of 2002. The UAE on the other hand was among the first to implement a federal e-Government program, known as the e–Dirham. This was implemented in 2001 to enable the easier collection of fees for various government services. By 2006, UAE launched its first e-government portal(Al-Khouri 134). These respective governments, therefore, are aware of the potential benefits of e-Government and are seen to be taking actionable steps towards its achievement.
The governments of the UAE and the USA have also made considerable investments in ICT to enable access to e-Government services. The UAE in particular is considered to be among the highest investing governments in the adoption of ICT in the public sector. Its government has also heavily invested in promoting its e-Government services to the citizens. The country has also invested heavily in world-class information and communication technology equipment and infrastructure to propel it to be among the world leaders in this field. Citizens are also encouraged to utilize the e-services provided by the government and even rewarded (Mathews 22). The USA has also strived to create an enabling environment for its citizens to access its government services online. The National Broadband Plan was adopted to meet this need and ensure every citizen has access to the internet.
This has been reflected in the USA’s 78.3% internet penetration rate as of December 31st, 2011 (“North America Internet Usage Stats, Facebook and Population Statistics”).
One of the notable differences in the implementation of e-Government in the UAE and the USA is the level of marketing and awareness raised towards these ventures. Marketing is important in informing the citizens of the information and services that they can access online. UAE is a prime example of how promotion and marketing contribute to a successful e-Government system. The UAE government has employed creative community outreach programs to help spread the adoption of government e-services. This has also included empowerment programs to ensure that citizens have internet access. One such program is the partnership with technology providers to subsidize the prices of computers and software (Mathews 22). In the case of the USA, such marketing has not been conducted yet and inconsistent focus on e-Government improvement has produced a difference in adoption in these two countries.
- Strengths and Weaknesses
- The United States of America
One of the major strengths of the USA’s e-government strategy is the level of engagement with citizens that are taking place currently. The USA has tapped into social media to interact on a more personal level with its citizens. This has enabled more awareness of its government initiatives to the users of social media, who are increasing on a daily basis. One of the most popular examples of government social media applications is the New York Mayor’s office, which provides citizens with regularly updated information across a wide range of social medial platforms.
The government has also empowered its citizens by providing access to government data, therefore increasing transparency of government initiatives. This open government initiative is meant to promote access to government data for the benefit of the citizens. This is aimed at encouraging engagement with citizens, promoting freedom of information, and encouraging innovative use of the data in entrepreneurship to promote economic growth.
Despite these strong points, the USA‘s e-Government strategy has various weaknesses. One of these is the fact that it has been difficult for different levels of government and even agencies at the same level to co-operate towards a successful e-Government strategy. Nils and Veit are quoted as saying that although recommendations are in place for the common use of various standards in the USA e-Government strategy, they cannot be imposed by law and therefore are often ignored or not adopted altogether (Mathews 13). This causes larger challenges such as insufficient e-Government funding, which effectively slows down the process.
- The United Arab Emirates
The e-Government strategy in the UAE can be said to have been a success. One of the main contributing factors to this success is the adherence to international security standards. This ensures online security for the users and gains the citizens’ trust. Dubai has employed a successful model for ensuring international standards are adhered to if a government agency wishes to provide any kind of services through the internet. These agencies are required to comply with ISO 17799 standards, to ensure the information safety of the citizens utilizing the platform. Without trusting the virtual environment, citizens cannot participate in the e-Government process, and assuring them of their safety is the first step to a successful e-Government application (Hesson and Al-Mameed 227).
The UAE government has developed a model with verifiable goals to measure progress. The variables considered for measurement include a focus on citizens and effectiveness factors associated with the initiatives. Individual portfolio management is employed for each of these effectiveness factors (Al-Khouri 143). This model is demonstrated below:
Figure 1: UAE e-Government Model
Security measures are incorporated to develop and maintain trust and confidence. This is especially important for the National Identity Management Infrastructure, which employs the use of smart cards to all citizens to enable secure e-Government transactions. This model has ensured simplicity for citizens and has contributed to the success of this program.
One of the limiting factors to the adoption of an e-Government model is the costs incurred. A drawback of this is that citizens may be paying for the cost but not receiving the full benefits of the service, for example, if they do not have internet access. The implementation of this without a focus on the citizens and their needs is also futile.
A successful e-Government model is a requirement for governments to be more effective in this digital age. The benefits from this strategy are numerous, but only if they are implemented with the citizens as the focus. Governments should consider the implementation of these ventures in light of the benefits they provide to citizens, rather than to governments. Though there are a few issues to be ironed out, the governments that form the focus of this comparison, namely the UAE and the USA, have taken massive positive steps towards the achievement of government objectives while maximizing citizens’ satisfaction from the use of e-Government. If citizen-centric models are applied with a reasonable level of security, there is no limit to the benefits to be enjoyed from e-Government.
“North America Internet Usage Stats, Facebook and Population Statistics.”Web. 11 Mar. 2014.
“Smart Phone App for Business Registration and Licensing Unveiled in Dubai.” 2 June 2013. Web. 11 Mar. 2014.
Al-Khouri, Ali M. “eGovernment Strategies the Case of the United Arab Emirates (UAE).” European Journal of ePractice 17 (2012): 126-150.Print.
Hesson, Mihyar, and Hayder Al-Ameed.”The online security evaluation process for new e-services.” Business Process Management Journal 13.2 (2007): 223-246.
Layne, Karen, and Jungwoo Lee.“Developing Fully Functional E-Government: A Four-Stage Model.”Government information quarterly 18.2 (2001): 122–136. Print.
Mathews, Kim. “E-Government in the United States: Steps to Advance its Success”.2010.Print.