A reliable government is a main factor in achieving the happiness of citizens. Citizens will go along with policies even if they disagree if the leadership has a vision and is transparent, said Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University
Addressing a plenary session on ‘Citizen Happiness: The Formula for Government Success,’ at Government Summit, Sachs said the success of the UAE, which is ranked first in the Arab world and 14th globally in the World Happiness Report, is a “great achievement.”
While governments play a vital role in promoting happiness, Sachs believes that active citizenship is critical to achieving happiness.
“Happiness can be achieved by being a good citizen, by participating, by actively trying to solve the great problems of today,” he said.
The World Happiness Report is an interdisciplinary study that catalogs the state of nation’s economy, the psychology of its citizens, and national statistics among other factors.
He, however, said that after a certain income level, other factors become more important to the wellbeing of people including social support from friends and family, physical and mental health, personal freedom and values.
Sachs gave the example of the US, which ranks 17th in the world in terms happiness, despite significant gains in per capita income over the last 40 years.
“I live in the richest country in the world but we are not happy,” said Sachs.
In a separate session, Mohammed Nasser Al-Ghanim, director general of the UAE Telecommunications Regulatory Authority, said collaboration between government entities and integration of various services through efficient infrastructure are key to the successful transition toward a smart government.
“The customer is at the core of the smart government. The priority in the shift toward a smart government is to create the infrastructure that enables customers to meet their service requirements swiftly and smoothly using their mobile phones,” he added.
Jeongwan Yoon, executive director at the National Information Agency — South Korea, said smart government infrastructure is a priority for South Korea.
He said the country is investing $1.8 billion this year on increasing bandwidth and up to $6.7 billion on improving mobile services in both private and public sector.
Vincent Wong, CEO at IDA-International — Singapore, said smart government is the creation of happiness in citizens, and this cannot be achieved if there is mismatch of expectations.
He said smart government must take into consideration that people who are not tech-savvy exist in the society.
Therefore, measures such as training and support for such groups must be made available to ensure the success of the smart government initiative.
More importantly, smart government cannot be achieved without achieving government efficiency, he added.
While meeting 100 outstanding students on the sidelines of the summit, Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, deputy prime minister and minister of Presidential Affairs, has affirmed that, “The UAE supports all outstanding citizens and supports their academic and creative projects both within the country and abroad. Earlier, he launched the official on-line portal for benefits and services provided to citizens, emirati.gov.ae, in two versions for the web and mobile phones, in addition to the smartphone app, Emirati.”
The second annual government summit concluded with the closing remarks from Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, vice-president and prime minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.