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Governance gets on the mobile bandwagon

Dubai: The proliferation of smart mobile devices has made it essential for governments to offer people ways to access services from home or on the go.

The UAE has one of the largest smartphone and mobile penetration rates in the world.

Internet penetration rate in the UAE is much smaller when compared to the mobile penetration rate, Jebin George, senior research analyst at International Data Corporation (IDC), told Gulf News.

“Mobile services are more reachable as citizens carry smartphones with them all the time compared to laptops. It is growing very fast,” Yousuf Al Duwailah, Director of e-Government Solutions at International Turnkey solutions (ITS), said.

On whether different government apps will confuse consumers, Al Duwailah said there should be only one master app linking different government services that will be convenient and efficient.

“I hope the consolidation happen within three years. Currently, there is no standardisation in developing apps as they are developed on different platforms. Security is also a key issue,” he added.

According to the United Nations 2012 Global E-Government Survey, the UAE’s world e-government development ranking rose from 49 in 2010 to 28 in 2012.

Increased focus on smart governance is also expected to positively impact information technology spending in the UAE this year. Dubai is leading the charge and embracing mobile platforms in a big way.

“Government IT spending is set to grow 12.9 per cent to $808 million this year compared with $716 million in 2013,” George said. IT services will take the biggest chunk of government spending, but the main driver will be the mobile platform.

“Most government services are online and they are now deploying them on mobile phones,” George said.

About 38 per cent of all government services in Dubai can be accessed digitally. The focus is now on bringing the rest of the services to mobile phones.

In May, His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, announced the launch of the Middle East’s first mGovernment service. This service will be accessible across all government departments by 2015.

“Fantastic progress has been made on the Smart Government Initiative by all government departments,” Mahmoud Musbah, vice-president of public services solution division at Omnix International, said.

Omnix is working with Statistics Centre − Abu Dhabi (SCAD) to develop mobile applications. it is collecting data from 65 government agencies and deploying it on to one platform.

The first phase is complete and SCAD services on the mobile platform are expected to go live by November.

Omnix has already developed mobile phone solutions for the Emirates Identity Authority (Eida).

“There has been an unprecedented momentum created across all government levels in the UAE to support this [mGovernment] vision. This has not only affected the UAE but also governments across the region, and they are evaluating the process of offering their e-services on mobile phones,” Al Duwailah said.

“It is encouraging that so many governments within the GCC are taking great strides in order to meet the changing needs of their citizens. Specifically we have witnessed investment in e-government services double year-on-year in the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait as these countries move towards fully connected services. Becoming a ‘smart government’ involves the automation of all government processes and the technological development of infrastructure to serve all classes of citizens directly and more effectively,” he said.