The Dubai E-Government Project

The Dubai E-Government Project

J. Piecowye (Zayed University Media Center, UAE)
Copyright: © 2007 |Pages: 6
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59140-789-8.ch062
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Abstract

Ranked 26th worldwide and second in the Middle East for its e-government initiative, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Dubai, in particular, is an excellent example of how e-government might be developed, implemented and advanced as a customer service-based concept (West, 2005). The e-government project that continues to evolve in Dubai can be credited almost exclusively to the Emirate’s leadership as embodied in Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai, his vision and sheer tenacity to make grand ideas a reality. It is not our intention in this article to suggest that the Dubai e-government project is without challenges and room for improvement. It is our intention, though, to present the Dubai case study as an evolving example of e-government from which to learn. While the development and implementation of the e-government project is advancing in Dubai at a frenetic pace, the rollout of the concept to the public and the general acceptance and inclusion of the public in the larger governance process is still, to a large extent, a masterful work in progress. The general global assessment of e-government delivery undertaken by Darrell West (2005) makes it very clear that progress is being witnessed worldwide when it comes to the implementation of e-government ideals. The greatest challenge to e-government, according to West (2005), is at times its very slow pace, its uneven nature and failure to adapt to changing conditions within which it exists. Dubai, in some instances to a lesser degree and others to a greater degree, is experiencing the same problems being experienced globally by those engaged in implementing e-government. Fortunately, e-government performance in Dubai is improving rapidly, as budget, bureaucracy and institutional forces are pushed towards compliance. But what continues to be fundamentally lacking from Dubai’s e-government project is a means of promoting and facilitating authentic e-governance where society as a whole has a means of engaging in meaningful interaction as a participant in the process of governance and not simply the service side of the state. Dubai is one of seven Emirates that constitute the UAE federation. The country’s constitution identifies it as an Arab state, with Islam as its religion and Arabic as its official language. The UAE is a member of the Arab League and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), a regional group that joins the Gulf states of Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, UAE and Oman. In general, GCC countries share many political, economic and social characteristics, including high reliance on an imported work force. In the last decade, Dubai and the UAE have undergone phenomenal change. Fifty years ago, the country had little to no electricity, plumbing or simple infrastructure, such as surfaced roads and bridges. In 1950, there was no hospital and but a single school in Dubai. Dubai was a city comprised of barasti huts (housing made from palm fencing) and clay buildings lining sand streets. As late as the 1970s, according to Timothy Walters (unpublished), the literacy rate of the UAE hovered around 20%, with only a fraction of adults having any formal education. Today, the landscape of Dubai has been radically transformed. Dubai is experiencing a level of prosperity never before seen. Physically, the city has been morphed from a sleepy regional trading post to the premier economic and tourist hub of the Middle East. The transformation of Dubai is marked by its rapid installation of a modern infrastructure, the embracing of technology and both the vision and resources to rapidly roll out change to the general population. In 1999, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum championed the idea of launching a visionary e-government project to set the standard for such endeavours in the Middle East. More recently, in 2005, the idea of a government connecting to at least a large segment of its constituents is quickly becoming a reality. This article will review why we believe Dubai might be considered an excellent e-government case study in the implementation of e-government as a customer-service concept. This article will also suggest that one of the greatest challenges of any e-government project is to include governance in the equation. This examination is primarily based on a synthesis of government publications available through the e-government portal www.dubai.ae, where examples of the e-government exercise are available, with other accounts of the Dubai e-government project.

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