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Is e-government a bad idea?
Bahrain’s e-gov services are the most advanced in the region. But as other Arab states play catch up, some say this digital revolution makes life harder for the public, and that millions of dollars are wasted on expensive IT systems.
March 28, 2010 10:46 by kippreport
At first blush, it seems like launching e-government services is a win-win situation.
Proponents argue that connecting with citizens via the internet is more convenient for both parties, offers greater efficiencies and helps cut costs in the public sector.
Arab countries seem to agree, with more and more states launching e-government services. In December, executives of GCC e-government programs met in Oman to coordinate their various efforts, and in May, Bahrain will host its third annual e-government forum to showcase the latest technologies and software.
And for the first time ever, the Middle East will host the annual Cisco Networkers Conference, to be held in Bahrain. The event will assemble professionals from around the world to participate in education and training seminars for information and communications technology (ICT) professionals.
In many respects, Bahrain appears to be leading the way. The tiny Kingdom is indeed tech savvy when it comes to government services, clinching the top spot among regional governments in this year’s UN e-government Readiness Survey. Bahrain’s global ranking shot up 29 spaces, with the Kingdom securing 13th place worldwide and third place among Asian countries – topping even tech-savvy Japan. The UAE was second in the region, and placed 50th worldwide; Kuwait and Jordan rounded out the top four spots in the Arab world.
Advocates of e-government tout its potential to connect citizens quickly and directly to what their government has to offer – no lines, no waiting, always open. Cost savings are also a major enticement to go online: At the time of its inauguration, Bahrain’s e-government portal was expected to cut the tiny kingdom’s overheads by a whopping 90 percent.
“Bahrain is a small country and we do not have mass production, but we are talking of savings of 90 to 95 percent on overhead costs,” Mohammed al-Qaed reportedly told DPA, upon the launch of Bahrain’s e-government portal.
Streamlining communication, boosting speed, efficiency and convenience – these are the goals of expanded e-government. Advocates also point out the opportunities for citizens to play a greater role in public policy. Bahrain’s e-government portal offers a blog-style forum for public views, suggestions and requests – complete with personalized responses.
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