The first meeting of the GfD Initiative’s Regional Working Group II on E-government and Administrative Simplification took place in Dubai, UAE on 12 – 13 September 2005.
The meeting was chaired by Mr. Nabil Ali Al Yousuf, Deputy Director General, The Executive Office, and co-chaired by Dr. Kuk-Hwan Jeong, Policy Advisor to the Ministry of Government Administration and Home Affairs (MOGAHA), Korea, and Mr. Vincenzo Schioppa, Deputy Permanent Representative of the Permanent Delegation of Italy to the OECD.
Ministers and high-level representatives from Abu Dhabi, Algeria, Bahrain, Dubai, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon. Morocco, Sudan, Syria and Tunisia attended the meeting. In addition, policy experts from 7 OECD countries (France, Italy, Korea, United States, The Netherlands, Ireland and Sweden), the OECD Secretariat, the UNDP, ARADO and the Dubai School of Government were present.
The chairs demonstrated strong commitment to achieve the meeting objectives including the identification of key priorities and challenges for Arab countries on e-government and administrative simplification, and the definition of an agreed work plan for the next steps. The Arab participants presented their national approach and experience in implementing e-government and administrative simplification and actively engaged in initial policy discussion with the international experts.
Key Outcomes of the meeting include the:
- Scheduling and launching of the questionnaire for the completion of the stock-taking phase in view of the preparation of country actions plan proposals for the 2nd working group meeting
- Identification of 4 action groups to progress on a results-oriented thematic agenda and the nomination of corresponding Arab country facilitators and action group members
- Scheduling of five high-level seminars on key components of e-government and administrative simplification to be held in 2005 – 2006
- Promotion of an online knowledge exchange forum organised by the Dubai School of Government with the support of ARADO
- Scheduling of the 2nd meeting of the working group for February 2005 in Dubai
The country presentations showed that Arab countries are facing a number of common challenges related to e-government implementation, ranging from lack of leadership and co-ordination across government to insufficient focus on user demand of e-government. The main areas where reform-oriented action is needed are briefly indicated below:
- Prioritisation: identifying and prioritising objectives on the e-government agenda (e.g. focus on building infrastructure or developing services?).
- Vision: high level vision for e-government exists but needs to be better communicated across government.
- Leadership: e-government leaders should be better identified and leadership better communicated and articulated at each level of administration (political, managerial, operational/technical) – Also the focus should be on the role of e-government leaders in reducing resistance to change.
- Relations with stakeholders: focusing on the value proposition for citizens when establishing services; defining approaches and strategies to market e-government to citizens and business; setting up framework for understanding demand and assessing the benefit to users; managing language diversity (official language and dialect) when dealing with service users.
- Co-ordination: improving co-ordination mechanisms and frameworks to ensure that e-government is uniformly developed across the country and between sectors, and agency integrate services.
- Public-private partnerships: identifying the main challenge and obstacles in partnering with the private sector; defining the requirements and mechanisms to engage in partnerships with the private sector.
- Back office management: ensuring that IT infrastructures and systems are developed and properly maintained.
- Legislation and regulations: creating the necessary legislative and regulatory framework for e-government (e.g. laws on the right of access and use of public information).
- Budget arrangements: ensuring the financial resources needed to implement e-government.
- Evaluation (ex post): understanding and evaluating the impact of e-government on administrative development.
- Indicators: building solid and agreed indicators of e-government advancement in the region building on existing country frameworks.
- Digital Divide: improving availability (i.e. building up infrastructure) and accessibility to Internet and other ICTs (i.e. enhancing IT education and skills for citizens).
- Capacity building: focus on the development of human capital and change management strategies; better integrate ICT people with decision makers in charge of reforms – bring them together and share knowledge.
The country presentations also showed that administrative simplification is a shared objective among Arab countries and a horizontal issue closely linked to transparency, accessibility, improvement of services for business and citizens, which are at the core of modernization of public administration. In order to achieve its goals, a number of common needs have been identified, in terms of strategies and political commitment, coordination among institutions, involvement of stakeholders and capacity building. They will be discussed in particular in the framework of the activities of the Action Group 2.