News Review
March 2006

News Review

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Middle East

Oman facilitates e-Application for students
For the first time, the Sultanate of Oman has introduced e-Governance that would facilitate students to apply for up to 20 programmes from April 1 until June 1 this year by submitting a single electronic application from any computer connected to the Internet. The Ministry of Higher Education has set up the Higher Education Admission Centre (HEAC) to process all admissions using a new centralised computerised system.

The HEAC would notify the students through the schools about the nearest local centre for submitting the applications thus saving them from unnecessary long distance travel or undue expenditure. The HEAC would also provide a student guidebook providing all the details about the new system.

Kuwait, Singapore for e-Governance tie-up
Sheikh Ahmad Abdullah Al Ahmed Al Jaber Al Sabah, Kuwaits's Minister of Communications and Health announced that Kuwait is considering Singapore's cooperation to establish e-Governance in the oil-rich Emirate. Al Sabah disclosed this during the inauguration of the Info-Connect 2006 exhibition at Kuwait International Fair Grounds in Mishref. The exhibition took place from February 6 to 12 in which 41 companies participated including those from China and Korea. Al Sabah remarked, “The institutions in Kuwait are upgrading their technological capabilities and our nation will soon be on par with some of the technologically advanced countries.”
ictQATAR up with first e-Education project for schools
The first e-Education project has been launched by Qatar's Supreme Council of Information and Communication Technology (ictQATAR) in eight Independent Schools under the e-Education initiative, the School Knowledge-Net (K-Net) project. The initiative mandates the implementation of learning management systems for enhancing teaching and learning process.

Under the K-Net project, a teacher-training programme was conducted from January 29 to February 8. The focus of the project is on promoting the development of educational content, portals, applications and knowledge bases in addition to facilitating the integration of ICT tools into education by enhancing teaching activities and improving the learning experience, and facilitating the administration's intervention.

The eight schools under the K-Net project include Al-Resalah Independent Secondary School for Girls, the Doha Independent Secondary School for Boys, the Amna Bint Wahab Independent Secondary School, the Al-Wakra Independent Secondary School, the Al-Wakra Preparatory Independent School for Girls, the Omar Bin Al-Khattab Preparatory Independent School for Boys, the Al-Wajba Preparatory Independent School for Girls, and the Muaither Preparatory Independent School for Girls.

DTCM, Dubai launches e-Diploma course
A diploma course on Customer and Employee Values was recently launched by the Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM) and Dubai e-Government. Beginning from February 11, the course would be held in three stages in which the employees are required to pass examinations at every stage before proceeding further.

Amounts doing 'vanishing' act from e-Dirham cards

'Vanishing' amounts from e-Dirham (Electronic Dirham) cards issued by the bank operating within the Department of Naturalisation and Residency (DNR) in Abu Dhabi has raised alarm amid allegations of fraudulent practices flying thick and fast. This has undoubtedly put the DNR in quandary after residents complained that their 'loaded' e-Cards reportedly turned dud after being submitted at some counters.

Gulf daily Khaleej Times quoted the victim Yeshu Babu, a private company employee, as saying: “I had to pay AED300 (US$81.68) twice for my son's visa but the first e-card showed zero amount when swiped. I submitted my documents at counter number nine and the staff took all my papers along with the e-card. After examining my documents, he swiped the card and told me there is no money. I showed him the receipt but he swiped again and insisted that there is no cash. I went to an officer, but they ignored my complaint. I had no choice but to buy another e-card, and luckily, it worked the second time.”

Also, the bank employees contend that such incidents are rampant these days. However, the DNR officials refuse to acknowledge such incidents and state that the department was capable of detecting any thefts occurring in e-Dirham cards and returning the rights of people. A DNR official said, “The Department of Naturalisation and Residency provides the e-Dirham cards through a bank at our premises, serving the public, though the responsibility of these cards falls on the Ministry of Finance and Industry which is the source of these cards. The cards should be obtained from the bank and the machines that dispense them. People receive a receipt for the amount paid to buy the cards. So, when the e-Dirham card is presented with the transaction and has no credit, then the person has the right to claim from the Ministry of Finance and Industry.”

The content of the courses has been specially designed to enhance inter-departmental communication and cultivate values of respect, employees focus, innovation and commitment to quality among the DTCM employees, and comprise organisation ethics, office protocol, teamwork fundamentals, team communication, resolving conflict in teams, decision-making in teams, customer service, communication with seniors.

Besides topics like Travel and Tourism products and services, the role of marketing and type of market and introduction to marketing mix of the tourism industry would be covered under the e-learning course.

e-Gates system at Abu Dhabi International Airport

The e-Gates system at Abu Dhabi International Airport was recently inaugurated by Lt. General Sheikh Saif bin Zayed Al Nahyan, UAE Minister of Interior. The e-Gates system, which is a collaborative effort of the Ministry of Interior and the Civil Aviation Authority, was inaugurated in the presence of Sheikh Ahmed bin Saif Al Nahyan, Chairman of Civil Aviation Department, and other senior Ministry of Interior officials. Some 40 e-Gates are to be installed at all the airports in the UAE in the coming months.

With its installation, the highly sophisticated e-Gates system would now enable smooth passage of travellers through airports, which is expected to take only five seconds. Under this system, travellers would now be able to use e-cards bearing their fingerprints while passing through e-Gates thus doing away with the process of passport checking and stamping. Valid for two years, e-Gate cards can be obtained from airports and Naturalisation Departments countrywide against a fee of AED200 (US$54.45).

Qatar to host symposium on e-Government challenges
The Qatar e-Government would be hosting a symposium titled “e-Government challenges” on April 14 to discuss major issues and challenges facing the implementation of e-Government in the region. The symposium include topics such as the infrastructure to establish e-Governments, a case study of the Qatari e-Government, laws covering e-Governments, cooperation between e-Governments, e-payment gateway, challenges confronting e-Governments, Post as a mode of enhancing services and purchases and the role of communication in further developing e-Government. Experts from local banks, other leading companies and corporations and international organisations, besides representatives from Arab e-Governments are expected to participate.

Dr. Ahmad Hamed Al Mohanadi, Director of e-Government, said, “The major challenge faced in the implementation of e-Government in Qatar was to change the mindset of people in the process of migrating from the conventional system to the electronic one. Despite the obstacles, Qatar had gone a long way in implementing e-Government in the functioning of various ministries and government departments. In the number of transactions, Qatar comes among the nine countries leading in implementation of e-Government with some 4.5 million person having visited the e-Government website and more than 4,450 transactions made through the facility only in February. It has been growing at a rate of 15.6 per cent every month. There is a plan to expand the electronic services for issuance of exit permits after its successful implementation in the issuance and renewal of visas, residence permits, health cards etc.”

In 2005, gets 167% more visitors

The Government of Dubai recently announced that its e-Government portal has registered a record 167% increase in the user traffic in 2005. The number of visitors increased by 115,777 from 69,286 in January 2005 to touch 185,063 visitors in December 2005. Significantly, the percentage of international visitors increased by more than three times from 13.28% in March 2005 to 47.74% in December 2005. The number of new visitors accessing the portal more than doubled during the year, from 18,959 in January to 48,365 in December 2005 while repeat visits increased three-fold from 4,562 in the first month of the year to 12,893 by December end. There was also a steady increase in the average number of visitors accessing its online services throughout the year. From a low average of 2,235 daily visitors in January 2005, the number more than doubled to 5,969 by the end of the year but rose three-fold in September, reaching the highest average of 6,538 visitors per day. 

Salem Al Shair, eServices Director, Dubai eGovernment, said, “The marked increase in number of people adopting eServices through the portal is an indication the ever reducing gap between state-of-the-art infrastructure, quality of eServices and the expectations of the people using the services.”

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