September 2006

News Review – Middle East

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Anti e-Voting campaign in Bahrain

Al Wefaq National Islamic Society, Bahrain’s biggest political society, has launched a campaign against e-Voting in the municipal and parliamentary elections to be held later in 2006. Khalil Almarzooq, Al Wefaq information technology expert, debunked e-Voting terming it as unsafe as compared to the traditional ballot box method. e-Voting portends glaring dangers that includes hacking, fraud and or a total breakdown of the system on polling day. Almarzooq contended, “System failure is a huge risk factor in this. The whole voting procedure is one day and what if on that day the whole system fails, or even part of it. We may never know how many votes were originally cast. These are problems that shouldn’t be taken lightly.” Al Wefaq society would organise a conference with other political societies shortly to discuss the issue.

Syria to execute e-Government services project

Syrian government recently signed two Memorandum of Understandings (MoUs) aimed at establishing a US$2mn integrated city for Internet in Damascus, and executing the e-Government services project. Amr Salem, Syrian Minister of Communications and Technology, and Khalifa Bakhit al-Flasi, Chairman of the United Arab Emirates Company for investment Al-Kawnia, signed the MoUs. The Internet City would be set up by IDF Greece Company that specialises in designing projects of Internet cities. According to the Greek experts, Syria possesses wide prospects for developing industry of data technology.

e-Government applications showcased in Oman

A seminar organised at Muscat recently by Bahwan CyberTek along with Adobe Systems and BSEEN International, highlighted the importance and benefits of e-Forms and e-Content management in e-Governance. The seminar was primarily organised to showcase the e-Government applications and services provided by Adobe Systems and BSEEN. Oman has significantly chalked out its Digital Strategy that aims to interlink all government sectors and services through a unified e-System.

Alfie Taylor, Government Practice Director of Adobe Systems Europe Limited, introduced ‘Adobe Engagement Platform in e-Government’. Azita Nader, Chairman, BSEEN International, and Bill Kokas from BSEEN, dwelt upon e-Tracking, e-Meeting and disaster recovery. Bahwan CyberTek, a leading IT company in Oman, offers software products, consulting services, system integration, outsourced application development, migration and customisation, training, professional services (IT Outsourcing solutions) and end-to-end networking solutions.

UAE e-Contracts systems to solve salary disputes

Dr. Ali Bin Abdulla Al Ka’abi, UAE Minister of Labour, has announced that the UAE Labour Ministry would enter into bilateral agreements with major labour exporting countries aimed at introducing an e-Contract system to solve salary disputes. The agreements would facilitate the implementation of e-Contract system for workers to be completed, fingerprinted and signed before the worker’s arrival in the UAE. Al Ka’abi’s move would make recruitment agencies redundant, which he termed as ‘corrupt’ and ‘mafia-like’. The Philippine consulate has welcomed Al Ka’abi’s decision saying that the move would certainly improve the condition of workers.

Royal Jordanian adopts e-Ticketing system

Jordan’s state-owned national carrier Royal Jordanian (RJ) has adopted e-Ticketing system and has begun issuing e-Tickets instead of paper tickets as mandated by the International air Transport Association (IATA). Hussein Dabbas, RJ Deputy Director General for Commercial Affairs and Services, said that the new system would enable RJ passengers to reserve their tickets and confirm their flights through the Internet. Accordingly, RJ would also be able to save US$5mn annually since an e-Ticket costs only US$1 as compared to US$10 for the paper ticket.

Iran considering National Internet set-up

Mohammad Soleimani, Iran’s Minister of Information and Communication Technology, announced it is determined to create the National Internet enabling domestic users to avail web services at far lower cost. The national network is expected to upgrade web security for Iranian users allaying concerns about emails’ privacy and other information related to data protection. Soleimani said, “The ministry aims to remove ambiguities related to private sector participation in ICT projects and tariff rate control. The National Internet would go mainstream late September, in a limited or widespread form, depending on financial resources.” ‘Dubai must overcome e-Gov challenges’A study undertaken recently by the National bank of Dubai (NBD) indicated that although Dubai remains a leader in the Middle East in terms of e-Government it needs to overcome several challenges to become fully e-Government enabled. These challenges include dealing with issues of security, accessibility, coordination and collaboration, and raising citizen awareness and confidence. Aimed to gauge the strategic impact of e-Government on business, particularly small businesses in the UAE, the NBD study involved 4,110 firms operating and registered in Dubai, that have used the e-Government features. The results were encouraging in some respects, the study said.

According to the NBD: “The results show that the strategic advancements of Dubai e-Government are helping firms to conduct more electronic business to government interactions and obtain significant improvements in performance through both revenue expansion and cost reduction. Dubai e-Government authorities should develop their system to result in shorter administrative turnaround times for administrative processes and enquiries.”

Currently, in Dubai about 1,600 government services, out of a total of 1,900 offered by 23 government departments, are provided online. By 2007, Dubai e-government is targeting increased uptake of e-Government services among users, aiming to have up to 50 per cent of all government service transactions carried online.

‘Dubai must overcome e-Gov challenges’

A study undertaken recently by the National bank of Dubai (NBD) indicated that although Dubai remains a leader in the Middle East in terms of e-Government it needs to overcome several challenges to become fully e-Government enabled. These challenges include dealing with issues of security, accessibility, coordination and collaboration, and raising citizen awareness and confidence. Aimed to gauge the strategic impact of e-Government on business, particularly small businesses in the

UAE, the NBD study involved 4,110 firms operating and registered in Dubai, that have used the e-Government features. The results were encouraging in some respects, the study said.

According to the NBD: “The results show that the strategic advancements of Dubai e-Government are helping firms to conduct more electronic business to government interactions and obtain significant improvements in performance through both revenue expansion and cost reduction. Dubai e-Government authorities should develop their system to result in shorter administrative turnaround times for administrative processes and enquiries.”

Currently, in Dubai about 1,600 government services, out of a total of 1,900 offered by 23 government departments, are provided online. By 2007, Dubai e-government is targeting increased uptake of e-Government services among users, aiming to have up to 50 per cent of all government service transactions carried online.

World’s biggest e-Statistics project in Dubai

The world’s biggest e-Statistics project is being planned by the Government of Dubai in an attempt to centralise the flow of information in the Dubai economy. Al Meheiri, Director of Dubai Municipality’s Data

Centre, informed that the project would provide comprehensive, unified and precise data at Dubai level upon its launch. Subscribers would also be able to access this system via the Internet. Currently, some 20 members have joined Dubai’s Central Data System’s statistics. The project would be launched by the Data Centre, which is coordinating with organisations such as Dubai Financial Market, Dubai International Stock Market, Dubai Airport Free Zone, Dubai Holding, Silicone Oasis and Dubai Shopping Festival Office to implement the project.

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