e-Government on a fast track in the Middle East..

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With the emphasis on good governance, elimination of bureaucracy and transparency becoming the order of the day, e-Government has become important and considerably providing a level-playing field for the practitioners. Currently, the Middle East has become a place of action where e-Government is being increasingly adopted with the region having an annual growth rate of 25-30%. Of late, conferences on e-Government were held in the Middle Eastern countries with more to be held in future.

Dubai and Qatar have already been acknowledged as leaders in e-Government in the region. According to a study on ‘Dubai Knowledge Economy 2003-2004’, Dubai’s online availability of basic public services is at 76.4% as against Finland’s 76%, which ranks third in Europe. Not only this, Dubai eGovernment, which launched the first of its kind e-Government portal in the Arab world in 2001, after providing online services is poised to move further and extend its services through channels like mDubai that makes use of mobile devices to reach customers. By launching the Middle East’s first solution centre, the Kingdom of Bahrain became the first government in the region to adopt open standards for its e-Government initiatives. Qatar has reported that online transactions continue to grow in the country by 30% per month. UAE Ministry of Finance and Industry recently launched its web portal, and announced the starting of e-Immigration services to advance e-Government there. Other Middle Eastern countries such as Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Oman are in the throes of implementing e-Government in their respective countries. Kuwait is contemplating a tie up with Singapore to establish e-Government there.

Keeping in view the growing importance of the Middle East emerging as a vital player in the furtherance of e-Government, egov has started a specific page in the News Review section on the Middle East beginning this month hoping to add more in the coming months. Besides, we also intend to publish more e-Government initiatives (to begin with, the publication of Bahrain eVisa article in this issue) taking place every now and then in the Middle Eastern countries with a firm and profound hope that more and more e-Government practitioners would be engaged by the day. egov has repositioned itself and will act as a bridge between Asia and the Middle East. The effort would be to publish more Papers/Articles from the Middle East, while at the same time not ignoring other countries the worldover. In the egov Asia 2006 being held in Thailand from April 25-28, we extend our invitation to more practitioners from the Middle East in addition to other countries. It is about time that the knowledge sharing among e-Government practitioners is increased rather soon, or else the very objective of implementing e-Government in the region would remain no more than a mirage.

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