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i-Gov plays important role in shaping Qatar's future: Hassan Jassim Al-Sayed

Date: Dec 06, 2011
Category: News
Source: Hukoomi

The Integrated e-Government program, also known as i-Gov, calls for a streamlined government that takes advantage of what technology has to offer and transforms it into real improvements in day-to-day operations. For the plan to be successful, it must receive support and participation from both government entities and members of the public.

Hassan Jassim Al-Sayed is the assistant secretary general of ICT government program at ictQATAR. He is one of the chief government officials responsible for developing, planning and implementing this ambitious plan, which, when fully realized, would play an important role in ushering Qatar into a knowledge-based economy.

Al-Sayed recently sat down with Hukoomi to discuss details about the i-Gov program.

Q: What are the goals of i-Gov?

The strategy is built on three main objectives. One is improving the services to constituents, which are government agencies, businesses and citizens. The second is around improving the internal efficiency of government by utilizing resources and technology as an enabling tool. The third objective is to improve the transparency of government. Basically, everyone has a right to get good services and get proper services; there is no favoritism for anyone or any entity.

Q: What are some of the accomplishments of i-Gov so far?

We have accomplished many of the initiatives and are implementing many others. Hukoomi was a major milestone, through which we have revamped the government portal so it can offer much richer content and many additional services. The objective of Hukoomi was to have a single government interface that makes it easy for anyone to get to any government services. In addition, we have added many other features, such as social media, surveys and more.

We have put out many of the IT policies, guidelines and standards that can allow ministries to do their jobs more efficiently.

In terms of services, we’ve done work with Customs, and have launched phase one of the Customs Clearance Single Window, which automates almost 70% of the agency’s internal processes. It also allows the public to deal with their shipments anytime anywhere over the Internet.

 Currently we have another single window we’re building for businesses, particularly for entrepreneurs who are opening a business or are looking for information to start one. This is a single window that offers a 360-degree view of all the information related to doing business in Qatar.

Q: You mentioned one of the goals of i-Gov is to improve efficiency within government through the use of technology. What are the challenges of making this change?

I think the challenges are not technology based. Most of the challenges are in the change of management, through which we introduce new ways of doing business either by replacing the paperwork with something more system based or by introducing new processes altogether. Most of the challenges have to do with people adopting these changes.

Q: How has the response been to these changes so far?

Government ministries and agencies have been very responsive so far. The response is good because we all believe that this is a national program, and we’re all in support of having Qatar become a leader in the area of e-government.

Q: How important is this cooperation between government entities in achieving Qatar’s national goals?

Now that we have the Qatar National Vision 2030, we have to be aligned with the pace of the country as it moves toward that vision. With the boost of the economy here in Qatar, the government should also be aligned in order to catch up with these developments. It is very important that we adapt to this and be innovative, so that government can be flexible in order to be receptive to these changes. After all, we are a part of the bigger world.

Q: Why is e-government itself important, besides the fact that we need to catch up with the rest of the world?

The public is expecting more from the government. The times have changed. Before, it may have been good enough for people to come to a counter and wait in the queue, for example, or wait a few weeks to open a company. Now, with the pace that the world is going, and with the busy lives that people lead, it’s important that the government continues to offer a level of service that keeps up with the people’s expectations. Government has to continue improving its service delivery channels and its internal processes in order to be ready for such demand in the future.

Q: How do you decide what services or features to build next?

We have built our master plan based on two dimensions: what are the priorities of the government? And how easy is it to deploy? There are services that cannot be deployed easily due to legislation or time issues. The most important, plus the easiest to deploy – this is priority one for us. This is how we build our master plan and our strategy till 2015. Periodically, we do surveys and polls to find out what services people are expecting and to hear their views on existing services. We believe that the public can help us shape our master plan because at the end of the day, they are the end users of these services.

Q: What if the public’s expectation differs from what government is ready to provide?

The master plan sets the agenda for the next five years, but we are open to start any other project based on the expectations and priorities of the public. These views are very important for us to know we are going in the right direction. We live in a dynamic world and anything can happen between now and the next five years. Qatar is hosting the 2022 World Cup. This is news that we have to be ready for – an example of something we’ll be hearing a lot about, and something with which we can align services, such as sport services. So although this master plan sets the agenda, we’re still open to any new initiatives in between.  

Q: What advice would you give to service providers who wish to participate in i-Gov?

First of all, we have to believe in improving the services to our constituents. Number two, we have to believe that technology can ease our roles. Once an agency achieves this, it can focus on its core business, whether that’s education, security or something else. This is how we can work toward offering a better e-government in the country. E-government is not the role of a single entity. It is a collaborative work in which we all as government should work together toward achieving success.