UAE to introduce government services access via smartphones

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The United Arab Emirates will begin introducing an “m-government” platform whereby the public can access governmental services via their smartphones.

The move marks a shift from the e-government era, during which services were only available via the internet, and aims to offer the public all governmental services via mobile apps and SMS services, around the clock and on the go.

The initiative was launched in May by Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashid al-Maktoum, the UAE’s prime minister and vice president and ruler of Dubai, who set a 24-month deadline for its launch.

During the GCC Government Social Media Summit earlier this week, Dubai’s Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) said it is working towards the deadline and expects no delay.

“I believe that we are ahead of our plans when it comes to the timeframe,” Hamad Obaid al-Mansouri, deputy director general of the information and e-government sector at the TRA, told Al Arabiya English on the sidelines of the summit on Monday.

Covering all the bases

According to al-Mansouri, the TRA has completed the planning phase for the expansion of governmental services and must now plan for the integration of semi-governmental and private sector services into the m-government platform.

“The guideline for governmental entities has been completed and approved... the authorities can use it to develop their systems and services and adapt them to smartphones,” al-Mansouri told Al Arabiya English.

The official stressed the UAE government’s active participation in social media, saying adapting to new technology and progressive means of communication is a vital activity.

Despite progress, the issue of government transparency needs tackling.

“The key point that needs to be discussed openly in the government is that data should be put up and made available by the government for society, the private sector and other government organizations.

[They should be able] to utilize [the information] to be able to produce meaningful apps and services that can benefit society,” Fadi Salem, director of governance and innovation at the Mohammad bin Rashid School of Government, told Al Arabiya English.

“Governments collect huge amounts of data, but they don’t share it, some of the data is actually very safe to share and it should be [made] public because it enables better decision making by society and the private sector and other government institutions,” Salem added.