Interview: Mohammed Ali Al Qaed

How are new mobile apps developed, and what savings do they generate for the government?

MOHAMMED ALI AL QAED: New mobile apps are developed based on user needs, which are identified from customer care measurements, focus groups and online questionnaires. We have also developed mobile services selection criteria that take the nature of mobile devices, the need for mobility, device penetration and other factors into account. With 10 new government mobile apps developed each year, an array of government services will be available at all times, with a customer service focus.

The eGovernment App Store currently offers 25 mobile apps, with recent statistics showing a rise in downloads in 2014, to almost 170,000. In 2014 the Traffic Services app was used by some 107,765 users, resulting in estimated cost savings of 95% per electronic transaction, while 106,567 users downloaded the Electricity and Water Authority (EWA) app, with an estimated 99% savings per transaction.

The savings made from transactions submitted through various channels for Traffic eServices was around BD110,000 ($291,500), while the EWA savings stood at BD1m ($2.65m). This has improved efficiency and service quality. At the governmental level, it reduces direct costs, such as printing, transportation and archiving – not to mention environmental benefits like lower fuel consumption and gas emissions, and conservation of paper. The government has been able to achieve an average of 74% cost savings overall.

What kinds of strategic partnerships does eGA pursue on a domestic and international level?

AL QAED: On the technology front, Bahrain will focus on ensuring that proper IT strategic planning is conducted across government departments. Additionally, the adoption of common technology is key in driving efficiency in a performance-based culture. The eGA has already taken on such initiatives through international partnerships – one of which is with the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, whereby Bahrain became the first country in the Arab region and fourth in the world to host the UN Public Service Forum outside New York since its launch ten years ago. Its other partnership is with Korea Trade Investment Promotion Agency (KOTRA), which serves to encourage Korean investments in the kingdom and vice versa. eGA continues to take part in international summits and explore cooperation and knowledge exchange with leading nations and institutions in the sector. Within the framework of Bahrain’s Economic Vision 2030, the scope of ICT initiatives creates opportunities for economic, social and international cooperation, such as the three-year EU-GCC Science and Technology International Cooperation Network project.

In what areas is cooperation between the public and private sectors having the greatest impact?

AL QAED: eGA has built a strong relationship with the public and private sectors in the ICT field, which in turn has helped create and expand business opportunities, offering services to simplify implementation and increase the ease of doing business.

Bahrain was ranked first in economic freedom in MENA in 2013, as well in the top 10 in the world for eservice delivery in the “UN E-Government Survey 2014”. Continuing to provide mobile apps, higher-quality call centres and payment services, greater investment in telecoms, and, most importantly, training will ensure that quality is maintained in this rapidly developing field.

Public-private partnerships (PPPs) are the cornerstone of the vision of the National eGovernment Strategy 2016, as PPPs deliver innovative initiatives in efficient ways, promoting prosperity and creating high-quality jobs. Examples include eGA’s joint venture with UKbased Merchants in 2009, which established Silah Gulf – a premium customer service solutions provider for public and private sector clients on a local and regional level. Other cooperative agreements include the implementation of a Business Licensing Integrated System with Korean LG CNS, and the KOTRA partnership.