Interview: Saeed Al Ghafli

For what reasons has an emphasis been placed on smart government innovation in the UAE?

SAEED AL GHAFLI: Over the last few years there has been an emphasis placed on driving innovation to make it easier for citizens to interact with all government services and create a true “smart government” environment. Enabling the digital transformation of government services and shared ICT infrastructure will be of vital importance in this regard.

The main strategic objective behind this massive project is to support smart government and smart commerce initiatives in the country, in such a way that the UAE develops a track record that is second to none. This aim emerged from the UAE’s understanding that in a connected government context, public service agencies should act as a single enterprise, so that citizens feel as though they are being served by one organisation rather than a number of different public authorities. In this respect, identity management is considered a fundamental pillar to enable such operating models and to support single sign-on and online identity validation capabilities for smart government and smart commerce environments.

This represents a split from the bureaucratic obstructionism that is characteristic of the conventional approach of governments in many places around the world and is a significant shift towards a citizen-centric model of governance.

How will the Emirates ID management system support efforts to innovate?

AL GHAFLI: The Emirates ID management system is one of the most important initiatives for the country because it has become the backbone for citizen and resident interactions with the public sector, as well as for some private sector activities, such as banking. EIDA has formulated a comprehensive approach to develop its Enterprise Integration Strategy and meet its strategic objectives. EIDA has helped many organisations achieve common strategic objectives through the exchange of data and information. We have also intensified our efforts over the past few years to widen the ID card’s scope in terms of use in various sectors, and to offer it as a principal reference for identity authentication.

In what ways will the validation gateway (VG) and ID management system enhance UAE security?

AL GHAFLI: VG enables governments, organisations and individuals to make use of the ID card in an online scenario for purposes of identity authentication. The card holder will have one single ID card to use both physically as well as digitally. He or she does not need to have multiple ID cards, a passport, etc to interact with government agencies or corporate organisations. Therefore, the card holder will be offered a higher level of security, and the risk of fraud is substantially decreased. The solution provides a trusted foundation so people can prove who they are without giving away so much personal information to be stored in many different places, such as hospitals, banks, telecoms and insurance companies.

The EIDA identity scheme gives card holders control of their identity. It enhances security for card holders using online services, by signing and encrypting data, and reduces the amount of paper used, as documents can be electronically handled and stored.

In what ways will EIDA contribute toward the economic development of the UAE?

AL GHAFLI: EIDA has always been keen to play a distinctive and active role in the sustainable development and economic growth through a nationwide, accurate population register that supports government policies and decisions. Smart government has the potential to cut overheads via streamlined integrated systems that provide higher levels of efficiency, with enormous benefits for EIDA customers.