Interview: Qusai Al Shatti
What are the most important impacts of ICT on the processes of government organisations?
QUSAI AL SHATTI: Advances in ICT are having far-reaching effects on many areas of the economy, including government services, processes and structures. Greater connectivity, together with e-government initiatives, means that services can be provided in real time and with greater mobility. At the same time, as people become increasingly accustomed to technology and a high level of service in their daily lives, expectations for efficient bureaucracy are rising. When we look at the ease of doing business, e-government is one of the initiatives that can have a significant impact on how business leaders feel about pursuing opportunities available in the country. CAIT has an ambitious plan for the development of e-government services in Kuwait in collaboration with all government agencies so that there will be a single portal through which nearly all government services can be accessed. In addition to making access easier for citizens and residents, the use of technology can ease the burden on government and allow greater access to usable data for policymaking.
How are e-government initiatives changing existing procedures and services?
AL SHATTI: When the government offers services in person or on paper, an individual has to take the time to go to the location of that government body in order to receive the service, be it a licence, certification or to make a payment. In addition to the time it takes, this also allows for a lack of uniformity in the process. Often an authorisation involves the oversight of multiple regulatory authorities. E-government services allow for a greater sharing of information across government agencies and the standardisation of processes. Kuwait Government Online is the official portal of the state of Kuwait, providing government information and services 24/7 in Arabic and English. The ePayment system – Tasdeed – has also been developed to facilitate the electronic payment of government invoices and fees at any time. There has also been progress within other state entities, such as the Ministry of Civil Information, where the civil ID and e-signature system has been tied to a database with all the relevant personal identification information needed to conduct daily business. Through adoption and integration with the private sector, these government services can have a larger impact on the overall business environment. For example, an individual might be able to withdraw cash from a bank using the civil ID, or update civil ID information at a bank machine. The establishment of the Kuwait Government Call Centre, which provides additional phone support for all of the e-government services 24 hours a day, will not only help with the transition, but will also be vital to making Kuwait more transparent and competitive.
What barriers have been identified in the implementation of e-government services?
AL SHATTI: There are a number of challenges we face in the transition to e-government. The differing pace at which government bodies are adapting means that while some parts of a process may be done online, in-person interaction and paper copies may be required elsewhere. Sometimes this can create additional confusion rather than increased efficiency. CAIT, along with other entities, is working to train and educate staff so that the transition is as smooth as possible. It is also important to work with the private sector so that they have the information they need to take advantage of the services offered by e-government. We expect the use of e-government to grow quickly because Kuwait has a young and tech-saavy population. Still, one of the longer-term challenges is that with increased automation and technology, fewer government employees will be needed. Diversification of the economy and private sector job growth will become an increasingly important factor in ensuring full employment in Kuwait.
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