A recent EY global survey revealed that residents from numerous countries have expressed concerns that their basic needs are not being met and that constituents expect from their government what they already get in everyday commercial transactions: speed, efficiency, transparency, reliability, security and personalization.
By digitizing, governments can provide services that meet the demands and expectations of citizens and businesses, despite tight budgets and complex challenges such as inequality and instability. Not only are digital services and interactions preferred nowadays, but these can also empower and broaden engagement with the government.
E-government services involve the digitization of touchpoints, online access to portals and convenient messaging and payment platforms.
As we think about it fully, the digital transformation of a government is indeed challenging but ultimately rewarding. Arnauld Bertrand, global advisory leader, Government and Public Sector, EY, points out that being at the forefront of digital government is “a badge of prestige” that can raise the global profile of a country or city, eventually creating an economy that is “a magnet for talent, enterprise and investment.”
Governments have a core mission to provide effective services by making the best possible use of their resources to offer both individuals and businesses the 21st-century infrastructure and environment that are essential for a successful and excellent quality of life.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach for providing improved access to digital services, but this is an opportunity for progress in the public sector — taking technology-agnostic approaches, understanding organizations’ specific needs and bringing it all together to achieve the best experience possible.
Without a doubt, effectively deploying e-government services will secure the public’s trust and improve the country’s competitiveness across the global landscape. They will also be in much better shape to weather the next surge of disruption or crisis that comes their way.
A Focus on GCC Countries
E-government is the transformation of the public sector through ICT in order to optimize both government service delivery and citizen participation.
By 2025, more than 40% of all ICT investments in the Middle East will be intended to fulfill ambitious digital transformation initiatives. Within the GCC alone, digital technologies are advancing, and governments are set to revolutionize both the scope and quality of their service offerings. They are keeping citizen-centered design at the heart of their e-government services and upskilling their workforces to be suitable for a dynamic future.
As GCC governments and enterprises continue to evolve, they’ll be inclined to invest more in new capabilities and technologies as part of a long-term, holistic framework.
With artificial intelligence (AI), 5G, cloud and the Internet of Things (IoT) among the leading areas for spending, AI itself is expected to contribute more than $300 billion to the Middle East’s GDP by 2031. Intelligent automation applications are also driving efficiency, promoting economic innovation and improving the quality of e-government services.
According to the 2022 annual report of Bahrain’s Information and eGovernment Authority (iGA), online platforms were visited 1.8 million times last year, reflecting the confidence of citizens in the country’s online services. A total of 3.7 million e-requests were processed by Bahrain’s digital government portals, cutting 96% of the service costs. Impressively, 89% of all government services offered in these portals were conducted online rather than in person.
A total of 50 new services were launched last year in Bahrain, reaching over 600 e-services in total.
During the first half of 2022, financial transactions in various digital government channels jumped to 55%, bringing in over US$ 880 million in revenue. These include the National Portal (www.bahrain.bh), the eGovernment Apps Store (www.bahrain.bh/apps) and eKiosks.
The Government of Kuwait and Google Cloud sealed a strategic alliance to leverage the hyperscalers’ technology and expertise in data analytics, cybersecurity and artificial intelligence (AI). This will support digitizing citizen services and increasing government employees’ productivity.
Efforts to intensify the digitalization of government services in Kuwait are in place following the confirmation of the Director-General of the Central Agency for Information Technology (CAIT), Haya Al-Wadani. This is aligned with the government’s work program for the 16th legislative term (2022–2026), which the CAIT was assigned to oversee and accomplish.
According to Dr. Khaled Mahdi, secretary-general of the supreme council for planning and development, between 2024 and 2025, Kuwait aims to reach 30th place in the United Nations e-government development index.
In 2022, Oman ranked fourth in the United Nations ESCWA’s Government Electronic and Mobile Services (GEMS) Maturity Index, which measures the relevant maturation of e-government services. As part of the government’s digital transformation program 2021–2025, a tender has been announced to study, design and implement a unified national portal for electronic services. The initiative is in line with the directives of His Majesty Sultan Haitham bin Tarik.
The Ministry of Transport, Communications and Information Technology (MTCIT) stated that by launching the first phase of the National Unified E-Government Services Portal, more than 80 e-services will be rendered to citizens and businesses. These streamline procedures and re-engineer 70% of basic e-government services.
Previously, in a 2018 eGov report, the United Nations ranked Oman "very high" for its level of Online Service Index. Locally, the National Registry System and Electronic ID Card Voting System have both been recognized with the most prestigious award for IT (the Sultan Qaboos Awards for Excellence in eGovernment).
Among the first portals in the region to adopt OpenAI GPT capabilities is Qatar’s e-government portal, Hukoomi. Through Azure Qatar Cloud and in accordance with the National Artificial Intelligence Strategy, this implementation will enhance user experience and deliver better efficiency and speed in the portal.
A BCG study showed that there is a high level of satisfaction (86%) in terms of the usage of digital government services in Qatar. Notably, 58% of Qatari respondents revealed that they use e-government services at least once per week.
Based on last year’s ESCWA GEMS Maturity Index, Qatar ranked second in the Arab region. As a demonstration of the success of the transformation from conventional to digital governance in the country, over 9 million transactions were executed in a span of four years by the Government Contact Center (Hotline 109), which offers support services for the public and answers their inquiries relating to all government services.
- Saudi Arabia
In 2022, Saudi Arabia’s Digital Government Authority (DGA) launched an inclusive government program to provide integrated digital services to the government sector, accelerating sustainable digital government transformation and increasing data sharing among agencies.
Among its recognitions, the 2022 UN e-Government Development Index ranked the Kingdom 31st worldwide and first in the MENA region for the availability and development of digital government services. The country’s National Transformation Program (NTP) 2022 report also indicated that 97% of all government services are available digitally, with over 6,000 e-government services working across sectors.
Additionally, in the World Bank’s 2021 Digital Maturity Report, Saudi Arabia ranked among the top countries in providing digital government services and interaction with citizens.
- United Arab Emirates
Strong adoption and delivery have placed the UAE in the 3rd position globally in providing superior digital government services. In the field of e-government services, Abu Dhabi’s TAMM platform has also been recognized by the United Nations as one of the world's leading practitioners.
Dubai has also achieved outstanding marks in the UN’s Local Online Service Index (LOSI) 2022. As part of the UN’s biannual E-Government Survey, the city is hailed with a “Very High” rating, ranking first in the Arab region and fifth globally in the list of the world’s best-performing digital governments.
According to a BCG study, e-government services have become an integral part of residents’ daily lives in the UAE. The level of satisfaction with digital government services in the UAE is recorded at 79% for 2022. Additionally, the digital service offering in the UAE has been met with a positive response, with 62% of UAE respondents mentioning that they use digital government services at least once per week.