ICT for Development in Arab Region
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Introduction
Objectives
Introduction

The e-governance program was launched in 2004. Its immediate aim is to use information and communication technology to raise the quality of services governments deliver to citizens, business partners and government functionaries (e-government). The ultimate aim, however, is for such interventions to bring about a new form of governance, e-governance, which changes the paradigm from self to citizen-centric form of governance. With e-governance, a service-oriented mentality is gradually instilled, where the needs of citizens, businesses or other government agencies are at the center when services and procedures are designed and implemented.

Naturally, redesigning services and procedures is a very challenging process. It inevitably brings about a need for business process re-engineering and necessitates a certain amount of change management. In many cases, it forces agencies previously living in silos to co-operate and streamline their activities. But however difficult, the resulting gradual increase in transparency and efficiency as more projects get implemented has a great impact on development in general: no aspect of day to day life remains unaffected, be it administrative (inter government and government to citizens/business); economic (development policies and institutional building); social (human capital and employment development) or political (governance and decision making). As a result, new concepts of citizenship evolve where citizens are better informed about their rights and responsibilities, and where participation and dialogue between government and citizen are substantially enhanced.

The Arab region is one where there is a great need for such changes to occur, and where the potential of ICT as a change agent needs to be harnessed. Digital societies have evolved around the world, and have been enjoying the economic and social returns that so far have escaped most of the Arab world. And as can be demonstrated in many examples from other countries, interaction with the government is the leading stimulant for change and for technology adoption. Once the government has adopted more efficient practices as a result of ICT-based projects, the society at large is incentivized to adopt technology in order to benefit from such services, thereby leading to the gradual creation of the digital society.

And it is for this, the harnessing of technology as a tool for the modernization of public administration leading to long-term national development, that ICTDAR developed its e-Governance initiative. The projects within this initiative range from policy formulation (e-Governments and e-Strategies) to direct interventions for the creation of ICT-based services.

 
 
Relevance to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)

The eighth Millennium Development Goal, “Developing a Global Partnership for Development”, includes in its sub-objectives the development of “a commitment to good governance, development, and poverty reduction”. It also stipulates that “in cooperation with the private sector, make available the benefits of new technologies, especially information and communication technologies.”

ICTDAR’s e-Governance initiatives simultaneously achieve both of those objectives. Most e-government projects involve input from all sectors and engage especially the private sector, in order to develop national ICT policies or to achieve more streamlined and efficient services to the citizen. This ultimately leads to better governance and the emergence of new forms of citizenship as well as to the adoption of national development policies.

 
 
Objectives

The ultimate objective of implementing e-Government projects is to stimulate government administrative and political reform, and to deliver services based on a new culture of efficiency, optimization, and transparency. The emergence of these more service-oriented governance models will lead to economic and social development and the consolidation of democratic and good citizenship practices in the Arab region.

The more immediate outcomes of implementing e-government projects will be the empowerment of citizens, businesses, and also government agencies with more access to information and streamlined services. Government accountability will be increased while costs of delivering services will be lowered.

 
 
Implementation Strategy

Several e-government initiatives exist in the Arab region, at various levels of scope and impact. Some are small standalone automation activities while others are part of an overall government policy. Many countries are still at the policy formulation stage. In all cases however, there is very little or no sharing of experiences and lesson learned in the region.

ICTDAR’s e-Governance initiative fills the regional coordination gap and provides technical support and expertise to countries where needed. The initiative is comprised of four main complimentary tracks: Arab-Arab Coordination Workshops, REGI, The E-Government Portal, and Direct Interventions.

  • Arab-Arab Coordination Workshops: Raising awareness about the need to develop e-policies, and allow for Arab- Arab exchanges of knowledge and lessons learned.
  • Regional e-Government Institute (REGI): Laying the foundation for the institute through the conducting of an exhaustive study identifying the potential benefits and optimal model for it, as well as its functions, activities, structure, and budgetary requirements. Once complete, a host country was selected based on a location assessment and a transparent RFP.
  • E-Government Arab Sharing Portal (e-Gov@ASP): Developing a portal that would act as a collaboration platform for Arab governments, decision makers, practitioners, and academics.
  • Direct Interventions: Providing direct substantive support and field work for the implementation of e-government project in various countries.
 
Partners

For all its e-Governance projects, ICTDAR strongly advocates Public Private Partnership and actively strives to put in place multi-sectoral processes where the private sector and civil society are involved especially in policy formulation activities.

Partners who have collaborated with ICTDAR on e-Governance projects include:

 
   
ICTDAR UNDP