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Digital government in 2020
Digital governments are gauged by their impact on achieving development, prosperity, and social inclusion
It is a given that accumulation of quantitative changes leads to qualitative leaps. The process of digital transformation which started in the year 2000 is no exception. Until 2010, European countries used to measure their digital maturity through two key criteria: digital presence and online evolution. The average they achieved for these criteria was 70 per cent and 84 per cent respectively. While these countries were planning and preparing to compete for the top places, Austria was able to make a breakthrough by excelling in all criteria and raising the bar to a new level. It received 100 per cent in digital presence and 99 per cent in online evolution.
It was the dawn of e-government model globally around that time. The United Nations had adopted the call to shift the concept of e-government from focusing on technology and e-presence to focusing on citizen centricity.
At a 2010 European conference on e-government, Swedish Professor Åke Grönlund, business expert at the Swedish Örebro University, presented a scientific paper entitled, Ten Years of E-Government: The 'End of History' and New Beginning.
This qualitative transformation doubled the size of the challenge for countries that were already struggling to meet previous standards. Now there were new requirements and a new model for electronic transformation to adopt and compete with.
A similar matter happened in 2020, where Denmark was able to up the threshold of the UN's Online Service Index, and make a breakthrough in digital transformation, leading to a relative decrease in the rankings of many countries in various digital transformation indices such as services, engagement, etc. The UAE fortunately was among the countries that was leading on this front. It had even made progress in some sub-indicators.
What does that mean?
As in 2010, today too, we are witnessing a new qualitative development requiring each country to build its own model of digital government. Although what works for one country may not work for another, there are some features that cannot be skipped when thinking of a digital government model in harmony with the present times.
Some of these commonalities is that the digital government today has become closer to the digital nation or society, where the government is playing "maestro" to regulate, monitor, enable and plan, while the other players are coming together in developing services to customers. 'Players' mean government departments, universities, civil society organisations, and individuals.
Today, digital governments are gauged by their impact on achieving development, prosperity, and social inclusion, all being key drivers of realising the UN's SDGs and the pledge to "leave no one behind."
It is a new era for innovation, proactivity, and deep understanding of the Fourth Industrial Revolution-based technologies. It is the era of working in a team spirit, where the digital government has always been running and thriving in an environment of cooperation, integration and interdependence at all levels. As for barriers, they are made up. They restrict digital transformation programmes and limit growth, exactly like how low ceilings and modest ambitions do.
Hamad Obaid Al Mansoori is the Head of Digital Government, and TRA Director General
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