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Thursday, March 21, 2019

The UAE takes the lead

by Joanna Andrews

© Shutterstock
© Shutterstock

The World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council has selected the UAE as the lead in a global initiative to create a ‘Future of Government Smart Toolbox’. Joanna Andrews went to find out what it means…

The World Economic Forum (WEF) has partnered with the UAE to launch the ‘Future of Government Smart Toolbox’ - an initiative aimed at helping governments use technology to deliver more efficient public services.

WEF teamed up with the UAE government to launch its Smart Toolbox report in Dubai. The report provides case studies and examples from governments, which have used technology to improve the lives of citizens. It focuses on eight key areas for improving government performance such as trust, leadership, security, innovation, anti-corruption, bureaucracy, and delivery of services.

“The UAE government has embraced innovation and set high benchmarks in government efficiency and trust,” said His Excellency Mohammad Abdullah Al Gergawi, UAE Minister of Cabinet Affairs, who launched the initiative alongside senior delegates from the World Economic Forum. “We are happy that the Government Summit partnership with WEF has led to a tangible and positive outcome as the Smart Toolbox, which takes trust in government as a unifying theme.”

Espen Barth Eide, Managing Director and Member of the Managing Board of World Economic Forum (formerly Norway's Minister of Defense in Stoltenberg's Second Cabinet and then Minister of Foreign Affairs) said, “We very much cherish the close relationship we have developed with the UAE, particularly with the Government Summit.”

Al Gergawi told the audience that the UAE had also achieved major steps incorporating advanced technology within government service delivery, becoming the first country in the region to focus on the importance of technology in enhancing government services.

The UAE has been at the forefront of technological innovation to improve government services, and the country has been ranked second in the ‘Government Usage of ICT’ index, released as part of the Global Information Technology Report for 2014 by the World Economic Forum.

Improving services

The Smart Toolbox aims to help leaders envision the future they want for their countries and map it out in the context of uncertainty.

WEF hopes the Smart Toolbox will encourage governments around the world to adopt a private sector approach to the way they conduct their business. It says people have come to look to the private sector for a more effective provision of collective services.

The report explains that the public sector leaders around the world face a daunting challenge to deliver good government in the 21st century. They are under increasing pressure to deliver more and better services to a growing urbanised population, and to manage complex issues from macroeconomic uncertainty to international conflicts, in an environment of diminishing trust in government, increasing bureaucratic complexity and natural resource constraints.

The report explores the risks and challenges of an increasingly digital era, including the often expensive and complex need to keep pace with changing tools and technology, the divide that can expand between user groups and have less ease of use, and the security and protection of data and information.

HE Al Gergawi stressed that the world is changing constantly and rapidly and the governments need to catch up and review the plan strategies to reach the customer’s expectations especially with the current massive technological developments.

A matter of trust

In the chapter on trust, authored by Diana Farrell and Anders Borg, the report warns, “Trust is not static or stable - it can change quickly and dramatically; trust varies significantly across countries and surveys; and trust has fallen over time.”

It goes on to say, “While trust takes time to build it can break down fast, leading to economic, social and political tensions.”

The report says that governance in the 21st century is evolving in a context of declining trust, at the same time social cohesion in many countries seems increasingly shattered.

“The world is changing rapidly with expectations of people rising as information is freely available to all. Leadership of informed societies requires leaders to take a progressive approach to building trust though better, more efficient and responsive governance,” said Barth Eide.

The priority of the report is to consider ways in which information technology can improve governance and reduce the feelings of alienation among the governed, identifying the trends that will change the future of government.

“The Smart Toolbox shares insights on how technology can strengthen good government - for example, by enabling greater transparency of government actions through open data, empowering citizens to have faster and more accurate access to online services, and helping to strengthen responses to aid civilians,” said Diana Farrell, Director at Mckinsey and global head of Mckinsey Center for Government.

“People change because they have new expectations with time. If governments are not able to innovate while performing their traditional tasks with new expectations, they would be left behind,” Barth Eide concluded.

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