Dubai may have been the first regional government out of the blocks with its e-government initiative, but others are working hard to be fast followers.
The government of Qatar has issued a string of tenders for different aspects of its e-government programme. Kuwait is understood to be on the verge of issuing a tender for a consultancy mandate on its programme. Oman has established a 12-member e-government committee responsible for co-ordinating the activities of different ministries and is expected to put a consultancy mandate out to tender by the end of the year. Even in Saudi Arabia discussions have started between government officials and industry executives, and attempts are being made to finalise a cross-government body to oversee the initiative.
'Dubai has taken the regional lead and the rest of the region is following. Qatar is the closest, but Oman and Kuwait are making big strides,' says Richard Brown, chairman and chief executive officer of US-based information technology giant Electronic Data Services (EDS). 'Business leaders' expectations are based on the development of a digitalised world and governments in the region are realising that they must migrate from their paper worlds.'
EDS has acted as consultant to the government of Dubai on its e-government initiative (MEED 26:10:01).
The process is most advanced in Qatar with tenders issued for the implementation phase, the management phase and the key public infrastructure components. Industry sources say a decision on the implementation phase is expected by the end of November, and this will be quickly followed by the award of the management contract.
'The overall cost of Qatar's programme is impossible to estimate as it will be determined by the extent of services put online,' says the industry source. 'It could range from $10 million to $100 million all told.'
The projects in Kuwait and Oman have also attracted considerable industry attention. 'In Kuwait they are adopting a careful and well-structured five-year plan and they will probably want a major global partner to work with a local company on the strategic and implementation work,' says the source. Work on the project is expected to start next April.
'It is a mistake to think that e-government is better suited to small countries,' says Brown. 'If properly structured it is easily scalable. The issue is having a clear vision.'
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