Reducing Vulnerabilities for Corruption: KSA's Government Service Bus
Yesser – Government of Saudi Arabia, Ministry of CIT, Yesser - e-Government Program
Saudi Arabia

The Problem

When the Government of Saudi Arabia committed itself to improving access to 150 of the most important Saudi public services for her people in 2005, it recognized that Saudi Arabia’s history, culture and well developed set of practices posed particular problems which needed adjusting. Specifically, the elaborate set of socially accepted transaction behaviors—based on rank, influence, heritage, gender and “connections”—that traditionally served as a “social lubricant” and were not now in line with a modern Nation’s strong commitment to equality, government-accessibility, improved quality of public service delivery and transparency. These practices were barriers to meeting the expectations of all members of society.

In addition, KSA could see from other international experiences that the problem of inter-ministerial collaboration and integration would require a distinctively new approach if the Nation was going to deliver, responsive e-services with citizen audit-capabilities within a reasonable amount of time. People who needed government services (which meant everybody) had the following problems individually or combined:

• 1. Massive inefficiencies from redundant documentation: For every government service people printed copies of IDs, certificates, entitlement sheets, proof of ownership, etc. Documents were used for a single time validation only and then thrown in the paper archive. This is causing waste in paper, time, effort, and environment impacting material and behavior.
• 2. Common practice of favoritism and prejudice – Even after automation of applications for government service delivery, people still had to go to government offices to get the service (apply, follow up, and receive). People facing people would create a certain level of rest or unrest. Hence, people from the same tribe might help each other more. People from the same gender, from the same color, from the same ethnic group would be biased towards their category against others.
• 3. Inaccuracy of data – Since every government organization was storing data owned by other sectors, it was not confidently accepted. Inaccurate information used in government services resulted in giving a service to those who are not eligible for it or denying it from those who are eligible.
• .
• 4. Fat Databases: Even after automation of applications for service delivery, government organizations had to store huge amounts of data that is needed for service eligibility validation for which they are not responsible.

Solution and Key Benefits

 What is the initiative about? (the solution)
The solution needed to accomplish several critical objectives to reach 2 goals:
1. Eliminate the number of times a member of the public had to visit a public office and expose themselves to potentially unjust treatment. Specifically, reduce the number of 1:1 meetings by 50 to 100%.
2. Create a solution which would eliminate the need for individual ministries, agencies and programs to do massive data integration projects using infrastructure which would have single source of master information for all to use confidently. Specifically, solving the problem of extremely long or failed integration efforts using a new innovative concept.
The solution devised was to first identify the entity with the right authority and capability and enable it to build a “central bus” or core integration architecture, policies and technologies, that integrates all the systems from all government agencies under one bus for unified access to shared data. This concept, called service oriented architecture, was innovative for such a large government (1 million employees) Yesser, the Saudi E-Government Program, was charged with this responsibility. The solution was based on the following concepts:
• The solution should not be doing things in behalf of the government agencies (competition), but rather enable them to integrate into a common platform to deliver services with higher transparency and accuracy (collaboration).
• Each government agency will store only the data they are responsible for. Everything else they get through the solution.
• Yesser will help each government agency to improve integrity, security, and availability of their data.
• Yesser will build a master web service catalog that will host all government services needed to transform every government service from manual to eService based on the Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) approach.
• Yesser will work with every government agency to build their services in web service format and on-board them to the solution as services providers.
• Yesser will also work with every government agency that needs other government agencies services to transform their services into eServices according to the SOA approach and on-board them to the solution as services consumers.
The solution was branded as the Government Service Bus (GSB).

Actors and Stakeholders

 Who proposed the solution, who implemented it and who were the stakeholders?
Yesser assembled a business consulting team composed of people from consulting firms (experience), people from Yesser (authority), and advisers from universities (knowledge). The team documented the business requirement and visited 12 countries in various continents and benchmarked their practice against the business requirement. Most of the countries either have a central government model or a federated model. Neither model fits the business requirement as is. An innovative new hybrid model had to be designed to match the requirement. McKenzie analyzed the requirement. IBM designed the solution. Yesser owned the whole cycle.
The following are basic control factors for the design of the GSB in its first phase:
• 200 Service Providers
• 200 Service Consumers
• 4000 Services
• 400 Synchronous Transactions Per Second (minimum)
• 3Secs Turnaround Time Per Request (maximum)
IBM and SBM were contracted to develop the solution. The solution took much longer than planned to develop for the following reasons:
• Being a new concept solution, there was no model to copy. Surprises were imminent.
• With the lack of local expertise in the subject, people from all over the world had to be brought in. Legislative and social issues played a major role in the delay. The more change in the team members, the longer it takes to implement any thing.
The planned duration was 8 months. The actual time taken was 18 months. However, once developed, it worked well.
The stakeholders of the GSB were represented by the following roles:
• Project Sponsor (Yesser Director General)
• Project Director (Application Engineering Dept Manager)
• Project Managers (from the PMO of Yesser, IBM, and SBM)
• Subject Matter Experts (from Yesser, IBM, and Devoteam)

(a) Strategies

 Describe how and when the initiative was implemented by answering these questions
 a.      What were the strategies used to implement the initiative? In no more than 500 words, provide a summary of the main objectives and strategies of the initiative, how they were established and by whom.
For the GSB to be adopted on a national level, an integration methodology had to be developed so that the implementation of the GSB will fall under an institutional framework. Hence, Yesser developed Yesser Enterprise Framework for Integration (YEFI). This framework was adopted from The Open Group Architecture Framework (TOGAF) and modified to reflect the actual need of the GSB. YEFI included two tracks. One track was for integrating service providers. Another track was for integrating service consumers.
The strategy for developing the GSB was based on the following tracks:
• Who: Who is our target customer? The target customers for the GSB are all the government agencies in Saudi Arabia.
• What: What are we offering? The offering is a master web service catalog that hosts all the web services needed to transform all government services to eServices. We also offer the necessary consultation, funding, technical help, and marketing of the services transformed based on the YEFI framework and the GSB as an integration platform.
• How: How are we planning to deliver? Our delivery plan was based on impact and readiness. The high impact services will receive higher attention. The government agencies who are readier to onboard their services will receive higher attention. The delivery will be based on Yesser dedicated teams plus system integrators and consulting houses who know YEFI and the GSB to help accelerate the process.
The development of YEFI and the GSB was included in the countries first strategy and action plan announced in 2006. The second strategy and action plan announced in 2011 includes the expansion, improvement, and acceleration of the GSB on-boarding process.

(b) Implementation

 b.      What were the key development and implementation steps and the chronology? No more than 500 words
The GSB is a product resulting from a strategic plan for transforming the Saudi Government to eGovernment. The following is a chronological order of the relevant plans and activities to the GSB development and rollout:
2004: The National Communication and Information Technology Plan (NCITP) included the establishment of Yesser.
2005: The Cabinet of ministers in Saudi Arabia issued a royal decree to establish Yesser to enable and empower the Saudi government agencies to eTransform. Mandate, authority, and fund were established. The 1st strategy and action plan was developed to be executed 2006-2010 and included the need for the GSB to address the problems mentioned above and deliver additional value through the clearly defined and followed value chain.
2006: The GSB efforts started and included the following:
• Defined and documented the problem statement.
• Benchmarked the international practice and experience of leading countries (12).
• Developed one RFP for consulting and another for development of the GSB.
• Evaluated the tenders and awarded the project.
• Created a project charter and scope of work.
• Developed the architecture of the GSB as a canonical model.
• Developed the high level design documents and access layers for providers and consumers.
• Developed the low level design documents.
2007: The GSB character started to crystallize through the following activities:
• Started the development of the GSB integration framework and branded it as Yesser Enterprise Framework for Integration (YEFI).
• Started the development of the GSB.
2008: The GSB was ready for testing and included e following activities:
• Completed the development of the GSB.
• Started the functional testing and fixed resulting bugs and issues.
• Started the performance testing and fixed resulting issues.
• Updated the documentation of the GSB.
• Started the provider on-boarding process with the Ministry Of Interior Affairs represented by their repository host the National Information Center NIC.
• Started the consumer on-boarding process with the Ministry Of Labor.
2009-Now: The GSB was operational and included the following activities:
• On-boarded 11 service providers.
• On-boarded 22 eService consumers.
• Revised YEFI.
• Developed the second strategy and action plan to be executed 2012-2016. The plan was developed using the Co-Creation approach. People from government agencies, vendors, private agencies, higher education, and the public. Everybody contributed seriously to the development of the strategy and the plan.
The 2nd strategy and action plan includes several initiatives to support the following:
• Measure and improve the GSB capacity.
• Accelerate the on-boarding process for providers and consumers.
• Develop communication plans to increase the understanding of the GSB value and to increase the adoption of the GSB as one of the tools to eTransform.
• Develop change management plans and projects to create collective ownership of the concept and the practice.
• Promote and praise success stories.

(c) Overcoming Obstacles

 c.      What were the main obstacles encountered? How were they overcome? No more than 500 words
We faced several challenges in the GSB life cycle. In the following we will elaborate on each type of challenge and how we overcame it.
Obstacle: Mind-Set – Government agencies were used to own and control all the data they need or might need in delivering their services, and having the choice to interpret the system as they please. Changing this to a service bus model where they only own and control their own data and everything else they get from the GSB was a challenging concept to their authority and level of control.
Counter action: We used both the carrot and the stick approach. We communicated and explained the value of the GSB in improving the accuracy, integrity, security, and availability of the necessary data to service provisioning in the "e" world. We recruited internal staff from the challenging agencies and hired external resources and seconded them inside to regulate and accelerate change. We also used the annual eReadiness measurement (Qiyas) to report the status of compliance for each government agency compared to the expected level of eTransformation. The carrot worked with some, the stick worked with some. But, in general everyone moved.

Obstacle: Know-How - Since the GSB was designed using a hybrid model not following any existing experiences, it was harder to find documentation or experts with direct relative experience to help.
Counter action: Yesser closely worked with all the relevant stakeholders to understand the challenges in the architecture and the design. The team was very aggressive in making decision to keep the wheel turning. They also implemented very creative ideas to address issues raised. Delegation and motivation for creativity were the key drivers to overcome this obstacle.

Obstacle : Time - The project took much longer to build and operate than planned primarily because of the above point, plus the challenge of keeping people on the ground long enough to finish their tasks. Team turnover was too high.
Counter action: Yesser used the intranet portal (SharePoint) to build a document library. The document library hosted all types of documents and electronic material related to the GSB project. The documents included requirement, methodology, architecture, design, development, quality control, test cases, meeting notes, task lists, and so on. When people changed, the documents remained and the knowledge continued from team to team until project completion. Then, the document library was migrated to the central repository as a member of the knowledge base.

Obstacle: Readiness – All government agencies had a good level of automation. But, they were not ready for the GSB.
Counter action: We helped by establishing a strategy, an enterprise architecture reference model, a PMO, a portal designed to deliver eServices, and so on. We also helped in developing RFPs and financed projects to improve the service provider infrastructure availability, data integrity, and IT security. We helped the service consumers to unify their applications access to the GSB through an internal service bus, and re-develop the touch points based on SOA.

(d) Use of Resources

 d.      What resources were used for the initiative and what were its key benefits? In no more than 500 words, specify what were the financial, technical and human resources’ costs associated with this initiative. Describe how resources were mobilized
The best measure of benefits is the results toward meeting the goals of this initiative: Reducing the number of times a citizen is exposed to the threat of unjust treatment through 1:1 office visits. One fundamentally important National service alone, Worker Permit Renewal, reduced the number of office visits per transactions by 60 to 80 %. This was accomplished by building on the GSB’s capability of data integration and calling from master repositories. The GSB creates exponential value as it continues to resolve major issues:
1. Documentation – The GSB allows any government agency to get the necessary credentials and details necessary to deliver the eService using any eChannel. The details are collected from other agencies through the GSB:
a. Personal details from MOI.
b. Confirmation that he/she is not a government employee from MCS.
c. Educational background from MOE/MOHE.
d. Existing permits of licenses issued from MOMRA, MOCI, and SAGIA.
All of the necessary documentation that used to take lots of trips to various government agencies and lots of papers to be submitted are now totally transparent through the GSB.
2. Prejudice – Since the GSB is enabling government agencies to serve the public through their portals or any form of eChannel, the possible prejudice in treatment is eliminated completely. Random opportunities to distinguish between sex, color, tribe, ethnic group, disability, or any other factor is eliminated. This transparency and fairness encourages people to follow the system and avoid gray market or illegal channels to get government services. This saving in this factor is much harder to calculate. But, it is approximated to exceed 30% from the service cost.
3. Accuracy of data – The GSB is based on the distributed data model where each government agency will host and maintain the integrity, security, and availability of the data they are responsible for. Hence, any eService reaching the GSB for a piece of data will be tabbing into the correct accurate up to date version of the data. The effort needed by every government agency to manage their own data compared to everything they need is 4:1.
4. Fat database – Addressed already in the previous point.
Second, the GSB allowed us to deliver new citizen directed “eServices” that are beyond individual government agencies authority and mandate. Examples of such composite services are:
• I lost my wallet.
• I want to start a business.
• I want to build a house.
• What happens when I retire?
• Being an expatriate what is the impact on my life if I bring my family here?
• Since I am coming for Hajj/Omra, what else can I do?
• What can I do with SR300,000?
We are designing these services and will have them launched during 2012/2013.

Sustainability and Transferability

  Is the initiative sustainable and transferable?
Sustainability is a controversial subject from definition to practice. Our approach to developing a sustainable solution/service is based on the three pillars that we considered in designing the solution/service. These are the who, the what, and the how. Who are we serving, what are we providing, and how are we providing it?
However, our approach to a sustainable service focuses on
The GSB is a component in a larger structure called government shared services for eTransformation. It is government owned, operated, and maintained. The model is hybrid between central and federated, unique and repeatable under similar circumstances. This is a government service provided to government agencies. It is free of charge to all government agencies. When we are ready the GSB service to the semi-government or non-government agencies we might associate a charge to the service.
Since the GSB is a member of the national shared infrastructure platform provided by Yesser to all government agencies, we would like to shed some light on the various layers of shared services provided:
1. Connectivity and Security – The Government Secure Network (GSN) is a government private infrastructure cloud owned, created, operated, and financed by Yesser. All agencies can link to each other or to the GSB directly through high speed fully redundant infrastructure.
2. Integration – This is the GSB. It is providing the integration layer between all government agencies and hosting the master web service catalog where all government services are published.
3. Presentation – The national portal “Saudi” at provides the presentation layer for all government services with very flexible service access through service type, service provider, or key words. Each service is described in a service card with full details and a link to the service if transformed already.
4. Applications – Government agencies have some applications common to some or all of them. For example, eProcurement, eCorrespondence, eEmployment, National contact center, SMS gateway, and so on. We build national applications as cloud applications (SaaS) with two layers. The first layer is the subscription layer for those who do not have the application yet. The second layer is for those who already have it and can use it to integrate with the others without having to link with each one individually.

Resources were and still are rare. We faced a problem in bringing them to Saudi Arabia and that caused some delay.
We are building capacity to transfer know-how from current M&O contractor to Yesser staff through vendor driven training and qualification programs (FEP), and direct training and OJT.

Lessons Learned

 What are the impact of your initiative and the lessons learned?
1. Removing the need for multiple office visits radically removes “vulnerabilities” for those who are vulnerable to prejudice and unjust treatment and is a very powerful “equalizer” which is done without the need for broad change management—it just happens.
2. People who have improved access are empowered with an incalculable amount of new freedom.
3. Transforming traditional government services based on manual business processes is a major paradigm shift requiring detailed communication and change management planning.
4. Technology implementation is only part of the solution—a more serious factor is mindset and cultural changes that can only come about through education and extensive promotional programs to foster buy-in and eventual adoption.
5. Serious bottle necks are encountered in the GSB on-boarding process that needs to be addressed. These processes need to be simplified and where possible automated to reduce the cycle-time for on-boarding.
6. Technology platforms and frameworks exist to implement a whole-of-government integration. The challenge is to implement the technology in a way that makes it simple to become part of the integrated whole. The government of Saudi Arabia achieves this through the GSB/GSN integration platform.

Contact Information

Institution Name:   Yesser – Government of Saudi Arabia, Ministry of CIT, Yesser - e-Government Program
Institution Type:   Government Agency  
Contact Person:   Ahmad Alkhiary
Title:   Eng.  
Telephone/ Fax:   + 96614522133 /+ 96614522353
Institution's / Project's Website:
Address:   Riyadh KSA
Postal Code:   11112
City:   Riyadh
State/Province:   Central Province
Country:   Saudi Arabia

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