Silah Gulf – National Contact Centre
eGovernment Authority

The Problem

The government bodies of Bahrain, including the eGovernment Authority, had distributed pockets of call centres either being operated internally or outsourced to one of the 4 local service providers. There was a perception that calls would take forever before being answered and that the best way to enquire about services with government is by paying them a visit.

Furthermore, quality of service differed from ministry to ministry depending on the chosen provider or delivery method (in house or outsourced). Some of those managed in-house lacked efficiency which also affected quality of service. Some ministries didn’t have call centers.

Additionally, the call centre industry in Bahrain was very immature with a limited number of competitors with high variation in standards of service.

Solution and Key Benefits

 What is the initiative about? (the solution)
The setting up of Silah Gulf came to satisfy several objectives; first was the establishment of the National Contact Centre (NCC), one of five service delivery channels under the Bahrain eGovernment Authority programme that aimed to bring government services closer to the citizen whilst improving quality of service. The establishment of Silah Gulf also came in line with Bahrain Vision 2030, which aims to make the Kingdom of Bahrain a unique hub for foreign investments in the Middle East as it has a solid financial situation that attract businesses and investments, in addition to the different facilities provided out of its commitment to diversify its national revenue sources. By embedding a contact centre service provider of supreme quality with international expertise and whilst taking into account numerous other factors, it is seen that such an initiative will help in catalyzing the BPO (Business Process Outsourcing) service industry in the Kingdom.

Specifically for the NCC, the concept was to consolidate as many government services as possible into a centralized call centre. By centralizing the call centres within government bodies, the government would save valuable resources by reaching economies of scale, whilst ensuring an easy access unified service to the public. In addition, the high quality of service is ensured for all government organizations. The benefit to the citizens and residents of the Kingdom is that they will have access to numerous government services by calling just one toll free number. i.e. single point of contact that is easy to be remembered (8000 8001), whether someone is enquiring about an application for a government service or calling to make an appointment at the local public health centre, all they have to do is to call one number.

The initiative had to improve quality of services, create efficiencies in the delivery of services whilst maintaining self-sustainability.

The national contact centre (NCC) was seen as one of the channels that would both support the other three eGovernment service delivery channels in addition to acting as a service delivery channel itself. With the high teledensity in the Kingdom, the NCC was foreseen to be the channel of closest reach to the citizens utilizing different communication technologies such as IVR, SMS, , etc. Part of its social responsibility, eGovernment Authority has recently taken initiative to establish the capability to conduct a video call in NCC with experts in sign language for deaf and hearing impaired people.
Furthermore, being a 24/7 contact centre, the NCC will act as a channel of communication between the citizens and government in which suggestion and complaints can be conveyed to the relevant bodies in the government.

Actors and Stakeholders

 Who proposed the solution, who implemented it and who were the stakeholders?
Given the relative low maturity in Bahrain’s call centre market, The eGovernment Authority set out to establish the NCC by partnering with a firm with international expertise and setting up and operating call centres worldwide. Such a partnership would ensure that the objectives of the NCC are met while applying international standards thus delivering a service like no other to citizens of Bahrain.

After lengthy studies and comparisons, the eGovenrment Authority chose to partner with a UK based Merchants that have over 29 years of experience in the call centre industry. This partnership resulted in the creation of Silah Gulf, a third entity of which the partners collectively own. Merchants had been tasked with the setup of the call centre’s technical and operational framework to their international standards. Most importantly, the partnership arrangement had opened the doors for Silah Gulf to have full access to the Merchants Intellectual Property and expertise gathered across their years of operation thus enabling Silah to be the leading most advanced and capable contact centre and BPO company in Kingdom of Bahrain and one of the leading examples and most prominent in the Arab Gulf region.

To ensure the goals were achieved, the company board of directors contains members of the Bahrain Economic Development Board and ‘Mumtalakat’, (the government arm of investments). This ensures that the company has all the support required to succeed.

(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.
The initiative was implemented by partnering with international expertise in the Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) industry with proven track record in establishment and delivery of high quality services. By creating such a partnership between government, which is driven by maximizing quality of services delivered to the citizens, and a private sector firm, with expertise in delivering high quality services with the highest efficiencies; Silah Gulf would be set to increase both the efficiency and quality of government call centre services.

(b) Implementation

 b.      What were the key development and implementation steps and the chronology? No more than 500 words
In the early phases of the initiative 2008 - 2009, the eGovernment Authority conducted a study to assess the need for call centre services within government. This was done to assess the viability of establishing the initiative as a business.

In 2009, once the viability was clear, the eGovernment Authority went into a search of the most suitable partner in which Merchants were selected.

Once selected, a joint venture company was established between both companies to create the Silah Gulf entity. (2009

An international team from Merchants was mobilized to setup the necessary infrastructure for the company to meet its objectives. This included the setting up of the technology platform and all processes and ‘know-how’ of operating call centres using best practices.

Since its inception, Silah Gulf has been operating as a standalone and successful business and now has established operations in 3 physical locations and in two GCC countries. The plan for Silah Gulf is to continue to grow as a BPO providing world class services to the different ministries and private sector clients within the Kingdom. (self sustainable)

(c) Overcoming Obstacles

 c.      What were the main obstacles encountered? How were they overcome? No more than 500 words
One of the key obstacles was the lack of experienced resources in Bahrain in the field of call center that hold professional communication skills that meets the international standards. Due to this particular reason, Silah Gulf has launched Silah Academy which is responsible for delivering the education and hands-on training to the new joiners about the key skills and practices in operating a call centre based on international criteria

(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
Silah Gulf was setup with a large monetary capital to setup the infrastructure and provide support during the early days of operation.

Furthermore, the initiative is supported by experts from Merchants and their parent company Dimension Data that bring their expertise and best practices in the call centres and BPO to Silah.
However, being established as a standalone business that focus on BPO, Silah Gulf has a clear business plan that is self-sustainable which enable the company to recover the initial cost in future.

Sustainability and Transferability

  Is the initiative sustainable and transferable?
The Silah Gulf model has been a standalone model since its inception in that it operates as a successful business with close monitoring of expenses to ensure the required efficiencies are reached. As standalone and successful business and now with established operations in 3 physical locations and in two GCC countries, Silah Gulf is considered as self-sustained government initiative. The plan for Silah Gulf is to continue to grow as a BPO providing world class services to the different ministries and private sector clients within the Kingdom and the surrounding region.
Silah Gulf is a successful case of the partnership between Government and Private Sector which maximizes cost effectiveness and improves quality of services delivered by Government.
The initiative had to improve quality of services, create efficiencies in the delivery of services whilst maintaining self-sustainability.

Though the establishment of a Public-Private partnership to maintain a professional National Call Centre for the Government as well as operating a self-sustained successful business is unique in the regional level, the concept and the process of Silah Gulf could be replicated to cater different Governmental entities in the region. In this context, Silah Gulf has already taken the initiative to transform its best practice and operate call centres in 3 different locations in the Arab Gulf region.

Lessons Learned

 What are the impact of your initiative and the lessons learned?
By striking the correct balance between the drivers of government to improve service quality and efficiency and the drivers of a business entity to be efficient and profitable, the unique idea of Government-Private Sector partnership has succeeded in becoming a sustainable, standalone Business Process Outsourcer that delivers the best quality of services in the most efficient manner.

Furthermore, Silah Gulf has managed to successfully embark on path that will change some of the negative perceptions casted on some government bodies, particularly of being inaccessible and tedious. Today, Silah Gulf operates 24/7 to receive and process citizen queries/ services when it comes to Governmental entities. Therefore, with the National Contact Centre created by Silah, the Government has processed substantially larger number of citizen’s calls compared to before.

Problems can be solved by looking outside the box and introducing unique concepts that tackle the unique challenges.

Contact Information

Institution Name:   eGovernment Authority
Institution Type:   Government Agency  
Contact Person:   Abdulrahman Binshams
Title:   Mr.  
Telephone/ Fax:  
Institution's / Project's Website:  
Postal Code:  
Country:   Bahrain

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