Dubai eGovernment Electronic Shared Services (ESS)
Dubai eGovernment
United Arab Emirates

The Problem

Dubai is one of the seven Emirates in the federation of the United Arab Emirates and enjoyed a strong economic growth and managed to establish itself as one of the leading emerging economies with a sustained record of real GDP growth rate. Dubai Government as a whole is composed of several specialized entities (departments, authorities, committees, councils, etc.) which are independently established through legal mandates. Hence, these entities operated autonomously in fulfilling their missions over the years. A whole-of-government approach did not exist in terms of concrete cross-entity electronic shared services (ESS). More specifically, there was no institution established (mandated) or appointed even temporarily to carry out ESS activities to a large scale and extent at the government-level till the early 2000s.
There were examples of a few ad-hoc projects that were initiated in the past among a small number of government entities resulting in limited cooperation and collaboration however there was no government-level strategy that formalized a whole-of-government approach. Consequently, this resulted in unintentional creation of silos operating independently to achieve their mandates in the government.
Lack of government-wide ESS compelled government entities to individually invest in various information and communication technology (ICT) solutions and electronic services capabilities resulting in replication of efforts and resources. Furthermore, there were no incentives to share knowledge and practices across the government entities despite potential synergies. Improvements were undertaken independently and separately by each entity and lessons learnt and results were not communicated across the entities to capitalize on experiences which prolonged such implementations at the government level.
Despite the fact that common administrative back-office (support) activities existed among government entities, they were implemented individually within the confines of each respective government entity from a policy, people, process and technology perspective. Synergies were abundant in human resources management, financial management, supply chain management, etc. Furthermore, Dubai Government entities were adopting ICT based solutions and interactions with their customers in the form of Internet and selective cross-entity connectivity, websites, mobile messaging, customer contact center management, etc. All these commonalities pointed to a large potential of horizontal cross-entity synergies.
Concomitantly, advances in ICT were enabling automation as well as centralized provisioning of such cross-entity synergies in a successful manner. There was no government-wide initiative to capitalize on ICT based ESS in Dubai Government. And neither a new entity was established to address such needs nor an existing one was appointed. Consequently in the absence of ESS, Dubai Government faced the challenge of incurring significantly higher financial, human and technology resources needs, which in turn amplified expenditures at the government level due to lack of horizontal collaboration and coordination.
Dubai Government realized that ICT investments started representing a significant portion of capital and operating expenditures in the late 90s. Furthermore, they were becoming an important part of public services delivery with tangible benefits. Hence, Dubai Government was at a junction to formulate an approach for utilizing ICT to the benefit of Dubai Government and the public at large while controlling the requisite ICT investments for it.

Solution and Key Benefits

 What is the initiative about? (the solution)
Dubai Government has launched a comprehensive electronic shared services (ESS) initiative under its Dubai eGovernment program. An extensive centralized whole-of-government approach was adopted for the common (synergistic) aspects of core and administrative (support) services electronic enablement, referred to as ESS. This centralized whole-of-government approach played a critical role in facilitating and incentivizing Dubai Government entities (DGEs) to collaborate and to cooperate.
ESS created an environment whereby government-level rather than entity level planning and implementation became pervasive. Naturally formed silos were gradually replaced with ESS serving the common needs of DGEs.

Hence several whole-of-government ESS were identified, prioritized and implemented over the years. Today a total of 56 ESS exist in Dubai Government with high levels of adoption by government entities along with significant usage. The following is the list of currently available Dubai eGovernment ESS categories with a brief description.

Government Resources Planning (GRP) ESS: This category of ESS enables an extensive range of back-office support functions such as human resources management, financial management, supply chain management, projects management, self-services management (employees, suppliers), etc. There are totally 34 ESS in GRP category which can be implemented individually based on actual business needs of a government entity.

eServices Enabling ESS: This category of services helps government entities to enable electronic channels (web hosting, customer contact centre), to enable mobile messaging via SMS for their core services, to enable electronic and mobile payments for their core services, to enable electronic information exchange among the government entities, to have a unified repository of all the government entities’ services. There are totally 9 ESS in eServices category.

Infrastructure Enabling ESS: This category of shared services includes secure government information network connectivity, secure Internet connectivity, shared email services, shared mobile email, Intranet solutions, shared collaboration across entities through portals. There are totally 8 ESS in this category.

Public and Businesses ESS: This category of shared services includes the one-stop-shop official government portal of Dubai Government incorporating electronic services of all government entities presented in a life-event based format (customer centric manner), electronic suggestions, electronic complaints and electronic surveys systems for public and businesses, and electronic procurement for suppliers. There are totally 5 ESS in this category.

Hence a total of 56 ESS were implemented over the years and rolled out to more than 40 entities by mapping the required ESS to meet their actual business needs.

The impacts of ESS were measured at a consolidated initiative level and at service levels; both quantitatively and qualitatively (the actual measures varied by service as well). Internal projections (e.g. cost savings estimates), adoption data (e.g. roll-outs, usage, etc.) and customer surveys (e.g. satisfaction, usage, etc.) were utilized as tools to assess the impacts.
The beneficiaries were Government of Dubai through managing public budget within Department of Finance and budget execution across Dubai Government entities which reduced ICT expenditures resulting in significant operational efficiencies, Dubai Government entities and public (individuals, businesses and organizations) as users of ESS and ICT private sector companies as solution providers for ESS.

Actors and Stakeholders

 Who proposed the solution, who implemented it and who were the stakeholders?
The entire initiative was announced by The Ruler of Dubai officially in the presence of all the high level government officials stating his commitment to it. He has formed an official committee, namely The Executive Committee (TEC), and delegated the initiative’s responsibility to it. TEC was composed of 14 high-level government officials from several key government entities appointed to craft the strategy and oversee its implementation. Participation of different entities in TEC allowed early buy-in and also enabled quick wins through implementation of ESS in them. TEC established a Strategic Management Office (SMO) composed of 3 of its 14 members who were full-time dedicated to crafting and implementing the strategy.
The solution of providing ESS through a whole-of-government approach was initially conceived by The Executive Committee (TEC). The SMO along with the leadership of TEC played a key role in establishing a whole-of-government approach.
Subsequently, the implementation of ESS was carried out by two main entities; Government Information Resources Planning (GIRP) division and the eServices division, both in His Highness Ruler’s Court. GIRP was mainly responsible for the infrastructure enabling and the GRP categories of ESS, whereas eServices division was responsible for the eServices enabling and the public and businesses categories of ESS from 2002 till 2009. In 2009, The Ruler of Dubai issued law No7 and established the Dubai eGovernment Department (DeG) by amalgamating GIRP and eServices divisions. This institutional change in 2009 ensured better coordination leading to further efficiency and effectiveness gains and also established a government-level CIO. DeG since 2009 has been responsible for all the ESS till today through close coordination with and participation of government entities.
Private sector partnerships were heavily utilized for implementing ESS. Partnerships enabled leveraging on the knowledge and the skills of partners while expediting the implementations.
The stakeholders of ESS are first and foremost the direct customers. Dubai Government entities who utilize ESS in their day-to-day operations and planning activities are direct customers. The public, businesses and organizations in Dubai are also direct customers of some ESS and also indirectly benefited since streamlining and automating various internal government processes through ESS have improved overall service levels to them. Improved resources planning activities of government entities have enabled them to obtain faster and fiscally responsible services from the government.
Similarly, private sector is a stakeholder as provider of solutions for ESS. ESS helped in increasing the knowledge and skills of private sector in respective areas and has provided them with pertinent real implementation experience which enabled Dubai to be selected as a regional hub for most IT companies in the Gulf and Middle East regions. Dubai Government employees (civil servants) are also stakeholders as frequent users of these ESS helping them to either enable their core services or to carry out their internal administration tasks.
Last but not the least, Department of Finance in Dubai Government, whose main objective is to manage government financial resources, is a stakeholder since ESS notably reduced the ICT expenditures of government entities for their common needs.

(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.
Strategic Goals: The high level strategic goals of the Dubai eGovernment ESS initiative were to provide customer focused electronic ESS, to increase operational efficiencies and to achieve higher returns on ICT investments. A balanced scorecard based approach was used to craft and manage the strategies to implement the ESS as described below.
Strategic Customer Objectives: Dubai eGovernment identified the customer objectives of ESS as increasing customer satisfaction and trust, saving time and money for customers and increasing adoption of ESS by the customers. The customers of ESS are the government entities, the public, the businesses and other organizations in Dubai utilizing the ESS.
Strategic Internal Process Objectives: Dubai eGovernment identified the internal process objectives of ESS as innovating jointly with government entities to enable new ESS and to enhance the existing ones, rolling-out ESS to achieve high levels of penetration in government entities, enhancing the customer relationship of ESS, leveraging on private sector alliances and partnerships for implementation and implementing and enhancing ICT infrastructure for providing reliable and high performance ESS.
Strategic Learning & Growth Objectives: Dubai eGovernment identified the learning and growth objectives of ESS as attracting, developing and retaining key skills for ESS provisioning and providing requisite skills training to government entities in order to utilize the ESS effectively and exchanging knowledge to improve ESS usage.
Strategic Financial Objectives: Dubai eGovernment identified the financial objectives of ESS as achieving operational efficiencies through synergies and increasing productivity.
These strategic goals and objectives were established through a formal strategy formulation process with well-defined steps. The crafted strategy was complemented with various measures for monitoring its implementation.
The strategic leadership including the vision and the goals remained with His Highness Sheikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and The Ruler of Dubai who on several occasions reiterated his commitment to the entire initiative. This enabled focus by the government entities and created healthy competition among the government entities.
The initial strategy was established by The Executive Committee (TEC) along with The Strategic Management Office (SMO) and then refined by Dubai eGovernment Department (DeG). Participation of several Dubai Government entities in TEC enabled early engagement and buy-in.
Hence, several ESS were implemented reflecting the common needs of Dubai Government entities. Extensive engagement, participation and collaboration among Dubai Government entities were highly important during the strategic execution of ESS.

(b) Implementation

 b.      What were the key development and implementation steps and the chronology? No more than 500 words
The ESS were implemented in waves, whereby each ESS followed an initial implementation phase through a coordinated requirements gathering and the development stages including pilot government entities.
Subsequently, it was rolled-out gradually to all other government entities which needed the service. This was an ongoing process and each roll-out timeframe varied based on service and entity (e.g. GRP roll-outs took 3-6 months whereas electronic payment took 1-2 months depending on entity).
In parallel to roll-outs, ESS were also enhanced incessantly with new features to meet the customer requirements and to stay competitive with respect to advances in industry.
Some non-exhaustive representative ESS implementation timelines are indicated below:
Government Resources Planning (GRP) ESS: GRP was launched in 2003 with 15 ESS (HR, Finance, Supply-chain, etc.) in 7 entities and reached 34 ESS in 42 entities in 2012. GRP ESS implementation entailed 100+ government-level standardization workshops, 300+ government ‘business owners’ and 200+ streamlined, standardized and automated processes. Over the years, project management, electronic procurement, mobile supply chain management, etc. were added as enhancements. GRP ESS today handle more than 95% of Dubai Government civil servants’ payroll, 95% of the total Dubai Government budgets, more than 90% of the entire Dubai Government procurement. GRP ESS also integrate and interoperate with 59 vertical (core) applications in the government entities.

eServices Enabling ESS: Electronic payment (ePay) ESS was launched in 2003 in 3 entities and reached 26 entities in 2012. ePay has electronically conducted more than 2.8 million transactions and 3.8 billion UAE Dirhams ($1.05bn) in 2011 only. Over the years, different payment options such as AMEX, prepaid cards, direct debit (account transfer), mobile payment, kiosks payment, IVR payment were added as enhancements. Similarly SMS mobile messaging was launched in 30 entities in 2003 and reached 54 government entities in 2012. More than 77 million SMS messages were sent by government entities in 2011 only. Shared contact centre was launched in 2003 in 2 entities and reached 16 entities in 2012 and handled more than 178,000 public inquiries in 2011 only.

Infrastructure Enabling ESS: Messaging and collaboration ESS were launched in 2002 within 4 entities and reached 22 in 2012. Over the years, mobile messaging, Intranet solutions, real-time chat and collaboration were added as enhancements. The secure Government Information Network (GIN) and the Shared Internet services reached 46 entities in 2012 with many enhancements over the years.

Public and Businesses ESS: Electronic Survey ESS was launched in 2005 in 2 entities and reached 37 entities in 2012 handling 689 surveys with more than 33,000 responses from customers in 2011 only. Electronic Suggestions ESS was launched in 2011 and reached 21 entities in 2012 handling 15,272 suggestions so far in 2012 only. Electronic Complaints ESS was launched in 2007 in 13 entities and reached 28 entities by the end of 2011 and handled 6,115 complaints in 2011 only.

In 2012, formal service level agreements are formulated and being piloted to enable provisioning of these ESS with quality of service guarantees across the government.

(c) Overcoming Obstacles

 c.      What were the main obstacles encountered? How were they overcome? No more than 500 words
ESS implementation was a large-scale complex change initiative due to its breadth and scope (56 ESS and 40+ entities). Such multi-dimensional complexity coupled with cultural barriers posed distinctive challenges for the implementation process.
There were neither historical cases of similar scope nor regulatory guidelines (nor incentives) for undertaking such a whole-of-government approach previously. Institutional barriers and the autonomous structure of the government naturally impeded a collaborative approach. However, the ESS initiative was identified as a key strategic direction and high-level officials were appointed as responsible for planning and implementation. They were supported and monitored at the highest levels which created an urgency and a significant lever for change in applying the whole-of-government approach. Oversight, communication, extensive participation and quick wins were the main catalyzers throughout.
ESS required new ICT skills in terms of service design, implementation and delivery. Dubai Government entities were faced with the challenge of acquiring these skills through a steep learning curve. In the initial days, government entities recognized their skills gaps and capitalized on recruiting skilled staff as well as leveraging on private sector organizations for appropriate skills and services. Some were tackled at the project level through the regular government procurement processes (e.g. tenders, RFPs, etc.). Additionally, Dubai Government launched Dubai Knowledge Village in 2003 as a Free-Zone for human resources development which delivered professional training programs to improve the skills of human resources.
In some cases new skills requirements have arisen which were deemed as non-core for the government; or would be costly to develop by the government (e.g. 24x7 customer contact center, data center infrastructure management, mobile messaging services, etc.). In such cases, outsourcing was utilized through partnerships with the private sector which expedited the implementation process while enabling government to focus on its core business of public services delivery.
Centralized ESS were initially implemented in partnership with various private sector organizations. These partnerships were formulated to address knowledge transfer issues explicitly. Subsequent to the initial implementations, Dubai Government has utilized and still to date utilizes its own staff in successive roll-outs of ESS to various entities and also handles all the customer and service management issues with its own staff. This approach helped to acquire the requisite skills for ESS.
Customer management of ESS became a challenge and was tackled through formal account managers (government employees) serving other government entities in order to understand their needs and expectations. Electronic surveys and suggestions were used to identify various gaps. Customer support of ESS became a central operational issue due to the sheer number of support requests from government entities. Hence, an extensive customer support system for ESS was implemented along with its well-defined business processes and service level agreements are currently piloted.
Initial resistance to change in terms of ICT adoption was also overcome by recognizing and rewarding government entities. Successful entities were awarded by the Dubai Government Excellence Program to incentivize and to encourage successful e-Government executions. Additionally, DeG published adoption reports which further reinforced a competitive environment among government entities.

(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 ESS implementations depended on financial, technical and human resources.
The financial resources were planned as part of the government-wide budgeting process. Dubai eGovernment Department (DeG) has been the entity solely responsible for planning and implementing ESS in Dubai Government as of 2009 (GIRP and eServices prior to 2009). The total operating expenditures (excluding human resources costs) for ESS between Fiscal Years 2002 and 2011 (10 fiscal years) were $98.3million ($7.8million in 2011 only) and the total capital expenditures were $36.5million ($9.7million in 2011 only). Operating expenditures include all professional services fees, annual maintenance and operating fees, other operational supplies and expenses among others. Capital expenditures include long term asset purchases for ESS including ICT infrastructure and equipment, software licenses, etc. The financial resources are allocated for implementing, enhancing and rolling out ESS as well as the corresponding ICT infrastructure investments to cope with the increasing demand from government entities.
DeG (GIRP and eServices formerly) has intentionally built a lean organization with the human resources (staff) as knowledge workers, having requisite education and experience in their relevant fields. The total ESS human resources expenditures between Fiscal Years 2002 and 2011 were $59.5million ($9.8million in 2011 only) and included staff salaries and all related compensation. Currently in DeG there are 140+ employees handling the 56 ESS and serving 40+ entities to deliver and support all the aforementioned 56 ESS including ESS design, implementation, delivery, customer management and support and ICT infrastructure management. They also implement new ESS and enhance the existing ones. This clearly points to the economies of scale achieved by DeG in ESS provisioning since on the average 3 employees provide all 56 ESS to 1 government entity. In the lack of ESS, this would entail a much higher number per entity given the diverse set of skills required if they are implemented individually by each entity.
Technical resources (excluding human but including ICT infrastructure, equipment, software, etc.) are planned and allocated to either on-going operations or to implementation of new projects annually. The original purchase value of all the ICT assets currently utilized by DeG amounts to $11.9million with a lower current book value due to depreciation. These technical assets are utilized to provide the ESS to various government entities.
The resources are allocated and mobilized for two main purposes; to sustain the on-going operations of DeG and to implement new projects, both planned as part of the annual fiscal year budgeting process. Once approved, financial resources are released for consumption in line with the approved budget request. ESS tend to have relatively easier approvals since they constitute cost savings for the government.
ESS resources may appear significant at the outset, however the cost savings incurred are much higher than the mobilized resources. The Department of Finance would have to allocate much higher amounts to each and every entity in the absence of ESS due to replicated expenditures. ESS played an indispensable role to achieve higher productivity in the government and also incurred high returns on financial investments.

Sustainability and Transferability

  Is the initiative sustainable and transferable?
Given the success and the positive impacts of the ESS initiative, Department of Finance strongly believes that it is sustainable and also transferable to other public sector contexts. ESS have formed one of the key pillars of Dubai Government strategy. Successful implementation of ESS has encouraged government entities to utilize them extensively. No Dubai Government entity has abandoned usage of ESS in the past.
Dubai eGovernment Department is continually enhancing its ESS and also implementing new ones in line with the customer needs and the emerging opportunities. Hence continuous innovation becomes imperative contributing to the sustainability of the ESS.
Similarly, effective customer support and management, operational excellence in delivery, appropriate implementation of high service-levels and business continuity measures have enhanced the sustainability of ESS in Dubai.
Cultural barriers such as lack of previous experience in cross-entity collaboration may hinder a whole-of-government ESS approach. ESS innovations are more sustainable when jointly done with government entities. This helps in early buy-in through extensive engagement. Depending on specific public sector context, a wide spectrum of options is available to implement ESS, ranging from a simple project based organization to a formally established institution responsible for ESS (as in Dubai case).
Many public sector organizations are currently under fiscal pressure (e.g. high leverage and austerity measures) to deliver their services. Centrally implemented ESS have enabled significant cost savings in Dubai as opposed to each and every entity implementing them on their own. The achieved cost savings have been redirected to other uses, which has in turn increased the output of the government. This enabled improved productivity in the public sector and has further sustained the ESS. Attained operational efficiencies have been a crucial part of ESS sustainability in Dubai.
Centralized implementation of ESS has also achieved higher capacity utilizations of the underlying systems and technology infrastructure (economies of scale). It has further helped in reducing carbon emissions due to more efficient usage of the underlying information technology infrastructure. Reductions in carbon emissions are due to a single highly utilized infrastructure with less number of components as opposed to replicating the technology infrastructure in multiple entities (non-shared) resulting in much higher total number of components and their inefficient utilization. Hence ESS are also environmentally sustainable.
Dubai Government continues to enhance the existing ESS and also to implement new ones. For example, it has just formulated a whole-of-government information security policy and regulation and is planning to implement new ESS for it leveraging on the previous successes.
We believe that the ESS are also transferable in addition to their sustainability. UAE Federal e-Government has also adopted an ESS approach subsequently. Several regional and international public sector organizations are good candidates for implementing comparable ESS. The implementation approach of ESS can vary based on the actual context of the public sector (in terms of stakeholders, expectations, culture, institutional framework, etc.). However, the benefits (as outcomes) will remain similar and they highly justify the implementation of ESS in our experience.

Lessons Learned

 What are the impact of your initiative and the lessons learned?
The whole-of-government ESS initiative had significant impacts as summarized below non-exhaustively.
The ESS have a unified standardized single implementation for all entities. Standardization helped in achieving consistent and higher service levels, government-wide sharing of best practices, business requirements and implementation aspects (knowledge in one entity permeated across the government) and in implementing government-wide policies much quicker and easier (single versus many implementations).
ESS attained significant operational efficiencies and achieved cost savings for the government. Alternatively, each government entity would have to implement individually the same services which would result in substantial replication of financial and human resources. The resources compound easily for the implemented 56 ESS for 40+ government entities. A lean back-office enabled more resources to be reallocated to customer facing rich front-office services.
All entities utilized, in parallel, the existing ESS to meet their entities’ needs, which in turn expedited government level implementation timelines and reduced implementation delays due to resources availability in each entity.
ESS intrinsically enabled data and information collection and benchmarking at the government and entity levels. For example, Dubai Government can consolidate its finances at the government level for better planning thanks to its centralized GRP system.
ESS also created an environment conducive to further collaboration and cooperation for whole-of-government policy making and implementation (e.g. budgeting, HR policies, etc.).
Electronic surveys, suggestions and complaints were used to engage with the public more effectively increasing their participation significantly in policy making. Customer centric one-stop-shop official Dubai Government portal (as an ESS) allowed much easier access to public services for individuals and businesses in Dubai.
Some of the lessons learnt are outlined below.

Given the cultural and institutional barriers in many public sector organizations, high-level commitment and leadership are key and essential contributors to success. The Ruler of Dubai’s commitment and leadership steered the right course for the initiative throughout.

Establishing a solid strategy and an appropriate governance mechanism and engaging government entities as the ultimate users of ESS were of utmost importance for desired levels of adoption.

Implementing measurement systems and setting targets (e.g. roll-out and usage targets for ESS) were crucial to deliver on planned efficiencies.

Addressing skill gaps beforehand through proper planning helps down the road for timely and quality implementation of ESS. The scarcity of ICT skills may hinder sophisticated ESS implementations.

Establishing partnerships with the private sector was critical. It helped in closing the skills gaps and in government focusing on its core activities while utilizing outsourcing of non-core activities.

Quick wins implemented early on during the initiative (e.g. one stop shop portal of Dubai Government, GRP pilot, GIN, mobile messaging) created momentum, secured buy-in and established trust and confidence in ESS. However, they need to be augmented with continuous innovation to keep the momentum.

Operational delivery processes such as customer relationship management, customer support, infrastructure management and information security management were critical to meet the increasing demands of government entities. DeG has formulated draft service level agreements for ESS and is currently piloting them to better serve the government entities.

Contact Information

Institution Name:   Dubai eGovernment
Institution Type:   Government Department  
Contact Person:   Wesam Lootah
Title:   Assistant Director General  
Telephone/ Fax:  
Institution's / Project's Website:
Address:   PO Box 90300
Postal Code:   90300
City:   Dubai
State/Province:   Dubai
Country:   United Arab Emirates

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