National Gateway Infrastructure (NGI)
eGovernment Authority

A. Problem Analysis

 1. What was the problem before the implementation of the initiative?
In recent years the Kingdom of Bahrain has risen to be one of the strongest eGovernment champions in the Gulf Region, thanks largely to the strategic ambitions of the Bahrain eGovernment Authority (eGA). This pioneering government agency is responsible for delivery of government services and providing citizen assistance through electronic channels in accordance with the following vision: “To provide Government services that are integrated and best-in-class, available to all through their channel of choice helping Bahrain transform as the finest country in GCC to visit, live, work and do business” With this goal in mind, the eGA made huge advances in offering eGovernment services, creating an innovative national web portal, mobile portal, ekiosk network and series of National Contact Centers through which the public services of various government agencies are delivered. To ensure that the Authority continued to advance service offerings to citizens and businesses in line with the latest developments in the e-government field as well as new ICT trends and best practices, the eGA conducted a complete Enterprise Architecture Survey between 2007 and 2010 to examine synergies and gaps between every area of eGA operations. A key survey outcome found that despite delivering excellent e-government services, the Kingdom lacked a common infrastructure - or ‘technological backbone’ - to facilitate shared service innovation and generate greater efficiencies and cost savings for the Kingdom. Namely, there was NO ability to: (1) Easily share and reuse the applications between institutions to remove the need for re-inventing the wheel; (2) Share useful data between government agencies to maximize service synergies between Ministries; (3) Form meaningful collaborations between different government services to enhance services and streamline processes. Lack of a unified approach to technology adoption meant that individual Ministries and other government entities had not only procured different technologies, but they had also developed to different maturity levels. At the same time that these difficulties where discovered, internet connectivity amongst Bahraini households increased to 80% - fueling increasing expectations amongst the public for state-of-the-art online government services. An absence of backend integration between existing online services limited the eGA’s ability to meet these expectations and ensure that the Kingdom continued to achieve its vision of delivering world-class public services to all of its citizens and residents. A solution to deliver seamless interoperability between the services of government departments was clearly needed.

B. Strategic Approach

 2. What was the solution?
In response to the challenges of backend service integration, the eGA, in conjunction with the national government, proposed the establishment of a Government ESB, called the National Gateway Infrastructure (NGI) as part of the project for the development of National Enterprise Architecture Framework (NEAF) completed in 2010. The NGI initiative took the visionary approach of avoiding top-down conformity to a single IT standard, instead opting to create a transformational change by providing a flexible infrastructure to handle all existing IT solutions found in government services. The NGI was designed as a middleware capable of integrating heterogeneous backend systems, providing a completely automated eServices and reducing the time required for services to be provided electronically. The NGI was designed to deliver the ambitious goal of a fully integrated service backbone to support the interoperability of all online services: Interoperability by Design – The NGI was designed with a sophisticated unified messaging system to cater for communication between diverse systems and standardize integration approaches. The ESB solution is able to integrate various types of backend systems and services, such as Web Services, SOAP messaging, Stored Procedures directly into the NGI and make these services available in simple, interoperable formats. Shared Data, Shared Services – The NGI contains a specially designed layer to automate services and minimize any unnecessary human intervention throughout the process of the service. The architecture of the ESB allows innovative synthesis and collaboration between services. NGI can share commonly held information about citizens across a range of services to ensure no citizen ever has to submit the same information twice. Single, Collaborative Back-End – The NGI makes it possible for the first time to deliver eGovernment services offered by different government agencies through a single back-end platform. Through the NGI’s universal backbone for the whole of government, services can be easily exposed through all of eGA’s front-end portals - eGovernment Portal, Mobile Portal, eService Centres & eKiosks and the National Call Centre. Monitoring Dashboard – The NGI empowers senior management to monitor the performance of their services through an integrated ‘dashboard’. The dashboard allows managers to define Key Performance Indicators and run ‘monitoring agents’ to clearly displays the statistics against given KPIs. The dashboard allows fast, simple measurement and improvement of service performance. By creating a flexible yet robust ESB, the NGI was able to integrate all online services and departments into a unified backbone. Instead of departments struggling to implement costly and fragmented IT solutions ultimately leading to frustration and a lack of interoperability, NGI provides a simple-to-implement solution with no development burden on the ministries themselves. Citizens and businesses alike also benefit from a wider range of services and a joined-up backend means no more filling in the data twice. Through the NGI, Bahrain has already integrated over 200 eServices provided by more than 26 government ministries and this number is rising

 3. How did the initiative solve the problem and improve people’s lives?
Rather than start from scratch, NGI used ‘interoperability as standard’ to facilitate seamless and simple integration of existing government services into a common backbone. As such, NGI constituted a creative drive to integrate existing government services by using an innovative software backbone to bring together heterogeneous systems. NGI combined this state-of-the art innovation with existing standards in government services: Service-Oriented Architecture - NGI adheres to best practices for a Service Oriented Architecture (SOA). SOA practices enable NGI to provide a rich repository of reusable services/components and, thus, reduce the development cycle. Business Logics –NGI enables the introduction and integration of highly complex business logics in a completely automated manner - independent of the backend capabilities of the service provider. Business logics allow any service to define operational goals, conditions and customers and create a software system that fully supports their activities. Monitoring dashboard - NGI monitors KPIs real-time in a clear and easy way to understand manner. Metrics are presented via a simple dashboard to make them accessible for all levels of the administration from service provider through to senior government figures. The end result is a performance monitoring solution that drives service efficiency and increases accountability throughout the government.

C. Execution and Implementation

 4. In which ways is the initiative creative and innovative?
The implementation of this solution was outsourced to a company whose experience in the deployment of middleware solutions is exceptional in the region and internationally. The implementation plan consisted of multiple phases: Phase 1 – Design and Establishment [June 2010 – May 2011] – The first established the technical infrastructure for the NGI, including all the supporting components, such as various monitoring tools. This phase started with the review of the proposed architecture and its compliance to the National Enterprise Architecture Framework (NEAF). Then the infrastructure setup and configuration took place to ensure that the ESB and all supporting software and portal functionality were fully integrated. Finally, rigorous performance testing was conducted to ensure that every aspect of the solution was fit-for –purpose. One particular concentration for the testing team was security assessment and penetration testing to ensure that the NGI conformed to the highest privacy and security standards. Phase 2 – Pilot Services [July 2010 – May 2011] - In parallel to the first phase, a second phase started to develop pilot services to kick-start use of the NGI directly after completion. The development phase adopted the ‘waterfall methodology’ for sequential design and development of a software system. Each of the selected pilot services was integrated into the ESB and exposed through the NGI. Finally several rounds of functionality testing were conducted to ensure that the service could be correctly accessed and used by each of the front-end channels connected to the system. Phase 3 – Roll-Out [January 2012] – Once the NGI had been established with fully operational pilot services, the third phase integrated the full portfolio of over 200 online services into the NGI. Each service was integrated with the ESB and exposed over the NGI to allow seamless access across compatible front-end channels. Phase 4 – Monitoring and Evaluation [January 2013 onwards] – Continuous monitoring of the initiative was implemented from day one of deployment. Officials from eGA regularly check both the performance of integrated services and ease with which new services can be added. Annual reports are compiled by the team and widely circulated to ensure the project continues to perform to the highest standards of excellence.

 5. Who implemented the initiative and what is the size of the population affected by this initiative?
Due to the cross-departmental nature of the NGI and its main objectives, a diverse range of stakeholders were engaged to ensure the solution developed was both representative and fully functional: Government Agencies: A range of government entities were involved in the NGI as the creators of different services. Agencies were required to provide technical information about the architecture of their solutions and the interoperability requirements of their own IT systems. Agencies involved include the Civil Services Bureau, Ministry of Housing, Ministry of Social Development, Ministry of Works, Ministry of Labor, Ministry of Municipalities Affairs and Urban Planning, Ministry of Transportation, Ministry of Industry and Commerce, Central Information Organization and Ministry of Health. Private Businesses: Businesses were consulted during the planning and implementation of the initiative to ensure that design of the solution met their need to access government services quickly and efficiently. A key example of business consultation was insurance companies, who were asked to provide their requirements for access to the vehicle registration services. NGOs: Bahrain’s NGO community was also consulted during the design and implementation to make sure that entitles can easily integrate services they need into their operations. An example of this consultation are many NGOs working with economically disadvantaged families, who were asked for their requirements in accessing the Ministry of Social Development’s financial aid services to identify at-risk citizens. Citizens & Residents: A final group of stakeholders consulted extensively in the monitoring and evaluation phase were citizens and residents. Citizens were asked to provide their feedback on access to services through the different eGovernment channels such as the webportal and mobile portal. Using citizen feedback, the NGI team has maintained continuous monitoring and improvement of the solution.
 6. How was the strategy implemented and what resources were mobilized?
Financial Resources The financial resources were allocated as part of the bi-annual budget that is planned by the government. [The project cost was BD 470,000 for the acquisition and setup of infrastructure and the development of Pilot Services. Furthermore, the cost of services migration comes close to BD 80,000] Human Resources * Project Manager responsible for resource management and business continuity * BPR specialist provided the AS-IS and TO-BE * Business Analyst delivered the system prototype * Technical Analyst created suitable architecture * Developer part of the service delivery team to develop the software systems * QA and Testing team to ensure end to end quality assessment of the system. Technical Resources In terms of technical resources, some of the most experienced resources were hired in the eGovernment Authority to supervise the delivery of the solution and ensure the high standards are maintained. Additionally, the tender to implement NGI was awarded to a company that has an extensive experience in implementing this kind of projects with the required technical expertise to deliver its outcome up to the highest standards and expectations.

 7. Who were the stakeholders involved in the design of the initiative and in its implementation?
The most successful output from the NGI project has been a common backend infrastructure capable of creating a seamless and fully interoperable suite of government services. Within this overall architecture, a number of concrete outputs have supported the success of the NGI: Interoperability as Standard: NGI has been designed specifically with the ability to integrate heterogeneous systems. By designing a system capable of handling all common formats (e. SOAP, REST, Webservices), NGI has removed from government departments and Ministries the burden of redesigning their services to match any new top-down standard. Instead, NGI creates interoperability as standard to facilitate seamless and simple integration of all government services into a common backbone. Service Automation: NGI has the ability to provide highly automated and complex services to government departments. The architecture of the ESB has been created to allow innovative synthesis and collaboration between government services. NGI has the ability to share commonly held information about citizens across a range of services to ensure that many services never have to collect citizen information but can automatically access and use existing databases. Monitoring Dashboard: NGI has been developed with robust functionality to define, measure and improve service performance via a real-time KPI monitoring dashboard. The dashboard has allowed the senior management teams throughout the government to improve oversight of services and maximize synergies between different services. Private Sector/ NGO Integration: NGI provides the necessary technical architecture for close partnership with the private sector by facilitating access to the government services and vice versa. The same functionality has also allowed the government to integrate services with the NGOs in the community.

 8. What were the most successful outputs and why was the initiative effective?
Project Management Approach: Monitoring of the implementation of NGI was conducted using best practices for Project management and the use of tools and techniques recommended by the PMI (Project Management Institute) in their PMBOK standards. All work was also carried out in full conformity with the ISO 21500 standard for project management Key Performance Indicators: The eGA has developed, as part of the 2011-2016 eGovernment Strategy, a suite of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for each of the key projects developed by the authority including the NGI. The purpose of these KPIs is to ensure that all projects fully supported Bahrain’s integrated eGovernment vision. The key KPIS that NGI contributed to are as follows: • All government online services are managed through a unified system – NGI realizes the goal of a unified system • Three eGovernment Projects to be funded annually and technically supported – NGI funded and supported from 2010 onward • Two government-wide systems implemented to increase service efficiency and readiness – NGI delivers interoperability between all services • Three eGovernment Channels significantly upgraded and integrated by 2013 – NGI supports upgrade of webportal, mobile portal and eService Centers & Kiosks • All government service information available online – NGI enables simple discovery or services Refine Monitoring Approach with Stakeholders: The NGI team made a particular point of introducing the concept to the whole of the government on the highest level and discuss it with the Supreme Council for Information and Communications Technology (SCICT) which is chaired by H.E. the deputy prime minister of the kingdom. Various workshops were conducted with different government, NGOs and private sector partners to create the necessary awareness and set the expectations accurately. Finally, frequent progress reports were circulated to the relevant stakeholders Success Stories & User Training: To create a series of success stories and accessible case studies, a limited number of ‘trial’ services were implemented, as a pilot phase, to create the confidence in the capabilities of the solution. These case studies were then circulated to all stakeholders to give all government departments, regardless of technical level, an entry-point to the many benefits of the NGI. Moreover, user training sessions were conducted to familiarize and educate people on the usage of the infrastructure as well as to introduce it to the service development life cycle adopted internally.

 9. What were the main obstacles encountered and how were they overcome?
Resistance to Change from Service Providers Challenge – One of the main obstacles to the successful integration of the NGI was the resistance to change in the development teams of certain services. The NGI team experienced a number of entrenched practices and a wish to stick within technological ‘comfort zones’ rather than explore a new system. Solution – The NGI team implemented a comprehensive and far-reaching change management plan that managed to gradually get the necessary buy in from the impacted stakeholders by creating the awareness and the extensive training provided. Challenging IT Formats Challenge – Some services were developed using more difficult IT formats that were initially incompatible with the ESB. Such services were often built using closed IT systems sold by a technology provider and not designed to be interoperable with other formats. Solution – Wherever possible, the NGI team undertook specific development work to include all available formats through the ESB. Where development was not possible or financially feasible, the NGI issued guidance to all government entities on supported formats and provided support for any agency who wished to redesign services to be compatible with the NGI. Lack of IT Expertise Challenge – NGI encountered immature understanding of available technologies and incomplete knowledge about integrating services into a common middleware in some government agencies. Solution – NGI overcame this challenge by providing a far-reaching and flexible training programme to all new and existing personnel to prepare them to use the solution.

D. Impact and Sustainability

 10. What were the key benefits resulting from this initiative?
With the establishment of the NGI solution, the vision of a whole of government service backbone became a reality for Bahrain’s previously fragmented online services. The NGI has made the delivery of services more efficient for citizens and unlocked the enormous potential of integrated services to make life easier and save time. The following key impacts have been felt from the NGI: Services are available for adaptation and reuse across government departments: The NGI has made it possible for government departments to collaborate and exchange services across the traditional boundaries of ministry and ICT solution. This new opportunity for collaboration means departments no longer have to repeat development work when a suitable solution is already available through the NGI. In addition, the fact that granularity of the service is very low, and that the services are analyzed to a very fine and low level makes the concept of reusability an applicable and suitable approach, which is a basic principal of the SOA. NGI has provided the whole of government with a rich list of reusable components, development and testing times would be greatly shortened. Fully-Automated Services: Another impact for the NGI project is that services are now capable of advanced automation. Where once most services were ‘submission-only,’ requiring staff to conduct complex backend operations manually for each different person, under the new NGI departments have the power to integrate complex logic and full automation. A fully automated system provides great flexibility and reduces the time to complete a service. Seamless Join-Up for Different Services: NGI services provide the ability to seamlessly integrate multiple services using the ESB. Integration further allows all services to access the full range of common data resources shared by the government. This functionality advances the vision of a ‘Single-Sign-On government by providing all services with access to information about users wherever it has been entered. This process not only saves the user time but also allows the government to maximize the synergies between different services by contributing to a common data pool about citizens and residents. Improved Services for Citizens and Businesses: NGI ultimately provides simple, interoperable services across the full range of eGovernment portals. With over 200 services available to citizens through the webportal and 55 online using the mobile portal, the NGI has powered a new wave of eGovernment across Bahrain. Citizens can also expect to see new services coming online every year, with eGA providing at least 40 new online services annually.

 11. Did the initiative improve integrity and/or accountability in public service? (If applicable)
Financial Sustainability Currently, the solution is being financially sustained by the government as a mission-critical aspect of eGovernment service provision [with an average annual maintenance cost of around BD 40,000]. However, other financial sustainability options are currently under consideration. Among the options being considered are the establishment of a partnership with private sector companies to share the cost of ownership in return of enriching private sector services and providing them through government channels. Institutional Sustainability The development and maintenance of the NGI is regulated by a set of governance rules and policies enforced by the SCICT. The strict adherence to established operational practices within the governmental system ensures that the NGI will remain in full compliance with the best practices of the government and remain relevant Technological Sustainability The NGI has been designed as ‘service agnostic’ to allow for the integration and seamless interoperability of different APIs and Web service formats. This flexible approach has also ensured the architecture has sufficient flexibility to easily adapt to new technologies as these come on-stream through technological development. On the other side, the system is also capable of connecting more legacy service formats such as SOAP to up-to-date services, thereby removing the burden on government departments to update technologies that are still fit-for-purpose. Scalability The NGI solution can be replicated internationally by adopting the SOA principals that define the architecture and the middleware. The wide acceptance of SOA along with the flexibility and benefits of a ‘technology agnostic’ system make the NGI an ideal candidate for implementation in other governmental contexts as it can already connect the full range of common service formats with the minimum of adaptation.

 12. Were special measures put in place to ensure that the initiative benefits women and girls and improves the situation of the poorest and most vulnerable? (If applicable)
There were several lessons that were learned during the project implementation and during the operation of the solution: Remain Technology-Agnostic: The NGI team learned that to successfully integrate a wide variety of governmental services often developed using radically disparate technology solutions, it is crucial that the solution itself should not attempt to impose a top-down format. Only through successfully showcasing that integration will be both easy and without development cost can you hope to engage all the different service providers necessary to make the system a success. Change Management is Crucial to Success: The NGI solution, being a nationwide integration middleware, has significant impact on a great number of stakeholders around Bahrain. Thus, with similar projects, the awareness and the change management has to be properly planned and managed. The NGI team found that it was critical to both manage expectations and educate stakeholders regularly to ensure that buy-in was secured early and often during development. Communication Clearly and Regularly: Communication is another important aspect that had proven to be one of the most crucial elements throughout the NGI implementation. Clear and informative communications to all stakeholders was very important to achieve all objectives, especially that the success depends on the cooperation of all service providers and consumers. Listen to Your Customers: Listening to customer demands is also a lesson taken away from this experience, among many other experiences. Customers are the ones who define the success and the failure of any public service. Fulfilling customers’ demands and needs should be one objective government entities aim to achieve.

Contact Information

Institution Name:   eGovernment Authority
Institution Type:   Government Agency  
Contact Person:   Abdulla Al Jowder
Title:   Sr. EA Projects Specialist  
Telephone/ Fax:  
Institution's / Project's Website:  
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