Saudi Whole of Government Approach
Saudi E-Government Program

A. Problem Analysis

 1. What was the problem before the implementation of the initiative?
Prior to the foundation of the E-government program, Yesser, the 300 plus government agencies in Saudi Arabia worked independently to serve society according to their mandates. These individual agencies strived to make government services better, but their efforts were necessarily myopic due to their limited jurisdiction’s. No single agency was responsible for the promotion of a whole of government agenda and cross-agency collaboration was, at best, ad-hoc and limited to a few mature inter-sector agencies. The lack of government wide frameworks, integration platforms, training & capacity building, and performance monitoring led to inconsistent user experiences, redundant resource acquisition and cross agency bottlenecks. These challenges were further complicated by the fact that Saudi Arabia is a relatively large country, the 13th largest, and has a very young population, 50% under 30 years of age, who are well versed in the usage of technology as evidenced by the world leading YouTube and Twitter per capita usage. This rapid adoption of technology put pressure on the government to provide services that are equally engaging and technology centric. Saudi Arabia also faced challenges providing a unified and comprehensive set of services to the roughly 6 million foreign pilgrims that annually visit the holy cities of Mecca and Medina. These issues affected every segment of society, though it was disproportionately more detrimental on the underserved section of society like the elderly, physically challenged and women. The need to visit different government offices, repeatedly, wait in long lines and often be turned away due to lack of information about the prerequisites of availing the service were major drawbacks. The lack of a central repository detailing the kind of services provided by the government and the requirements of avail them was missing, making the task of finding information before visiting the government office difficult, if not impossible. An example of the kind of service that could have benefitted from automation and cross agency integration was the renewing of work permits - a necessity for over 4 million people each year from across the country —that often took multiple visits to the same office because of a fragmented and inconsistent business processes and requirements, ranging from types of identification acceptable for women, families and types of employers, inefficient business processes with non-integrated, inter-agency service delivery processes—created frustration and alienation. The demand for a virtual government, providing 365x24x7 access to services via modern and easy to use channels that would restructure the relationship between the government and the society it serves, became the self-evident with rapid adoption and heavy utilization of the limited e-services that were offered by the few agencies with the wherewithal to offer them. Reflecting this lack of cohesion in e-government strategy, the UN ranking of Saudi Arabia’s e-government placed it at the 80th position out of the 190 countries surveyed in 2005 despite the fact that Saudi Arabia was ranked 50th in terms of per capita GDP in the same year and spent an estimated 11.5 B SAR on improving communication and information technology.

B. Strategic Approach

 2. What was the solution?
Recognizing this lack of a central agency to promote a holistic view of government in the information age, the Council of Ministers, one of the highest legislative bodies in Saudi Arabia, issued a Royal decree that directed the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology to formulate a plan for providing government services electronically and encouraging a whole of government approach for the adoption of technology. The Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT) established Yesser, the e-Government Program, in 2005 in conjunction with the Ministry of Finance and the central ICT regulator, The Communication and Information Technology Commission (CITC). Yesser, Arabic for “enable and facilitate, was mandated with creating a virtual state by enabling incremental progression from passive, information focused e-government to interactive and transformative e-governance. The ultimate goal of the envisioned virtual state, enabled by Yesser, is the cross-agency and cross-jurisdictional, deployment of resources in an manner that is suited for consumption by individuals through a networked system, profoundly changing the way the government functions and the expectations placed upon it by the consumers. This virtual state would serve as functional entity that is not limited by stove piped organization view of services. The strategy Yesser has pursued to enable a more holistic government view is three pronged. 1. Provide platforms to enable the 300 or so government agencies to share information through a state-of-the-art service oriented infrastructure. The Government Service Bus & Government Secure Network are examples of such platforms. 2. Implement a government wide Enterprise Architecture program as a method to promote a unified whole of government model that contributes to increasing both efficiency and effectiveness in the government. This EA program has become the umbrella under which many of the existing standards, frameworks and government wide initiatives were grouped to enable government agencies to refer to a single source of truth for guidelines and best practice such as Data exchange standards, Business reference models, Technology standards etc. The main benefit from realizing the whole of government vision will be avoiding the duplication of investment and increasing the effectiveness and efficiency of the government as a whole. The national enterprise architecture model is unique in that melds together elements from strategic management of the balanced score card and a well-known solution architecture paradigm called service oriented architecture. The seamless combination of these different components into the National Enterprise Architecture has resulted in an end to end framework that promotes a whole of government approach to solution development and adoption. 3. Create a central repository of e-services that allows consumers to locate and consume services from a single portal regardless of which agency actually provides the services. The portal, called is continuously updated with the latest information and currently contain upwards of 1600 services. As an enforcement mechanism provides Yesser also provides funds to government agencies looking to modernize their ICT systems, especially in cases where the new services will help under-served members of the population obtain access services. Yesser has published a set of frameworks and methodologies that help agencies focus on the core issues of serving public rather than focus on the task of maintaining information technology and helps agencies keep abreast of the latest happenings in the world of communication and information technology. Since its inception, Yesser has helped 113 government agencies by providing 568 million USD for modernization and service automation. Yesser also provides consulting services that helps agencies with planning and executing their e-transformation plans. Yesser, so far, has responded to 163 such requests for assistance.

 3. How did the initiative solve the problem and improve people’s lives?
The central role of Yesser in e-government enablement allows it to roll out a variety of unique initiatives that encourage a holistic government view and help government agencies improve upon their productivity and efficiency. The melding of the National Enterprise Architecture Initiative with a service oriented architecture approach and the balanced score card is an innovative framework that is unique to Saudi Arabia has helped shape the development of government agencies in a way that focuses on holistic improvements in service delivery. Other initiatives such as Government Service Bus, Open Data, Government cloud services, and the National Call have been created with focus on using open standards, wherever applicable, this helps future proof the resulting solutions and encourages public participation. Yesser also uses a hands off method to enforce these solutions, while the solutions are available for everyone to use, the only time Yesser enforces adoption of them is when Yesser funds a project, otherwise the solutions are used based on their own merit. Yesser also offers training to government employees and CIO’s to help them understand the role technology plays in government, how to reuse the national solutions and what it means to create a single virtual state.

C. Execution and Implementation

 4. In which ways is the initiative creative and innovative?
The strategy was implemented via a series of action plans. The first action plan, which focused on getting the infrastructure needed to enable the virtual state up and running lasted from 2006 to 2010. While the first action plan was more transactional in nature the 2nd action plan, currently being implemented, is focused on the evolution of government to the virtual state where participatory deliberative decision making and engaging with the society in a two way open dialog is the focus, this is slated to end in 2016. The steps taken to implement the strategy, in chronological order, are given below: 2005: Establishment of Yesser as a central government body to foster e-government development from a business side (financing projects, staff etc. and consulting) 2006: First action plan launched, focusing on Shared National Infrastructure, E-services & National Applications. initiatives launched include Specifications Guidelines - YEFI, Government Secure Network (GSN), Government Service Bus, Yesser Data Center National e-Government Contact Center, Capacity Building Initiative,. 2007: Initiatives launched and implemented include digital Certification, Yesser Consulting Services, e-Services Framework, Government Modular systems Specifications, Saudi Portal, Single sign-on (SSO). 2008: Establishing and indexing of Saudi e-government initiatives and establishing central services information hub ( Present Establishment of the supporting skills, specialists, strategies and processes to allow effective utilization of the above. The First iteration of Saudi Government Transformation Measurement was conducted, analyzed and the results were published. 2009: Launching of the Saudi National infrastructure (Government Secure Network, Government Service Bus). The Second iteration of Saudi Government Transformation Measurement was conducted, analyzed and the results were published. 2010: New National enabling services e-ID, on-boarding processes, Yesser Consulting Group, Center of Excellence for Research and Development, Enjaz National e-government Achievement Awards, e-Government Capacity Building and Training. The Third iteration of Saudi Government Transformation Measurement was conducted, analyzed and the results were published. 2011: Published additional services on the Government Service Bus, Yesser Service Awards, Funded 22 agencies and support them in the development of e-transformation plans. Conduct a national survey “Qiyas” that measured the service provision maturity of the 300 different government agencies. The Fourth iteration of Saudi Government Transformation Measurement was conducted, analyzed and the results were published. 2012: 2nd Action plan launched focusing on the evolution of the components introduced in the 1st action plan along with the introduction of Human Capital improvement, greater public participation in creation of services and institutionalizing e-governance. The Fifth iteration of Saudi Government Transformation Measurement was conducted, analyzed and the results were published. 2013: National Call Center operational, Open Data initiative launched, The National Enterprise Architecture Initiative was launched, National Architecture awareness public forum and conference conducted and GCloud plans formalized. Funded 38 agencies and support them in the development of e-transformation plans. Updated with web accessibility features.

 5. Who implemented the initiative and what is the size of the population affected by this initiative?
With a whole of government perspective, the operational plan for the e-Government Program "YESSER"—was a broad inclusive effort obtaining significant guidance from members of the public, business owners, senior executives of public institutions, ministers, and government employees to recommend how the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia could both modernize and take advantage of lessons from other top-performing nation’s e-government efforts—and rapidly increase the value of public services delivery to all members of the Saudi public. Stakeholders are embedded in the overall governing of the operation, planning, and monitoring of Yesser’s performance. Yesser strives to involve both top down and bottom up feedback in the implementation of its initiatives. The top down involvement happens via the “E-government Program Supreme Supervisory Committee”. This committee is formed by His Excellency the Minister of Finance, His Excellency the Minister of Communications and Information Technology, and His Excellency the Governor of the Communications and Information Technology Commission, and The e-Government Program Steering Committee. The Steering Committee is headed by His Excellency the Governor of the Communications and Information Technology Commission. His deputy is the Director General of the Computer Center at the Ministry of Finance. Committee members include a number of relevant executives from the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, the Communications and Information Technology Commission as well as the Director of the e-Government Program. An e-Government Committee in each government organization is directly linked to the top executive in that organization. The major task of these committees is to supervise the implementation of the e-government plan in their respective organizations. The bottom up effort consisting of conducting various surveys of the government agencies, using public forums and e-forums, and end user surveys as mechanisms to keep stakeholders engaged in the development of the e-government initiatives.
 6. How was the strategy implemented and what resources were mobilized?
3B SAR (800M USD) was allocated from the general budget for the initial phase Yesser National e-Government program. This financial resource has remained stable and demonstrates senior leadership commitment. Overarching this seed money are the new processes for vetting and accelerating the funding of e-government projects at the ministry and agency levels, this has been a significant help in advancing service development. The National portal was an outsourced project which is receiving continuous support which is the same for the entire core infrastructure. Human resources have been a critical factor in the development and support provided by Yesser. The Kingdom has a shortage of the types of skill levels to support the projects. As described earlier Yesser is attempting to help solve this problem. Beyond training for technical and front office workers, the program now offers CIO and executive level mentorship programs. Yesser developed the Future Experts Program to take new graduates and line managers into a specialized e-government education and experiential program. In the development of the 2nd action plan high attention is placed on both Yesser and the Kingdom e-government leaders to address the on-going skills development need. The organizational structure of Yesser has been tightly focused upon utilizing the concepts of continuous improvements with goals of reaching a high-performance knowledge organization. Current departments involved are e-Services, Yesser Consulting Group, Infrastructure Integration Group and management. In terms of technology, Yesser, has focused on using open standards and solutions to lower costs and avoid re-inventing concepts and solutions available. In the National Enterprise Architecture initiative, Yesser developed its own methodology based on the well-known Open Group Architecture Framework and the Federal Enterprise Architecture Framework of the USA. This framework was complimented with the Service Oriented Architecture methodology, published by the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS), and the Balanced Score Card for strategic performance management. Other initiatives like the Yesser Interoperability Framework used mandated the use of XML and RESTUL web services for sharing and maintaining government data. This focus on open standards has saved the Kingdom a significant amount of time in the maintenance and development of solutions.

 7. Who were the stakeholders involved in the design of the initiative and in its implementation?
The success of strategy can be judged from the fact that the UN ranking for Saudi Arabia in 2012 is 41, up 39 places from the start of the e-government program in 2005. Saudi Arabia has also won 4 international awards including the Future eGov award and the Improving Public Service award from the UN, both in 2010. The participation of the government agencies and the public at large in forging the future of the virtual state is at an all-time high and is expected to translate to ready adoption of the whole of government idea. Some of the most successful outputs of Yesser include: 1. Embedding solutions that support of whole of government view point in key government agencies. These solutions include the Government Service Bus that currently the hosts more than 40 services with 65 of the major government agencies connected to it, The national call center that allows agencies to subscribe to a shared call center that offers an additional channel for e-service utilization, and The Government Cloud service that allows agencies to rationalize the use of hardware, platforms and software. These services have led to savings in the tune of ~5B SAR annually. An ROI of 166%, compared to the budget of Yesser in monetary terms, not including the add on effects of the trainings conducted by Yesser to raise productivity in the government agencies. 2. Providing funding of 586 million USD or for agencies to adopt whole of government solutions, automate & re-engineer their process to enable the provision of e-services to citizens, businesses and other government agencies. This funding is in accordance with the national e-government plan and tied to performance improvement incentives. 3. Creating a web portal that acts as a repository and single source of truth for e-services available in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. It currently hosts around 1600 e-services that are provided by different government agencies and can be accessed via a variety of different channels. The number of users that have used services provided by the site is estimated at 15.4 million, or roughly more than half of the population of Saudi Arabia. 4. The Creation of the national Enterprise Architecture Framework that provides a melding of the best of breed solutions from the Open Group, Balanced Score Card, Service Oriented Architecture and the Federal Enterprise Architecture methodology.

 8. What were the most successful outputs and why was the initiative effective?
The E-Government Transformation Measurement program or “QIYAS” is a comprehensive annual survey conducted by Yesser that evaluates and monitors the progress that is being made by the different government agencies in their quest to improve their capabilities to provide automated services. This annual survey involves a large number external auditors that are not tied directly to the e-government program, this ensures that the process is fair and the results are not skewed by the interactions of the e-government program with the government agencies. A second survey, that measures the G2C & G2B effectiveness, is used to evaluate public perception about the progress of single virtual state. This survey takes place annually and the results are published and publically available. These surveys have two intended purposes, one the one hand it gives decision makers information regarding the state of the government in terms of its maturity and technology adoption and on the other hand it gives government agencies an incentive to adopt a whole of government approach in solution creation and adoption, as these are the areas the survey focusses. The results of the survey are published and publically available. There is an annual awards ceremony that gives national recognition to agencies and initiatives that best serve the whole of the government viewpoint embodied by Yesser, this further serves to encourage agencies to adopt these paradigm of whole of government operations as opposed to individual agency fiefdom. In terms of transactional data regarding the e-services being used online, these are measured via the transaction monitoring tools built into the web portal, this measures things like quality of service and other transactional data that is available via an internal dashboard and on the portal itself.

 9. What were the main obstacles encountered and how were they overcome?
Cooperation, participation and teamwork form the basis of success in any endeavor that involves more than one individual, e-Government is no exception to this rule. Success, which is a constantly moving target when it comes to creating a successful virtual state is supported by the willingness of agencies to work together by integrating services, sharing technology, information and techniques; and emphasizing a shared commitment to focus on clients. Therefore, cultivating a culture of participation and the sharing of information across government agencies is one of the most important challenges facing the transformation to e-Government environment. A coherent and integrated approach among governmental agencies is key to provide better and faster services. The major problems and solutions are described below. 1. Impact of comparable low technical orientation of government agencies. Development of processes, training, communications vehicles to educate and facilitate broad capabilities expansion. Creation of the Yesser Consulting Group to assist agencies in their project designs and strategies. 2. Financing of projects and resources. Creation of agency account managers who act as internal advocates for e-service development, design and funding requests as well as act on agency behalf to support acquisition of funding from multiple sources. 3. Impact of typical government protectionism among agencies has been reduced through two primary means: Organizational: Involvement of agencies in developing e-Government strategies and action plans; the adherence to these plans and customer involvement in management of Yesser operation; Yesser as an agency advocates and always works to benefit the agencies. For example, budgeting, public private partnerships, negotiation of National contract pricing and unified bidding on e-Government projects. Allow agencies to maintain ownership of their services and data but provide government-wide critical enabling technologies, strategies, support.

D. Impact and Sustainability

 10. What were the key benefits resulting from this initiative?
Yesser goal of transforming the disparate government agencies into a single virtual state started with the development of a national portal which created a single entry point of centralized service delivery. This repository hosts government services regardless of which agency provides the service and is available to all citizens regardless of gender, and age or income, thus supporting the principles of inclusiveness, continuous service delivery and centralizing resources. Within 5 years of Yesser’s existence, more than 1,600 e-Services are offered through the National. With an impressive growth rate of around 250 services each year this is and will continue to be the largest repository of its kind in the Middle East. This high growth of service offerings touches nearly every sector of the economy, population and government office making it a “comprehensive e-government hub” of leadership, technology, services, performance measurement. These enabling services then open new opportunities for Saudi Arabian women and men to access fundamentally important National services. An example is the eID solution which provides assured identity for private and secure transactions through a highly integrated cornerstone service. eID encourages women, men and enterprises to confidently and privately consume sensitive electronic services such as renewal of Work Permits. This specific service--Work Permits—is delivered by the Saudi Ministry of Labor and is requested once a year for at least 4 million individuals. The manual issuance of these permit requests is estimated to take a least an hour for each individual to complete, with Yesser’s GSB, e-ID and online transaction it is reduced to 10 minutes. This increases the Kingdom’s productivity by ~3.3M hours per year or a savings of 1B SAR annually. The total savings estimated by taking a holistic government approach to technology is estimated at more than 5B SAR annually. The productivity gains resulting from the trainings conducted by Yesser are difficult to estimate but can be conservatively figured in at 1B SAR. Another key result of Yesser’s central role in the government is its ability to identify areas in which human resource development is needed, Yesser offers training programs to government employees with a total of 21,000 such individuals trained during the past 3 years. These trainings emphasize IT skills and ramp up in difficulty as trainees gain more skill in the individual skill areas. These trainings help increase productivity and efficiency of the government as a whole and based on post training surveys, these training are 90% effective in raising the level of skill of employees. Yesser’s Enterprise Architecture Framework has been created based on well-known standards and melds together the best of breed paradigms for solution development using service oriented architecture and strategic performance measurement using the Balanced Score Card. This EA framework enables the government to save a significant amount in terms of rationalizing redundant investments and re-using solution components. Yesser conducts annual surveys of both government agencies and the public at large to determine the perception, usage, knowledge and satisfaction of the services available. This survey focus is broadly divided into G2C & G2B initiatives, The results of the recent survey indicate that 82% of individuals are aware of the central repository of services while 58% of them have used these services. 55% of the users are completely satisfied with the services available and 92% of them trust that the services will perform as expected based. These surveys have a major influence on how policy is shaped on the next set of initiatives.

 11. Did the initiative improve integrity and/or accountability in public service? (If applicable)
The initial allocation of 3B SAR indicated top-level commitment and brought mechanisms to look across government for high value and goal accomplishing projects, the continuing financial support shown in the budget allocations show that the value delivered by the e-government program will continue to be supported. The topics below show how sustainability and transferability are expected to flourish. Social: The vision of a single virtual state is a paradigm shifting one, once introduced and adopted, it will be very hard to go back to the way things were done. Society will expect and demand services to be delivered in a more flexible and centralized manner, going back to a siloed organization specific method of providing services will not be possible. Economic: The savings generated by implementing a holistic government technical architecture is in excess of 5B SAR annually, just one project, the automation of issuance of work permit requests is estimated to have saved the country roughly 1B SAR annually. Cultural: Multiple approaches are being taken to support cultural adoption of e-government concepts and delivery. National conferences are held to share experiences. CIO workshops and summits now occur for the first time. Perhaps most importantly is the growing utilization of portal and Ministerial services. These conferences are supported by industry partners who help take on the financial burden in return for the opportunity to raise awareness about their services. Institutional: The Second 5 Year Strategy and Action Plan 2011-2016 is being completed. The acceptance of the value and contribution of a central delivery and coordinating body with actual service deliverables is now seen as vital. The presence of framework such as the National Enterprise Architecture gives institutions a well defined set of paradigms to follow when developing solutions, the adoption of such frameworks within government agencies creates its own momentum. Regulatory: The outgrowth of KSA’s engagement with e-government and Yesser support have left an indelible mark on the Kingdom’s virtual landscape: Some of these are: e-Transactions Act, - Telecommunications Act, IT Criminal Act, - e-Gov Implementation Rules, - Directive to form Government Agencies’ e-Government Committees, - Rules Governing Private Sector Participation, -Directive to Shift from Conventional to Electronic Methods. Transferability: Develop once and reuse is at the heart of Yesser’s mission. It is now seen in a growing number of products offered to the public which affects everyone’s lives.

 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)
The key lessons learned include 1. The implementation of a whole of government approach in solving complicated business problems has two main components, the technology used to solve the problem and the cultural and organizational readiness of the organization to adopt the solution. In many cases, implementing the technology is relatively easy, educating users and changing attitudes towards the new whole of government paradigm is harder. The adoption of technology has to be predicated by extensive training and social engineering to ensure success in the development and implementation of whole of government solutions. 2. Raising awareness of the availability of a solution is almost as important as having the solution, the class of people that benefit most from using e-services are sometimes the most difficult to reach. People with limited mobility like elderly citizens, women and the lower rung of society benefit most from being empowered by e-services, but the lack of communication options for advertising these services prevents them from taking full advantage of them. Reaching them involves figuring out use behavior and targeted advertising and training. 3. Balancing the freedom of information with security and privacy is a difficult, Yesser has a set of common frameworks and technologies to help agencies share information, but the sensitivity of the information is at times subjective and working with each individual agency is necessary to get the right balance between open information and privacy of individual information. Facilitating co-creation of content in a G2B & G2C setting is centered on a well-defined and implemented privacy policy.

Contact Information

Institution Name:   Saudi E-Government Program
Institution Type:   Government Agency  
Contact Person:   Syed Husain
Title:   Enterprise Architect  
Telephone/ Fax:   966552525613
Institution's / Project's Website:  
Address:   P.O. Box :301479
Postal Code:   11372
City:   Riyadh

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