Diplomatic eServices
Ministry of Foreign Affairs

A. Problem Analysis

 1. What was the problem before the implementation of the initiative?
Across the world, diplomatic missions and its staff community group enjoy greater privileges in their official country. This is a practice that is prevailing in all country and is in accordance with the Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations in particular and other established UN standards. The privilege levels may differ based on the diplomatic and bi-lateral relationship between the host and guest countries, the local governing law etc. Bahrain, though a small island country in Arabian Peninsula, its pioneering values like open policy, cultural heritage, business friendliness, ethnic diversity etc. brings international attention and is considered to be a “destination of choice” to a large expat community. As of today, Bahrain is having a large community of 7500 plus population which includes diplomats, their family and staff, visiting diplomatic guests etc. spread across 140 different diplomatic missions. Diplomats themselves are always on tight schedules and are accompanied by huge diplomatic missions and duties and hence shouldn’t be wasting their time in alternate procedural and related issues. Diplomacy is always reciprocative in nature. The better you serve a foreign diplomat in your country; you get a similar response for your diplomats in foreign country. Apart from the daily diplomatic engagements, Bahrain is also having a large number of diplomatic guests and delegations visiting the country, frequently. Globally renowned diplomatic and non-diplomatic events like “Manama Dialogue”, “GCC Summits”, “Grand Prix” etc. adds up to the list. MOFA is always keen to serve the community to the best of its capability. Executing these complex diplomatic privileges in an effective manner, however involved large team effort, multi-dimensional co-ordination, collaboration etc. MOFA was finding this exercise challenging, despite deploying large dedicated team of protocol officials. Transportation of paper based documents across the workflow, poor correspondences between various entities, ensuring correctness of the documents attached to service request, lack of transparency on the whole process etc. were a few among many issues faced by the earlier manual process. The success of each application was then tightly depending on the efficiency of the staff who attended the request, with no uniform and consistent performance being guaranteed. MOFA protocol management took pain staking efforts and much time to track current status of an application at any given point. By the introduction of this unique software system, MOFA was able to sort out each and every issue they faced till date. The fully electronic software system drastically reduced the human resource efforts involved in the whole process. MOFA was able to cut down its dedicated manual processing team from a total of 20 persons to just 4. The innovative design of the system effectively manages the work load of the assigned staffs with high degree of accountability and transparency.

B. Strategic Approach

 2. What was the solution?
In 2007, the Kingdom of Bahrain launched its first eGovernment Strategy. This giant leap on electronic initiative along with the support of Kingdom’s eGovernment Authority initiated many projects to implement and promote eGovernment in Bahrain. A central element of Kingdom strategy was to improve online service delivery making the life of both beneficiary and executives, better. This national level eGovernment movement made the Protocol Directorate of MOFA thinks of such an innovative and pioneering initiative to solve its long term issue and save thousands of man hours. Such an online service will also provide 24x7 access to a large population of more than 7500 diplomatic community in Bahrain and outside. As an initial phase, MOFA identified 11 government entities and its annexures and introduced 14 different eServices through a high quality, secured internet platform, where the diplomatic community can avail government liaison services, faster and effectively. Effectiveness of such a solution was never a doubt; still MOFA was very careful and deliberate in defining strategies for the new unique initiative. The partnering entities (government institutions like Traffic, Customs, Municipalities, Airport and Immigration etc.) and the type of services offered were analyzed and processes were defined to increase efficiencies and to increase its capacity. Strategies were laid to ensure 100% participation of all stake holders. - Multiple rounds of meetings were held with various cross sections of stake holders to understand and analyze their expectation and requirements. - Meetings were also held with various ministries to discuss the possibility of integrating the new software to the downstream software applications running at their end and make the new initiative, fully automated. - Arabic being the official language of Bahrain as well as many other nations in Middle East, the new portal was designed to serve both in Arabic and English. - Since the proposed online service will have to communicate and interact with various entities, a deliberate strategy was also put in place to make the new web portal fully compatible to the W3C standards and compatible to multiple platforms and environment. The final outcome of the new initiative is unique of its kind providing high quality online services through a carefully designed innovative web portal to the diplomatic community in Bahrain and outside Bahrain with at most end user satisfaction. On the other hand, the initiative helped MOFA protocol directorate to increase its service capacity in an effective manner. The portal is a large workflow application too that bridges the various diplomatic institutions (around 140 institutions consisting of over 7500 community members) to various government institutions in Bahrain.

 3. How did the initiative solve the problem and improve people’s lives?
The Directorate of Protocol, Ministry of Foreign Affairs initiated the innovative project with an ambitious goal to convert a challenging and tiresome activity to a most attractive and efficient online service with inclusion of full support from all stakeholders. The service experience of the directorate helped them to make the initiative innovative. This initiative is to convert all diplomatic services to fully electronic mode, thereby help MOFA to eliminate the complexity of communication, collaboration and correspondences. By converting the whole process electronic, MOFA made the diplomatic eservices effective and responsive – short time for service execution, effective correspondences through single communication channel, 24x7 availability, transparency of service processing, traceability etc. With this, high quality services were offered that exceeded the targets and increased the capacity to MOFA services to diplomats thus providing a unique service experience. The portal servicing these eServices is accessed only thru secured login and provides fully secured transactions. The portal development and ongoing maintenance is managed by private-public partnership, ensuring prompt and committed services to end users through MOFA Protocol Directorate. The portal is bi-lingual and offers services in both English and Arabic languages.

C. Execution and Implementation

 4. In which ways is the initiative creative and innovative?
The strategy for this Diplomatic eServices was implemented in accordance with the clear mission and objective defined in the Kingdom of Bahrain’s eGovernment Strategic document and its definition on electronic services delivery, in particular. At all times, our central goal was to provide the diplomatic eServices accessible from any technology platform and improve its reach. The objective of the project was to design, develop and deploy an online eServices application. This application would “web-enable” various services which were offered by the ministry to various diplomatic institutions operating in Bahrain. Implementation of the strategy followed well-disciplined and defined project management practices and principles. Proper documents were prepared in advance and followed. All documents, intermediate outputs underwent strict configuration management process to control and version each items. The initiative was implemented according to 3 major phases 1. User Requirements Analysis & Baseline 2. Intuitive User Interfacing – Ensuring effective user interfaces that would exceed the expected satisfaction of multiple groups of end users, which includes but not limited to a. well trained ministry officials & diplomatic staffs b. users falling to different region, language, political system and ethnicity c. users with varying computer literacy and academic qualifications 3. Prototyping the application/software to mimic its visuals and working 4. Core development of the actual application/software with zero compromise on security and vulnerabilities 5. Deployment of the software on trusted secured network environment 6. Exposing the software for vigorous quality checks 7. Pushing the service online for real-time use, as a unique & innovative solution to a large problem

 5. Who implemented the initiative and what is the size of the population affected by this initiative?
The whole implementation process was a remarkable coordinated work of multiple teams comprising of MOFA IT Directorate (As Project Coordinator), MOFA Protocol Directorate (As Business Owner), Technology Consultants (3rd Party technology consultant vendor and development team). The process basically involves bidirectional communication between 3 different stakeholders – (1.) the diplomatic institutions on one side and (2.) the implementing entities, rather the associated ministry or government agency on the other side and of course (3.) MOFA in between, bridging the two. The project is an ideal case of services delivery of both “Government to Consumer” and “Government to Government” communication. • Government to Consumer connectivity - as it connects Diplomatic Institutions in Bahrain with various Government Ministries and Agencies/Institutions of Bahrain. • Government to Government as it requires interaction between Ministry of Foreign Affairs and various other Government bodies of Bahrain (like Visa & Resident Permit, Traffic, Customs, Municipality, Airport, MOFA-Protocol) for service implementing. This synergic coordinated efforts of all team resulted in excellent output including minimal change management. Team had frequent project progress meetings, where members discussed the project execution strategies and identified risks in advance and set its mitigation plan. End users of this initiatives includes trained Diplomatic officials from around 140 different diplomatic institutions, Over 60 Ministry officials from more than 10 different ministries and government entities and a few number of Protocol officials from MOFA that run the whole show – ranging from administrators to Diplomatic eServices processing officers and supervisors. During the implementation stage, a subset of the above users from various nodes participated in various review meetings to provide their valuable evaluation feedback, against which the project underwent refinements and corrections. Apart from the above, the eGovernment Authority’s strategy specialists and electronic services delivery experts and consultants were also periodically consulted to get their valuable feedback and guidance on implementing such a large enterprise level workflow solution.
 6. How was the strategy implemented and what resources were mobilized?
The initiative effectively used multiple resources in an optimized manner. The key major resources were none other than human resources and technology infrastructure for developing the software system. Each and every team member of the larger initiative had dedicated their effort and time towards this project. All the team members except the software development members were only on a part time mode, where they spend their time for any designated activity. However on the other hand the software development team members were working on a full-time, dedicated mode for a period of 4 months. The technology infrastructure like computers, system software & software tools, used to develop the software system were brought in by the software vendor itself. The technology infrastructure for deploying the final software product on live environment was arranged by MOFA, utilizing the datacenter infrastructure of the Central Informatics Organization of the Kingdome. Mobilization of the whole resources including human were well planned and scheduled such that it did not create any kind of hindrance and unexpected events. The whole cost of the initiative including its ongoing maintenance and support is provided solely by MOFA from its own dedicated budget. The low cost option recommended by the software vendor helped MOFA to meet the project cost without any major difficulty. The estimated total cost of the whole project including the software development, deployment, maintenance, renewals of SSL certificates etc falls less than USD 50,000.

 7. Who were the stakeholders involved in the design of the initiative and in its implementation?
Online electronic service transactions – Online Diplomatic eServices made the life of the diplomatic community easier. It helped MOFA protocol to effectively manage and control the diplomatic requests and process them effectively. In the initial stage of rollout, MOFA introduced around 14 different eServices spanning across multiple ministries and government institutions. Making these service delivery online thru electronic forms on the secured web portal helped MOFA to exceed targets and resulted in increased capacity. This innovative approach of converting Diplomatic services to electronic format have benefited all 3 major stakeholders (MOFA, Diplomatic Institutions and Government Institutions & Ministries) an estimated overall savings of USD 10,000 per year. Reduction of human resources – MOFA protocol was able to reduce their team size from 20 to just 4 for managing diplomatic services. During the old age manual process, MOFA protocol deployed a large pool of resources for managing the processing of diplomatic resources. By the introduction of electronic eServices, MOFA protocol brought down this to just 4 dedicated staff to manage 10s of eServices on a daily basis. The portal itself manages many processing activates automatically and effectively assigns eServices on a load balanced algorithm. Thus MOFA was able to divert the resources to alternate activities within the department, thereby reducing the operational cost of diplomatic eServices by a 100 thousand Bahraini Dinars, per year. Environment Friendly & Zero Carbon emission - Apart from the above obvious output, it also created environmental benefits by going paperless and zero carbon emission associated with transport of documents and applications from various nodes within the workflow. Accountability & Transparency – MOFA was able to effectively trace applications at any point in time as the portal software itself assigns responsibilities to end users in a very effective and unique manner. This also resulted in high accountability of service and full transparency on the process. Reduced process delay and red tape – With the introduction of automated electronic services, MOFA was successful in providing esteemed customer satisfaction and higher service experience to its end users eliminating all unnecessary red tapes and process delays.

 8. What were the most successful outputs and why was the initiative effective?
The online software is actively being used by each and every diplomatic institution in Bahrain and even in outside. Day by day, the count of services being successfully served effectively thru the new initiative proves its acceptance. MOFA have defined strict methodologies and measuring techniques to ensure that the new initiative is performing as planned and intended to work. Periodic reports are generated from the online system to get the exact performance counts. These counts are drilled down to institution level, ministry level, user lever and even service level. Thus MOFA gets a crystal clear picture on the performance of the system. System is also having automated escalation mechanism to notify the superior authority on any deviation from defined metrics. In any worst scenario, if the system finds that any service taking longer time than anticipated at any node and stage within the whole workflow, it is being reminded to the concerned and later escalated to higher authorities. Statistics like 10,000 successful service delivery over the past 1000 calendar days, addition of new services to the platform, induction of new institutions and agency to the network, initiatives of automated integration of the system with downstream systems of other ministries etc. shows the success rates of the initiative. Security and authentication of the system is something that is uncompromised to ensure trust and reliable security of the information shared through the network. In this direction, the online software is subjected to periodic vulnerability assessment and take corrective actions.

 9. What were the main obstacles encountered and how were they overcome?
(1) Connectivity between stakeholders Challenge - The connectivity between various stakeholders was challenging. The success of the project lies in the effective utilization of the new system by all stakeholders. Solution - MOFA effectively formed informal steering committee meetings and ensured effective communication. Outcome – A smooth and effective communication was established between the stakeholders (2) Security Concern Challenge - Since the online software involves data sharing between various government institutions, security and privacy of the shared data was a major concern to many stakeholders. Solution – The portal was deployed on a very secured and protocol driven datacenter managed by the Central Informatics Organization of the Kingdom. The prior expertise of both MOFA IT team took proactive measures to ensure that the whole development is as per the established standards. Outcome – A well secured deployment platform where any can share their confidential data. MOFA’s expertise in handling such networks helped the team to eliminate any kind of delay in getting the software approved for deploying in government Datacenter. (3) Skill and Knowledge Sharing to a large administrator community Challenge – There were certain high level administration activities for all stake holders. This requires a detailed knowledge transfer to the assigned administrators in each entity. Solution – Admin representatives from each diplomatic institution and ministries were called in for an elaborate training session and conducted and effective knowledge sharing. Outcome - This training along with innovative self-learning materials available on the system helped the end users of the diplomatic community to be part of the whole process without any delay. (4) Continuing support Challenge – How to ensure continuing LIVE support. Solution – Though very small, MOFA had to engage dedicated team to address the concerns of end users from various entities. MOFA effectively engaged support and maintenance with the vendor who in-turn provide all technical and business advises to the concerned over various communication channel. Outcome – A smooth execution

D. Impact and Sustainability

 10. What were the key benefits resulting from this initiative?
Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Kingdome of Bahrain is probably the only country that is providing exclusive online services to its diplomatic community in this manner, both in terms of number of services and in the effectiveness of the services offered. As a result, many of the diplomatic missions have referred this initiative to their home country. There is an overwhelming appreciation from diplomatic missions and also requesting MOFA to scale up the facility by adding more eServices connecting other ministries too. -High degree Performance and Satisfaction in serving diplomatic community With the introduction of the new online electronic service initiative, MOFA was able to improve the performance of its services offered to diplomatic community. This resulted in a high degree of satisfaction and appreciation among the beneficiaries and stakeholders within. The number of services processed and the time it takes to complete have improved drastically over these years. As a result of the automated electronic service execution, reduction of protocol officials can now shift their focus to multiple other diplomatic tasks rather than service execution. As a result of speedy services offered to the diplomatic missions in Bahrain, many foreign countries started taking special reciprocative efforts to address service requests made by embassies and consulates of Bahrain abroad. -Effective control, collaboration and management of diplomatic services Unlike the old scenario, services executions have become more transparent. The electronic system will auto assign each and every task to a protocol officer based on complex work load balancing logic, and the officer is then accountable for the effective execution of the service, in all aspects. The automated assignment of tasks can always be overridden by superior officials within the protocol directorate. The system also introduces various alerts and messaging mechanism including automated escalation procedures to ensure the prompt execution of services. -Setting role model global standard in diplomatic eservices With the introduction of this innovative automated electronic system, Bahrain has set a new global standard in diplomatic eservices and is now being viewed as a role model in the vertical. Many number of foreign diplomatic missions started gathering technical and implementation details from MOFA, so that they could rollout similar services in their home country. -Secured, Convenient and fully Environment friendly The cream of the new automated electronic servicing system is the security features implemented in it. Special attention and periodic audits are made on the system to ensure zero compromise and securing data online as well as to eliminate security vulnerabilities. The convenience of anywhere, anytime, paper less service offerings with effective transparency and accountability.

 11. Did the initiative improve integrity and/or accountability in public service? (If applicable)
YES, the initiative is sustainable and transferable. Due to the proven record on the multi dimension advantages of the initiative, MOFA is scaling the software system adding more and more services, involving more stakeholders as well as converting certain areas into a fully automated mode by integrating the software system to core ERP systems of other ministries. This initiative has turned out to be a role model in the Kingdom, where more and more entities started converting their manual process to automated processes and embracing technology. The success of this initiative has proved that technology makes work easier. The concept, technological framework, expertise etc. can easily be transferred to another domain and/or vertical. The overall figures and statistics in percentages and numbers are core indications of the sustainability and transferability. This initiative has reduced paper consumption by 90%, which is a highly motivated figure in terms of environmental friendliness; it saves 75% time of human resources in the Protocol Directorate of MOFA. Unlike the manual age, MOFA protocol officers are now getting enough time to concentrate on their other protocol related activities. The cost of travel and transport of agents for processing have also reduced by 80%. A similar set of figures and high appreciation is also been reported from the diplomatic community. The advantages of the initiative is not limited the above as the new initiative also introduced certain new approaches for increased efficiency, transparency, convenience and much more. The software system introduced as part of this initiative automatically handles the work load balancing of assigned MOFA protocol staffs. System automatically assigns the incoming job requests to the concerned based on availability. Though automated, the system also allows human interventions to override system decisions. The success of this initiative brought an overwhelming appreciation from the various diplomatic missions in Bahrain. As a result of the sustaining success, diplomats have requested MOFA to scale up the automated system by including more eServices and connecting more ministries and government agencies in Bahrain. Furthermore, diplomats also making formal enquires to MOFA on the concepts, technology, implementation methodologies and other related knowledge transfer, so as to adopt a similar system in their home country.

 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 “smart & smooth way” working of Protocol officials is the key impact of this initiative. Time management, Resource Management, Transparency, Ownership, Responsiveness, Traceability, Ease of Maintenance etc are other key benefits and advantages attained thru this initiative. The successful implementation of the initiative gives all team members and stake holders, energy to adopt new challenging similar initiatives in future. The team members are now well expertise in handling a similar challenging project implementation of this magnitude and dimension. The initiative provides the convenience of working ANYTIME, ANYWHERE as the software is accessible online 24x7 from anywhere. In this manner, it even helps certain diplomatic community who does not have a full-time presence in Bahrain. Apart from the above, there are many micro-level lessons learned in terms of technology, project management, project implementation and execution.

Contact Information

Institution Name:   Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Institution Type:   Government Department  
Contact Person:   Ali Alaradi
Title:   Ambassador  
Telephone/ Fax:   17200974 - 39734444
Institution's / Project's Website:  
E-mail:   aalaradi@mofa.gov.bh  
Address:   P.O.Box. 547
Postal Code:  
City:  
State/Province:  
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