Government Service Bus (GSB)
Saudi eGovernment Program

A. Problem Analysis

 1. What was the problem before the implementation of the initiative?
The real value of public services can only be judged and evaluated as they are provided to the least able in society, to those most vulnerable and at risk. The challenge faced by those responsible for their delivery in Saudi Arabia, as with all nations, is how the inherent disadvantages that exist for groups such as the poor, women, minorities, youths, the elderly, the disabled and even expatriates, can be eliminated or at least significantly reduced. The initiative is the Government Service Bus (GSB) and prior to its introduction applications had to be moved around and between various government agencies through manual processing. Effectively, the individual had to move their application between departments and this meant that the expediting of them had contingency on the perceptions, understanding and foresight of the applicants. This method built into the system an automatic element of discrimination against vulnerable groups because on the whole, and by definition of being vulnerable, they are less able to make the necessary links and make the necessary connections between departments. Applicants were further disadvantaged by the problem, common among government agencies around the world, of inter-ministerial rivalry, non-collaboration and even inefficiency resulting from a lack of communication. These factors were also more likely to have the greatest impact on the most vulnerable and therefore a distinct and wide ranging consideration of all of the problems, including those less obvious but so important to vulnerable groups, had to be taken into account. Fundamentally, the new approach and the new system had to deliver responsive e-services with citizen audit-capabilities, as well as providing timely, easier and equitable access. People who needed government services (everybody in one form or another) faced at least some of the following problems: 1. Significant inefficiencies and barriers due to unnecessary documentation and duplication – for every department involved certified copies of documents such as IDs, certificates, entitlement sheets and proof of ownership, had to be produced. Having been seen once by the relevant official, these would then be wastefully archived. 2. Despite attempts to stop such practices, favoritism and prejudicial behaviour existed. People from a particular cultural background or social group would be more likely to be helpfully served by officials from the same backgrounds. Most vulnerable groups and individuals have no such connections and were therefore disadvantaged even further. 3. Data was often inconsistent or inaccurate. The result of this was that some who were ineligible were provided with services while others, commonly from vulnerable groups, who were eligible, were denied them. One of many examples can be used to highlight the problems. A potentially important program called ‘hafiz’ was introduced to provide financial support for unemployed people from vulnerable groups. For one female applicant, the records showed that she was a shopkeeper but in fact her business had already been shut down due to the failure of the business. However, this important information was not transmitted between departments, resulting in no support for a potentially vulnerable person despite the fact of her entitlement.

B. Strategic Approach

 2. What was the solution?
GSB was proposed and initiated through Decree 40. Its aim is to be a single entity for the provision of government services in Saudi Arabia, with seamless communication between and integration of all agencies involved. In order that GSB could be adopted, developed and used efficiently, it had to be operationalized under one institutional framework. For this purpose, the Yesser Enterprise Framework for Interoperability (YEFI) was developed based on various standard setting organizations (IEEE, ISO etc.) and customized to reflect the actual needs of GSB. YEFI included two tracks. One track is for integrating service providers and another for integrating service consumers. In order that the solution could accomplish it aims, several critical objectives were set: 1. All unnecessary visits by clients had to be reduced to one meeting with a public official. 2. All information had to be accessible in a standardised format and without any charges whatsoever. 3. The solution had to eliminate the need for individual ministries, agencies and programs to conduct separate data integrations by using infrastructure which has a single source of master information for all to use confidently. 4. GSB had to employ the concept of build once and use many times - GSB Services are built once by provider agencies and the service is reused. The solution was based on the following concepts: • It should not be doing things on behalf of the government agencies (competition) but, rather, enable them to integrate into a common platform to deliver services with higher levels of transparency, accuracy and efficiency (collaboration). • Each government agency should store only the data that it is responsible for. All other information is contained within YEFI. • YEFI must assist each government agency to improve the integrity, security, and availability of their data, so that they can provide reliable services over the centralized system. • YEFI should include a master web service catalogue that will host all government services needed to transform them from manual to eService, based on the Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) approach. • YEFI should be provided to every government agency to build their services in web service format and ‘on-board’ them to the solution as services providers. The strategy for developing GSB was based on the following tracks: • Who are our target customers? The target customers for GSB are all government agencies in Saudi Arabia and their clients. • What are we offering? We are offering a master web service catalogue that hosts all web services needed to transform all government services in Saudi Arabia to eServices. We also offer the necessary consultation, funding, technical help, and marketing of the services that have been transformed by the Yesser framework and GSB as an integration platform. How are we planning to deliver? Our delivery plan was based on impact and readiness, with high impact services receiving the higher levels of attention. Delivery is based on Yesser dedicated teams plus system integrators and consulting houses who have expertise in YEFI and GSB. This will accelerate the process.

 3. How did the initiative solve the problem and improve people’s lives?
The key challenge was less about the targeting of one or more specific groups and more about ensuring that there was real equality by putting the most vulnerable at the same level of access and opportunity as others within an overall scenario of significantly improved service provision. Fundamentally, through opening the access of government services and by removing obstacles which de facto discriminated against the most vulnerable, real and ongoing equality has been achieved. Of course, the concept of integrating services is not unique but what distinguishes GSB is the fact of a single service market which delivers high levels of quality and efficiency without any charge whatsoever. It is also the background of ‘big’ government in a high income developing nation, with more than two million employees who will use the system to deliver real equality and efficiency, which makes GSB innovative as well as unique. It is also important to emphasize that GSB was a ‘disruptive’ innovation which triggered fundamental changes in how processes work in government agencies. The aspect of ‘build once, use many’ and taking away the burden of complexities in integration from agencies has allowed the focus to be on their functions and responsibilities.

C. Execution and Implementation

 4. In which ways is the initiative creative and innovative?
The complexity and extent of GSB reflects a determination to transform the services provided by the public sector to an eGovernment system. This has been part of a systematic strategic plan whose origins can be traced back more than a decade. A chronology of plans and activities which led to the implementation of the system demonstrates this: 2004: The National Communication and Information Technology Plan (NCITP) included the establishment of Yesser. 2005: The Cabinet of Ministers in Saudi Arabia issued a royal decree to establish Yesser, which would enable and empower Saudi government agencies for e-Transformation. Mandate, authority and funds were established. The first strategy and action plan was developed, to be executed in the period 2006-2010. It included the need for the GSB to address the problems noted above (see sections 1, 2 and 3) and to deliver additional value through a clearly defined value chain. 2006: Work towards GSB was initiated and included the following: • Documents defining the problem were initiated. • The international practices and experience of leading countries were benchmarked. • One RFP for consulting and another for the development of GSB were initiated. • Tenders for the project were evaluated and awarded. • The architecture of GSB as a canonical model was developed. • High level design documents and access layers for providers and consumers were developed. • Low level design documents were created. 2007: The character of GSB began to crystallize through the following activities: • The development of a GSB Interoperability framework was undertaken and branded as the Yesser Enterprise Framework for Interoperability (YEFI). • The development of GSB began. 2008: GSB was ready for testing and this included the following activities: • The development of GSB was completed. • Functional testing started and bugs and other issues were resolved. • Performance testing was initiated and the system refined. • The documentation of GSB was updated. • A provider on-boarding process with the Ministry Of Interior Affairs was begun. • A consumer on-boarding process with the Ministry Of Labor was started. 2009-2010: GSB was operational and this included the following activities: • YEFI was revised. • The second strategy and action plan, to be executed between 2012 and 2016, was developed. This was achieved through a co-creation approach where people from government agencies, vendors, private agencies, higher education, and the public were involved and made significant contributions. This Second National Action Plan includes several initiatives to support the following: • The measurement and improvement of the capacity of GSB. • An acceleration of the on-boarding process. • The development of communication plans to increase the understanding of GSB value and to increase the adoption of it. • The development of change management plans and projects to create collective ownership of the concept and the practice. • The promote and praise of success stories. 2010-Present: The GSB Ecosystem was mapped and included the following activities: • Baseline GSB capacity established, with quota enforcement in place for consumers and with an enhanced response time of 600ms • GSB Authorization enhanced to fine-tune service access and to protect the privacy of data. • The development of a comprehensive GSB ecosystem and supporting services. • GSB Express and a set of tools (for example Ertibat) to accelerate GSB provisioning and consumption installed. • Initiatives to provide GSB As Service, Support for batch processing and next version of GSB architecture and services etc. • The establishment of a service Identification process to identify and prioritize needs so that the coverage of government services to consumers can be increased. • The delivery of location based services to assist in decision making and planning for government agencies, which can also be utilized by citizens to address their needs.

 5. Who implemented the initiative and what is the size of the population affected by this initiative?
A diverse range of individuals, business entities and organisations have been involved in the GSB initiative. The starting point was the assembly of a business consulting team by Yesser, which documented the business requirements and visited leading countries to benchmark their practices against the requirements of GSB. Following this, an innovative new hybrid model had to be designed to match these requirements. McKenzie analyzed the requirements, IBM designed the solution, while Yesser owned and oversaw the whole cycle. The solution developed by IBM took much longer than planned for the following reasons: • Being a new concept solution, there was no model to copy; thus, unanticipated obstacles had to be overcome. • There was a lack of relevant local expertise and so individuals from all over the world had to be brought in. • Legislative and social issues played a major role in the delay. For example, as team members changed, the delays increased. The planned duration was 8 months but it took 18 months. However, once developed, the system worked well. The stakeholders of GSB were represented by the following roles: • Project Sponsor (Yesser Director General). • Project Director (Software Engineering Dept Director). • Project Managers (from the PMO of Yesser, IBM). • Subject Matter Experts (from Yesser, IBM, and the Development Team) Once the GSB system was built and put in place the responsibility for running it and making sure its goals were achieved fell entirely on Yesser. Thus, Yesser built the capabilities and competencies to make sure that the vision was put into action. The stakeholders are now represented by the following roles • Project Sponsor (Yesser Director General) • Project Director (Software Engineering Department) • GSB Business Owner • Architecture and Standards Team • Consumer on Boarding Team • Service Provisioning Team
 6. How was the strategy implemented and what resources were mobilized?
As can be observed from the following financial details, the costs range across the areas specified and may be seen on the one hand as being quite extensive but on the other as providing substantial benefits relative to these costs: Human resources: A range of individuals and groups have been involved in the process and some continue to be as the system evolves and develops. The first group that contributed to the system were the legislators and senior government officials who not only established the National Communication and Information and Technology Plan but also established Yesser by decree within a wider concept of transforming public sector agencies. The initial designing and building of GSB was undertaken by a team from IBM, which was supervised by the Development Team, and which also carried out quality checks on every deliverable. In addition, there was a team from Yesser which shadowed this whole process in order that necessary knowledge and skills could be transferred to them. This team also provided the necessary authority to enable progress from one stage of the project to the next. The result of this is that the Yesser team has built sufficient competency to improve on the design and is working on the next architecture version of GSB. Yesser also has dedicated teams for the integration of consumer and provider services, which includes responsibilities such as integrating project management, providing tools, knowledge and guidance. These teams also work on R&D to provide for the enhancement and scaling of GSB, with initiatives being driven by the top management in Yesser, and which are focused on the needs of providers and consumers of GSB. Technical: The necessary infrastructure for the use of GSB substantially existed within Saudi Arabia prior to the implementation of it. Therefore, the main technical resources came in terms of extra and ancillary hardware required for service providers to run the system and in the software that was developed by IBM and which continues to be developed by Yesser. Financial: All figures are rounded to the nearest USD 500,000 or, if less than this amount, to the nearest USD 100,000: The total cost for consultations was USD 2 million Total development costs were USD 8 million Support costs for two years were USD 4 million On-boarding costs averaged approximately USD 1.5 million per provider, USD 200,000 for the first service integration and USD 50,000 for each additional service integration thereafter. It is relevant to note that the Yesser now has the technical support capability to build new integrations without any additional cost.

 7. Who were the stakeholders involved in the design of the initiative and in its implementation?
In general terms, the most significant and rewarding output that contributed to the success of GSB is the fact that it enables a single market for all government services, which effectively means that it is a platform for equitable service delivery across all sections of society. One concrete example of this is Jadarah, a youth employment program that is powered by GSB Services. The programme provides up to date and accurate information from various organizations that are helping to deliver much needed youth employment assistance and guidance. It has been very successful and has supported a number of vulnerable groups. Four further concrete outputs offered via GSB are: 1. Educational Certificate Services Educational certificate services such as high school certificates, university entrance results, graduate records and vocational training certificates are provided via GSB. These services have catered to the requirements of more than 1.5 million students by allowing agencies to identify and verify credentials, thereby enabling training and placement for people seamlessly and equitably. 2. Electronic Medical Record The high value of the Electronic Medical Record Service (EMS) becomes apparent by noting that in the event of accidents, constraints can exist for the provision of health care. The service provides accurate health information in the form of medical histories, which can be retrieved from a single source. Prior to GSB this was not possible. 3. Real Estate Development Fund(REDF) GSB Services are used by the Real Estate Development Fund (REDF) to provide government home loans for millions of people, something which was not possible prior to GSB and those assisted include significant numbers from vulnerable groups. To apply for such a loan, an individual does not need to visit any government office, a factor which, had that been the case, would have disadvantaged people living in remote rural locations. 4. Zakat Certificate A Zakat (a tax based on the principle of reducing income inequality) certificate service has been used by numerous people to comply with tax regulations. The service has assisted many individuals because it enables convenient access to the government in obtaining these certificates. In summary, GSB has made it easier for government agencies to deliver their programs and eServices to citizens and expatriates. GSB and Yesser teams have reduced financial and time costs for users of government services and agencies.

 8. What were the most successful outputs and why was the initiative effective?
The monitoring and evaluation of the strategy is part of an ongoing process for future enhancements and improvements of the system. It is therefore the key element for the development of future strategies for evolution and change. Two distinct approaches are employed for this. One is that GSB has an integrated business intelligence system, effectively an audit logging and non-repudiation system. This system monitors, measures and has dashboards that display performance indicators in terms of service, consumers and providers. The intelligence generated is used to plan for future services and also to improve existing ones. The second approach is via a yearly performance measurement system, Qiyas, which measures the extent to which eTransformation has been achieved generally and with the effective use of GSB specifically. Within these two approaches, it is possible to ensure that the core aim of equitably enabling the access of services across the entire population, including vulnerable groups, is achieved. The responsibility for this is conferred upon the Yesser business owner who, with the assistance of a dedicated team (Yesser Business Development – YBD), is able to ensure that the underlying purposes of GSB are aligned and achieved. A part of this responsibility is to maintain close contact with government agencies and to coordinate actions with them in order that the benefits of the services provided are maintained and enhanced through the optimal use of them, effectively to ensure that the system functions properly by being fully utilized and maintained, something that both these agencies and Yesser have a common interest in achieving. Yesser Consulting Group (YCG) is also a part of this process as it provides assistance and guidance to government agencies with regard to GSB specifically and in terms of their eTransformation generally. The mandate for this part of Yesser’s responsibilities includes the effective utilization of services provided by GSB for the automation and execution of agency business processes. Hence there are multiple touch points that Yesser uses to monitor and evaluate its implementation strategy.

 9. What were the main obstacles encountered and how were they overcome?
The main obstacle encountered during implementation was ensuring that GSB was not only adopted by government agencies but also that the vision of delivering efficient and equitable services to all groups in society was achievable by them through GSB. This obstacle was addressed by the mobilization of the Yesser Development Group, the Yesser Consulting Group and the Software Engineering Department who sold the idea as well as showing government departments and service providers how GSB could be used to meet the vision and their needs. A further obstacle to change was that government agencies showed reluctance to effectively give up ownership and control of data, even though it was no longer necessary for them to hold such quantities of it. This can be related to feelings of losing their independence, with GSB being seen as a challenge to their authority. This challenge was met by persuasion and demonstrating the rationality and superiority of using GSB. The company also employed people who had worked in government agencies to assist in these efforts as well as Qiyas, an annual measure of compliance status for government service providers, and which could be compared with the anticipated levels of eTransformation. The arguments were ultimately won because GSB is demonstrably far superior to previous methods employed and the management and staff of government agencies have a deep sense of responsibility to citizens which, in the final analysis, is a stronger force than feelings of authority and control. Two further obstacles were technical understanding by government agencies and an ability to isolate specific aspects of service so that they could be prioritized. These were overcome by mentoring and guidance during the implementation phases and by creating an innovative process to evaluate the services in eGovernment, based on the value of services provided.

D. Impact and Sustainability

 10. What were the key benefits resulting from this initiative?
It is, of course, easy to pronounce that an initiative will make a significant and positive difference in the delivery of public services but not always so easy to demonstrate it, particularly if the realities do not match the aspirations expressed. In such a sense, this section is an opportunity to separate what is an exceptional system from others, and one which represents fundamental and deep-seated changes. This opportunity is taken by first highlighting two areas which exemplify the changes and then by providing detail and specific examples of how such changes are achieved: The Council of Health Services The Council of Health Services utilizes GSB to integrate hospitals through Electronic Medical Records. This allows for improved healthcare by addressing very imortant gaps, for example in providing critical information at the right time and in time to enable potentially life-saving service delivery. SNSDI (Saudi National Spatial Data Infrastructure) GSB is being leveraged as an infrastructure for providing Geospatial Services, which is an innovative way of reducing public financial expenditure and which is an attractive alternative to the option of setting up separated additional infrastructures and systems for delivering services. Documentation Such achievements in this and other services are enabled because government agencies can access relevant documentation, for example: • Personal details can be accessed from the Ministry of Information • Confirmation that an individual is not a government employee can be ascertained from MCS • The educational background of individuals can be obtained from the Ministries of Education and Higher Education • Information concerning permits and licenses that may have been issued by a number of agencies (for example MOMRA, MOCI and SAGIA) can be gained through one online enquiry In sum, all of the necessary documentation that used to mean many trips to various government agencies and the submission of much paperwork is now seamlessly enabled through GSB. Prejudice and Discrimination The need to reiterate and extend the following points comes from an understanding of Saudi culture. By reducing or entirely eliminating the need for personal visits, GSB completely or very significantly reduces random opportunities to discriminate against or provide higher levels of service to individuals or groups based on gender, tribe, ethnic group, disability, or other characteristics. The fact of this transparency and fairness, furthermore, now encourages people to follow the system and avoid gray markets or illegal channels to obtain government services. The savings that result from this in terms of financial cost and efficiency gains is difficult to calculate but one estimate is that such savings amount to more that 30 per cent of service costs as a whole. Accuracy of Data As GSB is based on a distributed data model, where each government agency will host and maintain the integrity, security, and availability of the data they are responsible for, other agencies accessing these data will be going directly to the original source, which de facto means higher levels of accuracy. Examples of Citizen Directed eServices GSB enables single agencies to deal with service requirement enquiries that would otherwise be beyond their capabilities. Such enquiries include: • I lost my wallet with all of my documents inside. What should I do? • I want to start a business. • I want to build a house. • What happens when I retire? • Being an expatriate, what is the impact on my life if I bring my family here? • Since I am here as a pilgrim for Hajj/Omra, what is my status? • What can I do with SR300,000? Vulnerable Individuals and Groups Services within GSB are being designed that enable the targeting of and special attention being provided to vulnerable individuals and groups, for example by age, gender and geographical location. Based in its accumulation of data, the system is also able to provide intelligent suggestions to services that can be utilized to improve the qualities of lives among those most vulnerable. To assist government agencies in meeting their challenges and obligations, Yesser is taking steps to deliver its expertise, platform and software free of charge. The resulting budgetary adjustments would then be used to further promote services that would advantage vulnerable individuals and groups.

 11. Did the initiative improve integrity and/or accountability in public service? (If applicable)
GSB is a government owned and funded operation which is supported by decree Number 40. Yesser maintains the necessary teams, capabilities and processes which ensure the delivery of services for 24 hours a day and for 365 days a year. Currently there are 58 consumers of GSB and 53 providers providing 99 business services. The total transactions in 2014 till October are 50.5 million. Total subscription for business services stands at 329. All the aspects of GSB are fully documented and the agencies which use its services can use a variety of technologies to deliver them. The approach of GSB towards developing sustainable solutions and services is based on the three pillars that were considered in designing the system. These address the questions of who is being served, what is being provided, and how is it provided? The approach of GSB to a sustainable service also focuses on the following elements: GSB is a component of a larger structure called Government Shared Services for eTransformation. This wider entity is also government owned, operated, and maintained. The model is hybrid between being centralized and federalized, and is free of charge to all government agencies. Since GSB is a member of the national shared infrastructure platform provided by Yesser to all government agencies, it is relevant to provide further information concerning the various layers of shared services provided: 1. Connectivity and Security – The Government Secure Network (GSN) is a governmental infrastructure cloud that was created and is owned by Yesser, which also finances and operates it. All agencies can link to each other and to GSB directly through this high speed and fully operational infrastructure. 2. Integration – GSB provides the integration layer between all government agencies as well as the hosting of a master web service catalogue, which publishes information for all government services. 3. Presentation – The national portal “Saudi” at www.saudi.gov.sa provides the presentation layer for all government services, with very flexible service access through service type, service provider, or key words. Each service is described in a service card with full details and a link to the service. 4. Applications – Government agencies have a number of applications common to some or all of them. For example, eProcurement, eCorrespondence, eEmployment, the National Contact Center, an SMS gateway, and others. GSB builds national applications as cloud applications (SaaS) with two layers. The first layer is the subscription layer for those who have not yet made an application and the second is for those who already have membership and can use it to interface with others without having to link with each person or entity individually. Yesser is continually building additional capacity, which began from a stage of transfer know-how from current M&O contractors, then to Yesser staff and through vendor driven training and qualification programs (FEP), as well as through direct learning.

 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)
Removing the need for multiple office visits radically removes key potential disadvantages, particularly for those who are vulnerable to prejudice and unjust treatment and is a very powerful “equalizer” which is accomplished without a need for wider change management processes. Fundamentally, it just happens. People who have improved access are empowered with new freedoms to apply for services and with an assurance that these applications will be efficiently and equitably dealt with. However, transforming traditional government services based on manual business processes is a major paradigm shift requiring detailed communication and change management planning. One lesson learned is the extent to which technology implementation is only part of the solution—a more serious factor is mindsets and cultural changes that can only come about through education and extensive promotional programs to foster buy-in and eventual adoption – the selling of the vision to providers and end users. Another lesson is that serious bottle necks are encountered in the GSB on-boarding process and this needs to be addressed. These processes should be simplified and where possible automated to reduce the cycle-time for on-boarding. Technology platforms and frameworks exist to implement a whole-of-government integration. A recommendation for the future is that the technology be implemented in a way which makes it easier for it to become a part of the integrated whole. The government of Saudi Arabia currently achieves this through the GSB/GSN integration platform but implementation enhancements would have made the integration easier. It is further recommended that new ways of defining the value of eGovernment to leaders and managers are explored. Furthermore, the way eGovernment is explained to citizens should be focused on to a greater extent as this should lead to more public support and government “purpose for change” acceptance so that the advantages and ideals of eGovernment can be further advanced. In sum, a better understanding of the responsibility and seriousness of the adoption of eGovernment is needed. This can be seen as being the “residual value of the UNPSA exercise” GSB has emerged as a key capability in the eGovernment of Saudi Arabia, a centerpiece and cornerstone for best practices and the optimal use of ICT to further support the needs and preferences of Saudi society, and particularly those of the most vulnerable within that society.

Contact Information

Institution Name:   Saudi eGovernment Program
Institution Type:   Government Agency  
Contact Person:   Motref AlSahli
Title:   Director  
Telephone/ Fax:   966114522348
Institution's / Project's Website:  
E-mail:   msahli@yesser.gov.sa  
Address:   Saudi eGovernment Program (Yesser)
Postal Code:   11112
City:   Riyadh
State/Province:  
Country:  

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