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Don't Forget Your Trousers

An interesting comment piece below from e4all Magazine, the official magazine of Dubai eGovernment, by Salim Khamis Al-Shair , who heads up the eGovernment programme in Dubai.



Status Quo and the Mentality of Change

"Successful migration to electronic channels is not solely dependent on having the technology. Rather, it depends on people’s ability to move away from conventional channels.

Migration to electronic systems cannot be viewed purely as an economic or management activity. It is a social phenomenon that directly affects different groups of people. There exist, within the government as well as among the public, anti-change people who believe in the proverb, “A known devil is better than an unknown one.”

Some fear that migration to electronic systems will take away some privileges that are offered by paper-based transactions. Some elderly people, mostly over 50, think that they are too old to adapt to electronic systems. And some explain away their rejection of electronic migration by claiming that the government will eventually return to “real” traditional modes.

Groups of people who oppose migration to electronic channels exist all over the world. A study conducted by an American research company, Accenture, has shown that most website visitors use the Internet only to obtain information on tourism, health and other such issues. The study entitled, “eGovernment leadership: Performance Enhancement,” included a questionnaire which covered 5,000 regular surfers from different American, European and Asian countries. It concluded that misgivings and skepticism about electronic migration are universal, demonstrating a gulf between evolution and application. The study, therefore, suggests that we should find more innovative and effective ways to motivate people to embrace electronic channels.

According to the study, globally electronic migration is hampered by media hype, because each eGovernment churns out incessant flow of news concerning “achievements” that are still on paper.

In the eGov Monitor, Simon Moores wrote, “Ian Watmore, the President of UK eGovernment, drew a colorful picture of the great achievements and successes which have been made. Five years later, however, we realize that we have viewed the eGovernment in the same way the Soviet Union viewed Justice and Communism. We exaggerate achievements but we sweep failures under the carpet.”

Transparency, we think, is the key factor in assessing achievements and reviewing failures. One has to draw a balance between people who are skeptical and unsure and those who believe in hype and exaggeration. Otherwise, Moore’s analogy, “the English eGovernment is like an elegant fur coat worn by someone without trousers,” could apply to us. "

Salim Khamis Al-Shair
Dubai eGovernment

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