E-Government in the United Arab Emirates

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The United Arab Emirates (UAE) once largely known for its oil exports today has a diverse and highly developed economy. According to the UAE Economic Report 2009 released by the UAE Ministry of Economy in May 2010 the non-oil sector contributed 71.6 per cent to the UAE’s GDP, compared to 66.5 per cent in 2008, underscoring the success of the nation's economic diversification initiatives.[1]

The UAE is investing heavily in adopting and implementing Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in its government and private sectors. The Global Information Technology Report 2010-2011 indicates that the UAE leads the MENA region in leveraging ICT for increased economic diversification and competitiveness.[2] The contribution of telecommunications sector in the UAE’s economy rose from 4.1 per cent in 2007 to 5.3 per cent in 2010 according to ‘UAE Telecommunications Sector Developments & Indicators (2007-2010)’, issued in May 2011 by Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA), UAE.[3] Abu Dhabi Department of Economic Development estimates that investments in IT and Telecom sectors are likely to reach AED18.4 billion (USD5 billion) in 2011, as against AED16.1 billion in 2010.[4]

The eGovernment programme in the UAE is a key initiative of the UAE Government Strategy 2011-2013 that lays the foundation to achieve UAE Vision 2021.[5]

Inception and timeline[edit]

The UAE started some of its eServices such as eDirham in as early as the year 2001. The service initiated by the Ministry of Finance replaced the traditional way of paying and collecting fees for government services. The government gradually made more services available online.

# Year Service Summary Initiated by
1 February 2001 eDirham The first online service launched by the Ministry of Finance in the federal government to replace the traditional means of fees collection for government services. Ministry of Finance
2 November 2002 eGovernment Program The Coordinating Committee for the Federal eGovernment Programme was formed and led by the Ministry of Finance and Industry Ministry of Finance
3 March 2003 eGovernment strategy IBM was assigned to conduct an assessment study for the federal agencies and to develop an implementation plan Ministry of Finance
4 June 2004 The eGovernment Implementation Plan A memorandum of understanding was signed with the Emirates Telecommunications Corporation (Etisalat) to provide the infrastructure for the eGovernment. The plan was divided into three phases ending in 2007 Ministry of Finance
5 March 2005 eGovernment Portal The launch of the first eGovernment portal in cooperation with Etisalat, which was exclusively assigned to implement the plan Ministry of Finance
6 March & July 2006 Assigning the Ministry of Government Sector Development to oversee the eGovernment Programme A ministerial decree was issued to move the eGovernment programme from the Ministry of Finance to the Ministry of Government Sector Development

Ministry of Governmental Sector Development

7 June 2008 Development of the Information Systems Strategy of the Federal Government A ministerial decree was issued to assign the TRA to lead the efforts to develop a strategy for the information systems in the State. TRA, in cooperation with Booz Allen Company, developed the Information Systems Strategy of the Federal Government Telecommunications Regulatory Authority
8 2010 Development of the Government Service Development Strategy The Office of the Prime Minister developed a Government Service Development Strategy, which was the third foundational element of the eGovernment Strategy Prime Minister's Office

The official portal of the UAE Government[edit]

The official portal of the UAE Government is www.government.ae. It is part of the federal eGovernment programme and a major milestone in the process of eTransformation in the UAE.

This portal brings all eServices provided by the UAE federal and local government bodies under one umbrella. It also provides information regarding accessing the government services through mobile phones and other similar electronic devices, and other means such as ATMs and public payment machines.

The aim of the portal is to provide more and better online services to the people of the UAE and involve them in the government's policies, laws, and public interest initiatives with the ultimate goal of achieving transparency.[6]


The function of the official portal is to act as a single window or a single entry-point for users to access the different federal and local government eServices. The portal also facilitates to boost communication between the customers and the government representatives and eParticipation through forums, blogs, surveys, polls and social media. Government.ae is the parent portal for the sub-portals on eParticipation, eServices, mServices and UAE Open Data.[6]


The UAE Government provides a range of services through its official portal www.government.ae. The eServices are classified into services for individuals, businesses and visitors. Through the eServices, it is now very easy for the people of the UAE to avail a variety of services without leaving their home or office spaces. The portal has an advanced search facility to help people look for the services they want to access. The portal also contains a section on alternate means for accessing government services.[6]


The portal also provides adequate information on the various services that are available through mobile devices and how to avail them with the help of specially developed short codes and mobile applications. The portal has links to download smart phone applications for Blackberry, iPhone and Android.[6]

Innovative and facilitating option for the business was launched in 2013 when a smart phone app for business registration and licensing was unveiled in Dubai.


One of the major features of the enhanced portal is the inclusion of eParticipation channels. The federal portal has engaged multiple platforms like forums, blogs, chats, surveys, polls and social media tools like Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and YouTube to reach out to the general public and engage them in active communication with the government with regard to their opinions and experiences on government services, policies etc.[6]

Open Data[edit]

Under Open Data, government data and information is made available to the public. People can now have access to economic data, population statistics, etc. Open Data could benefit students, economists and researchers in particular and the public in general.[6]

ICT infrastructure and penetration[edit]

According to Telecommunications Regulatory Authority’s (TRA) May 2011 figures, the UAE has 196.3 mobile phone subscriptions per 100 inhabitants and with 1,417,519 internet subscribers, the UAE has 62.4 internet users per 100 inhabitants.[7]

The UAE has excellent broadband service and this was ratified by Cisco’s broadband quality survey in the year 2010, placing the UAE on eighth position globally.[8]

eReadiness ranking[edit]

eReadiness or Networked Readiness Index (NRI) measures the level of preparedness of a country's government to deliver services and information online and the overall value it delivers to the public. eReadiness or the Readiness Index involves the government’s ability to use Information and Communication Technology (ICT) to boost their socio-economic conditions and overall public welfare.

Global Information Technology Report (GITR)[edit]

According to The GITR 2010-2011, UAE was ranked first amongst Arab countries and stood 24th amongst 138 countries reviewed in the Networked Readiness Index (NRI), indicating the importance the country gives to Information and Communication Technology as a crucial instrument for economic diversification, enhanced efficiency and modernisation. The same report showed Qatar’s position at 25, Bahrain’s position at 30, Saudi Arabia at 33 and Oman at 41.[2]

As per GITR 2010-2011, the UAE scored third rank in government readiness and fifth rank in individual readiness to use ICT, 18th rank for ICT-friendly market environment and 28th rank for ICT infrastructure in the UAE.[2]

The UAE is one of the few countries in the region that has maintained its steady climb in the eReadiness ranking chart. The UAE shot up six positions in NRI; from 29th position amongst 127 countries reviewed in 2007–2008 to 23rd amongst 133 countries reviewed in 2009–2010.[9]

UN eGovernment Survey[edit]

United Nations Public Administration Network (UNPAN) also conducts a similar survey and publishes its report on eGovernment ranking. The report called UN eGovernment Survey was published annually until 2005 but later became a biennial publication.

The UAE’s overall ranking as per the UN eGovernment Survey has gone through many ups and downs. UAE’s rank rose for two consecutive surveys; it leapt from 60th rank in 2004 by 18 ranks to be at 42nd position in the year 2005 and then rose by 10 ranks to be at 32nd position in the year 2008. However, its rank took a steep dip in 2010 attaining 49th position. However, overall, UAE was ranked fourth in the region in 2010 report.[10][11][12][13]

UAE Vision 2021[edit]

Under the banner of Vision 2021,[14] the UAE aspires to be among the best countries in the world by 2021. Vision 2021 states: In a strong and safe union, knowledgeable and innovative Emiratis will confidently build a competitive and resilient economy. They will thrive as a cohesive society bonded to its identity and enjoy the highest standards of living with a nurturing and sustainable environment.

Vision 2021 lays down its objectives in four categories: United in responsibility, United in destiny, United in knowledge and United in prosperity. Vision 2021 also charts out responsibilities for the UAE Government, extracts of which are:

  • The UAE will not slow the pace of its drive for improvement. In the economic and government sphere, the UAE will build on sectors of excellence to export its model abroad, while constantly evolving to create new competitive advantages.
  • Legal frameworks and government services will be designed to provide businesses with the efficient environment that they need in order to grow, thrive and commercialise innovative ideas. Regulations will promote efficient markets and protect intellectual property. Partnerships will flourish between the public and private sectors, spurring growth and maximising opportunities. The UAE will become one of the best places in the world to do business.
  • The UAE will nurture high quality of life built on world-class public infrastructure, government services, and a rich recreational environment. The UAE government should provide citizens with world-class infrastructure, services, and leisure resources, creating a rich environment in which they can enjoy well-rounded and fulfilling lives.
  • Emiratis will benefit from customer-focused government services whose quality is rigorously monitored and constantly improved. Interactive eGovernment will provide citizens with an especially responsive and efficient channel of service from public authorities.
  • We want the UAE to transform its economy into a model where growth is driven by knowledge and innovation. Productivity and competitiveness will come to rival the best in the world, as a result of investment in science, technology, research and development throughout the fabric of the UAE economy.
  • Outstanding information and communication infrastructure will network our businesses together and give them a leading edge as they transact and interact with the world. Individual citizens will also reap the benefits of efficient connectedness in their digital lives as they search online for knowledge and the fulfilment of intellectual curiosity.

UAE Government Strategy 2011-2013[edit]

UAE Government Strategy[15] highlights the priorities for the government during the years from 2011 to 2013. It forms the basis upon which the federal entities could develop their strategic and operational plans. UAE Government Strategy lays the foundation for Vision 2021.

The strategy is divided into seven general principles, seven strategic priorities and seven strategic enablers.

The seven general principles are:

  • Enhance the role of federal entities in devising effective regulations and integrated policies by successful planning and enforcement
  • Enhance effective coordination and cooperation among federal entities and with local governments
  • Focus on delivering high quality, customer-centric, and integrated government services
  • Invest in human resource capabilities and develop leaders
  • Promote efficient resource management within federal entities and leverage dynamic partnerships
  • Pursue a culture of excellence through strategic thinking, continuous performance improvement, and superior results
  • Enhance transparency and accountable governance mechanisms throughout the federal entities

UAE Government Strategy 2011-2013 details its obligations in the field of eGovernment under strategic enabler, customer–centric service. All Federal Entities will move towards focusing on their customers and understanding their needs. Government services will be designed, re-engineered, and streamlined to meet all the needs of different customer segments and their expectations. These government services will be provided through innovative and effective channels, which address their customer’s requirements and ensure their access to high quality services.

Emirates eGovernment[edit]

Emirates eGovernment is responsible for developing, implementing and maintaining the eGovernment programme at the federal level in the UAE. This involves renovating and upgrading the conventional methods of delivering the government services and having the services delivered electronically through the deployment of modern Information and communication technologies (ICT).[16]


Emirates eGovernment has set up the UAE’s official portal www.government.ae, which is a major milestone in the process of eTransformation in the UAE. This portal brings all eServices and information provided by the UAE federal and local government bodies under one umbrella.[17]

Emirates eGovernment provides services on G2G, G2B and G2C levels. The UAE’s official portal www.government.ae falls under the G2B and G2C level. Under G2G services, the entity provides cloud and Government Website Evaluation Index (GWEI) services.[18][19]

Initiatives and awards[edit]

Emirates eGovernment pioneers various initiatives that aid the development of the eGovernment programme in the UAE. It is actively involved in projects that promote the usage of eServices and Information and Communication Technology (ICT) tools by the federal government entities and the public in a safe and effective way to achieve better delivery of services and good governance.

Emirates eGovernment regularly holds workshops for internal staff and federal government employees on topics relating to eGovernment, cloud services such as Morasalate and Malafate, IT trends, effective use of ICT to achieve the entity’s goals etc.[20]

Policies and Guidelines[edit]

Emirates eGovernment drafted a number of guidelines for federal government entities in the UAE. These guidelines deal with websites, social media usage, web content. Emirates eGovernment also issued draft documents related to eParticipation and open data. These guidelines comprise recommendations on the content style, design, layout, accessibility features etc. to make the federal government websites in accordance with the international standards of web content and design as laid down by World Wide Web Consortium.

The Guidelines for Social Media Usage won Emirates eGovernment the 2011 ‘Social Media Initiative of the Year’ award. The guidelines document was prepared in partnership with and extensive support from Dubai School of Government's Governance and Innovation Program and in collaboration with the UAE Government entities. Senior Advisors at Information Technology research firm Gartner Inc. and United Nations eGovernment Programme also offered their assistance and recommendations in preparing this document.[20]


Emirates eGovernment has received several awards and honours in recognition of its efforts in the field of eGovernment.[21]

GCC eGovernment Award The UAE is actively involved in the GCC eGovernment Award. The award is held biennially in one of the GCC countries.

The second GCC eGovernment Award The second GCC eGovernment Award was held in Kuwait from November 13 to 15, 2011. UAE entities have bagged most of the awards. They have achieved the first place in three out of the six categories of the Award.

Arab eGovernment Web Award The Arab e-Government Web Award organised by the Arab Administrative Development Organization (ARADO) recognises Arab governments for their efforts in promoting the eGovernment portals. The Award seeks to encourage creativity in the design of eGovernment websites, deploy the best information and communication technology to make their services easily available to the public and create a transparent and secure digital environment.[22]

Awards won by other UAE government entities: Government entities in the UAE have won a number of awards in the eGovernment Web Awards. The list of awardees is as follows:

  1. The General Authority for Islamic Affairs and Endowments - Technical Innovation Award, official and government entities websites category
  2. Ministry of Public Works - Structural Innovation Awards, ministries’ websites category
  3. Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority – Visual Innovation Award, official and government entities websites category
  4. Dubai Airport Free Zone - Interactive Innovation Award, official and government entities websites category
  5. Sharjah Government Directorate of Town Planning and Survey – Design Innovation Award, official and government entities websites category

Local eGovernment Programmes[edit]

eGovernment in the UAE has been launched and is successfully operating at local levels as well. The governments of six out of the seven emirates, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ras Al Khaimah, Ajman and Fujairah have launched their official portals.

These portals are implemented to bring the services and information of the respective government’s entities under one umbrella with the aim to provide quick and easy access to the service seeker.

The portals offer many interactive and transactional services such as bill payments, licence renewals etc. In addition, Abu Dhabi and Dubai government portals offer information and advice to residents, businesses and visitors on related matters such as how to apply for health card, how to obtain drivers’ license, or how to apply for visa.

Many local eGovernments are also active on social media such as Facebook and Twitter; providing the public with easy access to government entities and officials. The government entities keep the public informed about their services and initiatives, reply to their queries and engage them in stimulating discussions relating to the government services, policies etc.

The UAE Government is aiming for the electronic transformation or eTransformation of many of its services at the federal level. The UAE government is taking many steps to achieve this. H. H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai stressed, while launching the federal portal of the UAE that "eTransformation in the UAE and the provision of federal and local services through one portal contributes to enhance the state’s competitiveness and opens up broader prospects for direct communication with community groups and works to enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of governmental work in the country."[23]


  1. ^ "UAE Economy". government.ae. 
  2. ^ a b c "The Global Information Technology Report 2010-2011" (PDF). World Economic Forum. 
  3. ^ Annual review -Final English - 11 May 2011(NZ).pdf "Second Annual Market Review" Check |url= value (help) (PDF). TRA. 
  4. ^ "IT investment in UAE 'to grow 15% in 2011'". ITP.net. 
  5. ^ "UAE Government Strategy 2011-2013". UAEcabinet.ae. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f "help". Government.ae. 
  7. ^ "Latest statistics". TRA.gov.ae. Archived from the original on 2014-11-09. 
  8. ^ "UAE ranks eighth globally in broadband leadership". Emirates24/7.com. 
  9. ^ "The Global Information Technology Report 2009-2010" (PDF). World Economic Forum. 
  10. ^ "2010 Global E-Government Survey". United Nations Public Administration Network (UNPAN). 
  11. ^ "2008 Global E-Government Survey" (PDF). United Nations Public Administration Network (UNPAN). 
  12. ^ "Global eGovernment Readiness Report 2005" (PDF). United Nations Public Administration Network (UNPAN). 
  13. ^ "Global eGovernment Readiness Report 2004" (PDF). United Nations Public Administration Network (UNPAN). 
  14. ^ "Vision 2021". Vision 2021. 
  15. ^ "UAE Government Strategy 2011-2013" (PDF). Government Strategy 2011-2013. 
  16. ^ "About us". Emiratesegov.ae. 
  17. ^ "UAE official portal". Emiratesegov.ae. 
  18. ^ "Website Evaluation Index". Emiratesegov.ae. 
  19. ^ "Cloud services". Emiratesegov.ae. 
  20. ^ a b "Initiatives & achievements". Emiratesegov.ae. 
  21. ^ "Awards". Emiratesegov.ae. 
  22. ^ "Arab eGovernment Web Award". Emiratesegov.ae. 
  23. ^ "Mohammed launches UAE's e-portal, approves budgets". Emirates24/7.com. 

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