(MENAFN - Arab News) Saudi Arabia has been ranked 41st out of the 193 countries by the United Nations in terms of the level of e-government infrastructure development despite its considerable dependence on foreign workers, absence of innovations and dearth of home-grown information technology until a decade ago.
The Kingdom has advanced 17 positions from its rank of 58th in 2010, said the UN's Department of Economic and Social Affairs' survey on e-government for 2012, which was released on Thursday.
The survey report, released every two years to determine the ranking of countries based on online services available, telecommunications infrastructure, and human capital, said the Kingdom's individual component indexes are all well above the global average.
"Saudi Arabia pays special attention to the e-government initiative and the state's infrastructure of the e-government has been built in a short span of time," said Ali bin Saleh Al-Soma, director general of the Kingdom's e-government "Yesser," while commenting on the report.
The information resources and systems of the state bodies including government agencies have been integrated into a single complex as part of the e-governance initiative that has won laurels from various quarters, he added. Al-Soma said the Kingdom demonstrated rapid progress climbing up the world rankings from 58th to 41st. The Kingdom is now among the top emerging e-government leaders besides being one of the countries that made the most progress over the past two years. The top five countries in the 2012 e-government development index are South Korea, the Netherlands, the UK, Denmark, and the US.
Referring to the achievements of Saudi Arabia, the UN report said the Kingdom is a regional e-government leader and has been identified as a top performer. The majority of countries do not utilize multiple channels to deliver services such as traditional channels, free access to services via Internet kiosks or WiFi, and mobile applications, it added.
"However, Saudi Arabia is one of only seven countries to provide all services - SMS text notification, mobile government websites, mobile applications, and payment by mobile phone," said the report.
The report added the Kingdom is one of the 78 countries that has a link allowing the public to follow the government on Facebook or Twitter and among the 14 that provide a chat feature on government websites.
The Saudi e-government portal, www.saudi.gov.sa, provides both citizens and businesses with a single location to access a range of information and services, it noted. Among the various services offered is the ability to apply for professional licenses; download government forms and renew work licenses; it said.
This is in addition to applying for education programs, paying utilities, paying education and business fees, and submitting comments and queries to government agencies. The Saudi government also offers an option through the portal that provides users with information documents and reports from government agencies. The goal of the e-portal is to increase productivity and efficiency, encourage public participation, solicit public opinion, and provide services in a way that is focused more on the individual in the Kingdom, the report added.
Referring to the simplified procedures followed by the Kingdom so the public can benefit from the e-government program, IT expert Waleed Jameel said the Saudi government has attached high importance and shown greater interest in the e-government concept and the transformation process that leads to the implementation of such a concept. It strongly believes in the huge benefits e-government entails for the national economy and the people, he added.
A transformation into an information society cannot be achieved without comprehensive collaboration and concerted efforts to realize the specified objectives for end users. Therefore, the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology in Saudi Arabia established Yesser in 2005 in conjunction with the Ministry of Finance and the Communication and Information Technology Commission (CITC). Yesser today plays the role of enabling the implementation of e-government.
It reduces, as much as possible, centralization in e-government implementation while ensuring the minimum level of coordination among government departments.
The SADAD payment system in the Kingdom is a major example that has made life easy for Saudis and residents alike. SADAD was established by the Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency (SAMA) to be the national electronic bill presentment and payment service provider. SADAD was launched on Oct. 3, 2004. Today, all customers pay bills for dozens of organizations and companies through SADAD using all available banking channels.