Saudi students attend a class at the Technology College in Riyadh. The U.N. e-government readiness survey makes a comparative assessment of global e-government development in 193 countries every two years. (Reuters)


Saudi Arabia has joined Egypt, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates in the elite club of 21 nations holding crucial components of e-readiness for effective e-government and various e-services in public and private sectors, according to U.N. study released in Riyadh on Thursday.

“The presence of Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain appearing in the top 21 rank is a feat,” according to the U.N. e-government survey

The U.N. e-government readiness survey makes a comparative assessment of global e-government development in 193 countries every two years. It includes indicators, strategies and best practices as well as measurement of governments’ transparency based on their online activity status. This year the survey revealed that the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states emerged as leaders in e-readiness. “This feat is attributed to their surge in digital literacy and online presence,” the U.N. report said, referring to GCC states.

The Kingdom has invested heavily and taken several measures to improve the e-government program and to promote e-literacy among students and general public.

But the survey highlighted Saudi Arabia and Bahrain in particular, saying that the two countries “devoted especial attention to expanding and consolidating online services in the last few years and now offer online services close to those of global leaders such as Norway and Denmark.”

On top of this, Saudi Arabia also recently won two prestigious U.N. awards in the area of communications and IT and a third for its extraordinary achievement in rendering government e-services.

The U.N. survey said the e-government initiatives generally include embracing ICT within its public sector and the attempt to be more efficient, inclusive, sustainable and transparent. It goes on to say however, “having a foot in the digital door is not enough, for the countries that hit the high ranks of this poll are ones that took their initiative to another level and subsequently moved further than the basic integration of systems and links.”

Offering a single point of contact to the public represents one of the major keys to progress in e-readiness according to the survey and that is where the “GCC states have excelled.”

In a bid to boost transparency and enable a partnership approach to public policy making, governments have started consulting more with citizens. They provide policies and information on when participatory events are available, where citizens can give feedback, the results of the e-participation is then considered in its decision making process. The survey makes note to the fact that the United Arab Emirates is one of only two countries that scored 100 percent on whether the government takes citizen’s views into decision-making.

Although the use of social media may not represent one of the e-readiness pillars, it can’t be ignored as a major factor in governmental transparency. The use of social media is surprisingly quite common in the GCC, and the growth in terms of use of social media in the Gulf is higher than any region of the world.

“With the use of consultation tools, including social media, other developing countries have caught up to the developed countries as e-leaders. Notable among these are Bahrain, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates,” the survey stated .