Driven by a comprehensive digital transformation roadmap and COVID-19 response strategy, the government of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has attained its latest digitization accomplishment, ranking third globally for the provision of digital services and subsequent adoption according to Boston Consulting Group’s (BCG) new study released today, titled ‘Digital Government in the GCC: Accelerating Citizen Trust’. This research is also inspired by BCG and Salesforce’s research to understand what customers expect from governments, titled ‘The Trust Imperative’.
As part of their respective efforts to remain at the forefront of emerging technologies’ adoption, governments across the GCC have prioritized increased digital services quality and expansion in recent times. Action in this direction aligns with their overarching objective of elevating efficiency, leveraging new digital delivery frameworks, utilizing citizen insights, and providing the population with newfound convenience and flexibility.
BCG’s study shows that the level of satisfaction of digital government services in UAE is high, with a net satisfaction score of 73 percent, in comparison to the averages of developed countries (64 percent) and developing countries (58 percent). Additionally, the digital service offering in the UAE has been met with a positive response, with the country’s citizens placed highly in terms of frequency of access. In total, 61 percent of UAE respondents revealed they use digital government once per week minimum, 14 percent above the global average.
“COVID-19 has caused mass disruption and uncertainties to citizens’ way of life, and pandemic-related tailwinds have showcased the critical nature of digital government services since the outbreak,” said Rami Riad Mourtada, Partner and Associate Director, BCG. “Therefore, ensuring the seamless provision of such services while broadening their capabilities and progressing their popularity is paramount ahead of societal re-emergence. The UAE has acted productively in this regard, as emphasized through these figures. At the direction of the country’s leadership, new and impactful digital government services have been successfully delivered at scale, making significant contributions towards safeguarding the health and well-being of citizens across the UAE.”
The scope and variety of digital government services expanded rapidly following the outbreak, with COVID-19 awareness, testing, tracing, information coverage, quarantine compliance, volunteer coordination, and financial support offerings all emerging through online government portals. This applies to the GCC in particular, where governments were central to the availability and delivery of numerous social and healthcare services.
In terms of the UAE, the Emirati Dubai Health Authority app has catered to patient needs, covering a full suite of COVID-19-related services, including the vaccination rollout. Furthermore, Dubai has expanded and tailored UAE PASS a digital national identity and account for citizens, residents, and visitors that provides access to 5,000 government and private services nationwide.
“From both national and regional viewpoints, the demographics today is a key opportunity for the UAE and the wider GCC,” revealed Dr. Lars Littig, Managing Director and Partner, BCG. “At present, 54 percent of GCC citizens are under the age of 25, and these digital natives not only continue to welcome the introduction of digital services, but also demand heightened quality, convenience, and accessibility. As such, these trends continue to drive the sustained surge in digital services uptake, laying the foundations for swift, useful improvements in the process. Urbanization has also been influential. Around 85 percent of GCC citizens reside in urban areas and regularly use digital government services.”
The Digital Government Citizen Survey (DGCS) study – spanning 36 countries, 26 digital government services, and almost 25,000 individual responses – also highlighted other findings. GCC citizens are satisfied with digital government services, appreciating benefits including understandable language, multiple platform accessibility, and easy access to information. Meanwhile, real-time support and assistance were identified as a pain point, with other concerns in the UAE relating to personal information security. Respondents expressed concerns regarding transparency, collection, and storage, while 90 percent of regional correspondents attributed their personal information worries to artificial intelligence (AI) technologies.
“Despite the value that digital government services have delivered for citizens, doubtfulness has become apparent concerning data and AI,” said Mourtada. “Developing understanding and trust is imperative, and leaderships are mandated to guarantee users are unmistakably familiar with every component, from how data is circulated and used to the government policies that are in place. To mitigate and overcome such concerns and ultimately ensure ethical use, a viable option for governments is to create new regulatory frameworks, offer education, and communicate effectively in every instance.”
As the ongoing pandemic nears its conclusion, BCG has identified the next steps GCC governments can pursue to implement decisive action and strengthen digital service delivery processes:
- Continue to improve the already impressive array of services offered
- Give citizens control of their information and focus on ethical data use
- Invest in data security at all levels of service provision
- Establish standards, guidelines, training, and regulatory barriers surrounding the ethical use of data and AI in the public sector
- Be proactive in your communications
“Alongside its authority peers at the regional level, the UAE government has succeeded in solidifying itself as a prominent digital services leader, serving as an inspirational role model for international counterparts as they pursue similar strategies,” added Littig. “At the same time, additional opportunities have presented themselves due to other important factors, such as urbanization, up-and-coming generations, and effective crisis response measures. As governments look ahead to the coming years, successfully addressing concerns among their respective populations will contribute to further progress, enabling them to elevate their leadership statuses with regards to innovative services and future delivery mechanisms.”