DIGITALIZATION

Saudi Arabia 2018-19 | IT: DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION | B2B

Government services are being rapidly digitalized in an effort to encourage innovation and entrepreneurship.

Naif Al Otaibi
NAIF AL OTAIBI
Director General
National Center for Digital Certification (NCDC)
Esam Alwagait
ESAM ALWAGAIT
CEO
National Digital Transformation Unit

What are some of your most important mandates?

NAIF AL OTAIBI The ministry is the policymaker for the ICT sector, and the Communications and Information Technology Commission (CITC) regulates the telecoms part. The YESSER e-government program brings all government agencies together in this transformation and unifies government standards in ICT, provides regulations, and centralizes technologies when necessary. NCDC provides the digital signature technology that helps government agencies interact with citizens and businesses and receives their approval on transactions. Digital signatures, which are legally equivalent to manual signatures, are required; digital signatures are built on a technology called Public Key Infrastructure. NCDC was established in Saudi Arabia in 2002 at first to only focus on research. In 2004, we came up with a strategy to develop the Public Key Infrastructure in collaboration with KPMG, and in 2007 the legal document for e-transactions was developed and approved by the cabinet under the e-transaction law. We currently have more than 65 government agencies using our services to secure transactions, receive digital signatures of users, secure email transactions, and digitally sign emails. In the future, we will also include time-stamping services, which will be important for legally archiving documents for 10 or 15 years, or when they are required as evidence in court.

ESAM ALWAGAIT National Digital Transformation Unit was established in 2017 by royal decree and reports to the National Committee for Digitization. It operates as a standalone organization. Our primary mandate is to accelerate digitization in Saudi Arabia and move the country closer to becoming a digital nation, society, and economy. One of our main tasks is to help all government entities develop their digitization strategies, such as avoiding overlap and duplication. While we work for all government entities, we have thus far developed four roadmaps for digitization: health, education, smart cities, and e-commerce. Second, we work on supporting legislation, which can sometimes be a significant hindrance when outdated or lacking in the field of digitization. A major part of our work is to identify these legislative issues, study them, and send our recommendations to the National Committee for Digitization for further consideration and action. National Digital Transformation Unit also plays a coordinating role for digital files that have no ownership or cut across different government entities. For example, we help with data classifications. Furthermore, National Digital Transformation Unit plays a role with the private sector, where it bridges the gap between government entities and technology providers. We have a success story with Cisco, which is piloting several projects with various ministries. National Digital Transformation Unit played an orchestrating role in that. We introduce new and emerging technologies and vendors to government agencies.

How are you helping Saudi Arabia become a more technology-driven country?

NO It is truly important to focus on two things. First, we need to focus on citizens because if the whole idea of digital transformation is not related to citizens, then it will not occur. One of the main things here is digital identity. Estonia succeeded in its digital transformation when it gave every citizen a digital identity and its government created one portal for all services. This is what we seek to do now. To support this transformation, we need to have one digital identity for citizens and one portal for the government where all its services can be found. If we want to encourage innovation and entrepreneurship, it is important to ease all government services by providing them digitally. Second, it is important that the private sector takes responsibility for the investments in innovation. Digital transformation will only succeed with the participation of the private sector.

EA Our main role at National Digital Transformation Unit is to strategize and set out the roadmap; sometimes an organization will take our plan and implement it without needing any further assistance. However, other agencies will need help, which is why we often take a step further to provide guidance on implementation, without physically implementing it. Each government entity has its own technology arm or IT department, and National Digital Transformation Unit provides guidance in choosing the technology and architecture for the solutions. Our next step is to expand. Our mandate covers the entire government, and we are currently targeting two parallel tasks. One goes out to the other sectors, while the other is the Vision Realization Programs (VRPs), of which there are now 13. National Digital Transformation Unit needs to get heavily involved in these VRPs and coordinate with them to avoid duplication and maximize the digitization process.