85% PAPERLESS GOVERNMENT BY 2020

Saudi Arabia 2018 | TELECOMS & IT | VIP INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Ali Nasser Al-Asiri, Minister's Advisor and General Director, Yesser e-government Program, on the changing face of the program, paperless government, and plans for the coming year.

Yesser has been in existence for some time, though it has received a reformed mandate and new leadership. What are your ambitions for change?

Yesser has an important mandate in the digital transformation. One of the pillars of the digital transformation is digital government, and we are currently moving from e-government to digital government. We are building an entire digital ecosystem that goes beyond the simple electronic access of past years. We will focus on three things: increasing the number of digital services delivered by the government to citizens and their integration; pushing, motivating, and enabling government agencies to use shared IT platforms such as data centers of financial platforms; and building standards, measurements, practices, and architecture to deploy IT in the government within the enterprise architecture office. We will set up a national office that governs IT deployment in government entities and also provides standards, measurements, practices, and architecture. The value of this is to align each agency with a strategy. In the past IT spending was led by technology, which caused a great deal of waste in spending and parallel implementations since it was not in line with a strategy. For this last goal, we have three important KPIs. Number one is the UN's e-government ranking where we scored number 44 in 2016; by 2020, we should be ranked no lower than 30. Number two is open data, which we will focus on significantly. We have a second version of our open data platform coming in 2018 that will be extremely smart and intelligent. We are working with the government to publish no less than 200 data sets on the platform in 2018 to improve our ranking from 74 to 69 in the open data parameter. The third KPI is making wise spending in the IT deployment in the government; by 2020 we seek to save no less than 20% on IT spending.

What approach will Yesser take and what authority does it have within the government to impose comprehensive strategies?

To be successful, digital government needs to be led by all, and in the past there was no central authority for this effort. Our strategy has been to work with the entire government. We will sit down with all of the ministries and create digital strategies. Additionally, Yesser now reports directly to the National Digitization Committee, this committee is headed by the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology and has members from all major ministries. This change and new structure will drive transformation within 2018 and beyond.

How does your focus on citizens influence how you carry out operations?

Ten years ago, we used to do e-government as electronic transactions, which are limited in scope. Digital government is about human touch and caring about the 360 values around it. It is about talent, development, user experience, and digital experience. Our target, for example, is not to go to a paperless government but complete digital experience that can truly satisfy citizens' needs. We have an ecosystem called e-Murasalat that is an e-correspondence system. We seek to eliminate paper communication within and between government bodies. The new system is a highly secured, automated, and electronic system that will serve government agencies as well external communication. Our target by 2020 is to have more than 160 agencies using it, leaving us with 85% paperless government. Citizens do not care about letters being sent from ministry to ministry; however, they care about all the ministries working together because this means faster, better service. The e-services that help citizens today are because of the backend system, and whatever we do has to touch the citizen.

What do you hope to achieve within the next 12 months?

We are focusing on the KPIs of the UN ranking, open data, and wise spending in IT. In terms of our initiatives in 2018 that will help us move up the ranking, number one is the unified portal saudi.gov, which is one of our most important initiatives in the program. We currently have dozens of platforms, which are not citizen centric because they are lost among all these platforms and do not know which one to go to. Saudi.gov is the national platform, when all citizen transaction with government will start and end in one consolidate view that guarantees seamless and remarkable experience to the citizen. Our target this year is to revamp Saudi.gov.sa and implement the first waves of the 100 most needed government services. Number two is the e-Murasalat ecosystem. Our target this year is to have 50 agencies participating and using the platform, which is monitored by the National Digitization Committee. Number three is the national government resource planning (GRP), the national enterprise resource planning (ERP) system for the government that is its backbone and will manage HR practices, finance, procurement, and supply chain. In 2018, our mandate is to fix the national GRP HR system module for more than 25 agencies. The value of this is that it is a single place for records, information, employees, and finance. Every entity currently has its own ERP systems that need to be connected centrally so that the duplications and accuracy are controlled according to the regulations and reports.

Recently, you have signed a number of agreements both nationally and internationally, could you share with us the nature of these agreements?

The E-Government Program (Yesser) and the National Information Society Agency (NIA) of South Korea have signed a cooperation agreement that aims for full cooperation between the two sides and for providing support for Yesser Program in all the fields of National Enterprise Architecture and ICT investment governance. In addition, it aims at sharing research findings and studies and exchanging expertise in the field of digital government. This agreement also includes cooperation in building and enhancing the national capacities via customized training programs that will be held in the National Academy of South Korea, seconding experts and specialists in the relevant areas, and transferring knowledge to support the operation of National Enterprise Architecture Platform. This agreement was followed by another agreement with the Government Digital Service in the United Kingdom. It aims to enhance the digital transformation journey in Saudi Arabia by increasing the efficiency of government services, building leadership capacity in the field of digital government, cooperating in a number of areas to develop the digital skills and capability in government, utilizing global expertise in the development of digital government services. Moreover, it supports Yesser Program's orientations to build a digital academy and a government marketplace at Yesser. As for the national agreements of Yesser Program, they are the agreements that Yesser aims through them to provide its services to the government agencies. Recently, we signed an agreement with the Saudi Industrial Property Authority (Modon) to join and benefit from the Government Service Bus (GSB) and the E-Correspondence System (Murasalat), in addition to that we signed another agreement with Council of Saudi Chambers to provide its services on the Government Service Bus (GSB).