Regional E-government workshop in DecemberUNDP launches ICT project in Yemen [Archives:2003/683/Reportage]

November 6 2003
Abdulillah Dewachi
Abdulillah Dewachi
Mohammed Al-Qadhi
UNDP/Yemen and the Ministry of Telecommunications and Information Technology (MTIT), in cooperation with UN ESCWA, is organizing a regional workshop on electronic government to be held Dec. 1 to 3, at the Telecommunications and Information Technology City in Sana’a.
The workshop will address major issues facing public administration reform efforts and the establishment of e-government in Yemen, with focus on supporting electronic tools. It also will highlight lessons learned from previous programs in these regards and will identify areas where UNDP/Yemen and ESCWA can have tangible impact in supporting the development of e-government in Yemen.
This workshop is just a part of and the stepping stone for a comprehensive program for the development of information and communication technology in Yemen that the UNDP has decided to undertake.
Two experts from the ESCWA and the UNDP in New York visited Yemen last week to organize and finalize the arrangements for the workshop and study the possibility of starting the ICT program. These experts are Gabriel Accascina, Director of the Information Communication and Technology for Development and Advisor for UNDP and Dr. Abdulillah Dewachi, ESCWA’s Regional Advisor for Communications and Computer Networking.
Accascina told The Yemen Times that the main focus of the UNDP is poverty reduction, which is executed in a number of different ways; one of which is the development of sound governance practices.
“That means to enable the governments to become more efficient in the ways that is handling government functions,” he said, adding, “One of the UNDP’s efforts is to assist countries including Yemen to facilitate processes related to government,” he added.
Information technology is obviously a very good tool in order to be able to improve government services.

E-government importance
Accascina pointed out that the workshop is basically meant to raise the awareness among the decision makers in the government to the importance of the e-government and how ICT can assist government to become more effective in a number of different ways.
Dewachi said it is a tool that provides the government of Yemen the better ways of doing things more efficiently and get more satisfaction from the citizens. “In order to do that, you should not let just one entity in the government develop this; you should make it a pervasive type of mindset in the whole of the government institutions,” he emphasized.
It is not only the MTIT that should get excited about it, but other ministries should be excited about this to see the advantage of going through this program to achieve better results that serve the citizens and the business community, according to Dewachi.
As a matter of fact, most government organizations and ministries in Yemen were left to develop their own IT infrastructure and applications. As a result, achievements are scattered and uncoordinated while no organization within the government is ensuring standards and quality control of applications. Many of the applications within the government were developed by the private sector. The results of the National Information Center survey run in July 2000 indicate fragmentation of the ICT application sector in the government and lack of coordination and electronic information exchange amongst them, despite the fact that there are success stories in ministries like Finance, industry and Trade, Interior and Civil Service.

Workshop focus
The workshop will focus on the role of developing public services and human resources in paving the way to e-government, infrastructure, tools, prerequisites, and legal aspect needed for e-government, and best practices on e-government in Arab countries and other regions.
The event will invite ministers concerned with public administration and ICT in Arab countries, representatives of ministries or departments concerned with public administration reforms and ICT in Yemen as well as selected experts who will explain what countries are doing in IT and what are the policies, procedures and regulations related.
Experts from other countries will give perspective of what their experiences are and representatives of the private sector like Microsoft, IBM and others will highlight their experience in terms of their relationship with governments in establishing some of these services. Yemen’s government will be given the opportunity to figure out its concerns and its master plan to implement IT. “The workshop basically centers around the idea of giving the government and the private sector a very good idea on how to implement e-government services,” Accascina stressed.

ICT Comprehensive Program
He said that the ICT comprehensive program has seven components; one of it is the workshop. The program starts with assessing the capacity to use technology and ends with a plan for action.
One part of the project is a program that has to do with information access, especially with people outside the Capital Sana’a and how people in Yemen access information. Other components include education, training both government and private sector, community-based telecenters mobile internet units, web-based development portal…etc.
The project aims to encourage the availability of telecenters presenting services including learning how to use computer and internet, doing tourism, faxing, scanning, printing …etc in places outside the cities. People will be encouraged to this through providing with small loans. The UNDP believes such things are ways to increase employment and create businesses.
“The main factor for poverty in the Arab region is the lack of knowledge as identified by the Arab Human Development report,” he emphasized. Introducing such technology will help small businessmen to advertise their materials all over the globe.
Dr. Dewachi said that by this the UNDP and ESCWA are providing Yemenis with very clear and easy to follow procedures that they can follow in order to apply whatever request they have with the government.
“ If we make life easier to citizens, naturally they will have more time to address issues like learning more how to develop professional career for themselves and contribute more to the economy,” he pointed out.
ICT also provides job opportunities within the sector itself. It is the fastest moving sector in many countries in the world. He highlighted the fact that Yemen has the resources needed like human resources and cultural dimension and that Yemenis who are doing excellent abroad in terms of knowledge and business like in the Gulf countries. He thinks that such efforts are meant to attract Yemenis to come back and develop their own country as the private sector would take advantage of this project.
By this project, the UNDP is trying to attract donors to support such projects but and this depends on the government of Yemen entering into the knowledge economy. In fact, thinking about these procedures, one will end up reforming practically everything in the society like banking, education, delivery and many other things.