Beirut, 15 December 2003
(United Nations Information Services)--The
first phase of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS)
held in Geneva from 10 to 12 December 2003 aimed at reducing the
"digital divide" that has emerged between developed and developing
countries, a gap that was seen to pose an eminent threat of
marginalizing and isolating developing countries through
impoverishment of their economies and decline of productivity,
with what that entails in terms of poverty and unemployment.
ESCWA launched an intitative to asses the current status of its
member countries and the region as a whole in relation to the
information society. The regional profiling exercise is still at
its early stages, which will be later a periodic activity leading
to an annual report, in order to reflect the dynamic nature of the
information society in western Asia, and to extend it to the Arab
Such a regional profile will provide ESCWA Member States with
needed data and analysis to help them plan their activities and
improve their performance in building the information society as
well as compare their status to that of other countries.
Building the information and communication technology (ICT) sector
remains a fundamental task for a sustainable information society.
ICT applications in government, also referred to as e-government,
improve services to citizens, enhance interaction with business
and industry, empower citizens through access to information, and
increase the efficiency of government administration and
Selected key indicators have been used to measure the
effectiveness of ICT applications in government establishments,
such as the degree of computerization of public administrations,
the extent of material digitized, as well as e-government and
e-procurement policies set down.
Using these indicators, a comparitive analysis of ESCWA member
countries reveals the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Egypt to be
the two leading countries that are both introducing e-government
applications to improve their governments’ efficency and
effectiveness and showing a positive trend toward digitization.
For their part, Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia
are providing the ICT equipment and classical management
applications needed and having an e-mail service/ web presence.
While most ESCWA member countries, among them Bahrain, Egypt,
Kuwait, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia, have begun to implement their
e-government plans, Jordan and the UAE have gone on to adopt clear
strategies. Only the UAE, namely Dubai, has developed a fully
operational e-procurement strategy.
As a result of this analysis, several recommendations were made.
These include sharing expertise among ESCWA member countries so as
to synchronize e-government programs and avoid re-doing similar
projects all over again; introducing administrative reform;
adopting a fiscal and monetary regime to provide an enabling
environment that encourages Foreign Direct Investment and draw
investors into establishing ICT firms in the region and
participating in e-government projects; and launching pilot
projects to tackle key areas while adopting proper testing and
ESCWA member countries ranking
for ICT applications in government