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Smart Services and Re-Engineered Government in Dubai Essay


Abstract

Governments often experience difficulties associated with the lack of efficiency of their processes and services they provide; additional problems may involve poor communication, poor public access to such services, and negative user feedback. Previous research has shown that smart services and re-engineered processes (e.g., related to e-government) can help address the difficulties. In the presented study, seven relevant articles were analyzed, and 16 government officers in Dubai were interviewed to explore potential benefits, ways to improve, and providers’ perceptions.

It was concluded that benefits include higher efficiency, improved communication and compliance with democratic principles, and better feedback from users. Providers mainly acknowledged those benefits and were willing to learn hard to adopt re-engineered processes.

Introduction

Government processes and the services governments can be improved with modern technologies, specifically, through re-engineering, automation, and so-called smart technologies. However, the adoption of new processes may be challenging both for government decision-makers and officers who will provide the re-engineered services, so it is necessary to receive strong evidence of benefits. In the presented study, relevant literature was reviewed.

Also, government officers were interviewed to identify the benefits of smart systems for the government of Dubai, suggesting ways of improving current processes and analyzing the providers’ perceptions of these innovations. The research is justified by the recognition that smart services and re-engineered processes can significantly improve government structures; to achieve such improvements, it is necessary to establish how these innovations can be implemented and what the perceptions of potential (or current) implementers are.

The study will focus on previous findings, but it will also integrate them into a comprehensive understanding of the issue of interest and contribute to the relevant academic literature by presenting primary research results on government officers’ perceptions.

Aims and Objectives

The study aims to examine the subject of smart services and re-engineered processes in government operation and activities in Dubai. The first research objective is to establish possible benefits from the automation of services and the introduction of smart technologies and re-engineered processes. The second objective is to define areas in which these modifications are possible and potentially beneficial. Third, there is the necessity to explore smart government services’ perceptions and redesigned and re-engineered government processes among officers in Dubai who provide those services and implement those processes.

Literature Review

A review of relevant literature has confirmed that governments in various countries adopt so-called e-government systems to benefit from modern information and communication technology (ICT) and automated processes (Alhomod et al. 2012; Kamoun & Almourad 2014). Major e-government systems use cohesion (linking each operation’s input to a different operation), hierarchical arrangement of tasks, and splitting communication channels to achieve a better information flow (Sikdar & Payyazhi 2014).

Notably, the application of such systems in the UAE has explicitly shown that e-government systems can promote democracy because they allow more people to be engaged in public administration and decision-making (Al-Khouri 2012; Efthymiopoulos 2016; Mohammed bin Rashid School of Government 2014). Findings from other countries showed that the success of using smart services depends on the quality of information, user-friendliness, and efficiency of operating organizations (Karunasena & Deng 2012). As shown in Appendix B, several other common themes related to the researched topic emerged from relevant academic literature.

Seven publications were used for the literature review part of the study. The publications were examined for common themes and the frequency of mentioning certain aspects of smart services and re-engineered governance (the results are shown in Appendix B). Major themes regarding the use of smart services and re-engineered governance processes in Dubai and countries other than the UAE that emerged from the literature review included efficiency, democracy, security, access, workflow, management, environment and sustainability, communication, and standards.

All the articles mentioned the benefit of improved efficiency; the second- and third-best results in terms of the number of mentions were demonstrated by the themes of better communication (n=6) and easier access for users (n=5). The analysis was not based merely on the presence of certain words; for example, articles that discussed the benefits of e-government for the citizenry might not have used the word “democracy,” but the theme of improved compliance with democratic principles was detected.

Methodology

The research will employ the qualitative research methods of literature review and semi-structured interviews. A literature review will allow answering the first two research questions about the benefits of service automation and how current government processes in Dubai can be redesigned and re-engineered; interviewing will allow answering the third question about officers’ perceptions of smart government services and redesigned and re-engineered government processes.

The semi-structured design suggests that certain questions will be prepared in advance, but the researcher will also ask follow-up questions and ask for additional clarification (Galletta 2013); this is an interpretative method. Randomly selected officers will be contacted with interview requests; the inclusion criterion is that the Dubai government must employ a participant in a position in which smart services or e-government systems (or both) are implemented.

The questions are provided in Appendix A; they were designed according to the available literature on major themes in adopting smart services and re-engineered government operation processes. It has been confirmed that the main things that officers needed to be asked about included the barriers to the success of this adoption process, the perceived benefits of such adoption, and the willingness to comply with the new operation patterns as opposed to those employed before.

Sixteen Dubai government officials were included in the sample out of 25 initially contacted (the rest either refused to participate or had job descriptions that did not involve working with the systems and services of interest). The interviewees’ responses are summarized in Appendix C. The participants’ informed consent was obtained, and their confidentiality was protected.

Potential Implications

Upon combining the results of the literature review with primary findings, the study has demonstrated that there are significant implications for government operation and the automation of public administration. The interviews were analyzed based on the answers to the six predesigned questions; however, additional themes raised by the officers (e.g., when they were answering follow-up questions) were incorporated into the analysis, too (the results are summarized in Appendix C).

Major themes in terms of perceived barriers included the complexity of e-government and smart systems and their poor compliance with existing processes; perceived benefits identified in the responses included improved efficiency and easier access for users (which partially complies with the results of the literature review) as well as positive feedback from the recipients of government services. Most interviewees also claimed the necessity to constantly change and improve re-engineered processes according to feedback (from them and users) instead of “cementing” the processes or bringing back old ones. The main implication in this regard is that the promotion of smart services should be flexible and should allow further modifications.

The study confirms that both academics and practitioners recognize the benefits of adopting smart services in governance, mostly support such adoption, and search for ways to overcome barriers. In Dubai, the automation of services can increase the efficiency of government work, make such services more accessible to users (both primary and secondary data support these two points), improve internal communication (this point is supported by secondary data), and increase user satisfaction as perceived by the providers (supported by primary data).

To redesign and re-engineer current government processes, according to the literature review, it is necessary to analyze the processes in terms of workflow and ensure that all the elements and procedures contribute to the strategic goals of the provision of government services; if needed, factors that impede processes and make them less efficient should be eliminated. Finally, the perceptions of smart government services and redesigned and re-engineered government processes among officers in Dubai who provide such services and implement such processes are mostly favorable; despite the recognition of barriers, most officers appreciate the benefits and are willing to learn to use smart services and automated processes even if learning is perceived as difficult.

Additionally, it should be noted that most respondents did not express their willingness to preserve the existing systems (although benefits were perceived to overweigh challenges) despite what had been initially expected by the researcher. It had been expected that, after working hard to learn new processes and with the recognition of benefits, the officers would want to keep everything as was (because it is hard to learn new processes continuously). However, most interviewees claimed that a significant benefit of smart services was that they could be constantly improved based on feedback. This improvement was precisely what the government should pursue.

The literature review and interviews with officers employed by the government have confirmed that re-engineering and automating government operation processes increase the efficiency of the delivery of services and ensure easier access to such services for users. Additionally, it has been revealed that smart services increase user satisfaction (as perceived by the providers), improve internal and external government communication, and enhance compliance with democratic principles because citizens receive more opportunities to be engaged in public administration. Major barriers to adopting new systems and processes are complexity in terms of learning (for the providers) and those systems’ poor compliance with established procedures. However, the providers were found to be willing to learn and adapt to changes in case smart systems and services constantly improved.

Based on workflows, Dubai’s government should re-engineer its processes toward higher automation and adopt methods of providing smart services. Providers (i.e., officers employed by the government whose responsibilities include providing such re-engineered services to the public) should provide their feedback to decision-makers concerning perceived barriers and challenges; this will ensure better adaptation of new processes. Similarly, users (i.e., ultimate recipients of government services) should provide feedback to the providers since, as it has been established in the presented study, user satisfaction is perceived by the providers as a major benefit of smart services.

When examining the implications of a study, it is important to address future research and limitations. First, it has been confirmed that many officers responsible for the delivery of re-engineered services perceive the learning processes needed to comply with the new requirements as hard and challenging. Therefore, future research should explore these perceived complications in more detail and explore strategies that the officers employ to make their learning more successful.

Further research can also test the conclusions of the presented study by addressing specific government services and processes that have been redesigned and analyzing them from three perspectives: providers’, recipients’, and decision-makers’. It is also necessary that current government processes and services that have not been re-engineered toward smart approaches and e-government principles and technologies are assessed in the context of possible changes and innovations that could improve their efficiency through redesigning and re-engineering.

Concerning limitations, a major one in the presented research was the small sample size. Although selected randomly, the 16 interviewed officers cannot represent the entire community of government service providers. Similarly, seven articles cannot represent the entire body of literature on e-government, smart services, and re-engineered and automated processes, even in Dubai alone. However, qualitative research is not necessarily representative; the study has provided valuable insight into the topic and invites further research.

References

Alhomod, SM, Shafi, MM, Kousarrizi, MN, Seiti, F, Teshnehlab, M, Susanto, H & Batawi, YA 2012, ‘Best practices in E government: a review of some innovative models proposed in different countries’, International Journal of Electrical & Computer Sciences, vol. 12, no. 1, pp. 1-6.

Al-Khouri, AM 2012, ‘eGovernment strategies the case of the United Arab Emirates (UAE)’, European Journal of ePractice, vol. 17, no. 1, pp. 126-150.

Efthymiopoulos, MP 2016, ‘Cyber-security in smart cities: the case of Dubai’, Journal of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, vol. 5, no. 11, pp. 1-16.

Galletta, A 2013, Mastering the semi-structured interview and beyond: from research design to analysis and publication, New York University Press, New York.

Kamoun, F & Almourad, MB 2014, ‘Accessibility as an integral factor in e-government web site evaluation: the case of Dubai e-government’, Information Technology & People, vol. 27, no. 2, pp. 208-228.

Karunasena, K & Deng, H 2012, ‘Critical factors for evaluating the public value of e-government in Sri Lanka’, Government Information Quarterly, vol. 29, no. 1, pp. 76-84.

Mohammed bin Rashid School of Government 2014, . Web.

Sikdar, A & Payyazhi, J 2014, ‘A process model of managing organizational change during business process redesign’, Business Process Management Journal, vol. 20, no. 6, pp. 971-998.

Appendix A

Interview Guide

Main questions (excluding possible follow-ups):

  1. For how long have you been working with smart services and e-government re-engineered processes/systems?
  2. Was it hard to learn to work with them? (Is it hard?)
  3. What were (are) the main barriers to your work with them?
  4. What are the main benefits for your work?
  5. Should the processes be changed or preserved? Should the old processes be brought back?
  6. What is the impact of such services/processes/systems on Dubai government?

Appendix B

Literature Review Table.

Author(s),
date
Efficiency Democracy Security Access Workflow Management Environment and
Sustainability
Communication Standards
Alhomod, et al., 2012
Al-Khouri, 2012
Efthymio-poulos, 2016
Kamoun & Almourad, 2014
Karunasena & Deng, 2012
Mohammed bin Rashid School of Government, 2014
Sikdar & Payyazhi, 2014

Appendix C

Resume of Interviews’ Results

The mean time of work with smart services and e-government re-engineered processes/systems among the interviewees was two years two months.

Three-quarters assessed their learning process during the adoption of new systems as difficult; major barriers mentioned during the interviews included the complexity of systems and their poor compliance with existing procedures.

Out of 16 respondents, only one claimed that there were no benefits of the innovation with which the respondent worked (a re-engineered smart workflow); the rest referred to improved efficiency, easier access to government services for the public, and positive feedback from users.

One interviewee wanted the old processes to be brought back; two wanted the new processes to be preserved. The rest shared the opinion that smart services needed to be changed because, as one of the respondents put it, “the very idea behind smart services is that they can change constantly and improve, and they can absorb feedback from users and become better.”

All the interviewees agreed that the government could benefit from smart systems and processes in one way or another.

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