Wary of the ripple effects of the Arab Spring, governments of many countries in the region have started implementing people-friendly policies. The Saudi government too has intensified social spend and is working on improving its citizen services. The government had launched initiatives like the e-government program ‘Yesser’, way back in 2005, with the aim of reshaping government administration and enhancing service delivery to citizens. In a survey of e-government initiatives conducted by the UN, Saudi Arabia ranked 105 among 173 nations. Fast forward to 2012, the country jumps to 41st place, this time among 190 countries.
The implementation of the second action plan commenced in 2010 and will continue through 2016. It includes several initiatives such as the introduction of self-service machines across the country, as well as the implementation of a government intranet/knowledge portal, an e-correspondence platform, a unified e-procurement process, and a messaging gateway. As of now, m-government is still in its infancy, with the mobile being mainly used for SMS-based enquiries and information tracking. Yesser does have a mobile app platform, but the services provided through it are limited. However, with Saudi Arabia's mobile penetration rate a whopping 177 percent; m-government is bound to gain traction going forward.
Apart from e-governance, the government is focusing on a couple of other areas: improving the quality of life for citizens and enhancing the quality of the labor force, both major themes in Saudi Arabia's Vision 2020, as well as the Ninth Development Plan 2010–2014. Consequently, healthcare and education are two sectors where the government is channeling much of its investment. Post the Arab Spring, the country had announced additional packages of social benefits to stave off domestic discontent. The funding was to the tune of $130 billion and was intended for housing, healthcare, and education.
The introduction of higher loan limits for private hospitals is expected to result in increased participation in healthcare from the private sector. The increase in technology investments in the government sector as a result of these programs has opened up large windows of opportunities for technology companies. For instance, hospitals in the country are increasingly automating their processes leading to increased spends on work flow digitization, content management systems, and server and desktop virtualization. In the education sector, technology is being deployed in the form of technologies for in-classroom learning, learning through mobile devices and content management, as well as administrative systems such as student management systems. As you can see, there is tremendous scope for ICT in Saudi Arabia’s public sector. Is your company geared up to capitalize on these opportunities in your region??