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Middle East and North Africa’s (MENA) younger, growing population is more digitally wired than ever before. They have higher expectations for speed and ease of government services. “Smart government” means putting the citizen first and making accessing services as easy as possible.
“Smart cities” are those that “make digital technology, networks, and apps a central part of operations and constituent interactions,” says Vice President Danny Karam, MENA region. That requires the tough work of modernizing existing infrastructure, retrofitting buildings, and defining what is “smart” for each city.
Cities can assess how smart they are using Booz Allen’s “Four Degrees of Smartness”:
“The smartest of cities are predictive, which means agencies use sophisticated data collection and analytics to produce predictive insights,” Danny says, like which digital technologies will promote social welfare or what services businesses really need to help boost the economy.
“'Smart cities’ are those that make digital technology, networks, and apps a central part of operations and constituent interactions. -Vice President Danny Karam, MENA region”
As a thought leader in digital life with a presence in the MENA region for more than 60 years, Booz Allen has seen that MENA countries are in various stages of maturity when it comes to smart cities. Leading the way are countries like the United Arab Emirates (UAE), for which Booz Allen served as trusted advisor in developing a smart cities vision and roadmap.
The story starts in May 2013 when His Highness (HH) Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice President, Prime Minister, and Ruler of Dubai, announced UAE’s transition to smart government. The UAE sought to transform government systems, services, and mindset to operate more like the private sector. That means providing integrated, 24/7 services with high levels of satisfaction, and aiming for optimum customer service. Ultimately, there was one goal in mind—promoting constituents’ well-being and satisfaction.
Booz Allen held meetings with more than 20 local and national entities to identify government capabilities and challenge areas in support of developing the UAE Smart Government National Plan and Goals, in conjunction with their lead agency—the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA). Together with TRA’s team, Booz Allen developed the Smart Government vision and strategy in alignment with the national vision and Information and Communication Technology sector strategy.
During the process of talking with stakeholders, “it was critical not just to share the assessment and the strategy, but also to create local ownership and give the government entities wind ‘under the wings’ to take the ideas and initiatives and innovate forward,” says Principal Hamid Al Tamimi, MENA region. It is this kind of deep knowledge of the culture and people of the region that was essential to success here. Our client work is driven by leaders and strategists from the region. Their proficiency in regional cultural, social, and behavioral nuances is a crucial component in the successful implementation and adoption of any program or technology.
Booz Allen led in the development of a network that will serve as a safe and secure way of communicating information across government systems. We helped create a national customer relationship management system that allows citizens to call a national hotline and receive services without having to walk through a detailed background of service history, rearticulate certain preferences, or wait to be called back after an agent does some research, for example. This makes for happy citizens, and if that’s not smart, who knows what is.
The UAE story illustrates that “the art and science of smart government lies not only in having a forward-leading strategy that takes into account the nation’s vision, constituency’s needs, and technology trends, but also in identifying a pool of innovative options, prioritizing those and sequencing them, and then bringing those to life, together with stakeholders,” says Vice President Fady Kassatly, MENA region.
The story of digital life doesn’t stop there. “There must be a drive for continuous improvement,” Fady says, “and an innovation culture that fosters behaviors such as failing-forward, increasing collaboration, and giving credit where it is due.”