Electronic Government and Open Data: How to Reach a Transparent and Accountable Government where the Citizens Are at the Heart of its Work and Interests?

Aug 11, 2021


17 July 2021

4:00 - 5:00 pm


After welcoming and introducing the speakers, the meeting was opened by the facilitator of the session "Mr. Wael Al-Keraizi" - an e-learning specialist and the interviewer of the fifth session within the works of Point Conference- Iraq 3.0 that was held on The Station Hall building on Saturday, 17th July, 2021, with a question directed to Mr. Ali Anwar- a governance and information technology security specialist-: " in some government institutions, there is an integration between two different terms, governance and electronic government, What is the difference between them? "


Mr. "Anwar" answered: "in the beginning, one of the speakers today said during one of the sessions that e-government has become old. Now, we are talking about digital transformation, so I wanted to say that that there is no relationship between the two terms."


He added that: "e-government is the form of services and transactions provided by the government, which is transformed into an electronic or digital form. This is achieved through the use of IT methods through infrastructures that are developed in stages, as e-government cannot be built in one day", referring that: "while governance is the philosophy of procedures, controls and policies that are adopted by the government to ensure achieving goals that everyone must commit to and follow"


He added that: "governance is what controls, standards, procedures, processes that are adopted by the government so as to ensure the achievement of goals, also is how to develop a particular framework or approach to consider the goals that everyone must adhere to. In other words, it is the philosophy of procedures, controls and policies that must be followed".


Mr. Mohamed Issa, founder of Code for Iraq Initiative, talked about open data and the data that the government has to provide the citizen with. He said: "The concept of open data does not mean opening files of a ministry and deploying those files on the Internet. It is not like that. It is making the citizens feel citizenry by involving them and taking their views in developing a particular issue or taking a certain decision. When the government takes a certain resolution or wants to develop a specific thing, it returns to government experts. Therefore, the government is asking itself, while the response comes from the government itself. However, no one asks people or share opinion with them. In other words, open data does not mean knowing everything, but making the citizens sharing their opinions with the government when it takes decisions. He added that: "the idea of (open data) means that the (platform) remains opened and paves the way to experts to convey their views to you, and that means the increase in the number of people, which therefore leads to the increase of proposals and opinions".


Mr. Al-Keraizi talked about the e-government development index, which is issued every two years by the UN - Economic and Social Affairs Department, pointing out that Iraq ranked (143) in the 2020 index, making a simple progress from the 2018 index, which ranked (155 ) out of (193) which subjected to the index. He asked Mr. "Ali Anwar": "can you explain to us the position of Iraq in this index? And did Corona pandemic has contributed to the progress of Iraq in the index?"


Mr. Anwar said: "What is applied in Iraq is very simple regarding electronic services and part of e-government. For example, the Interior Ministry says there is an electronic form for passports, with providing this service, if we asked how many citizens themselves have filled the form and how many citizens went to offices to fill it by the owner of the offices, the amount of Iraqi Dinars that is paid will be (35) IQD, which means increasing burden on the citizens. The citizens spend a day in the bank and a day in filling the form, while the goal of this service was to mitigate the burden on the citizens, and thus we are moved away from international indicators".


He added: "There is no clear vision of the electronic government in Iraq, besides that there is no sponsor for this project, while there are efficient people but they are working within a system tainted by many problems. So, the government has to read and study indicators. What has raised the government index is the private sector, as one of the adopted indicators for evaluation is how many people owning phones connected to Internet. Therefore, the public and private sector efforts must be concentrated to raise the Iraq position in the index".


About cyber security, Anwar said: "Saudi Arabia ranks second worldwide in the cyber security index through following standards. This was achieved with the support of the Royal Court for a period of (7-8) years. For Iraq, it has not responded nor answered questions, as in Iraq, there is no sponsor entity for cyber security, while the Electoral Commission said it is hundred percent secured. I am against this principle, since there is nothing secured and the evidence is that the United States has been hacked".


About encouraging the government to open its data for the citizens, Mr. Mohamed Issa said: "The private sector is better than the public one, and the reason is simple, what private companies care about is expertise without focusing on the type of certificate the employees hold. On the other hand, the companies allow the citizens to give their point of views. For example, Maker Soft Office application asks anyone who uses the application for their opinion regardless being expert or not. Thus, the private sector is working smarter than the public sector", indicating that: "the government does not have to rely on its employees only, but opens its platforms for citizens to convey their opinions, to take advantage of the experiences in the society and reduce wasted money, as the exchange of opinions between the citizens and the government through the electronic platforms will contribute to preparing project explicitly. Through this interaction, it is possible to know the needs of the local community and thus develop the investment sector to meet these needs".


As a feedback for the words of Mr. Mohammed Issa, the facilitator asked Mr Ali: "are there any institutions that have succeeded in implementing e-government? And how the government can transfer all its services electronically?


About the institutions that have succeeded in implementing e-government, Mr. Ali Anwar said: "there are no institutions succeeded in implementing the e-government so far, but there are projects and initiatives, and the scale of success remains the extent to which the citizen benefited from the services provided, as the initiatives of the public sector are still simple and cannot be compared to other experiences. Thus, specialists in the ministries in the field of (IT) must have a vision on the services to be provided to the citizens. Today, we are aware of many problems that prevent the adoption and implementation of the electronic government project, while most of the problems that the country is suffering from such as Economics and Electoral Security, which has been mentioned during the meetings of the Conference, can be resolved through the e-government, which will contribute to promoting transparency. As the core of the e-government is a client called "the citizen", the government has to facilitate and implement their transactions".


He pointed out that: "what our institutions lack are two points, the first, is the existence of the risk management department, the second, is the existence of a department of compliance that measures the extent of the estimates of the compliance to controls, indicators and standards for the electronic government".


About the central bank, Mr. Ali Anwar said: "The central bank is one of the most important Iraqi institutions that have a correct curriculum as a destination regulating the banking sector, as they have regulations specialized for governance and information security, and has clear standards, controls, vision and objectives, even if they aren't reflected on real life. The Central Bank of Banks allowed the application and adoption of these regulations, and these measures are generally absent in the public sector. In the same context, the strategic policy of the electronic government was recognized but it is disabled, and this leads us to the existence of a personal effort in the government, with no decision supports this effort".