RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s electronic government program, Yesser, on Tuesday hosted a virtual seminar in partnership with the World Bank on the future of digital government in the wake of the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Yesser, which establishes, develops and manages electronic government initiatives in the Kingdom, has achieved three main characteristics during the pandemic, according to CEO Ali Al-Asiri: “Flexibility and enabling business continuity in government agencies, innovation and design of digital services to respond to the immediate needs, and the ability to adapt.”
The webinar was attended by digital government decision-makers and global experts.
Vincenzo Aquaro, chief of digital government for the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, said that digital government played a pivotal role in providing communication between decision-makers and society during the pandemic.
In the health sector, artificial intelligence (AI) is also significantly helpful in light of the digital transformation amid the pandemic, according to Saad Al-Qahtani, assistant deputy minister for digital technologies at the Ministry of Health.
“Every day and every hour, we are facing challenges and dealing with them,” he said.
Al-Qahtani added that AI is “of immense help to radiologists and other health-care professionals.”
Dr. Fatmah Baothman, an assistant professor of AI at Jeddah’s King Abdul Aziz University, said that future governments will use AI economic model.
She highlighted the need to encourage an e-government ecosystem, e-shopping, augmented and virtual citizenship.
According to Baothman — the first woman in the Middle East with a Ph.D. in modern AI — artificial intelligence is “a game changer that will affect the economy and future of humanity.”
She said: “There is no doubt AI is going to take us into a different world.”
Haytham Al-Ohali, vice minister at the Ministry of Communications and Informational Technology, said that the coronavirus crisis is a true test of digital capabilities and resilience of government’s digital infrastructure.
It is also a test of government agencies’ ability to collaborate in a way that accelerates the recovery of society and the economy.
Meanwhile, government services, governance and infrastructure in Bahrain have made a great progress in tackling the virus in a professional and rapid manner as cloud computing was adopted in order to confront the crisis, according to Mohammad Alqaed, CEO of Bahrain’s Information and e-Government Authority.
Other participants at the webinar shared the lessons learned from the immediate response to COVID-19 in terms of securing access to digital infrastructure, ensuring business continuity, and providing access to relevant information for citizens and businesses.
They also discussed the future of digital government in the context of the pandemic.