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Sunday, September 19, 2021

Qatar mulls new policy requiring gov’t to interact with public online

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Phone tweet

Information technology ministry ictQatar is seeking public feedback on a new e-participation policy that would require government agencies here to engage with residents via social media and other online channels.

According to the ministry’s latest draft policy document, the culture of e-participation is still lacking in Qatar, but is critical to improving transparency in the country.

In a statement, Hassan Jassim Al-Sayed, Assistant Secretary General of the Information Technology Sector – ICT Government Programs, said:

“E-participation is the sum total of both the government’s programs to encourage participation from the public and the willingness of the public to do so. It is imperative that to successfully embrace e-Participation in the State of Qatar, thereby ensuring social and economic progress of the nation, all government agencies implement the provisions as laid out in the draft policy provisions.”

Requirements

Once implemented, government agencies would be required to assign a senior staff member the responsibility of communicating to the public on behalf of the agency, and to implement e-participation activities.

This person would also be tasked with raising awareness within the agency about the importance and benefits of engaging with residents online, and provide general guidance on social media usage in both professional and personal capacities.

Other new requirements on agencies would include:

  • Establishing their own web pages, and clearly state on them how residents can get in touch with government bodies (residents often complain that many ministries currently have a web presence, but that there are out of date and lack contact information);
  • Soliciting public feedback on topics of importance – though any issues related to Qatar’s internal security, relations with other countries or other sensitive subjects would be exempt;
  • Explaining the rationale behind a new policy, and soliciting feedback from the public about potential changes;
  • Giving residents four to eight weeks to respond, depending on the urgency of the policy change; and
  • Following up and informing residents of the outcome, so that the know they were not wasting their time by engaging with the agency.

The policy document also urged government bodies to go beyond establishing websites by utilizing social media like Twitter and Facebook.

These forums could help agencies gauge public sentiment on certain issues, give them a chance to respond to misinformation regarding the government’s position on a subject and offer opportunities for feedback on new policies.

Timeline

IctQatar added that it is planning to create a national e-participation portal that would help increase dialogue between the government and the public through discussion forums, polls and other features. It has tasked itself with monitoring and assessing agency participation in the portal, which would be in English and Arabic.

ictQatar timeline for e-participation policy

Residents have until Sept. 15 to give feedback on this policy document. According to the timeline listed by ictQatar, all government agencies would be engaging with residents under the new participation rules within a year of passing the policy.

Earlier this year, ictQatar introduced a new open data policy that would radically overhaul how ministries here work by requiring them to release non-personal data such as live traffic reports and certain crime stats to the public in an easy-to-read format.

That policy was expected to be implemented by June, but there has been no official word on it since it was first floated in March. UPDATE: IctQatar now says that the date of the policy implementation has yet to be determined.

Despite this, Qatar has been making great strides in terms of increasing transparency.

Some of its government bodies, including the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Municipality and Urban Planning (MMUP) regularly engage with residents on Twitter and Facebook.

Additionally, this year for the first time, the Ministry of Development Planning and Statistics (MDPS) has begun releasing monthly reports of key Qatar-related statistics such as the number of traffic accidents that occurred, import/export figures and passenger movement at the airport, among other figures.

Here’s ictQatar’s full policy document:

Feedback can be given here. Thoughts?

7 COMMENTS

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MIMH
MIMH
7 years ago

A very good idea and should be applauded. The e-services in Qatar are pretty good in the areas they serve, if this is opened up to more government bodies then it can only be a good thing.

Sometimes they get it wrong in Qatar, but we must also acknowledge when they get it right!

popeyee
popeyee
7 years ago

If most of the government employees, specially those in public health services, don’t have the ability to entertain their client, specially Asians, how would they be able to interact online?

Chillaxxx
Chillaxxx
7 years ago
Reply to  popeyee

Much easier when you can’t see who you’re dealing with

Bornrich
Bornrich
7 years ago
Reply to  Chillaxxx

I agree. E-service is a step towards democratising the delivery of government services to citizens. I, for one, will not miss taking a number, queuing, waiting my turn, only to have someone go straight to the front of the queue. But then I am British and we do have rigid cultural etiquette surrounding queuing (which other cultures may find a little odd/amusing/bemusing).

Truth-Seeker
Truth-Seeker
7 years ago

I hope they can deliver this time. We all know how the “Electronic Government” scam went!

Someone
Someone
7 years ago

It sounds good but I personally think they need to improve their internal management and procedures in order to be able to deliver the correct information online! They need to employ people that are willing and want to help people and are capable to learn the procedures so they can write/say the correct message!. I think most of the people have been in the situation when we go to the office an you ask something to 5 different people and they all give you different answers! or when the officer simply says: “no english, wait 1, 2 or more weeks more”. So I guess, we will get 5 different emails and maybe some of them in arabic which it is not convenient for non arabic speakers!

I completely understand that sometimes it is difficult for government’s employees to deal with certain nationalities and that sometimes they give privileges to other nationalities, but there should be equality for everyone and the government officers need to be able to do this. It is also frustrating when you visit their offices and they tell you they have been too busy and you still need to wait a couple of weeks more or even months, and then you realise that during the hour or two hours that you have been waiting in their office all they have done is chat, play with their mobiles, have a cup of tea/coffee, etc…. They need to learn to work normal working hours and actually produce something at the end of the day!

DT
DT
7 years ago

Great idea. But perhaps just posting an ACCURATE phone number on a website so we can reach the department we need? (I recall days of trying to call and see when a neighborhood park might open – with hang-ups from non-English speakers etc. Ending in….total frustration! I can’t understand how/why government websites are full of inaccurate contact information. (It seems contagious as yesterday the worlds’ 5-star airline gave me 5-6 wrong phone numbers for a baggage office at the new airport. I never did reach them) SO frustrating! Who needs twitter? Just get the basics people!

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