SmartCitiesWorld talks to Ahmed bin Saeed Al Sayyah, General Manager of Ras Al Khaimah Electronic Government Authority
The Electronic Government Authority provides centralised services to government departments in Ras Al Khaimah in the United Arab Emirates. It focuses on the likes of project and services management, training and e-services with a view to place digital services at the heart of the emirate.
SmartCitiesWorld: What is the main purpose of your role?
Ahmed bin Saeed Al Sayyah: As a head of the Electronic Government Authority (EGA) for Ras Al Khaimah, my main responsibility is to ensure that we’re using our digital capabilities efficiently and sustainably throughout the emirate. The EGA provides and implements overall IT strategy across all public services, and I oversee and manage this process. I also work closely with the heads of different government entities to support their digital transformation by providing advice on strategy, implementation and governance.
SCW: What does the term ‘smart city’ mean to you?
Ahmed bin Saeed Al Sayyah: The core principle of a ‘smart city’ is the use of data and technology innovations to improve the quality of life for everyone living and working within its boundaries. In a sense, it is both a process and an outcome, i.e. the use of data and scalable solutions to deliver a sustainable and prosperous future.
Our goal is to help improve the quality of life for people living in Ras Al Khaimah and increase the ways and efficiency in which the Emirate operates. It is not just about smart technology, connectivity or applications; it starts with a focus on the people and their basic wants and needs.
SCW: What are some of the key milestones/initiatives in your smart city journey so far?
Ahmed bin Saeed Al Sayyah: Our biggest milestone has been the use of ICT to transform working environments in both the government and private sectors. While the current pandemic has presented challenges, it has also been a key milestone in that it has given us a great opportunity to really stress test the smart and e-services that we’ve been developing in Ras Al Khaimah for so long. We’ve managed to keep public services running smoothly by virtual means with minimal disruption across the emirate, and this ranges from public prosecutions and court services, which have been functioning as usual, to environmental protection. Everyone has been reliant on technology due to the lockdown measures and this has helped us to iron out any kinks and really build a robust public e-services system.
SCW: What is your number one priority right now?
Ahmed bin Saeed Al Sayyah: I’d say my number one priority right now is to support Ras Al Khaimah in its transformation from an enabler to influencer for adoption of latest technology. I believe integrations would take precedence to every other technology advancement especially after Covid-19.
SCW: What do you see as your biggest achievement since you started the role?
Ahmed bin Saeed Al Sayyah: I’m incredibly proud of how much the EGA has grown. When I first started my role, we were very much seen as a supporting function for the different government entities in Ras Al Khaimah, whereas today we provide over 660 smart services across the emirate and host over 700 servers.
SCW: What is the best part of the job?
Ahmed bin Saeed Al Sayyah: I love being able to experience the results of our work. During the pandemic people and businesses in Ras Al Khaimah have been relying on the smart and e-services that we’re providing. For example, all government departments have been running remotely and virtually without any additional investment. It’s very rewarding to know that my team is helping Ras Al Khaimah function seamlessly at this challenging time.
SCW: What is your biggest challenge?
Ahmed bin Saeed Al Sayyah: A key challenge for us is providing solutions to rapidly evolving global threats, which provide very little elbowroom for manoeuvre. Also, staying up-to-date with emerging technology - IT is a very fast-paced industry and it often feels like there’s a new innovation every day. I’m lucky to work with some incredibly talented, bright minds at the EGA who help keep me up to speed.
"Smart cities start with a focus on the people and their basic wants and needs"
SCW: If you weren’t doing this, what would you be doing?
Ahmed bin Saeed Al Sayyah: I don’t want to imagine doing anything else!
SCW: What keeps you awake at night?
Ahmed bin Saeed Al Sayyah: From a cyber-security perspective, I think the speed at which technology is evolving is a haunting thought for any IT leader. We invest a lot of time into making sure our systems are resilient and robust at the EGA.
Thanks to the resilience we’ve built in our systems, we are able to proactively monitor and thwart the cyber security incidents. To substantiate our Security readiness and maturity, Ras Al Khaimah had the lowest Malware Penetration amongst all the emirates in the UAE at any given point of time.
SCW: If you could make one change in your city tomorrow and money was no object, what would you do?
Ahmed bin Saeed Al Sayyah: We’re seeing a lot of interesting developments around designing technology to address social and environment challenges, and I expect momentum will continue to grow around this. I would definitely look to invest in sustainable transport fuelled by renewable energy, such as electric cars, solar-powered airports etc. That’s where I see the future of technology.
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