GCC governments urged to focus on ethical data use

Investment in data security at all levels of service provision is important


MANAMA: GCC governments have been advised to give citizens control of their information and focus on ethical data use as they strengthen digital service delivery.

In a new study released yesterday, the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) has also suggested that the regional public sector establish standards, guidelines, training, and regulatory barriers surrounding the ethical use of data and artificial intelligence (AI).

Identifying the next steps that GCC governments can pursue to implement decisive action as the ongoing pandemic nears its conclusion, the firm has also urged they invest in data security at all levels of service provision.

The Digital Government Citizen Survey (DGCS) study – spanning 36 countries, 26 digital government services, and almost 25,000 individual responses – found that the GCC governments performed strongly in terms of both progress and global ranking.

GCC countries boast an average rate of adoption of 61.3 per cent – more than 30pc above the global average. They also rank highly in terms of frequency of access to digital government services.

Citizens in the region are satisfied with digital government services, appreciating benefits including understandable language, multiple platform accessibility, and easy access to information, the survey found.

As part of their respective efforts to remain at the forefront of emerging technologies’ adoption, governments across the GCC have prioritised increased digital services quality and expansion in recent times.

Action in this direction aligns with their overarching objective of elevating efficiency, leveraging new digital delivery frameworks, utilising citizen insights, and providing the population with newfound convenience and flexibility.

“The disruption caused by Covid-19 has been well documented, and it is abundantly clear that pandemic repercussions have emphasised the vitality of digital government services during this period,” said Rami Mourtada, partner and associate director, BCG.

The scope and variety of digital government services expanded rapidly following the outbreak, with Covid-19 awareness, testing, tracing, information coverage, quarantine compliance, volunteer coordination, and financial support offerings all emerging through online government portals.

This applies to the GCC in particular, where governments were central to the availability and delivery of numerous social and healthcare services.

Meanwhile, real-time support and assistance were identified as a pain point, with other concerns relating to personal information security.

Respondents expressed concerns regarding transparency, collection, and storage, while 90pc of regional correspondents attributing their personal information worries to AI technologies.

“Although digital government services have yielded newfound value for citizens, we do see skepticism where data and AI are concerned,” said Mr Mourtada. “Building trust is essential, and governments are obligated to ensure users understand every aspect, from how their data is utilised to the controls in place for robust governance. Together with the provision of constructive communication and education, governments can create new regulatory frameworks to dispel citizens’ AI concerns and uphold ethical use in the new digital world.”

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