Students and instructors from AUIS and Sulaimani University crowded the lecture hall to listen to Dr. Farzad Sanati and Ala Barzinji speak on the theories and practices of E-Government. Dr. Sanati, who has published widely on the subject, is an assistant professor at AUIS, at the Department of Information Technology, with many years of experience working on E-Government projects in Australia. Ala Barzinji is a doctoral candidate researching E-Government at Stockholm University with a focus on cyber crime and social network analysis of terrorist groups. She is currently teaching Information Security at the University of Sulaimani. The two hour seminar introduced the audience to the concept of E-Government and the prerequisites for its implementation before enumerating the obstacles facing such a project in the KRG.
Dr. Sanati began the seminar by defining E-Government, that it is not simply the digitization of the government’s processes but rather the government’s use of information technology to deliver services to its citizens. He stressed the need for research and planning before undertaking such large projects, saying “The more we research, the more we practice, the more we plan, the better we are prepared and the better we implement our goals.” He highlighted the many dimensions of the governance of a project like E-Government, all of which begins not with computerization but in the halls of parliament where the leadership must provide a legal framework to regulate and standardize the process; or else, he warned, the government will face the very chaos it intended to counter. For any E-Government project to succeed, he went on, the government must undergo organizational change and reinvent itself, it must socially engineer digital literacy among its citizens, and finally it must have the people with the technological knowhow to put the network in place and maintain it. He emphasized that success is dependent upon a government’s institutional capacity, its geographical reach, the digital literacy of its citizens, and the ability to train resources; without any of which an E-Government project is doomed to failure.
Ala Barzinji tackled the issue of E-Government’s implementation in the KRG and why the time has come for replacing the traditional paper system with a new E-Government system. Security, she pointed out, is the first and foremost problem needing to be solved. Furthermore, she covered the serious challenges facing the KRG, from corruption to a lack of technocrat employees, to masked unemployment and bureaucracy.There are simply too many employees in the government sector, she said, and this leads to corruption as people try to avoid bureaucracy through recourse to nepotism and bribery. It is no surprise, she continued, that in these conditions Iraq was listed as one of the most corrupt countries in the world in 2010-2011. She emphasized the need for the government to provide a private and secure way to access E-Services and its need to ensure “authentication, authorization, confidentiality, integrity and availability.”
The seminar struck a chord with the audience, many of whom expressed a profound interest in realising the implementation of E-Government in Kurdistan and wished to discuss in detail the ways a society can move towards an E-Government. Most attendees questioned the panelist about the ways E-Government can be applied to the KRG and the consequences this may have on society, such as mass unemployment. To this, Dr. Sanati responded that the creation of new technology, while leading to unemployment compels the workforce to upgrade their skills. The discussion that followed expounded not only on the difficulties of planning and implementing E-Government, but also the positive aspects concerning its design and creation in a place like the KRG.