Government to put right problems with official websites

Broken links, outdated contact information and other problems are to be addressed as projects come under a new authority.

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ABU DHABI // Error-riddled government websites are to receive a funding boost that is expected to help improve online services. The extra cash will come from the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) when it takes over the General Information Authority (GIA), which manages e-government projects.

The move was made official by a Cabinet resolution declared last week by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai. The GIA had requested more funding to improve the system, and restructuring under the TRA could help, said Ashraf al Masry, of the GIA's information department. "We had a lot of projects and we used to ask the Cabinet, 'Where's the money?' " he said yesterday. "Finally, they said 'Go to this TRA and they will help you with the funds'."

A recent survey of government sites found broken links and other problems. The Ministry of Interior's Naturalisation and Residency Administration website lists five options under a heading for "eServices", but none of the link options listed - including "apply for entry permit" and "apply for residence" - does anything when clicked. Yesterday nine e-mail addresses for federal ministries listed at bounced back when tested, including those for the Ministry of State for Cabinet Affairs, Public Works and Housing, and Higher Education and Scientific Research.

The federal link to four of 19 ministries on offer at the e-Government portal were broken. On the portal, the names of ministries and federal Government entities only displayed in English, with the Arabic page showing code text. Five ministries offered no visible English-option buttons. Most of the 25 federal Government entities listed at the portal did direct users to working pages yesterday, but there were shortcomings.

A spokesman for the GIA said the portal was under construction but should, with the help of the TRA, be working by June. "This merger with the TRA will be used to materialise the strategic project and will fix all the bugs and issues on the e-federal level," he said. That will be welcome news to Ramesh Menon, 41, a technical officer for a petrol company, who describes himself as a "regular contributor" to the Abu Dhabi Government system.

He has e-mailed the Abu Dhabi Department of Transport, only to have it bounce back because the inbox was full. Last month, he noticed a computer at Dubai's Al Mankhool Clinic dedicated to e-complaints was switched off. However, when he lodged a complaint with Abu Dhabi Municipality, he heard back within one day. "You can get a reference number, you get details of your complaint and then you can track it and they'll say 'Somebody's working on it'," he said.

Abu Dhabi Municipality's website, which is regularly updated, won an eGovernment award from the Arab Administrative Development Organisation last week. Rashed al Mansoori, the director general of Abu Dhabi Systems and Information Centre, which is in charge of the Abu Dhabi Government portal, said it would not be long before the rest of the Government's websites were fully functional. "Etisalat is the main carrier and we've been working closely with the TRA, so they're working on it day and night," he said. "Within a couple of months, all these things will be fixed."

Websites for the government entities linked to the Abu Dhabi portal "should be addressed according to the standards that we developed", Mr al Mansoori added. Services from the Dubai portal, including traffic fines and bill payments, as well as a public transport journey planner, all worked well with only minor glitches.