Routine operations of commercial terrestrial TV stations pay less attention to public service provisions. Matters on public service provisions are less known and only particular departments are versed on these: news and programming departments. Terrestrial radio and TV focus on providing the media with the best selling story, sometimes without paying attention to governing objectives, rules and regulations. The digital media is meant to improve the living standards of the people, and the means of doing so are very important and require a lot of scrutiny. According to UAE’s government strategic framework for 2011 to 2013, electronic transformation is to be realized within this period of 3 years. The government aims at doing this by using existing systems and infrastructure that will also help in building trust and confidence in digitization. This paper therefore seeks to discuss the public service provisions of mapping digital media.
It is very important that the public is made aware of the government’s provisions for the digital media as outlined in its strategic framework and vision. The UAE is listed among those countries with advanced and world-class ICT infrastructures. The eGovernment strategy revolves around three domains: eServices, eReadiness and ICT. The fundamental objective of eService is to increase the rate of attaining eTransformation in government organizations and ensuring the availability of high quality electronic services through innovative channels of delivery, for example, the internet and phones (Al-Khouri, 2012). The digital media should envisage an eReadiness domain that aims to reinforce the federal agencies: organization structures, readiness for eTransormation, ICT and HR capacities. Policies and legislations to govern execution of eGovernement initiatives are encompassed in the ICT domain.
The UAE government has made the first step of formulating a strategic framework that is meant to guide in mapping digital media in the country. Currently, public service provisions in UAE take a dynamic approach when compared to those of other states like Lebanon. In Lebanon for example, there are guiding principles which seek to outline the mandate of terrestrial media. According to the Audio visual law, article 30, terrestrial media should broadcast averagely one hour in a week without imposing any fee. This broadcast should focus on “national guidance, culture, education, tourism, and health awareness” (Melki et al., 2012). In addition, article 7 stipulates that licensed individuals should respect people’s freedom, acknowledge democracy of ideas, embrace objectivity during news and events broadcast and ensure that the interest of the public is protected. The media is a very powerful tool that can either make or break a nation. This is because of the sentiments that emanate from what is broadcasted. Media institutions are also obliged to abide by the Book of Specifications, which govern programming.
The ICT infrastructure in UAE is complex and entails geo designing e-Government, which is a methodology monitored by the Abu Dhabi Spatial Data Infrastructure program (AD-SDI) to partially enable ubiquitous transformation of government services. This is meant to improve the way in which the UAE government operates so that its services are received all over UAE. The result is optimal use of available resources which is achieved by better quality of services, reduced costs, improved utilization, and sustained capacity building (Abu Dhabi Systems & Information Center, 2012). The policies, regulations and systems of the UAE government focus on a participatory approach that gives the citizens a chance to participate in improving the functioning of the government. This shows that that digital media is meant to upgrade and improve the living standards of the people. By so doing, the UAE government will also reduce overheads by a large margin of 90%. This will be achieved by streamlining communications and integrated systems. The figure below further illustrates this:
The social media has been very popular recently in the entire world. It is one avenue used by the government to encourage citizens’ participation in the government’s delivery of service: His Highness Shiek Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum leveraged social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook. This was perceived as a sign encouraging communication between the government and the people. Nonetheless, policy guidelines on the usage of these social media sites are lacking. Therefore, an effective and safe presence in the social media is somehow not guaranteed. In tandem with the national agenda contained in the country’s vision and strategic plan, eGovernment components of transforming UAE economy towards a knowledge-based economy, offering citizen-focused government services, encouraging good governance and ensuring the maintenance of an efficient financial management system (Ibrahim, n. d.). Digital communication tools have played a major role in building and promoting this trust and confidence. A social media site like Facebook neutralizes the formality coupled with government authority that manifests itself through government figures such as His Highness Sheik Rashid. As a result, people are able to relate to the government.
Various stakeholders in the digital media world are involved in executing UAE’s public service provisions related to the media. Last month (June 23rd), the Vice President and Prime Minister of UAE, His Highness Sheik M. Rashid issued a resolution on fees for media services as structured by the National Media Council. Forty-nine media licenses that are commercial-based were issued to sectors involved in the importation and distribution of publications. The resolution stipulates that a penalty of AED 50 should be imposed on any resolution grant holder who does not renew the same 30 days after expiry (Stakeholders, 2013).
The government entity, Sharjah Media Corporation, was established in 2009 based on the Amiri Decree No. 25 and its intention is to mould media talents of the locals keeping in mind the changing demands of the contemporary world. Individuals eyeing the media world come up with innovations that are meant to fill up gaps related to current preferences and ideas. For example, in the current computer age, 3-D animations have gained momentum and a favourite to many. In the same way, local talent that seems auspicious is captured and nurtured through this media entity in efforts aimed at making the media a more intriguing and interesting mode of entertainment (Stakeholders, 2013).
The functions of the media are consolidated through the Sharjah Media Corporation. This it does by paying attention to family development, something greatly treasured by the Arabs. The family is a very important institution since Arabs are guided by the Quran that preaches the essence of familial ties. In addition, this government media entity refines media practices on the basis of “excellence, creativity, professionalism, responsible freedom of speech, media ethics without prejudice to others’ rights and reinforcement of Sharjah’s competitive position in the media industry” (Stakeholders, 2013). The Sharjah is also mandated to come up with rules and regulations that guide the media industry in relation to what the corporate seeks to achieve. This way, discipline is enhanced in the media and the interests of the public are protected as in the case of Lebanon.
In the UAE, digital media has found its way in the transport sector, and this brings about efficiency in this sector. Digital map have been developed by the Customer Service Centers Department of Roads and Transport Authority (RTA); the public transport network is greatly encouraged on these digital maps. The public transport is ubiquitous and this enables tourists, residents and visitors to plan in advance using the RTA journey planner. A statement by the CEO of RTA justifies this “Following its launch on 09/09/2011, the Metro Green Line has been uploaded on Google Maps to enable used plan in advance their daily travels on all RTA public transport means.” This kind of digital mapping boosts the transport sector making it fast, reliable and credible (Information of Dubai public transport network fully uploaded on digital Google Maps, 2011).
The Google maps portal is readily accessible and it enables users of public transport to easily and successfully plan their journeys at any hour and at their convenience. This portal provides users with all the public information on routes of the intended journey, schedules and fare per journey that is dependent on time of the journey, the point of origin and destination point. In 2009, RTA and Google Inc agreed on paper that information on public transport of Dubai Emirate would be made available online. This made Dubai to be the first city that made transport information: bus information, available on Google Maps and it became part of major cities that Zurich that were making use of this king of technology (Information of Dubai public transport network fully uploaded on digital Google Maps, 2011).
UAE is leading globally in provision of ICT in classrooms. The education curriculum is altogether digitized and there is integration of Microsoft’s Kinetic technology in classrooms. The making of a digitized education system is an essential based towards a knowledge-based economy. UAE policies ensure the use of ICT in schools to shift perceptions of the education system. Nowadays learning is better perceived as learner initiated as opposed to the earlier perception of being teacher oriented. Integration of ICT in education is crucial for research because it makes use of extensive online resources. In addition, online learning has been developed to allow individuals at different locations to meet in a common virtual space (We expect growth in elearning to continue unabated, 2013).
Digital media gives the public sectors a chance to develop and compete in customer service and general organizational performance. Digital mapping in the public sector of core capabilities is embraced as a means to striking a balance between the private and public sectors. Implementation of eGovernment strategies is based on trust and confidence, which are the fundamental elements guiding participation in the eGovernment process (Al-Khouri, 2012). The objective of eGovernment was to improve government operations and one of the means to do so is by engaging the citizens, failure of which would lead to failure of the eGovernment process. Regulations and laws are deemed enablers of supporting eGovernment and strengthening security, privacy of data and reliability. A strong governance structure is bent on integrating the digital media through facilitating communication between the involved stakeholders to grasp needs that can be translated into electronic systems.
Progress of provision of digital media as per the government strategic framework will be evaluated based on two factors: efficiency and effectiveness and citizen centricity. The UAE has got one of the most sophisticated national identity management systems, which makes use of smart identity cards. This system is another strategy aimed at building trust and confidence in the eGovernment strategy. This card gives access to services shown in the figure below:
This card contains identification parameters that are securely fitted into the smart chip. With this card, a person’s physical and virtual identity is easily determined. Any person’s identity is validated, verified and authenticated using this smart card. As shown in the figure above, all citizens of UAE, 9 million, are provided with these cards as a means to facilitate government transactions based on the identity based services. The use of these smart cards avoids the essence of maintaining discrete user credentials in differentiated systems. The National Identity Validation Gateway influences UAE’s federated identity management (FIM system) in order to authenticate users and permit their access to services. The biometric authentication enables cardholders to pass immigration control points in places such as the airport. This identification system also allows users to login to online government portal to access eServices and make utility payments. A person is able to monitor their personal traffic profile and make any changes if need be such as modifying one’s address in case of any change of residential location (Al-Khouri, 2012).
It is evident that stability and reliability of the media are essential elements that are part of successful governance of any nation. The UAE’s strategic framework for 2011 to 2013 categorically states how digital media will contribute towards achieving efficiency and reliability within the government. The media is a tool that individuals in a country rely on to get informed about the current events taking place in the state in relation to political, social and economic domains.
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