Welcome to our monthly Covid-19 Government Measures newsletter. Our goal is to keep you up to date on key Covid-19-related policies and initiatives, with a focus on the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA).
As this edition coincides with the start of the new academic year across the globe, we are afforded the opportunity to examine how different countries have handled this critical phase of their recovery, and especially the response of countries in the Middle East as compared to their counterparts in Europe.
The UN, in an August policy brief, commented, “The Covid-19 pandemic has created the largest disruption of education systems in history, affecting nearly 1.6 billion learners in more than 190 countries and all continents. Closures of schools and other learning spaces have impacted 94% of the world’s student population, up to 99% in low and lower-middle income countries.”1
Despite this, from our analysis of individual countries’ approaches, the new academic year has seen schools across the world re-start mostly in the traditional fashion, though with many safety and continuity measures in place, as well as with a greater degree of the incorporation of digital learning methods, with many countries mandating some form of digitization in education.
Analysis of similarities across governments’ responses
Analysis of differences across governments’ responses
We see ever more digitization present in government services both to combat the repercussions of the pandemic, and catalyzed by it, whereby the threat of contagion and subsequent quarantine measures have triggered a cultural shift towards increased demand for digital channels, accelerating the pace of government digitization.
While there is a positive correlation between digitization and the income level of a country, financial resources are not the only factor in e-government development. Very often, a strong political will, strategic leadership, and the commitment to expanding the provision of digital services will allow a country to digitize faster than might otherwise be expected, a factor which works in favour of GCC countries, with the UAE scoring highly, and the KSA making significant strides up the index this year.
Strategies for ‘Govtech’ and ‘e-government’ have been given additional emphasis as the pandemic has progressed and demand for them has increased, while ‘e-participation’ (leveraging technology to enable citizen participation in processes involving government) is rapidly gaining attention. Future editions of this newsletter will continue to examine these strategies as they are developed and executed in the coming months.