A new mobile application will be released by the government soon that will cover, at first, the basic interactions with the government, and will eventually include all ‘e-government’ services including those currently provided through Hukoomi and the Ministry of Interior’s Metrash, according to an ictQatar official. ictQatar services delivery manager Mohannad Omar Naim said that new self-service terminals are also to be installed to support these initiatives, providing greater access to government services.
He believes that people need mobility, need to trust their government and need to be included in decisions through social network interaction. People also need to have access to all their government services through a single log-on access point with only one username.
For this vision to become reality, the government should provide accessibility, broadband, and other critical infrastructure. The idea of eGovernment in Qatar started in 2001 with 11 online services, mainly based around residence permits for individuals and businesses. Naim said that people resisted at first, with the government having to beg companies to use their online services.
Now, online systems have become so prevalent that companies and residents are now recommending services to be added. eGovernment is now in a “transformation phase” working towards a new “digital society” with “eparticipation”. Dr Alistair Erskine, chief of Medical Informatics at the Sidra Medical and Research Centre, said that “Qatar does not have a very well developed primary care network. There are significant efforts to do so, but those efforts will take time and they will take a change in the way the population thinks about primary care.”
Erskine said that just as people can now leapfrog credit card payments and go directly to mobile payments, soon patients will be able to skip elements of primary care and bring care directly into the home. Monitoring tools, disease surveillance, weight and other monitoring devices, as well as information portals for patients to learn about and understand their condition are some of the elements that can transform healthcare in Qatar.
Fibre network upgrades to the country’s broadband systems will play an important role in implementing these kinds of healthcare services. According to Erskine, Qatar’s vision for health care calls for a dramatic transformation in the coming years, not just in terms of personalised health care but also in overall health systems management. Flu outbreaks, for example, will be identified before health care providers even report cases, simply by the symptoms being looked up on Google by Internet users. Patients will have better monitoring and interaction from health care providers directly from the home, supported by the “decentralisation and democratisation of health information”. “People will be able to get a chip with their entire genome in less than 24 hours, for less than QR3,600,” Erskine explained.
He said that this breakthrough will allow healthcare professionals to identify patterns in recessive genes amongst the population that were previously unrecognised. Gamification, or making these services more entertaining and engaging, will also improve their success as people will be more likely to use them consistently. Mobile apps are also crucial in helping those with disabilities which is crucial because, as David Banes, CEO of Qatar Assistive Technology Centre (Mada) points out, 70% of people will acquire some disability in their working life. A number of inexpensive apps are transforming the lives of the visually and hearing impaired, whether it is through GPS navigation tools, access to books using kindle or other reading assistants, communication tools for the deaf or product recognition software for the blind.
Banes said that one way the public can help is by donating their second hand iphones and smartphones to Mada, who will provide them as living-assistance tools for those who need them.