UAE well-positioned to be a regional leader in building transparency, increasing trust in government

  • 19th Jun 2018

Article Credit: https://lnkd.in/fyungYf

Published By Khaleej Times

If you’re anything like me, you have an inbox full of data privacy protection updates. Every app is waking up to practices that took over their customers’ data and reasserting some control. I feel gratitude for the cleaning house on how my data is used, and that someone has taken the time to tell me about it.

What if government did the same, and kept service recipients informed about how their data from interactions with government are being used? In a rapidly-changing world of data proliferation, governments have been slow to leverage the power of data to produce knowledge for action, and have failed to manage communication about privacy policies in a way that builds trust.

This is a critical lapse that must be addressed if we are to be successful in creating more effective government services. Without trust and confidence, fears will become barriers to data access, knowledge will stay lost in the bowels of administrative data repositories, and the secrets for improved services will remain hidden.

The UAE and best govt practice

The UAE is well-positioned to be a regional leader in building transparency and increasing trust in government. I visited Dubai in early May and participated in the Smart Economy Forum of the ArabNet 2018 convening. I was impressed by what I learned. The UAE government has ranked among the most trusted in the 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer, with an extreme trust gain in the most recent report. And Dubai in particular is a leader in smart city technology, adopting Smart Dubai Plan 2021 as a roadmap to embrace innovation and provide an efficient experience for residents and visitors.

Adopting the policies below as the UAE moves towards its smart city goals would create a model for others around the world, and keep the UAE in its valued most trusted position. Indeed, we have recently seen the UAE Ministry of Finance officials emphasise the importance of upholding data privacy standards. With ride-hailing service Careem recently suffering a data breach, this conversation is extremely timely.

1. Adopt a clear privacy policy and communicate routine updates to the public and individually to residents: None of the government agencies I worked in had an easily-communicated privacy policy beyond the bottom line against the sharing private client information with someone who is not authorised to see it. Government agencies should have clear and user-friendly privacy policies that lay out their approach to using data, protecting individual information and creating consequences for any breaches. The Sunlight Foundation has collected abundant examples of these to consider.

2. Ensure the best in class security technology is used, and accord the greatest protection to personally-identifiable information: The government is all over the place in how it stores and shares data. To makes gains in integrating data for knowledge, we need to ensure we have built the strongest architecture to protect against intentional or inadvertent breaches. The FedRamp standards developed by the US government create a rigorous approach for government data, as do the payment card industry’s Data Security Standard.

3. Embrace open source on coding, on algorithms, on the data itself: Transparency is key. By sharing fully the uses of the data, how they are formatted and manipulated for knowledge through algorithms, and posting data publicly for use, government can step from behind the curtain of secrecy that undermines public trust. GitHub Todo Group Guides offer a range of guidance to navigate this process.

4. Rigorously scrutinise for bias in data and for integrity in interpretation and application: The growing practice of doing “audits” on algorithms to verify the quality of assumptions and to ferret out error and bias is a healthy vehicle to strengthen the quality of how data is used. Expanding this to more fully understand service recipient attitudes about how their data are used creates an opportunity for citizen and interest group participation in the product, underscoring trust in the process. New Zealand’s Data Futures Partnership is putting this kind of practice into use.

Looking to the future

The future of government services can be smarter, more efficient and more effective, if we wisely use data. The scepticism of a wary public in how their information is being used and abused must be overcome with transparent policies well implemented to protect private information and include the public in the process. The UAE has a role to play by setting an example for the rest of the region as it continues moving towards smarter government.

The writer is principal at Bloomberg Associates and senior fellow at Results for America. Views expressed are her own and do not reflect the newspaper’s policy.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *