Dubai Municipality has awarded IBM a Dh17.9 million contract to deliver 27 next generation online services over the next six months, said a senior official.

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"This is part of our ongoing modernisation of the e-services, for which we have allocated Dh60 million over the next five years," said Abdullah Al Shaibani, Dubai Municipality's assistant director general for technical services.

"By 2007, we plan to convert 90 per cent of our services e-enabled. Up until now we have brought 160 of our 360 services e-enabled. The rest will be done progressively."

He said with the new agreement with IBM, Dubai's civic body is overhauling the entire e-services network through which IBM will develop a next generation services based on a Services Oriented Architecture (SOA), the first in the Middle East, migrating from the existing platform.

"This is an important move for Dubai Municipality. We're committed to taking a customer focused approach in our work, building smarter, faster, easier access to information and services from government, we believe that taking our infrastructure to an Services Oriented Architecture model is critical for us moving forwards. We need that flexibility to stay competitive," Al Shaibani said.

Under the contract, IBM will implement the new architecture and develop the first 27 services on the new infrastructure.

With a currently advanced e-services infrastructure, Dubai Municipality is building its architecture to meet the needs and challenges of the future, with the rapid pace of change in Dubai very much in mind.

The open standards based Service Oriented Architecture is an application framework that takes everyday business applications and breaks them down into individual business functions and processes, called services.

An Services Oriented Architecture lets organisations build, deploy and integrate these services independent of applications and the computing platforms on which they run.

"We believe that for a government to provide service to the private sector, it needs to think and act like the private sector. Our IT strategies and IT-based services have to meet or exceed private sector standards and, in fact, expectations," said Al Shaibani.

Dubai Municipality's move to Services Oriented Architecture comes as the rapid pace of change in Dubai and the large number of multinational companies entering the market drive the need to provide smarter government services at and beyond world standards.

"Our current e-services infrastructure has served us very well, but we need to drive forwards and continue to build innovation and efficiencies into our model. This move is part of that approach to the way we are working," said Al Shaibani.