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Summary

 The Information and eGovernment Sector of the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority is the government body responsible for coordinating surveys measuring citizens’ satisfaction with government services in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).  The “Your Voice” web page, accessible through the official web portal of the UAE government, Government.ae, is the central point for collecting citizens’ feedback at the national level.  From this page, feedback may be provided through the UAE Federal Feedback Gateway or through other available channels, including a consultations page that allows agencies to elicit feedback specific to programs and policies under consideration.  In addition to these resources, the federal government provides social media outlets and an online forum and blog, among other channels of communication.  The UAE federal government has also established what is known as “SmartPass,” an online service that allows citizens to use a single username and password to access various government services and post their feedback about those services.  

The federal government analyzes citizens’ suggestions about government services and takes action to implement those suggestions.  It also provides UAE citizens with online access to collected feedback.

Collected feedback is protected by the intellectual property protection laws of the UAE.  The Ministry of Cabinet Affairs has also stated that it is committed to respecting the privacy of citizens who provide feedback.  Stored feedback may only be used for noncommercial purposes.  Based on the Terms and Conditions of Usage for the UAE Feedback Gateway, citizens are subject to a number of prohibitions when posting their feedback, including a prohibition on any feedback that contravenes social norms or Islamic law.  The Information and eGovernment Sector has the right to reject, delete, or hide any feedback posted by citizens that does not adhere to its policies.  

I.  The Feedback Process

A.  Channels for Feedback and Communication

The Information and eGovernment Sector of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Telecommunications Regulatory Authority is the government body responsible for coordinating surveys to measure citizen satisfaction with the services offered by government agencies.[1]  The “Your Voice” web page, which is accessible through the official web portal of the UAE government, Government.ae, is the central point for collecting citizens’ feedback at the national level.  From this page, feedback may be provided through the UAE Federal Feedback Gateway or through other available channels, including a “Consultations” page that allows agencies to elicit feedback specific to programs and policies under consideration.[2]  

B.  Types of Feedback and Related Timeframes

The government posts feedback requests in two formats: (1) requests for consultation, and (2) requests for suggestions.

1.  Requests for Consultation

The web portal Government.ae gives citizens the opportunity to respond to questions in surveys issued by different federal government agencies concerning specific services provided by those agencies on a “Consultations” web page.[3]  UAE government agencies use requests for consultation to keep the public informed and consult them on issues that may affect them, using the feedback obtained as input in decision-making processes related to agency policies and services.[4] 

Consultation requests have an opening and closing date.[5]  Those dates are determined by the government agency requesting citizens’ feedback.[6]

2.  Requests for Suggestions

Requests for suggestions are more general and consist of three possible formats: (1) suggestions, (2) compliments, and (3) customers’ executive or administrative remarks (complaints):

  • Suggestions are used by citizens to submit innovative ideas on how to improve the level of services delivered by government agencies, separate from the consultations process.  Those suggestions could address the nature of a service, the process for the service, or the government employee providing the service.[7]
  • Compliments may be submitted by citizens who are satisfied with the level of services received from a government agency or employee.[8]
  • Executive and administrative remarks are used to post complaints about the quality of government services received.[9]

Citizens may provide suggestions, compliments, or complaints at any time.  However, article 9.3 of the UAE Feedback Gateway’s Terms and Conditions of Usage provides that government agencies must respond to suggestions within fifteen working days from the date of receipt.  If the nature of the suggestion requires consideration by a high-level committee, this time frame may be extended to thirty working days.[10]  Under article 9.4, a government agency may request additional information, documents, or studies from the person who submitted the suggestion; the person will then be notified of the agency’s final decision.[11]

C.  Citizen Access to Collected Feedback

The UAE government provides citizens with online access to collected feedback.  Such information is posted on Government.ae under “Outcome: Decisions Taken.”  Feedback is also visually depicted on the website through diagrams.[12]

D.  Other Communication Channels

In addition to the two primary feedback mechanisms mentioned above, the government connects with citizens through government-sponsored social media channels, including Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.[13]  In addition, the government offers a live-chat feature, the eGovernment forum, and the eGovernment blog to facilitate communication with its customers.[14]

The UAE government has also established what is known as a “SmartPass” under a single sign-on.  This online service allows citizens to use one username and password to access various government online services and to post their feedback about those services.[15]

The SmartPass service assists citizens in obtaining online access to the government services of ten government agencies and entities, including, among others, the Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Community Development, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Culture and Knowledge Development, Federal Electricity and Water Authority, and Insurance Authority.  It is expected that thirty more government agencies will join the service by the end of 2017.[16]

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II.  Requirements for Collected and Stored Feedback

A.  Intellectual Property Protection 

Based on article 13 of the Terms and Conditions of Usage for the UAE Federal Feedback Gateway, the information collected by the website and all content on the site is protected by the intellectual property protection laws of the UAE.  Individuals have the right to print or upload information on the website for noncommercial use or publishing purposes.  All information obtained through the operation or use of the website is considered the property of the Ministry of Cabinet Affairs.[17]

B.  Privacy Policy

Article 17 of the Terms and Conditions for the Feedback Gateway stipulates that the Ministry of Cabinet Affairs is committed to respecting the privacy of all user information provided through the website.  This information includes the user’s name, email address, date of birth, gender, telephone and fax numbers, and any other registration information submitted by the user.[18]

C.  Free Online Access

According to article 4.4 of the Gateway’s Terms and Conditions, citizens have free access to online services provided by government agencies.  The only purpose of the Gateway is to develop the services provided by participating federal agencies and to communicate with citizens free of charge.[19]

D.  Data Usage

Article 5.1 of the Gateway’s Terms and Conditions provides that data stored for any personal or commercial purpose may not be amended or used.  If an individual violates this rule, he/she must be prosecuted before the criminal court.[20]

E.  Acts Prohibited by Users

Article 5.3 of the Gateway’s Terms and Conditions identifies a number of prohibited acts by users of the website while providing their feedback.  Those acts include (1) impersonating others while providing feedback concerning government services; (2) using the website to commit a criminal offense or to encourage others to engage in any conduct that would constitute a criminal offense according to the Federal Penal Code; (3) posting feedback that is considered discriminatory, libelous, harassing, defamatory, insulting, obscene, immoral, or a violation of Islamic law; (4) attempting to upload any content that contains a software virus, files, programs, or device that may alter, damage, or interrupt the functionality of the website; and (5) publishing or transmitting any unsolicited advertising, promotional materials, or other forms of solicitation.[21]

F.  Authority of the Information and eGovernment Sector

The Information and eGovernment Sector has complete authority over data and content on the feedback-related websites.  It has the right to reject, delete, or hide any feedback posted by citizens that it deems a security risk; abusive; vulgar; a violation of the privacy of others; a violation of Penal Code provisions barring indecency, obscenity, or slander; or that contains spam and could be interpreted as prejudiced, phobic, or hurtful to any segment of society on the basis of race, color, gender, nationality, ethnicity, or religion.  The Information and eGovernment Sector also has the right to block users who are carrying out such violations.[22]  Finally, the Information and eGovernment Sector encourages citizens who notice comments and posts that do not adhere to its policies to notify the sector immediately.[23]

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Prepared by George Sadek
Senior Legal Analyst
October 2017

[1] “Who Maintains This Portal,” Citizen Charter, Government.ae, https://www.government.ae/en/footer/citizen-charter (last visited Oct. 2, 2017), archived at https://perma.cc/GC2E-QLAK.

[2] Your Voice in the UAE, Government.ae, https://www.government.ae/en/participate (last visited Oct. 2, 2017), archived at https://perma.cc/9ZP4-DWAT; UAE Federal Feedback Gateway, https://www.mygov.ae/mygov/ index.aspx (in Arabic; last visited Oct. 2, 2017), archived at https://perma.cc/7DF8-9EK4.  Note that many of the websites cited in this report are available in both English and Arabic.  Some can only be archived in Arabic, however.

[3] Consultations, Sharik.ae, https://www.government.ae/en/participate/consultations (last visited Oct. 2, 2017), archived at https://perma.cc/8PM5-APC4.

[4] Id.

[5] Audience Thoughts about MOHAP Website, Sharik.ae, https://www.government.ae/en/participate/consultations/ consultation?id=1094 (last visited Oct. 2, 2017), archived at https://perma.cc/DT7F-ABU7.

[6] Id.

[7] UAE Federal Feedback Gateway, supra note 2, “Suggestions.”

[8] Id., “Compliments.”

[9] Id., “Customers Remarks.”

[10] UAE Federal Feedback Gateway Terms and Conditions art. 9.3, https://www.mygov.ae/mygov/WebContent Page.aspx?pageId=009 (last updated Jan. 25, 2010), archived at https://perma.cc/U8RN-BD5N.

[11] Id. art. 9.4.

[12] Charts, “About UAE Satisfaction” & “Services Satisfaction,” First Phase of Content Development of the Official Portal of the UAE Government (July 2017), Sharik.ae, https://www.government.ae/en/participate/consultations/ consultation?id=1088, archived at https://perma.cc/QCW6-5GAN.

[13] Telecommunications Regulatory Authority, Ministry of Communication, Policy to Monitor, Use, and Respond to Social Media Outlets, http://www.tra.gov.ae (in Arabic; last visited Oct. 2, 2017), archived at https://perma.cc/ 8RZW-3P3A.

[14] “Communicating with People,” Citizen Charter, Government.ae, https://www.government.ae/en/footer/citizen-charter (last visited Oct. 2, 2017), archived at https://perma.cc/GC2E-QLAK.

[15] The First Phase of SmartPass Service under the Single-Sign-On Initiative, Sharik.ae, https://www.government. ae/en/participate/consultations/consultation?id=1099 (last visited Oct. 2, 2017), archived at https://perma.cc/XK3G-53C5.

[16] Id.

[17] UAE Federal Feedback Gateway Terms and Conditions, supra note 10, art. 13.

[18] Id. art. 17.

[19] Id. art. 4.

[20] Id. art. 5.1.

[21] Id. art. 5.3.

[22] Id. art. 7.

[23] Telecommunications Regulatory Authority, Ministry of Communication, supra note 13, at 2.