People in the UAE are (surprisingly) happy with government services

21 April 2021 3 min. read

With governments worldwide coming under pressure for various reasons, the UAE embodies a bright spot where people are happy with public services – according to a new report from the Serco Institute.

Covid-19 has been tough on society and the economy, which has increased reliance on governments worldwide – who have struggled to manage a series of unprecedented scenarios. Global public services think tank Serco Institute – working with its data consulting arm ExperienceLab – surveyed more than 500 UAE residents for their opinion on public services under the circumstances. 

“Our nation-wide survey found 90% of people described themselves as being ‘very happy’ or ‘somewhat happy’ with the UAE government services they have used in the past two years,” noted Serco Institute Director Kate Steadman, who stressed that this approval spans most nationalities, ages and professional contexts. 

People in the UAE are surprisingly happy with government services

While the population’s strong nod comes at a surprise compared to views in other countries, the support is not a coincidence: the UAE’s government is among the most advanced in the world when it comes to tech-powered innovation – underpinned by a strict focus on improving customer experience. “There is a clear intention to modernise, rationalise and centralise service delivery,” according to Steadman, and this is paying off.

Navigating the future

The challenge now is to uphold these standards amid a whole new wave of transformation – turbocharged by the pandemic and all related behavioural changes expected in the near future. More than ever, people need services in a unified, seamless, personalised and accessible manner. 

Having done a stellar job so far, the UAE government has to keep pace with this rate of change. It’s also important to tread carefully, given the cost of a potential mistake: more than half of Serco’s respondents reported that a single negative experience was enough to damage their trust in government services as a whole. 

“This is especially relevant when it comes to extending digital access,” noted Phil Malem, CEO of Serco Middle East. “If those who prefer accessing services through traditional channels feel that digital access does not offer the same level of quality, these groups in particular may lose trust in government services.” 

A ‘make-or-break’ task lies ahead: the UAE could lead the world in government service innovation if the next phase is managed well, although the alternative could “impact public happiness and also has significant consequences for the wider transformation of services,”according to Steadman. 

“It may be important, therefore, for the UAE government to draw on all the insights and support possible as it continues its transformation of government services – from developing a deep understanding of user-experience, through to leveraging the innovation of the private sector.” 

The researchers present seven pillars that could guide the government through the precarious waters ahead. Continual digitalisation is one, combined with building more capacity for personalised service delivery; upskilling and reskilling staff; unifying service lines; finding experts to manage the transformation; improving services that aren’t digitalising; and designing services around user experience.

Keeping these principles in mind could help the UAE prepare for a future – one that holds visions of a global business and investment hub, and a rapid urbanisation plan, among other high ambitions. According to Malem, his team can help prepare for this vibrant future.

“Through our user-centred design agency, ExperienceLab and now with the addition of the Serco Institute, the UAE can benefit from direct citizen insight, in addition to international public service expertise in designing the future of government services.”