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Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Open-Source New-Media Government

There is no doubt about it, from a usability point of view Lebanese government institutions are stuck in the stone age..
There is no doubt about it, from a usability point of view Lebanese government institutions are stuck in the stone age. If you've ever tried to get a permit for anything in Lebanon, you know you're bound to end up going through all the hallways and offices of a few government buildings (most of the time because of government employees who point you in the wrong direction), you will wait endless hours for your turn while your clothes slowly start to smell just like everything else in our dear government buildings: Of sweat and cigarettes.

A few months ago the ISF launched a new section on its website for people to check for traffic violations tickets that might have been issued against them, and while the effort to bring the country a step closer to modern times was certainly a breeze of fresh air, the effort was somewhat lacking.

I've always been amazed by the use of talent in Lebanon, or how little of it we actually do. For instance, when the Lebanese tourism ministry launched its latest "Lebanon Blues" ad campaign, it earned itself quite an uproar. The overall message of the ads did not reflect what many of us consider to be the selling points of tourism in Lebanon, and many were disappointed that the ministry had not used local talent to produce fresh ideas and a more creative campaign. In all honesty, all the tourism ministry needed to do was check the flickr accounts of some of Lebanon's young photographers and I'm certain they could've come up with more inspired ideas. Unfortunately, and they are certainly not alone in this, the thinking of the ministry is still not oriented towards new media, and therefore is missing out on all of the new ideas that this generation has to offer.

Talent is nothing Lebanon is short of. A quick glance at what Lebanese bloggers and tweeps are doing everyday should give you the confirmation you need. Best of all, we have a "geek community" made up of people from all sorts of backgrounds, who have all kinds of jobs, but more importantly, very diverse talents.

Why don't we make our own tourism ministry website ? Let's show the country through the eyes of our talented photographers and the taste buds of our food bloggers. Let it be an open project where anyone can bring in their ideas. When it's done, let it be our donation to the country, if the ministry would adopt it.

We can also remake the ISF website, and any other web-related service for that matter. Why not pay our traffic violations online ? Why do we have to deal with crappy interfaces on government websites ? Let our UX experts design a proper application, let our developers make it a reality, and when it's done, let it be a donation to the Lebanese people, so that their daily interaction with the ISF becomes faster, easier, and with the least headache possible.

I think the Lebanese government, in most of its institutions, has very little grasp over technology, and in that sense doesn't have much of a clue as to how what's out there and how powerful and life-altering it could be. Imagine ordering all your paperwork and paying your bills online, instead of spending hours on end waiting in the hallways of old smelly buildings.
Better yet, imagine how much better your experience in those old smelly buildings could be if only...

See how I didn't finish that thought ? I know you have finished it before me about a million times at least, every time you stepped out of a government building, and I'm hoping you have those thoughts written down somewhere..

We tend to complain a lot about the shape our country is in, and goodness knows our country has given us plenty to complain about. This time, how about we take initiative, but not as a business opportunity ? How about instead of making a personal profit by using our contacts to land a couple contracts, we just pool our resources together, donate our time, and just make the new possibilities we have created available to the rest of us ? All we have to hope for is the adoption of those projects by the state, and given that they would be entirely based on time-donations, the ministries just might think they're worth adopting ("kel chi be balech kattir menno"). And given the headache such projects might end up saving us, they just might be worth donating some time

Recommended media:
Photography: Beirut Street Photographers, KrikOrian's Photography, Fady Nammour, Carlitto
Food: Taste of Beirut
Generally amazing Lebanese: Mireille's Blog, UX Soup, The Identity Chef, Abzyy's Blog, Ontornet (because what they're doing for Lebanese internet connectivity is simply amazing)..

For a complete list of Lebanese blogs, please visit Lebanon Aggregator

[photo credit]


May 23, 2011 at 8:35 AM Sareen

An excellent point Fadi, an excellent point. You couldn't have written it any better.

May 23, 2011 at 10:03 AM Darine

I think the reason that the Lebanese Government disregards new media is because at large we are apolitical, we would rarely talk about one politician or the other and support anyone of them, and what they are looking for at all times is their ardent supporters and pleasing them, rather than changing the state the country is in.

May 23, 2011 at 10:31 AM Liliane

Fadi, hehe actually we had plans on this, the government, for example the Ministry of Telecommunications are running low on resources, and CANNOT HIRE... their website is totally outdated. We can actually channel our efforts together, to build a website for them. Great post. We'll talk in details soon :)

Thanks for mentioning Ontornet and LebanonAggregator :D

May 23, 2011 at 12:32 PM Fadi

Darine I think that's one of the reasons why a "crowdsourced effort" could be more successful. No hidden agenda, no special interests, just serious work.

Liliane what can I say, besides great minds think alike, and where would be without our Funky SuperTweep. Keep me posted on that :)

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