Egypt's Sisi says digitisation is major step in ensuring national security
Ayat Al Tawy, , Wednesday 31 Jul 2019

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi said on Tuesday that creating comprehensive databases of all information about Egyptians is a matter of "national security," underscoring the importance of the country's digital transformation efforts.

Speaking at a youth forum in televised comments, El-Sisi said that a major project to digitalise government services will use artificial intelligence (AI) technology to allow the government to have a full picture of financial and health conditions of Egyptians, identify their needs and offer proactive services before citizens request or apply for them. The system will replace extensive surveys Egypt had to rely on to offer social services, El-Sisi said.

Examples the president cited include using death data to know when a family has lost its breadwinner and needs financial assistance, verifying those entitled to subsidies and identifying healthcare needs in a given region.

It is a matter of "national security to have comprehensive databases for Egyptian society," El-Sisi told the gathering, describing the scheme as a "major national project."

The ambitious plan starts with turning the canal governorate of Port Said into a digital city where all government services will be automated by the end of the year. The government intends to roll out the system nationwide later on.

The government is launching 18 new digital government services in the governorate on Tuesday and is planning to increase them to 174 services by the end of this year, Communications Minister Amr Talaat told the audience. These include online services, mobile applications, communication services as well as special government offices.

The system, which can verify the identities of citizens, is aimed at combating fraudulent practices, ensuring that subsidies reach those entitled to them, and guaranteeing proper management of government resources, the minister said.

Egypt has so far created around 60 interconnected, AI-enabled databases where all information needed about Egyptians is available for service providers.

El-Sisi also addressed those who are concerned about privacy, saying that personal data used in the ambitious plan "is handled with extreme privacy and confidentiality and can never be revealed."

Under the planned system, Egyptians will be able to contact customer service numbers and have services delivered to their doorstep instead of having to move between multiple government offices for several days, Talaat said.

The government is also planning to launch the "digital signature" technology for the first time in Egypt in December since a law regulating it was passed in 2004, the minister said.

The move, which involves signing contracts and official documents online, is aimed at making communication between the government and investors easier and finalising business deals swiftly.