Shmestar: Lebanese E-Government Starts in Bekaa
By: Rameh Hamieh
Published Wednesday, May 16, 2012
Lebanese ministries and government offices keep resisting the general trend of technological advances by not employing automation and archiving systems for documents, records, and application forms.
This phenomenon applies to all government agencies that deal with citizens on a daily basis from courthouses, to personal status offices, to police stations and hospitals, and other institutions of official bureaucracy. In general, the paper trail ends up in rooms and warehouses where they end up damaged by humidity or chewed up by rats and mice.
Bucking the national trend, the municipality of Shmestar decided to solve the archiving problem and catch up to the times. By doing so, Shmestar is taking a step that should reduce the time wasted in searching for documents.
Mayor Suheil Hajj Hasan calls it a “pioneering step” and “an initiative by the municipality for the sake of protecting the ’s rights and properties of people, who might need a copy of a document or a record.” The Mayor added that automation would conserve “the municipality’s history that runs for nine decades, by saving all financial documents, legal cases, and administrative and real estate application forms, archiving them in a manner that prevents their wearing out, categorizing them via an electronic archiving system.”
Hajj Hasan envisioned that one of the objectives of the archiving project is to “help the municipality be more transparent in their work before the citizens and the different regulators.”
He also said that the electronic archiving project came due to municipality’s policy of being open to listening to experts’ opinions, and not only the municipality council in Shmestar. According to Hajj Hasan, the municipality council “should recognize anyone’s constructive thoughts, especially those that help develop and ease work.”
Implementing the project and archiving Shmestar’s existing documents and records took five months, costing less than LL11million (US$7,300) including the software.
However, according to the mayor, there was a reason for the low cost: “What helped us save 50% of the cost of this project was the municipality’s staff volunteering to work and help with the archiving process, alongside the engineers specialized in information technology.”
Integrated Technology Systems (ITS) implemented the project in Shmestar. The company, according to its Executive Manager Mohammed al-Siblani, used an electronic archiving system that facilitates documents and records management and categorization with full support for document printing and barcode scanning.
Shmestar municipality dedicated a room for the paper archives, using acid-free boxes customized for stocking documents and records.
Furthermore, the municipality equipped the room with a dehumidifier and fire safety system.
Shmestar’s initiative was received well in the Bekaa and similar steps are being adopted by the municipalities of Baalbeck and Hermel.
This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.