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MoFA calling - UAE govt. ensures secure comms channel

James Dartnell | June 10, 2014
Dr Saeed Al Dhaheri, Advisor, Information Systems, United Arab Emirates Ministry of Foreign Affairs, was all too aware of the need to modernise his department's communications channels, and embarked on an eight month implementation of a secure global data network (WAN) in February 2012, that placed these concepts at the fore of his strategy.

Once the global WAN network infrastructure had entered the second phase of operation, it provided embassies access to MoFA's intranet portal and hosted core applications, such as its correspondence management system which is now active across 69 embassies. This has provided direct electronic correspondence between the ministry and its embassies, resulting in a faster and more secure information exchange. This in turn has eliminated the need to carry official correspondences through diplomatic pouches, which usually takes a week to be transferred between MoFA HQ and embassies around the globe. "This business enablement increases the productivity of staff who communicate officially with the ministry and internal departments," Al Dhaheri says. "The embassies now are considered as 'departments' of the ministry and all are on the same network having access to the resources on the Internal MoFA network."

Although the project has already reaped financial rewards, the peace of mind it gives Al Dhaheri--and the UAE--in terms of security and trust offers a vivid reminder that his team's work has been hugely valuable. Al Dhaheri believes security was a paramount concern in the project, "Although we may never be able to directly measure it, insuring that the security and reputation of the UAE isn't compromised is absolutely essential," he says. "Allowing our delegates to communicate via secure channels is a step forward for MoFA and for our government."

Only three of the 72 stations that Al Dhaheri set out to connect are not part of the network. Political unrest in Syria has stunted the implementation there, and two other sites have recently changed location and are awaiting integration.

This year Al Dhaheri has been the recipient of a CNME CIO 50 award, and the IDC Insight CIO award for Business Enablement for his work on the project.

Looking ahead, Al Dhaheri sees the move into mobility as the next step for the WAN. MoFA is looking to build iOS and Android apps for it, and aims to have this completed by late 2014. "Our diplomats are always on the move, and the ability to interact with any mission, anywhere, will be a vital addition," Al Dhaheri says. "Allowing staff to communicate with our missions from anywhere is a necessity nowadays. The move into mobility will serve as a catalyst for our move into a fully virtualised environment, and the private cloud that we will employ to easily manage our infrastructure."


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