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By Jamie Etheridge

can now conduct a variety of transactions for social security online via a new website launched by the Public Institution for Social Security this week. Everyone can book appointments to visit the co-ops during the curfew to shop for groceries. The Public Authority for Civil Information has also launched an app to carry your civil ID on your smartphone. And the interior ministry has launched website options for renewing iqamas.

These are just a few of the digital innovations that the government has launched since the coronavirus pandemic hit Kuwait. These steps may seem small, but they add up to an important step forward for Kuwait. Digital integration, especially for government services and paperwork, has been slow and at times dysfunctional. A new website or app might work or might not; a new system may be put in place only for the process to revert back to the old system within a few days or weeks.

The crisis, however, has created an urgency beyond imagination for the government to adopt functional, sustainable digital solutions for everything from crowd management at co-ops to education to legal documents and processes. And Kuwait has stepped up and shown itself not only willing but capable to quickly integrate and launch such solutions. The co-op appointment system took only a few weeks to work out from idea to beta testing to launch, with more co-ops added every day.

Greater digitalization of government bureaucracy will have lasting effects for Kuwait as a whole. Ideally it could make completing government paperwork much easier, thus opening the door for small and medium enterprises to grow the private sector. It can also help reduce waste, government expenditure and ultimately the bloated civil service. To do this, however, will also require alternative job opportunities within the private sector that offer similar income, benefits and security.

This may also be changing. In the ports, Kuwaitis are being trained to use heavy equipment and in co-ops and other areas, work traditionally performed by expats is being taken up by Kuwaiti volunteers. Breaking the barrier of what work is acceptable and accessible to Kuwaitis is an important part of reducing the country's reliance on foreigners, something Kuwait has been trying to do for years.

Kuwait is also taking the opportunity created by the pandemic to send home the tens of thousands of unskilled laborers and others not needed by the economy and the many brought here illegally. So while the pandemic has created myriad problems, it may also serve as a turning point for Kuwait's future.

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