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ICP's ongoing journey to innovation

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Published: 28 Nov 2022

The team from the Federal Authority for Identity, Citizenship, Customs & Port Security in the UAE – named as one of two Quality Organisation of the Year winners at this year’s International Quality Awards – was also a finalist for the Digital Innovation Award.

The Digital Innovation award may have been a newly introduced category at the 2022 International Quality Awards (IQA), but it was fiercely contested. Among the finalists was the Federal Authority for Identity, Citizenship, Customs & Port Authority (ICP), which was recognised for its work in developing a smart app that provides a range of digital services for UAE citizens.  

The IQA judges said that: “To produce an app that is very simple and elegant to use, while using multiple sophisticated tools and integrating multiple systems, is no mean feat!” 

The app offers a massive 114 services, many of them are new, with others having been previously supplied by different government systems. The app provides a digital environment that allows users to electronically obtain their services round the clock, with integration to UAE PASS, the unified database of the government.  

Users of the new system include resident nationals, expatriates, visitors, government and semi-government authorities, and companies, with the app being available in Arabic, English and Urdu; it is also being integrated with Google Translate. UAE PASS contains all customers’ data without the need for paper transactions.   

Responding to need 

The ICP’s project was driven by the UAE Government’s ambition to achieve digital leadership in the provision of government services. From the outset, the main challenges were to:  

  • support the government’s 2025 Digital Strategy; 

  • respond to changes arising from Covid-19; 

  • support the government’s drive for a green environment and a reduction in its carbon footprint reduction; 

  • improve service delivery to citizens; and  

  • take steps towards a paperless government.  

During the past four years, the ICP responded to the government’s ambitions by progressively launching its own ‘Transformation to Digital Government’ initiative. This included developing a smart app that provides a package of identity, citizenship and residency services.  

Among the main services included in the app is the issuing, renewing and replacing of Emirati IDs for nationals, residents and their family members. The app also allows the renewal of nationals’ and family members’ passports, and deals with applications for visas. The app holds data on the family tree of all people sponsored by the head of the family and contains electronic passports, IDs and permits.  

“The judges were impressed by the ambition of the ICP’s large-scale project and the way in which so many different services were integrated, particularly in the early releases.”

Estelle Clark, Chief Judge of the International Quality Awards

It was also developed to allow integration with several existing key systems, such as the eDirham smart payment system for paying fees, the UAE Covid-19 vaccination database, and the Bayanati HR system.  

The app allows easy browsing and a quick search, along with an interactive Chatbot platform and gamification to make it easier for users to communicate with ICP for the submission of complaints, suggestions or feedback. To ensure digital integrity, both fingerprint and facial recognition are included.   

Services offered 

The range of services offered by the app, the ability to pay instantly for services, the facility to feedback ‘live’ on the services provided, and the team’s determination to improve an already successful solution fully justified the inclusion of the ICP as a category finalist at the International Quality Awards. 

The judges were impressed by the ambition of the ICP’s large-scale project and the way in which so many different services were integrated, particularly in the early releases. The nature of this project – identity and immigration – required the highest integrity of both product and testing. The complex project unified team members from IT, Quality and from Operations, a factor that the IQA judges felt was integral to its successful delivery.  

There are a number of key measurements that highlight the importance of the new app.    

  • It is 86,000 times faster in refunding fees and guarantees than the old system, reducing time from 60 days to 10 minutes. 

  • It is 25 times faster in completing transactions than the old system, reducing completion time from 17 hours to 45 minutes. 

  • It reduces printing by 82% (from 1,291,205 papers per month to 103,162). 

  •  94% of the services offered by ICP are now fully automated and without any human intervention. These services are transacted immediately. 

  • There has been a 250% increase in app downloads in 2022 (2,363,000) when compared with 2021 (676,093). 

  • There has been a 10,702-hour monthly saving in the time of government employees.  

Demonstration of quality management practice and tools is an important part of the judging process of the Digital Innovation award. For this project, the ICP used a range of tools for identifying and automating the goals and services to be improved, for refining processes and for defining the required roles, responsibilities, resources and plans.  

Among the tools were brainstorming with partners and stakeholders, process flow techniques, Pareto analysis, Ishikawa diagrams and root cause analysis. As well as these, ICP made standard comparisons with other leading authorities and with 10 countries that lead in the use of big data, including the USA, Finland and Estonia.  

Lessons learned 

Examining lessons learned is a vital part of any project development, with the IQA judges interested in how an initiative will be sustained, and how lessons learned will be applied to improve the success of this, or future, initiatives. 

In the case of its smart app, the ICP said the real benefit has been the positive impact of reducing cost, saving time and improving service provision, especially as many releases of the app were made during the Covid-19 pandemic. The app has an update every two weeks, so there is no chance of it becoming out of date. The ICP also shares the story of the app’s development so that other government entities and ministries will be encouraged to accelerate their own digital transformation projects.

International Quality Award 2022 case study

Find out how ICP won the Quality Organisation of the Year award by developing its strategies and quality systems to ensure its services are focussed on stakeholders’ needs.

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How and why to apply webinar recording

Listen to Chief Judge, Estelle Clark to learn more about the awards application process and get top tips on what makes an entry successful.