Nº 3 2013 > WSIS Forum 2013
Success stories from partners
Connecting government agencies in Kuwait
A model for better service delivery
By Abdullateef Al-Suraie, Director-General of Kuwaits Central Agency for Information Technology
The Kuwait Information Network (KIN), the flagship service of Kuwait’s e-government programme, started in January 2008 with the objective of creating a superhighway to connect all government agencies in the country to one local area network (LAN) setup. Phase one of the KIN project, which ended as planned in early 2010, cost about USD 12 million. This included all networking, security and management platforms as well as implementation costs. The e-government programme, including KIN, is being developed by Kuwait’s Central Agency for Information Technology.
KIN was planned to meet certain business requirements, the predominant concern being security. The network must provide high speed, secure, reliable, and scalable connectivity to all its constituents. These constituents include not only government agencies, but also private-sector enterprises — such as banks, authentication authorities and payment gateways — that can contribute to Kuwait’s e-government programme. Centralized enforcement of confidentiality, and protection of government transactions, data and information are seen as strategic objectives of the KIN project.
From an organizational standpoint, KIN should provide an impetus to smoother collaboration among participating agencies. The KIN project is also an opportunity for the government to show leadership in the use of innovative technology to support better service delivery and greater efficiency.
In addition to the business drivers, KIN was designed to achieve a range of cost efficiencies. An obvious benefit arises from economies of scale. Agencies collaborate to make the most of their combined purchasing power in the telecommunications market.
The standardization of core products and services also offers a cost benefit by removing technical barriers to cheaper, more efficient methods of inter- and intra-agency communication.
A common information network reduces the time and money that needs to be spent responding to telecommunication problems and risks. It also decreases the overall expenditure of government agencies on technical expertise and human resource services.
The KIN networking infrastructure is a reliable and redundant fibre-optic cabling backbone. It is characterized by its high-speed, providing up to 10 gigabit (GB) communication bandwidth. One or two 1 GB links are currently dedicated to each government agency.
The network implements the open standards of multiprotocol label switching (MPLS) and dense wavelength division multiplexing (DWDM). The high availability infrastructure includes all network components, providing support for Internet protocol (IP) phones and multimedia communication (data, sound, photos and video).
High performance security infrastructure spans all points of connection between KIN and the outside world. Security devices are continuously monitored for any security related threats. They are also continuously updated with the latest security protection software against threats such as malware, viruses and spam attacks.
KIN security is characterized by advanced intrusion prevention system and intrusion detection system devices placed at all its connectivity ports. There are also secure virtual private network paths for securing point-to-point connectivity. Advanced encryption standard (AES) 256 encryption is applied throughout the network to protect data being moved around, and advanced end-point security services are provided. Safety auditing systems are also in place.
A state-of-the-art network operations centre delivers all monitoring and management services. The centre operates 24 hours a day and 7 days a week, monitoring all KIN devices and sending the necessary alerts to the management console (local or remote) as they happen. Experience shows that many device malfunctions are being detected before they cause downtime or before they start to affect KIN efficiency or performance.
The KIN management platform is characterized by continuous online monitoring of all KIN core and perimeter devices and services. This monitoring is proactive, aiming to anticipate potential malfunctions.
Service agreements are monitored and managed. The ability to analyse the real cause of problems allows the KIN management to mitigate risk and reduce the effects of malfunctions. The best practices of the Information Technology Infrastructure Library are applied in the management of information technology services.
As for any nationwide project, various challenges arose during the process of implementing the network. The first hurdle was to find a physical location to house the main connectivity and other hardware infrastructure. This challenge was successfully overcome by concluding a service agreement to use the communication exchanges of the Ministry of Communications.
A related challenge was to lay down the cabling infrastructure for nationwide coverage. A further service agreement with the Ministry of Communications provided the necessary fibre- optic backbone.
KIN design requires installing security equipment at each government agency, but those locations are not under the control of the Central Agency for Information Technology. This equipment should be installed in a suitably controlled and accessible environment in order to allow the Agency to deliver on the high availability requirements and respect the service-level agreements. The Agency managed to mitigate this risk through the unlimited support of all government agencies, encouraged by the long-term vision of the political leadership.
The KIN project was the first to be implemented in Kuwait at this scale. The availability of human resources was a challenge to start with. To overcome this hurdle, the Agency allocated almost 15 per cent of total project cost to train local Kuwaiti staff.
Currently, KIN connects 55 government agencies, and almost 60 per cent of government data traffic passes through the network. At this stage, only government headquarters of information centres are connected, but there are plans to expand KIN to connect branch offices of government agencies as well. Both fibre-optic links and digital subscriber line (DSL) links will be provided to accommodate even small offices outside urban areas. Each government agency will have two separate links through two different paths to ensure full redundancy. Internet services will be provided to all KIN constituents.
On a regional scale, it is anticipated that KIN will eventually be connected to the sister national networks of Gulf Cooperation Countries.