After a very long break, I am back! Thanks for continuing to visit PixelBallads and holding the fort. Your readership and comments are very much appreciated.
To continue with my quest to find more uses of mobile technology that helps create broad social impact, here’s another one – m-Gov!
In the universe of acronyms in the business world, there are those that are very vertical specific (and even archaic) and those that are so common that it transcends to our everyday lives. Acronyms such as B2B and B2C are those that most industry verticals cater to in more ways than one – hence what they imply are broadly understood. Then, there are those that vertical specific – For example, the telecom folks have acronyms such as GSM/CDMA/LTE/VoIP/OTT/HLR etc that may not be relevant to other verticals such as finance where acronyms such as RIA/FINRA/SEC/EBIT/ROIC/AP-AR/PER etc are more rife.
That said, I have been seeing more of the following acronyms – B2G (Business to Government), G2B and more importantly G2C (Government to Citizen). In most nations, the government plays a very important role in the economy of their nations. Among other aspects, they help grease their nations commercial wheels by spending tax money. Social programs notwithstanding, tax revenue is spent very broadly for procurement (government buying). And as a direct consequence of this action, many firms have SBUs (Strategic Business Units) that just focus on bidding for government work. At a very high level, by doing this, governments essentially move tax revenues downstream, helping circulate money. This is the domain of B2G or G2B or even G2G (Federal to state/local).
Tax revenue/citizen-contributions are also used to provide services to the general population by means of social programs/initiatives and/or services. This is the domain of G2C initiatives. I am well aware that I have oversimplified a lot of aspects, but the point I want to bring to the fore is the fact that governments are now looking at innovative solutions to deploy their services to their citizens. And , to no surprise, more and more governments are now leveraging mobile technology to deploy key services. These G2C initiatives are known as m-Gov in the mobile world.
Examples of m-Gov initiatives are abound. It is certainly fascinating. In more ways than one, mobile technology is helping democratize services.
- In Bangladesh, students can apply for their university examinations through SMS, reducing the need for travel and standing in long queues.
- Again, in Bangladesh, the government introduced a system called e-Purjee that sent a SMS message to sugarcane farmers telling them when to bring in their crop for processing. This allowed the government to optimize the process of collecting sugarcane from the producers and batching it for processing as opposed to warehousing produce creating inefficiencies and waste. Using SMS, the government also intimated to farmers as to when their payments were ready – allowing farmers to plan their time accordingly. Per the World Bank, this initiative directly resulted in an increase in sugar production by ~62%. I love the e-Purjee logo…notice how they incorporate sugarcane in to the logo..
- In India, in Kerala state (South-West India), the state government has enabled the creation of a unified platform called SDP (Services Delivery Platform), that integrates voice, data and SMS. SDP was established under the auspices of KSITM (Kerala State IT Mission) with the goal of providing citizens with a service oriented and equitable mobile platform that can work with any carrier. Citizens can use this service to interact with either provincial or the state government for aspects such as crime reporting, local voting, purchasing transportation tickets etc. On the other hand, the government can use the SDP to make important announcements such as publish locations of free healthcare camps or locations of subsidized food distribution centers or publish examination scores etc. The platform is unique in that it cuts across various state departments allowing for a unified approach in interacting with the population as opposed to each department having their own system. This allows for efficiencies that are scalable and cost-effective. It must be noted that SDP is spearheaded by a company called MobMe, a private mobile technology firm helping the Kerala government with this m-Gov initiative – tax revenue well spent, I guess!
- In Kenya, “Ushahidi” is an open source platform that can be used by citizens to create an incident reporting system by crowdsourcing. Developed, in response to violence that erupted after the 2007 election, Ushahidi integrates multiple channels such as SMS, Twitter, email and the web. This integration allows for notated visualization of the data on a map. Ushahidi has been used to monitor elections, disaster recovery and crime reporting. Now this, in my mind, is not truly G2C but helps forms an important element or channel for the government to monitor to help get a real time picture on the ground as reported by its citizenry as opposed to government officials who at times can favorably or unfavorably muddle such reports.
- In Malaysia, the government uses SMS to alert citizens about limited drinking water supplies or energy blackouts.
- In Moldova, a small eastern-European country nestled between Romania and Ukraine, the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Industries, uses SMS (again) to transmit accurate weather information to farmers on hillsides where weather can change dramatically in short periods. This allowed for farmers to take precautionary measures to prevent crop damage.
- Governments in many countries are improving employee accountability and efficiencies. In Auckland, New Zealand, a GPS-based handheld system allows the city to monitor its employees and resources. The city has reporting savings of more than 30 hours a week on highway maintenance work resulting in the city moving all its maintenance management to a mobile GPS system.
- In Liberia, the government is using mobile geo-tagging to better assess and manage the countries water resources and improve access to them. The public works ministry deployed data collectors to map all of its roughly 7,500 publicly accessible water points with a mobile geo-tagging and monitoring tool called FLOW (Field Level Operations Watch).
And these examples abound. While each government is choosing to the adoption of mobile technology to either directly serve its citizenry or improve government efficiencies in different ways, the one clear trend that is visible is the fact that m-Gov is here to stay. This is an evolutionary process with each government going about implementing m-Gov initiatives in ways that are conducive to the needs of the population.
Some of these initiatives are complex and there are risks. In my next post, I will cover some of risks and advantages of mobile G2C initiatives. Do you know of any such m-Gov programs? Feel free to share.