Utilising mobile technologies in the public sector

Mobile technologies and services open up undreamt of possibilities, especially in the field of public service provision.

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Utilising mobile technologies in the public sector The UAE is ideally set up to use mobile devices as a platform for government services, says Zafar.
By  Usman Zafar Published  February 18, 2014

Mobile technologies and services open up undreamt of possibilities, especially in the field of public service provision. Public services need to keep pace with this trend, says Dr. Usman Zafar, Country Manager Middle East, ]init[ Middle East.

Information search, communication, and transaction processes are becoming much more efficient with the help of mobile services: new forms of information brokering and interaction are emerging within public administration, and between citizens and public administration, amplified by the benefits of mobile communication in other areas such as business, learning, and socializing.

When His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, ordered amending the name of Dubai e-Government to Dubai Smart-Government at the end of June, he paved the way for a whole new chapter in public service provision by fully embracing the benefits of mobile government. As he pointed out in May when launching the mGovernment initiative: “The government of the future works 24/7 and 365 days a year. It is as hospitable as hotels, fast in delivering and strong in its procedures”.

With about 14 million active mobile phone contracts — nearly two per person — and low-cost internet connections provided by various telecom network operators, the UAE offers ideal conditions to maximise convenience for citizens and secure a position at the forefront of innovative governments on a global scale.

Strong mGovernment use cases in the Public Sector

G2C, G2B and G2G communication via mobile phones has many forms, such as calling government contact centres, sending an SMS or MMS to find out about the status of applications, bringing an incident or issue to the attention of relevant departments, or completing a government transaction. Other forms of G2C interaction involving mobile phones include electronic payment of public service fees and utility bills, and providing information and advice for various target groups.

Here are five ways in which mobile technologies can be utilised in the public sector and complex administration services can be transferred to the mobile internet:

• Mobile Crowd Sourcing: Nowadays citizens like to participate in shaping their environment by using modern technologies more than ever. Geo-based services for idea and complaint management are just one example of this. A mobile app, with which administrations and citizens can work together to solve problems and implement good ideas, could help authorities to get things done. Apps, with which for example a newly discovered pothole can be photographed and sent directly to the responsible public authority (without media breaks), are a good and cost-effective example for the potential of service-oriented administration of tomorrow.

• Mobile Crisis Communication: Free push notifications inform millions of citizens about sports results or breaking news on their smartphones in real time. This smartphone feature, which is used frequently in the private and entertainment sectors, can also be used for administrative crisis and emergency communication. Applications specially developed for this task can be used to easily provide warnings of hazardous climatic extremes, and pre-emptive information regarding possible resulting food risks and the necessary countermeasures.

• Mobile eID Services: It’s strongly recommended to identify yourself in a unique way when conducting governmental transactions. To ensure this without media breaks or personal double checks, a solution for mobile devices is required. Near Field Communication Technology (NFC) secures the identification of a citizen for mobile online services.

• Mobile Open Data: The provision of open administrative data in combination with new technologies opens the door to a whole new world: using apps, connections between data from different datasets can be displayed as diagrams, maps, or augmented reality layers. For this purpose, authorities provide the necessary data publicly in a standardised way, so it can be used by interested parties in desktop and mobile apps.

•  Government App Store: Today there are hundreds of thousands  apps available, making it more important than ever to make sure that your app doesn’t get lost in the sea of apps. In some countries there are already examples of how all applications and certified cloud services developed by and for public organisations may be communicated on one unified platform. This enables users of mobile services to get a quick overview and find out which online services are available as apps for mobile platforms.

mGovernment internationally: the German example

To implement the best solutions possible, why not take a look at best practices other countries have achieved in the realm of mGovernment? ]init[ — the eGovernment market leader in Germany, with its own branch in Abu Dhabi since 2007 — developed the ‘Customs and Travel’ app for the German Ministry of Finance and the German Customs Administration.

The key to its success was to provide real added-value and combine it with user experience. This app is a great companion for citizens, making it easy to check whether the goods a traveler brings back home to Germany will have to be declared or not, and how much their import would cost. It makes valuable information easily accessible and available where and when it is needed — and it’s actually fun to discover this information with a simple swipe of your finger.

Today, the Customs and Travel app is among the best-loved German travel apps, and with around 380,000 downloads one of the most successful government apps in Germany. The app won the renowned Government Apps competition at CeBIT 2013 and has received a lot of attention in German national media.

Paving the way for successful mGovernment

The most successful apps share common features: a strategic approach, a focus on user experience and a thorough app marketing strategy. Mobile services in the public sector, however, have to deliver even more. It’s crucial to design public mobile services according to the highest standards of reliability, security and usability. Citizens demand and deserve government services that are especially reliable and outstanding quality. By mobilising administrative processes and data which were previously static, new value added services will arise which are ubiquitously available and can unleash the full potential of mobile technologies.

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