Citizen engagement through SMS can boost the uptake of smart govt

Intelligent SMS solutions can provide a powerful tool to reach out to consumers

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Citizen engagement through SMS can boost the uptake of smart govt Smart Messaging services create an interactive channel for government to engage with mobile users, says Zameer.
By  Sherry Zameer Published  August 26, 2015

In the wake of the UAE’s government officially declaring itself ‘paperless’ — more than 96% of 337 of the nation’s most important day-to-day services are now accessible via smart platforms — government officials are now working towards the next milestone: grow the smart government user base to 80% by 2018.

To turn this figure into a reality, government officials have been asked to raise awareness about these smart government services. Broken down, this is no mean feat — specific lines of communication have to be opened up to better engage end users and promote the availability of the government services being accessible via mobile devices. Additionally, these communication channels need to be both, effective and non-intrusive.

Finding the best channel

Today, at 78%, smartphone penetration in the UAE is the highest in the entire Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, as per market insights specialist Nielsen. Experts claim the UAE is witnessing an accelerated shift to smartphones; according to research by TechSci, the value of the UAE’s smartphone market will climb to an impressive $9.32 billion by 2019.

As the market grows, more and more citizens interact with their mobile devices with ease. The mobile device has now become the unified form factor for business, entertainment and social media interactions. Users have grown comfortable with entering their personal information into their mobile devices, to the extent that they are now at ease with storing even their banking credentials on their mobile devices.

So if we are looking for an efficient mass-market communication channel, we don’t have to look much further than the mobile phone. In fact, mobile phone operators, retailers and brands have been tapping into the high penetration rates of mobile phones for years now to reach customers via mobile marketing campaigns. The SMS has long been the performance benchmark for mobile messaging campaigns with an open rate of 98% compared to 22% for e-mails. What if a similar, but slightly more updated and non-intrusive method could be employed by governments to promote their services, while also allowing for feedback from users?

Adopting the mobile platform, however, does come stitched on with a few challenges: will the interactive messaging work on all mobile devices, regardless of whether it is an iPhone or an Android device? Which operator will customers need to be with to get the service enabled? Can customers opt-out and not be disturbed if they don’t want to? Do they need to download something?

For best results, the system used to communicate and raise awareness on government digital services should be agnostic to the operating system of the end user as well as agnostic to the mobile operator and should offer a means for the user to opt-out.

Smarter SMS systems

Mobile operators in Brazil have achieved greater efficiency in their mobile marketing campaigns using Gemalto’s innovative Smart Message solution. Smart Message technology dramatically improves consumer engagement and satisfaction by enabling high quality, real-time dialogue between cellular providers and their subscribers.

Prominent Brazilian mobile operator Vivo uses the Smart Message technology to send customers travelling outside the country a ‘Bon Voyage’ smart message prompting them to learn more about roaming plans or dismiss the message. With one click, data plan options are displayed and subscribers can adopt the one best suited to their needs. The solution helped Vivo increase international roaming plan adoption by 300% in the first three months of availability. For Vivo subscribers, it greatly simplifies the process of continuing mobile services in other countries while staying within budget.

In essence, the Smart Message technology engages users via one-click interaction and provides a ubiquitous user experience to all mobile phone users, irrespective of the make and model of their mobile phone, which makes it the perfect channel to address the masses, while still respecting individuals’ preferences through opt-in opt-out functionalities and a ‘centre of interest’ menu.

Already operational in many countries around the world with usage varying from registering births to promotions on digital and physical goods, the Smart Message technology has delivered ROI which are anywhere between two to ten times higher than simple SMS campaigns. An interactive channel such as this is definitely one that could be used to raise awareness on new smart mobile government services.

Of course to become a reality, the implementation of such a service will require the participation of the entire ecosystem — from government officials looking to promote their smart services to the region’s telecom operators such as Etisalat and du that offer a channel to the users. But if properly implemented, such a channel can be used for citizen engagement and to subsequently boost the uptake of smart government services and strongly support the target goal of reaching 80% of mobile government services users by 2018.

Sherry Zameer is senior vice president Telecommunication Solutions at Gemalto.

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