1 Benefits of m-government
Envisioned as a way to create smarter, more engaging and responsive government, the m-government initiative is a critical evolution of the past achievements in e-government and the underlying information systems and infrastructure.
However, we believe the focus should not be restricted to the “m-“ but on the intended benefits of this initiative:
- Bringing the government to every citizen;
- Improving the performance of the government services and the public servants;
- Engaging citizens in new ways to increase their participation and ease their lives.
- Cost reduction while maintaining efficiency
- Transformation and modernization of public sector organizations
- Ability to reach a larger number of people through mobile devices than would be possible using wired internet only
Strong commitment from the UAE government and determination of leadership to make m-government happen within the targeted 24 months are certainly two critical factors to the success of this initiative. However, many challenges will have to be surmounted.
While m-government has the potential to vastly expand access to public services, even to those living in remote areas and who do not have the convenience to use e-government services, there are still limitations to its capabilities. This can be aggravated by poor decisions made in the design and implementation of the mobile-enabled user experience. For example, older and poorer groups in society may be left aside, thus increasing the digital divide.
Moreover, the existence of m-government and its applications alone does not guarantee the expected results. There is a need for pragmatic planning from the government agencies, which must understand that technology is not the focus. It should rather be the on end-user of the m-enabled service, be it a citizen, a business or a government officer.
When launching mobile-enabled public services, the same technical challenges during e-government implementations are faced, although a solid e-government basis may attenuate such difficulties. Among these challenges, we can highlight the following:
- The definition of the shared data and the messages required for the execution of the m-enabled tasks;
- Adoption of standards and protocols;
- The need to safeguard security of the data;
- Information privacy;
- Identification and authentication mechanisms;
- Aggregation and collaboration between agencies, including one stop shop portals availability.
Adequate business processes are an essential part of any service delivery oriented project. This significantly affects the economic and financial factors for m-government rollout and benefits to the end-user. If a delivery process is ineffective for a mobile user experience, it is often economically attractive to first re-engineer it before putting on the mobile channel.
The value chain for m-government service delivery can be complex, involving multiple parties.
Poor quality of service in one of the chain elements can hinder the overall experience of the end-user, thus affecting the adoption of m-government services and the intended benefits.
Full understanding of each party’s role and responsibilities and proper performance management through carefully chosen and enforced SLAs/KPIs are necessary. Such measurements should not only cover the connectivity service providers, the backend systems availability & performance, the application responsiveness & reliability, but also the quality of service, performance of the processes and public servants that will be involved in between the pure user-driven mobile interactions.
It is therefore important that the design of m-government services and applications incorporate such things as measurement and feedback of the quality of service at many levels, particularly at the end-user (mobile application) level, as that is the point where the user’s perception of quality is formed.
A sound financial rationale is required for the m-enablement of different public services in which costs and benefits must be balanced against each other. In other words, government agencies will need a solid roadmap where services are prioritized for the implementation over the mobile channel. A selection of quick wins is identified to accelerate the benefits realization to both the citizens and the government.
Proper education of the decision makers and the dissemination of the strategic guidelines, prioritization criteria, benefits assessment models, etc., are key to a successful rollout of m-government.
Multiple technology factors, such as mobile penetration, wide availability of smart devices and affordability of mobile broadband services impact adoption of mobile technologies in the delivery of government services. Other factors include the national policies and standards and the degree of integration & collaboration across the value chain.
Adoption is strengthened when governments decide to lead and facilitate the development of the relevant portals, mobile services and content. Scale economies can be achieved through standardization, policy setting and a consistent architecture of the underlying infrastructure.
Cultural factors for different geographic areas and user groups also need to be considered as they influence communication preferences, comfort levels with mobile phones and perceived usefulness of applications.
From previous m-government experiences across the world, we have witnessed several success stories as well as failures.
A common theme for successful services, such as the m-pesa mobile payment service in Africa, tax declaration and payment in Sweden, the mobile pension system in South Africa is a focus on simplifying the User Experience and providing an integrated service across the value chain, involving partnerships across government agencies and the private sector.
On the other hand, failure is often linked to a poor understanding of the mobile user experience, lack of capabilities in the public sector staff and a disconnect between the citizen needs vs. what the government thinks can be done.
We believe that maximum effectiveness of the training programs can be achieved if the training modules are designed to address specific concerns and pain points of the stakeholders.
Therefore, our approach is built around the following key principles:
Figure 1 M-government value chain and stakeholders