Better Public Service Delivery through Mobile Technologies?

A still from an RTI Office, India

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With the aid of new information and communication technologies, data can be accessed with the movement of a fingertip. While some key challenges do exist in the management and disclosure of open data, there exists a case for mobile technologies to use this data and help in better delivery of public services. Open data is now being used in various online and mobile applications, as well as in visualizations and analyses. According to Dr. Usmaan Zafar of DUC Consulting, UAE, “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”

However, before we begin to understand how open data can be leveraged; it may be interesting to take a look at how mobile technologies are being used for delivery of public services. One of the finest examples of such applications is the “BlindSquare” application developed in Helsinki. Employing unique algorithms, the application aids the visually impaired users to gather information of their surroundings helping them in their daily lifestyle activities. The application determines the user’s location and looks up the desired information on applications like FourSquare and Open Street Map, thereby providing guidelines to the user.

Using similar technological processes, the “Customs and Travel” app used in Germany helps citizens check whether the goods a traveller brings back home to Germany will have to be declared or not, and how much their import would cost. The “Traffic Management” app launched in the city of Victoria provides information about road conditions using a simple map interface in near real time during emergencies such as floods, fires and major traffic incidents. On similar lines, the “Aidnesia” app developed in Cambodia connects the disaster victims to the Government and the aid providers during times of natural disasters. An effort to smoothen the process of public service delivery is also being made by “NextDrop” in India, which helps citizens gauge information on when they can get water as well as report problems and damages.

While making information accessible to the citizens can improve public service delivery, the key argument remains as to how effective such mechanisms can prove in a densely populated society as India, where at the same time there exist huge chunks of data lying in the form traditionally written “khataas” within the rooms of public service delivery offices. At the same time, mobilizing administrative processes and data which were previously static remains a key challenge. A strategic approach, using design thinking methods and focusing on user experience is thus essential for unleashing the full potential of mobile technologies and helping in better delivery of public services.





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