The Global Dialogue on m-Government: The New Frontier in Public Service Delivery brought together over 280 participants from 11 countries (India, Russia, Ukraine, Philippines, Rwanda, Ghana, Tanzania, Kenya, Estonia, UK and USA) via videoconference and from many other countries via live webcast and online discussion.
The conference was centered on the emerging trend in public service delivery known as Mobile Government or mGovernment. The near ubiquitous use of mobile telephony (with over 3 billion mobile users worldwide and over 70% of worlds population covered by mobile networks) gives this technology the potential to make government services more accessible to citizens.
Mobiles can reach areas where there are infrastructure constraints for internet service or where wired phone service is not a viable option. In addition, the lower cost of mobile telephony permits the expansion of mobile government services to the poorer segments of population in developing countries.
The event featured several inspiring speakers and discussants, who gave overviews of country experiences and issues. Experts and practitioners from Estonia, UK, India spoke.
The issue of how a public administration can structure a public private partnership with competing mobile operators, the issue of content and its immediate utility to citizens, that of access and availability of broadband, as well as that of pricing of mobile government services was raised.
Perhaps the most fundamental question remains, how complementary mobile government services will be to the more established type of offerings categorised under "e-government'. This event also generated online and blog discussions on capacity and skills needed to setup mGovernment content and services, PPPs, role of private sector operators, as well as role of donors.
R. Chandrasekhar, Additional Secretary, DIT, Government of India, in his keynote presentation shared that in India, with 1 billion population, many living in one of 600,000 villages, the government has a programme to create 100,000 Service Access Points. Although this is only one per six villages, it is one of the most extensive access programmes in the world.
According to Chandrashekhar, mobile is the only technology growing fast enough to address India's scale of demand.
The presentation by Dr. Ibrahim Kushchu, Director, Mobile Government Consortium International in the UK provided a global overview and emphasised the benefits to the parties involved including citizens, businesses and government units. It was set forth that mGovernment is about solving real problems and improving the way people live. mGovernment has a positive effect on the economy through infrastructure development, better business practices, improvements in public sector and contributions to collective welfare of the individuals via social responsibility.
Challenges to mGovernment were explored such as those related to interoperability (roaming, variety of platforms, etc); usability (mobile devices limitations); privacy protection, etc. The presentation concluded that mGovernment is inevitable and growing fast. Hence, the parties involved must create a natural fit so as to have responsive public organisations and an able society that can benefit.
Philippines made observations about the limitations of the mobile device and stated that they thought a blending of e-government and m-government was needed.
India asked what could be developed in terms of a PPP ownership model and if there could be a village phone programme for India. It also requested guidance on how people could approach government or industry for development ideas.
Russia commented that there was disagreement amongst themselves about the desirability of enabling m-government.
Source: eGov Monitor