Government goes digital

February 21, 2012


The Government is SA’s largest employer and, if you’re in Information and Communications Technology (ICT), then mobile government services (M-Gov) presents a particular opportunity. Think you could conceptualise mobi-centric apps, services and solutions to put the government in touch with South Africans by cell phone?

At the end of 2001 there were 25.6 million mobile subscriptions in Africa. Ten years later there are over 600 million. 

In 2011, 39% of South Africans browsed the web on their phones – and estimates put smartphone penetration as high as 80% in the next few years. No wonder our government, along with others across Africa, wants to prioritise M-Gov and use mobile phone technology to speak to, and hear from, the people (no small challenge in our mostly rural country with its 11 official languages).

M-Gov is simply the cell phone-based evolution of e-Gov (electronic Government), or government services on the Internet. For the public, having the government “on call” via cell phone should make it more interactive, accountable - and available. How many of us have not fought through traffic jams to get to some out of the way, poorly signposted governmental office, only to find it closed earlier than expected, has queues down the street or “the system is down”. M-Gov may also lessen the need for people in rural areas (38% of the population) to travel to urban centres.

M-Gov allows government entities to contact or inform citizens faster, to get feedback, keep watch on national/regional agencies, co-ordinate action between official departments more effectively and maintain an accurate picture of progress.

There is currently a great need for mobile-centric I.T. solutions in both G2C (Government to Citizen) and G2G (communication between governmental departments). As broadband penetration increases across South Africa and Africa, I.T. companies and individual innovators shouldn’t just sit around waiting for policy frameworks from Africa’s governments, but should pro-actively drive feasible ideas and projects like these already underway.

  • In Rwanda, TRACNet is a national program supporting HIV+ people.
  • In Tunisia, Mobile Gov provides info on travel, weather and schools.
  • IBM is working with the Kenyan government to shape the organization of its data management systems.
  • Uganda’s G2C service allows consumers to pay water utility bills via MTN Mobile Money.
  • In SA, ID Track and Trace helps people track their ID applications via SMS.

Some overseas governments already have mobile services and communication running like well-oiled machines. Good examples are Singapore, Oman, and Canada



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