Along with other leaders from the World Bank Group, I am traveling back from a trip to Silicon Valley where we explored the links between technology and government, or GovTech, and their impact on developing countries and curbing corruption.
Editor's note: This blog post is part of a series for the 'Bureaucracy Lab', a World Bank initiative to better understand the world's public officials.
“By introducing an automated customer management system we took a noose and put it around our own necks. We are now accountable!”
This reflection from a manager in the Nairobi Public Water and Sewerage utility succinctly captures the impact of MajiVoice, a digital system that logs customer complaints, enables managers to assign the issue to a specific worker, track its resolution, and report back to the customer via an SMS. As a result, complaint resolution rates have doubled, and the time taken to resolve complaints has dropped by 90 percent.
MajiVoice shows that digital technologies can dramatically improve public sector capacity and accountability in otherwise weak governance environments. But is this example replicable? Can the increasingly cheap and ubiquitous digital technologies—there are now 4.7 billion mobile phone users in the world—move the needle on governance and make bureaucrats more accountable?
The invitation for new SAFE Trust Fund applications is now open until 7 March 2016
What is SAFE?
Let’s say on a dark, cold day, electricity supply to your house is suddenly interrupted. With no heat and light, you furiously walk to the nearby government energy administration office to file a complaint.
As you file your complaint, an official also asks for your mobile number and tells you that within the next 24 hours, you will receive help. A day later, you get a text message or robocall asking you whether you have been helped and how the service was.
This process—when government proactively seeks feedback directly from citizens about the quality of its services and makes it mandatory for service providers to use smartphones and creates dashboards for citizens to view real-time information on service delivery—is called proactive governance.
Proactive governance was first introduced in 2011 in Punjab, the most populous province of Pakistan.
Albanian citizens who recently received treatment at a state-run hospital are likely to receive a text message that reads something like this: “Hi, I am Bledi Cuci, Minister of State responsible for anti-corruption. Our records indicate that you recently received care in a state hospital.
The SMS campaign, supported by The World Bank and implemented by the Ministry of State for Local Issues and Anti-Corruption, was launched on March 9, 2015.
As of early June, it has reached more than 33,500 citizens in a country of three million. About 20 percent have responded, reporting many service delivery problems.
“The doctors are always late and the corruption continues as always. Without giving away money, no one takes care of you,” read one response. Others complain of lack of cleanliness or the absence of medicines: “No, they didn't ask for bribe, but we had to buy the drugs outside of the hospital because they didn't have any.”