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E-bureaucracy: Can digital technologies spur public administration reform?

Zahid Hasnain's picture

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.

Photo: Arne Hoel / World Bank


“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?

Here is a model Indian States can implement to ensure smooth flow of medical supplies to health facilities

Shanker Lal's picture
Photo: John Isaac / World Bank

Though the Indian government has steadily increased funding for its health sector, per capita allocation is still low; reform is thus critical to effectively utilize the available budget.

​The underlying question is: Given a set of resources, how do you procure goods in a way that achieves value for money and maximum efficiency?

In India, procurement of health sector goods has been a major concern for the government. Drugs and medical supplies are not procured and distributed in time, and this interruption in the delivery of services in health facilities affect the general population’s health outcomes.