For those who work and live in Washington DC, flying into Dulles airport at the end of a long journey only to be greeted by long queues at immigration is never easy. One hears a lot of complaints about immigration processes and it is human nature to talk about it when the government does something wrong rather than when things go right. Global Entry - an initiative of the US Government (Customs and Border Protection) - a neat way to avoid the long line - is getting it exactly right. I recently signed up for the Global Entry Program that allows travelers returning to the US, a quick entry back through fewer checks at immigration. In my case, I got through immigration at Washington Dulles in 15 minutes from landing to a taxi!
The Global Entry Program is a great example of using technology to spur innovation and efficiency in the public sector in the following ways:
I grimace when I see those ads to ‘Build a Smarter Planet’. It seems to me the planet was working pretty well before we started messing with it. But ‘Build a Smarter City’ – now that’s something I can get behind. Cities are humanity’s grandest creation. They reflect us, sometimes smart, sometimes not. Cities reflect our civilizations, and when working well cities are the most efficient way to help the poor, the fortunate and unfortunate, and the environment. And without a doubt every city in the world would benefit from smarter design and smarter management.
There’s a bit of smoke and mirrors on some of today’s smart city claims. Selling more IT and sophisticated algorithms might help a few of the very fortunate cities. Building a smart-city suburb next to a very unsustainable city can yield important lessons but can also be a useful distraction. Being really smart about cities is improving basic service delivery to the 1 billion urban-poor now going without clean water, or the 2 billion without sanitation. And we need big-time smarts as we build cities over the next twenty years for an additional 2 billion residents – this time locking in energy savings and a high quality of life for all.
When 150 marriages are solemnized in a day within 60 minutes in the same venue, the challenges are not just with the brides and grooms to stick to their own soul mates, but also to the municipal authorities to keep track and issue marriage certificates in a reasonable time frame. As many Keralites located all over the world chooses Guruvayoor Temple for their marriage, delivering their marriage certificates adds to the troubles of a small municipality with less than 10 staff in the section.
On a recent visit to Kerala as part of the World Bank supported Kerala Local Government Service Delivery Project (KLGSDP), I found that in 2010 September, Guruvayoor Municipality solved the problems with marriage certificates, and opened a window of transparency and efficiency in its service delivery to the general public, through an e-governance platform. Meeting us in his current office in the Attingal Municipality, N Vijayakumar, former Municipal Secretary of Guruvayoor, took us through the journey he and a highly committed team made for bringing an e-revolution in the Municipality.
One example discussed in a recent event held at World Bank offices in Washington DC concerned an innovative technology solution in the aviation sector, which could reduce global CO2 emissions by 14 million tons!
Investments in education and human capital have long been recognized as precipitators of future economic growth. Rapid development in Korea in the second half of the 20th century, for instance, has been traced by scholars back to high levels of investments in schooling and training, creating the enabling environment for industrialization and further specialization.
There is no doubt that commitment to education for economic development requires both long-term funding and the multiplying effects of time.
But what causes countries with similar levels of sustained spending to achieve vastly different outcomes? It's a question that burns in the minds and wallets of governments and development efforts around the world.