“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?
Public Sector and Governance
In 2014, the Brisbane G20 Leaders’ Summit tasked its newly announced Global Infrastructure Hub with ensuring there is a “comprehensive, open-source project pipeline database, connected to national and multilateral development bank databases, to help match potential investors with projects.”
The G20, based on advice from the B20 (a private sector forum) had recognized a key issue for the private sector: the lack of clear and consistent early stage information on government infrastructure projects across the globe.
Private investors armed with billions of dollars were being hamstrung by a lack of useful and informative data to guide their planning for investments.
In my previous blogs I have argued that to realize the potential of Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs), the public sector needs to develop Public to Public Partnerships (P2P Partnerships). The more the public sector can work as P2P Partnerships, the more it can change the economic and social value achievable by PPPs above what the public sector can achieve alone.
As P2P Partnerships develop to create an increased scale and scope of PPP opportunities, so too will the need for the private sector to evolve to enable it to respond to those opportunities. This may be in the form of diversified organizations or consortia of private sector organizations through Private to Private Partnerships (Pr2Pr Partnerships).
A key test of organizations seeking to achieve “joint working” (working collaboratively or in partnership together) whether for PPPs, P2P Partnerships, or Pr2Pr Partnerships, is whether they have PALS. PALS is an acronym for the key activities in joint working that stand for Prioritize, Aggregate, Learn and Share.
I just came back from a trip to Russia. Back in 2006 and 2007, I had traveled to Russia frequently as the lead for the Cadastre Development Project. This time - as a Global Lead for Land and Geospatial at the World Bank - I saw something I did not expect to see.
Privatization of real-estate properties and protecting property rights became two important pillars of transformation following the end of the Soviet era. But, while they were important policy goals in the 1990s, the system did not really function properly: rights were not fully protected and people waited for many months to register property transactions.
Across Africa, innovators are using open data to gain greater insight into local issues, and create new public services. From government open data platforms to startup accelerator programmes, open data is increasingly recognised as a tool for tackling challenges across a range of sectors including health, education and agriculture.
This autumn, in six cities across South Africa the Responsive Cities Challenge encouraged designers and entrepreneurs to use open data to develop solutions that will improve local government services. Meanwhile, in Burkina Faso, the CartEau project is using open data to map safe drinking water points and latrines across the country for the first time. These examples show how open data is a powerful vehicle for addressing complex problems.
Increasing digital connectivity is important for economic growth, education and democratic participation but the equalising force of the Web is only meaningful when everyone is included in the digital sphere. According to the Web Foundation, women face disproportionate barriers to access, with poor women in urban areas in 10 developing countries they looked at 50% less likely to be connected to the Internet than men in the same age group.
Open data – data anyone can access, use or share – is transformative infrastructure for a digital economy that is consistently innovating and bringing the benefits of the Web to society. Open data often goes hand in hand with open working cultures and open business practices. While this culture lends itself to diversity, it is important that those who are involved in open data make sure it addresses everyone's needs. It is therefore encouraging to see that open data initiatives in African countries are being led by women.
As Mongolia suffers with economic instability due to external and internal circumstances, how can we improve performance of basic public services in a way that works well in the Mongolian context but also brings sustained outcomes?
When seeking to engage private partners, one thinks of large, high-cost national infrastructure projects. But subnational governments are also effectively partnering with the private sector by leveraging assets, rethinking “infrastructure,” and establishing mechanisms to give long-term security.
Some Latin American governments are capitalizing on legislative frameworks for Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs)—in some cases tailoring laws for subnational use, and using experience gained from large-scale national projects.
While not always technically PPPs, this private sector capacity can be harnessed to deliver innovative smaller projects, from using drones to deliver medicines to health centers in rural communities in the Dominican Republic to building market stalls in a new Honduran bus terminal to spur the development of small businesses.
Here are three ways cities and municipalities can mobilize capital and innovation in infrastructure.
The Stade Vélodrome in Marseille, France. Photo Credit: Ben Sutherland via Flickr Creative Commons
In June 2016, nearly 2.5 million enthusiastic spectators gathered in France to attend the Euro 2016 soccer tournament.
Those participating in matches in Lille, Bordeaux, Marseille or Nice would have noticed the brand new facilities and bold architectural design, but most probably didn’t realize these stadiums had been either constructed or modernized with financing through the relatively new “Contrat de partenariat” public-private partnership (PPP) scheme.
Performance budgeting (PB) has a deep and enduring appeal. What government would not want to allocate resources in a way that fosters efficiency, effectiveness, transparency, and accountability? However, such aspirations have proven poor predictors of how performance data are actually used.
The potential benefits of identifying and tracking the goals of public spending are undeniable, but have often justified a default adoption of overly complex systems of questionable use. Faith in PB is sustained by a willingness to forget past negative experiences and assume that this time it will be different. Without a significant re-evaluation, PB’s history of disappointment seems likely also to be its future.
My visit to Pakistan began last week at the enormous Tarbela dam. Straddling the Indus River, this earth- and rock-filled structure is almost 500 feet high and 9,000 feet wide. It is a monument to Pakistan's scientific and engineering ability. It also illustrates the opportunities and challenges facing Pakistan.
I was last in Pakistan in 2011 and I can see that big changes have happened since then.
The country has worked through three tough years that brought improvements in security and a more stable economy. Much of the economic growth has benefited poor people and Pakistan's levels of inequality compare favourably to many middle-income countries.
Speaking to leaders in government, political parties, civil society, the private sector and various thought leaders, I sensed an optimism that the country had found its footing and is moving up the ladder of development.
This optimism is good news. But optimism needs to be supported by actions. Pakistan can move to a higher level of economic growth that reaches all parts of society, including the most marginalised, and thus fulfilling the dreams of a better life for all.
Three opportunities and challenges for Pakistan
In my discussions with the government in Pakistan we focused on three areas of opportunity and challenge: the first is higher growth and jobs. The government wants annual economic growth of 6 to 7 per cent compared to 4.7 per cent achieved in fiscal year 2016. But this will only happen if investment doubles to 30 per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Investments in energy, such as Tarbela, to end constant power cuts, as well as improvements in the business environment, so that companies hire more people, will be critical to success. A more favorable environment for private investment would open up opportunities for women, youth, and the underserved.