Mobilizing for progress: How mobile government can drive development

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mobile phones are helping more and more people connect to the jobs, business opportunities, and services they need to escape poverty. Mobile phones are helping more and more people connect to the jobs, business opportunities, and services they need to escape poverty. | © Wirestock, Freepik

Mobile government (mGov) offers enormous opportunities to connect citizens to their governments. In today’s world, mobile phones are helping more and more people connect to the jobs, business opportunities, and services they need to escape poverty.  Active broadband subscriptions are increasing fast in all world regions, most rapidly in Africa and Asia.

Despite the many opportunities for mGov, many challenges remain to use today’s technology at its full potential—particularly in developing countries. This blog looks at some of these opportunities and the challenges involved:


  1. Improve access to government and provide digital identity. For example,  a mother who has recently delivered her first child and has limited knowledge of the appropriate diet and health needs and insufficient money to properly care for her baby,  can register her child with a mobile form. This will enable the government to provide her with monthly financial support and health and diet assistance. Mobile child registration is used in many countries like Myanmar, Tanzania, and Pakistan, where around 700,000 children were registered. Mobile phones can help governments reach people in remote areas and transform their lives in almost every sector.
  2. Improve financial inclusion. Consider the case of an old widow living in a remote village in Afghanistan who has to travel six hours, including a two-hour walk, to get a paltry social welfare payment. Her long journey can be avoided if she receives the support needed to buy food and medicines through a mobile-payment system. Having an ID and a mobile phone boosts the chances of financial inclusion by nearly five times over those without IDs and mobile phones.  For the 648 million people living in extreme poverty worldwide, immediate cash support can be lifesaving.
  3. Improve government efficiency, realize climate co-benefits, and enhance service quality. By reaching ten times more potential users compared to web-based-only eGovernment services, the return on investment for digital solutions can be significantly multiplied. mGov can help increase data and process quality with the potential to automate processes.  Citizens and the economy can benefit from this efficiency too. Instead of traveling and waiting in queues, citizens can use the time more productively.  Saving one hour of absence for eight million people is equal to gaining a million working days, which ca raise a country’s GDP. Avoiding unnecessary transport of people contributes to combating climate change. Mobile can also provide participation options by reaching virtually all citizens, for example, to improve public infrastructure, services, and processes. Modern and high-quality public service delivery will significantly increase citizen satisfaction and the image of governments.


  1. High-quality infrastructure and affordability: Inexpensive access to mobile networks and devices is still not a reality in many rural areas. In Africa, 29 percent of citizens are unable to access the internet with mobile phones. A mobile data and voice low-consumption mobile data and voice package costs more than 30 percent of the average income in African countries like Niger and the Central African Republic. Gender gaps also exist, with women depending on male family members for mobile use in some settings.

  2. Whole-of-Government approaches and central coordination: Governments often lack central coordination, a whole-of-government strategy, a cohesive approach, an overarching legal framework, and foundations like digital skills, high-quality network infrastructure, and shared digital services for identification, mobile payments, or central data management.

  3. Trust and identity: More than one billion people lack government-issued identification used to provide services through mobile channels. Where arrangements are available to link identity credentials with mobile government apps, trust in privacy and security is sometimes low, with citizens preferring physical visits to government offices. Even in very advanced countries with good availability of digital identification, the variety of user needs makes it difficult to find the right balance between a good level of trust and high usability.

  4. User-centric approaches: In many settings, mobile apps have been rolled out, but they are not very user-friendly, requiring citizens to upload documents through the app multiple times in some specific format and to input manual information, which is typically already available with the government. This makes the user experience cumbersome and leads to low uptake of mobile-based services.

Our recently launched mGov How-to-Note offers strategies for overcoming these challenges, drawing upon the expertise of a 22-member states’ working group led by Austria and Brazil. This group was established following Austria’s support in setting up the GovTech Global Partnership and its strong engagement in mobile government. The note presents a holistic approach to establishing sustainable mGov with recommendations for countries from basic to advanced digital development. Countries can start by implementing simple solutions based on specific challenges to facilitate harvesting quick wins or by planning and building holistic mGov systems covering a range of use cases. By moving to mGov, government service delivery can become more accessible, effective, and efficient.


This blog is the first series based on the mobile Government How-to-Note Read here for the second and third blogs.


Related Posts 

How can mobile government (mGov) work in developing countries?

Five key takeaways from Austria’s mobile government (mGov) experience 


Khuram Farooq

Senior Financial Management Specialist

Peter Kustor

Director for International and Legal Affairs

Gerhard Embacher-Köhle

Innovation Manager of the Austrian Federal Computing Center and Consultant to the World Bank

Daniel Medimorec

Deputy Head of Unit Digital and International Affairs at the Austrian Federal Ministry of Finance

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