“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?
While countries around the world reap the benefits of an expanding digital environment, development challenges persist, adversely impacting low-income countries from achieving that same rate of growth.
The 2016 World Development Report (PDF) recently highlighted these findings in addition to three factors that contribute to a government’s responsiveness towards these digital changes.
According to the report, public services tend to be more amenable to improvements through digital technologies if the proposed system allows for fluid feedback, a replicable development process, and an outcome that can be easily measured and identified.
Successful leaders —presidents of countries, chief executives of corporations, or middle managers of counties — focus on a few priorities by deploying the right resources, reviewing progress, and unblocking constraints.
Shahbaz Sharif, the chief minister of the Pakistani province of Punjab (population 100 million) and a tireless, hard driving manager, built a 27 km mass transit system in Lahore in less than a year in 2012-13. This visible show of results, according to many observers, helped his landslide victory in the 2013 election.
Did a specialized unit deliver for the chief minister? No. Just a group of well-chosen, motivated civil servants and, of course, the impending election deadline.
What is therefore fundamentally new or useful about the current ferment in the “science of delivery”? The “delivery unit” approach can work wonders, according to Sir Michael Barber, who headed the Delivery Unit in the United Kingdom from 2001 to 20015 and has distilled his advice into 57 rules in a recent book.
If you want a passport in Pakistan, you wait in line – possibly for hours. You might get to the passport office at the crack of dawn to avoid the queue. The process might be unclear, and there might be people – “agents” – waiting outside the office, offering to help: “For a few hundred rupees, I can fast-track your application.”
The government of Pakistan is trying to fix these problems, including the requests for bribes, rude treatment, and inefficient processing. Their approach is simple and creative and made possible because there are an estimated 123 million mobile phone users in the South Asian nation – about 64 percent of the population, according to the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority.
Beginning this fall, staff at each of the passport office’s 95 locations began collecting the cell phone numbers of all passport applicants. Shortly after each visit, the central headquarters sends the applicant a text message: “Did you face any problem or did someone ask you for money?”
As part of the Bank’s ongoing effort to adapt to the changing needs of client countries, the Bank is modernizing its procurement framework. This will help us deliver stronger project results while maintaining the integrity and high standards of our procurement framework.
The two key elements of this transformation in Bank procurement involve the Procurement Policy Reform, to take effect in 2016, and STEP, the Bank’s new electronic procurement planning and tracking platform.
On July 21, 2015, the World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors approved the new Procurement Framework, which will go into full implementation during 2016. This new framework allows the Bank to better and more effectively meet the varying needs of clients by ensuring greater flexibility and choice of methods. Alongside the new framework, an electronic platform, Systematic Tracking of Exchanges in Procurement, branded as STEP, is being rolled out and will be implemented worldwide in the coming months.
This system jointly developed by Operations Risk Management (OPSOR) within Operations Policy and Country Services (OPCS), the Global Governance Practice (GGP), and Information Technology Services (ITS) departments, is a cornerstone of the World Bank Group’s procurement reform efforts and goes hand-in-hand with policy and procedural changes.
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.”
If you have ever doubted that the mother of invention is necessity, then look no further than Pakistan.
Pakistan has struggled to provide opportunities to its people for decades. But
They are using all of the resources at their disposal to tackle their challenges..
“This dengue has become a calamity,” Saad Azeem said in September 2011. He wasn’t exaggerating. Azeem, a 45 year-old police officer, was “at home suffering from the fever and mourning the death of his elderly father.”
Sadly this wasn’t the case just for Azeem. Everyone was affected in Lahore, the capital of Punjab, the most populous province of Pakistan. The fever didn’t discriminate. Dengue mosquitoes were affecting the poor and the rich, the old, and the young. Out of more than 12,000 people who were infected in Pakistan, at least 10,000 resided in Lahore.
It was a disaster.
Two recent blogs (Mobile Apps for Health, Jobs and Poverty Data and Transformational Use of ICTs in Africa) talked about how mobile applications facilitate access to services in the financial, trade, agriculture, and social sectors.
Despite proliferation in business applications, most government applications only provide information about public services and agencies. The potential is huge and now there is a level playing field for developed and developing countries. Take the USA where government applications are still quite limited in scope and quantity (see the 10 best). Aware of their unleashed potential, President Obama issued a directive on May, 23rd 2012 to every federal agency “to make two government services the American people depend on, available on mobile phones.” Yes, May 2012.
- Performance Measurement
- Digital government
- Public Accountability Mechanisms
- Mobile Phone and Public Accountability
- cellular technology
- Public Sector and Governance
- Information and Communication Technologies
- South Asia
- Governance & Public Sector Management