Five ways technology is improving public services


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If you live in a country where electricity never or rarely goes out, you are lucky. In my country, Nepal, we are pleased when we get uninterrupted electricity for even eight hours a day.

Like Nepal, many countries around the world struggle to deliver basic services to their citizens. But things are slowly improving.Here are five examples of how technology is improving public services. 

1. Participatory budgeting

Community health worker at the Marechal Health Center
Photo Credit: Dominic Chavez/World Bank

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, citizens of South Kivu Province are using “mSurvey” to obtain information about budget meetings. Using just their mobile phones, they can actively monitor, discover what was decided at meetings, and evaluate those decisions via online voting. The Participatory Budgeting project encourages accountability  by actively reminding local authorities of their commitments while ensuring that citizens are getting services they deserve.

2. Addressing policy challenges

Video: The "Digital Cabinet" of Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil

How often do you get to co-design solutions to address problems in your city or country?  Residents of Rio Grande Do Sul State, Brazil, are able to do that via their “Governor asks” initiative. More than 60,000 citizens have submitted proposals via mobile, web and face-to-face exchanges to address policy challenges.

3. Checking schools and toilets

Video: The Checkmyschool Initiative

A community monitoring tool on educational services in the Philippines called CheckMySchool uses technology to motivate government responsiveness for development results. For example, locals are using CheckMySchool to crowdsource reports on the quality of toilets in schools . This incentivized government authorities to respond to the reports: first with inspections and second with funding to improve the poor facilities.

4. Transforming relationship between citizens and public services

Beauty Of Kerala
Photo Credit: Vinoth Chandar

Kerala, a beautiful state in India, is using the internet to improve its public services . A program called Akshaya is starting to transform the relationship between citizens and public services. Akshaya makes it easy for citizens to obtain a driver’s license or keep the government accountable. Akshaya “focuses on efficiency, equity and transparency of services by reducing the burden of physical visits to separate agencies, providing ready access to information, diminishing the discretion of officials, curtailing leakages and corruption in services delivery.”

5. Providing feedback in real time

Three Men Kaski, Nepal
Photo Credit: Simone D. McCourtie/World Bank

Wouldn’t it be helpful if you could easily report in real-time if a teacher doesn’t show up for class? OnTrack is an engagement mechanism that allows citizens to provide feedback to government implementing agencies of World Bank financed programs. OnTrack uses SMS, web and interactive mapping to engage citizens who can hold their governments accountable and improve services. OnTrack is currently being implemented in Bolivia, Ghana, Nepal and Zambia.

Have something to add to this list? Share it in the comments!

Ravi Kumar
December 30, 2014

Thank you for these useful comments. Keep them coming! 

December 30, 2014

Its a nice one to improving public services,online voting is a better way to getting feedback from the public side...

December 30, 2014

The Indian railways have for some times been using SMS based application for improving the services in their trains. If one has a complaint, even while traveling in the train, then a SMS sent to +91-8121281212 or +91-97176 30982, elicits immediate response. The railway authorities attend to the deficiencies in the service immediately. I have had experience of the railway authorities attending to my complaint when the train reaches the next station itself. The report is closed only after the complainant's confirmation of the issue having been resolved in a satisfactory manner.

December 29, 2014

All these are welcome uses of technology. But technology can do wonders if it could be used in improving infrastructure rather than just improving the services and communications sector. Owner block-c

December 29, 2014


January 02, 2015

It is the beginning of a shift in the extent in which mass media and civil society organisations provide information to citizens and organise the debate. Their role does not change radically: information and investigation (watchdogs), place (media) and participation (civil society organisation) of/to the public debate and agenda setter of the public debate. However, as information may be directly provided by public institutions, public service providers and public decision makers through ICT, the role of CSOs and media seems to shift more towards investigation as a verification of informatio shared by public decision makers.

January 05, 2015

I was particularly struck by the technologies that facilitated and encouraged citizen participation and collaboration. It's great to see feedback in a governmental context that is actually respected and incorporated. I think the US could benefit from something like that in smaller scale communities as well, and for any marginalized populations worldwide, such technologies could have a particularly transformational effect.

Sonam Gupta
January 05, 2015

Absolutely fabulous post!In this post each way described a good manner.Through this post we can improve public services.
Thanks to share this great post:)

January 08, 2015

The rejection of paying bribes has led me to destruction of family life, enormous mental & physical torture, disturbance in professional life, disturbance in education for my daughter. __ and all these acts can be considered as the inhuman, unpardonable & heinous acts which cannot be forgotten or forgiven in any way. All these 11-12 years I have lost all my precious time & energy to fight for the cause ___ &, you know time once lost cannot be redeemed.
The water resource should be made available to all irrespective of person's, consumer's, caste, creed, race, religion & origin & this can be done by enactment of law.
I, my self domestic water connection at home being the effect of my own efforts through the recourse of available administrative support after toiling hard for 11-12 years.
Half the job is accomplished still I am to get all other civic amenities. Other then domestic Water connection & domestic electricity after 11-12 years due to all corrupt officials of the whole systems in India.

January 08, 2015

Good post! We look forward to more tech innovations that will improve and ensure good and transparent governance and accountability in public service in Africa and developing countries like my country Nigeria!

Peter N
January 10, 2015

In Kenya mobile money transfer and transactions have reached a tipping point. Transaction volume now average 82 million USD or USD 30 billion annually and this is the global pioneer market for mobile money! Service pays for goods and services, transfers money to dependants and is now used for international money remittances