Instant messaging can improve service delivery

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Since 1994, impoverished and ordinary citizens have had high expectations
regarding improved service delivery and almost two decades later, one could argue,
little has changed. Despite attempts at reforming on a national, provincial and local
level, Government is yet to find a successful way to deliver effective and efficient
services.

Patrick Evans, managing director, Advanced Cloud Technologies, says that
Government has been slow in its uptake and use of mobile technology to improve
service delivery issues.

Every day in every suburb across South Africa, we see examples of burst water
mains, traffic light outages, electricity outages and potholes, to name a few. Evans
says that this is not isolated to South Africa, "Public service reform and service
delivery challenges are global.

Since the mid-1970s, governments have grappled with public sector
transformations aimed at achieving greater efficiency, as well as more responsive and
flexible services. In South Africa there are 1,6 million public servants trying to
service a population of an estimated 52 million.' He says that this is made more
complex by the geographical spread and diversity of the rainbow nation and the
disparity between the have and have-not?s.

Despite this, he says there is a very simple solution and one that has not been
exploited. Most citizens have had some level of exposure to SMS or BBM as a means
to communicate. "Imagine if such a service was available on any mobile phone for all
citizens in a municipal area and allowed bi-directional communication?

Talking to your municipality would be as easy as talking to a friend. This
technology exists, it works across all phones with a data capability, such as the
widely used Samsung E250, and is easy to implement. It is called ZiNG360, from
Blazing Chilli, and is an ideal, low-cost, effective communication platform, and the
answer to many citizens? and municipalities? prayers.'

"Using mobile technology solutions such as ZiNG360 will create a highly
collaborative, responsible community spirit. Imagine walking, cycling or driving
around your suburb or en route to somewhere and you notice something amiss, like a
burst water pipe. ZiNG360 will allow you to immediately report the problem to the
relevant municipal authorities, who through a responsible citizen?s early warning, can
dispatch a repair crew immediately, thus reducing water wastage.'

The same ZiNG360 mobile app can also be used to publicly publish community
information to an entire community, such as a road closure notice for the Discovery
Walk for Life, or the 94.7 Cycling Race.

Evans says: "Mobile phones are an always-with-us, always-on device that virtually
every citizen has access to. Imagine the potential of a community working together
with its local municipality to make their city or town the best it can be. Issues will be
resolved faster, restoring services will be quicker, and the collaborative culture will
significantly lead to a decrease of costs to the local authority. Isn?t this what a
world class city really looks like?'

According to Evans there are three common drivers for the adoption of a mobile
technology solution: Changes in citizen expectations of government services and ICT
use; advances in technology; and addressing the current gaps in ICT leadership,
governance and skills. "All of these drivers will provide exactly what is required,
high-level direction on the design and use of information and technology to deliver
better government services,' says Evans.

"South Africa and its challenges are perfect for a mobile technology solution. It
has geographically distributed communities with different income levels and varied
phone types, and no or limited access to a PC or the Internet. By utilising the
ZiNG360 communication platform, local government will lead the world showing how
mobile technology can underpin and shape service delivery.'

"Re-imagining the way we use information and technology should result in major
benefits. The use of mobile technology to improve service delivery and service
remediation is one small way that can make a big difference,' concludes Evans.

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