Speaking at the fourth meeting of the 15th session of the Committee of Experts on Public Administration (CEPA 2016), which focused on improving engagement and communication between government and stakeholders through online and mobile solutions, CEPA member and Director of the National Insurance Board (NIB) Rowena Bethel looked past e-government to what she termed "m-government" - the ways mobile phones can be used to deliver government services. She cited industry research showing there were 3.6 billion mobile subscribers by end 2014.
"Half of the world's population now has a mobile subscription," she said, "as opposed to one in five a decade ago."
"The ITU has recognized mobile government to be a facilitator of anytime/anywhere service as well as reducing the digital divide," she said, pointing to the use of SMS messaging and interactive voice response to manage such things as natural disaster responses, health and education notices.
Mobile technology is enhancing the value of government services from electronic wallets, to voting and election monitoring, she said. Online and mobile solutions to engage and communicate with government makes citizen input more manageable and expands the engagement base. Mobile phones have a particular advantage, she said, in countries with limited access to fixed computer devices. They facilitate e-participation: emailing, blogs, online forums, social media, wikis, weblogs, crowdsourcing and other so-called open government tools.
None left behind
The committee is responsible for supporting the work of ECOSOC (the United Nations Economic and Social Council) concerning the promotion and development of public administration and governance among member states, in connection with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Speaking at the meetings in New York last week, Bethel examined the rationale for what she stressed are unprecedented levels of communication and engagement between stakeholders. She pointed out that a fundamental principle of the SDGs is that "no one is left behind".
"Fundamentally, therefore, the key to realizing this overarching goal lies in having a profound appreciation for exactly what it will take to achieve this ideal. It is also important to appreciate that what it will take will differ from one country to another.
"Nonetheless, it has become manifestly clear that policy coherence in all cases is a key ingredient," she said.
Bethel asserted that ensuring the achievement of the goals will depend on properly identifying those things that prevent the goals from being achieved, plus an understanding of what the citizen needs in order to participate and be effective.
"The 2030 agenda demands even greater coherence in the way public administration operates, both internally and with external stakeholders... Simply put, citizens must be able to influence the decisions that affect them, recognizing the lack of the state's capacity to solve all problems that the citizen truly cares about, and that the input of citizens is necessary to address the complexity of the issues they face," she said.
Bethel asserted that information and communication technologies (ICTs) act as an enabler of better government, facilitating transparent and accountable public administration and acting as a primary enabler of policy integration. She said the use of ICTs build trust in government by permitting avenues for input and feedback through use of such tools as Facebook, Youtube and Twitter.
"The ability of ICTs to create the enabling infrastructure to permit government to push out information to masses of people in real time, make available government information on a large scale and provide the means for interaction with government machinery has been nothing short of revolutionary," she said.
Bethel adopted the Gartner model for the development of online government, which recognizes four steps in that journey: static information on the web; interactive - downloadable forms and emails; secure transactional activities; and connecting/joining up, such as in one-stop-shop environments.
She said countries are moving toward a digital government model, "in which the potential and value of vast amounts of data stored in systems can be exploited, add value and help to create a culture of preemption in which governments can anticipate needs of citizens and provide for these proactively".
Bethel also hailed "crowdsourcing" as an innovative tool for engagement, particularly "policy crowdsourcing".
Source The Nassau Guardian