Crowd sourcing IT solutions

It may have been a small step but another significant transition in terms of public service delivery occurred yesterday.

The government launched some mobile apps that will deliver public services to our mobile devices. While the services delivered through the apps such as static information, alerts, notifications, and messages, may not be complex or as interactive, for now, it indicates that the government is adopting a readily available and cheap technology as the way forward.

It is becoming a reality that somewhere down the line, we will be able to obtain public services and pay for them all online by simply using our mobile phones or tablets.

It has been a busy year in terms of ICT developments. The government and the G2C office deserve recognition for the many ICT initiatives related to public service delivery developed in just the past year. It shows that they are serious about exploiting technology and keeping up with the times.

The competition that was organised to rope in the private sector to do the heavy lifting, in terms of software development, for the government is also a noteworthy and logical move.

The government is constantly facing personnel and resource constraints and outsourcing development of the mobile apps only enhances efficiency.

The mobile development contest was announced in May with a July deadline. This means the private firms that created the mobile apps had less than three months to work.

It is a display of how fast certain things can be achieved if labour is divided.

With the majority of the population armed with smart phones and scattered throughout the country given the geographical terrain, it is hard to argue against using the mobile platform to reach the people.

But there is one concern. How do we reach those who may not use smart phones or who are not as literate when it comes to IT?

While it does not mean we should discard the mobile platform or accord it less priority, it does mean that we need to tap into the creativity of not just our government personnel but private sector as well in coming up apps that can communicate with the IT illiterate.

Already we’re seeing those, despite being IT literate, use mobile apps like WeChat. This means it is not impossible to get our citizens who may not be of the Facebook generation to use technology for public services.

The competition has clearly shown that crowd sourcing, by involving the private sector, can pay off when it comes to innovative ideas. The private sector could possibly answer questions on how to reach our rural communities using the mobile platform.

It is also important that the private sector be kept involved, as it would encourage it to be innovative and creative, so that it may provide us with IT solutions to some of our pressing problems.

Another area of concern is the reliability and outreach of our internet connectivity. Efforts are underway to bring the entire country under internet reach but there are already problems of poor speeds, old infrastructure, and high costs in connected areas.

The government and the telecommunications companies must work closely together to resolve these issues, as we cannot have any progress in the software sphere, held back by the hardware. The two have to move forward in tandem.

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