Fourth Industrial Revolution

How can digital technology improve public services?

A woman undergoes an eye examination using a smartphone at a temporary clinic by International Centre for Eye Health at Olenguruone in the Mau Summit 350km (217 miles) west of Kenya's capital Nairobi, October 29, 2013. The organisation is running clinics for 5000 eye patients using a new application "Peek Vision" that enables doctors to give patients a full eye examination using smartphones. The phone diagnoses and conducts cataract scans, basic eye tests, and uses the phone's flash to illuminate the back of the eye for signs of disease. It also sends all recorded data of a patient along with their location to a doctor for analysis.

Public services need to be amenable to improvements through digital technology. Image: REUTERS/Noor Khamis

Gina Martinez
Online Communications Producer, Governance Global Practice team, World Bank
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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.

Here are five public services improved through digital technologies in five countries:

Kosovo

The World Bank is working with the Government of Kosovo to expand on its existing rural broadband internet coverage. The 2016 e-government project looks to make transactions between farmers and buyers easier and more transparent, while growing and creating more jobs.

Financial transaction systems are more amenable to improvement through digital technologies because citizens or users, in this situation, have the incentive to provide feedback on a project supporting their business.

Malawi

In February 2016, Malawi became the third country in sub-Saharan Africa to establish amodern online collateral registry system that would hold both business, individuals, and financial institutions accountable for their transactions.

Traditionally, when a loan is requested in Malawi, a fixed asset such as land or livestock are collected as a security measurement.

The World Bank group has lent its support behind this online public database, officially called Personal Property Security Registry, which will provide more security to financial institutions while cutting the transaction costs for businesses and individuals. It is reported that the paperwork processing time for businesses and individuals will be cut by more than half.

Pakistan

In Pakistan, a World Bank supported project called Proactive Governance is leading the way in improving public services by providing instant feedback via SMS when issues arise.

Surveys detail significant improvements in public service correspondence since the commencement of the project in 2011, in which 71% of respondents said staff attitudes had improved and 63% said timelines of service delivery had improved.

Open dialogue further promotes a stronger relationship between the government and its citizens. As the project continues to expand, the hope is that the service will also help in combating corruption.

Kazakhstan

Open data and E-government are having a significant economic impact in countries worldwide, and Kazakhstan is no exception. The “Information Kazakhstan – 2020” state program was approved in 2013 and it laid out a clear vision about Kazakhstan’s transition to the information society. The program was backed up with analytical work on the country’s Open Data readiness assessment, based on World Bank methodology.

Today, around 5 million Kazakhstani citizens are taking advantage of more than 240 various services, available through the e-Gov platform. And an essential part of the entire system is theOpen Government initiative, which includes four main components: Open Data, Open Legalities,Open Dialogue and Open Budgets. The project’s major objective is to ensure transparency, accessibility and corruption control of all existing online public services.

Being the first country with an “Open Government” initiative in the Central Asian region, today Kazakhstan is placed 28th among 193 countries in the UN e-Gov development rating.

Ghana

eGhana is the title given to the “digital reincarnation” of Ghana’s government. The project, aims to improve the efficiency and coverage of government service delivery through the use of modern technologies, particularly improving on two online portals recently launched by the Ghanaian government: Government of Ghana On-line Services Portal and the Ghana e-Payment Platform (GEPP).

The online platforms are expected to significantly reduce paper-based application forms and shorten congested queues at the Ministries, Departments and Agencies by providing services, such as paying taxes or applying for a passport, via the internet.

Further benefits include: improving revenue mobilization, enhancing the economy by direct transfer of funds and reducing the administrative costs of the institutions.

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Related topics:
Fourth Industrial RevolutionEconomic Growth
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