Botswana Speaks blog

How Mobile Phones Are Bringing Change in Governance

According to an article published on engageSPARK, currently, there are as many mobile-cellular subscriptions in the world as there are people, with more than half of the users in the Asia-Pacific region – 3.5 billion of the 6.8 billion total subscriptions (ICT Facts and Figures by International Telecommunication Union ITU). This does not necessarily mean that every person in this world has a mobile phone or that every region has a cellular network. The increase is attributed to the fact that a single user may have more than one device and/or cellular subscription. The study by ITU also points out that the mobile-cellular penetration rate is at 96% in the world; 128% in developed countries, and 89% in developing countries.

These high rates of mobile usage have caused an explosion of mobile technology programs focusing on improving people’s lives. In our previous blog posts, we have discussed the use of mobile technology in health programs, also known as m-Health; m-Agriculture, as well as its role in empowering women in developing countries, also called mWomen programs. Today’s post delves into how mobile communications are being used by governments to better communicate with the public and address governance issues, including corruption.

Let’s Imagine a Perfect World with Good Governance To begin with, let’s imagine a perfect world where interaction between yourself, a common citizen, and the governing bodies (public and private) is only a click away, when:- A person walking down the road in a big city notices a pile of garbage and a chocked drain breeding mosquitoes – he/she types a short message to the local civic authorities mentioning the situation, its location, hits ‘send’ and the issue is dealt with; A farmer receives regular weather alerts on his/her phone that allows them to make crucial decisions and act accordingly days in advance; A pregnant mother in a remote Ugandan village is provided with health-care tips and with timely notifications to get her regular check-ups based on her term, in an area where access to such information is minimal, if not lacking; The phone provides a quick and easy way to be registered as a voter; And countless more scenarios where we, the people, are able to decide, take action, report, demand information and exercise our rights to know and to participate in areas that directly affect our lives. Even though our current reality is a long way from manifesting some of the aforementioned scenarios, this has now become possible with the increased usage of mobile phones in the developing parts of the world, especially with improved network connectivity. Mohammad Rafiqul Islam Talukdar, in his paper “Mobile communications and Fighting Corruption” presented at the 2012 M4D Conference in New Delhi, addresses the potential of mobile technology to improve governance as well as to fight corruption. Talukdar is also mindful of the need to have an effective good governance system in place, which includes technical know-how, a framework to receive feedback / grievances / concerns from the public that can then translate into formulating policies and addressing local issues. While it is now possible to initiate and run mobile campaigns, in this case for mobile governance (also known as m-Governance), a proper system that acts as a follow up and one that complements the campaign and its results, is crucial to ensure success.

Read more on engageSPARK

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