m-Government: The Path from Electronic to Mobile

the bridge from e to m-Government

You access any number of government processes via the internet these days. From eFiling taxes to renewing car registration, electronic government or eGovernment is streamlining some of the most time-consuming public transactions. But this paperless solution only succeeds for those people who can get to a computer. What about those who can’t? This is where mobile government or m-Government comes in.

Embarking on the new frontier of m-Government

We are a mobile society. 1.9 billion people or approximately 25 percent of the world’s population own a smartphone or tablet or both. That number is expected to climb to 70 percent by 2020. This steep increase is due to several reasons. The first and most obvious is the desire and ability to stay connected with whomever, whenever. Mobile devices have become economic tools for many as well, allowing them to pay bills, purchase items and check balances on the go. It’s also easier to purchase a cellphone than a computer for many people. But what also makes mobile so appealing is the convenience and ability to conduct business or manage your affairs anytime anywhere. These mobile devices are a global way of connecting and their use is growing. With that comes the expectation of apps that make life easier and more efficient. The ability to create anytime access to eGovernment service is part of what has led to m-Government.

Committed to government app development

the potential information shared through m-Government

Creating apps that allow you to access the public sector is increasing. Governments are discovering that presenting an easier way to engage with their constituents makes it better for the users. It also ensures transparency between public agencies and residents. That encouragement for more open and honest communication and availability of government services comes not only from private citizens, but from lawmakers. Two examples of this are the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the federal government run General Services Administration (GSA).

UAE rewarding government innovation

The UAE is in its 4th cycle of presenting the Best M-Government Services Awards. These were created by Vice President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum in 2013 in order to reward those agencies best embracing m-Government. His vision of “making government available and accessible to the public 24/7 and 365 days a year” prompted the competition that kicks off in late October and announces winners at the World Government Summit in February. The contest is open to app developers worldwide to promote creating a more connected, efficient system for the public sector in the process.

GSA and the road to mobile government

The GSA is a massive resource for U.S. federal agencies and the military. It provides real estate that houses different offices, manages the nation’s fleet of public vehicles and serves as liaison between public-private partnership. One of its goals is to establish an easily accessible m-Government, which it does through its Technology division and the Mobile Program Management Office (Mobile PMO). The Mobile PMO offers m-Government based tools to assist federal agencies in presenting smarter public service to citizens. The division pursues this expansion on a national level. It supports different ways of applying mobile technology and even provides assistance to federal agencies in testing and creating their apps.

As part of this digital initiative, the agency has established 18F, which is an office within the GSA’s Technology Transformation Service. The name is a play on where the GSA is located–18 & F Street NW in Washington, D.C. Its purpose is to help “other federal agencies build, buy, and share efficient and easy-to-use digital services.” While its focus isn’t just mobile, 18F provides API key assistance to its clients. API stands for “application programming interfaces.” Basically, this is a way for different apps to communicate. API keys then then make it possible for apps to connect with your account without a password. This is an integral gateway to m-Government services. When government offices use API keys, they are then able to unlock a way to interface with a website’s information on different platforms, including mobile.

Unique opportunity for road and vehicle safety apps

Through the work of Sheikh bin Rashid of the UAE, the Mobile PMO of the GSA and others, the world is evolving its eGovernment service to include a more readily accessible experience via mobile technologies. Consequently, some of the most beneficial m-Government apps are those that support road and vehicle safety. Due to the transient nature of cars, the public sector has seen these as a natural connection to offering easy ways to access road and vehicle information. These are created to alleviate congestion, and make your drive/ride safer and easier. Here are four examples of global based transportation apps:

Hong Kong–promoting inclusion, information sharing and culture

m-Government communication in Hong Kong

The state of Hong Kong offers a rather extensive list of publicly supported apps that address a variety of m-Government needs. These range from providing new, non-native residents with information that makes navigating Chinese society easier to highlighting the life and achievements of martial arts legend, Bruce Lee. Among the transport apps are those that focus on three of the most important ground travel issues in Hong Kong–mass transit, parking for private cars, and traffic updates. Hong Kong streets are notoriously congested and these apps are alleviating the issues the city faces.

UAE–putting their vision to practice

m-Government comes alive in the UAE

As one of the leaders pursuing and promoting m-Government practices around the world, the UAE is a strong mobile presence at home, and road and vehicle safety is part of it. The 2015 winner of the University award for the Best of M-Government Services was its own NYU Abu Dhabi for Road Watch, a traffic app. The Federation struggles with a high vehicle fatality rate and it shows in the number of road and auto safety apps it makes available. These cover everything from finding parking spaces to calling up a taxi to making it easy to add money to your Nol Card–a multimodal electronic ticketing card–and Salik tag–the device mounted on the windshield to gain access to the electronic road toll system. The UAE is devoted to a more connected, transparent government and it is constantly developing and encouraging the creation of new apps to support that goal.

United Kingdom and the pursuit of safer roads

m-Government example for the U.K.

The Government of U.K. offers 57 transportation-based mobile apps out of 404 total. Public transit is a large part of the country, which is the focus of most of these–timetables, routes and so forth. There are also a sizable number of downloadables that offer information on areas or roads that have a high collision rate as well as updating on accidents that may be holding up traffic. Vehicle fatalities have increased in the country and this focus reflects the desire to address the situation.

The U.S. takes m-Government federal, state and local

U.S. take on m-Government

U.S. government mobile apps are available at the federal, state and local level. As with the other countries engaged in m-Government, the goal with all of the apps is to streamline processes for residents. It is why certain organizations were created, such as GSA’s Mobile PMO and 18F departments.

To that end, individual states have an information technology advocate in The National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO). This non-profit organization represents all of the state chief information officers in the United States. It keeps abreast of information technology innovations and how those can best be used to support and challenge the CIOs to push the digital envelope in their home states. Part of its mission is to support and encourage mobile app development across different regions to create a more transparent and seamless process for citizens. Road and automobile apps are a large part of that, especially given the latest report on U.S. traffic fatalities released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the government’s desire to work with autonomous vehicle makers in response.

Whether it’s looking for a nearby alternative fuel station throughout the country (Alternative Fueling Station Locator) or practicing for your commercial driver license test in Wisconsin (WI DMV Commercial Driver License Practice Test), traffic/vehicle-based apps are geared toward arming residents with information that will help them safely navigate the nation’s highways. The range of traffic-based transportation apps are vast in the U.S. and often work in coordination with private companies, especially those at the municipal level.

Open government data for app development

Apps like Citymapper by Citymapper, Ltd. help you navigate and stay up to date with the mass transit systems throughout some of the world’s most complex cities. Hong Kong’s One Click by SAHK teaches social skills to children with developmental disabilities. Both are examples of public-private partnerships in government mobile app development.

Citymapper, Ltd. is a privately owned app development company that works with government agencies to gain access to infrastructure and public transportation information. The Citymapper app covers 40 cities around the world and communicates with users in 12 languages. SAHK’S One Click is available in English, Simplified and Traditional Chinese. It is listed on the Government of Hong Kong mobile apps area under “For Students of Special Educational Needs” and is part of its m-Government directory. These, like many other mobile device interfaces, exist thanks to governments opening up their data to private companies for app development.

This farming out of development helps diversify and expand the public information presented to residents in the most efficient way. The business of government is not in creating digital interfaces, just as tech companies aren’t expected to know everything about enacting policy. By the two partnering, each one gains the benefits of the other’s expertise to develop and offer more user friendly, beneficial information sharing to citizens. This linkage promotes continued app development across a variety of needs, which is the direction the entire world is moving.

The future state of Government 2020

layering on m-Government

Deloitte University Press presents an extensive look at the future of government on its Explore the Future of Government 2020 website. It evaluates future growth across two categories–Drivers and Trends–and how the two combine. Deloitte explains the difference between the two in this way: Drivers are factors “that change the context in which government operates;” Trends are “shifts that result from the drivers of change.” The information presented gives a detailed look at the unique ways these work together to create a different landscape in the next few years. This also includes the area of Transportation and the pivotal role digital and mobile play in the services and systems government offers the public.

A constantly shifting digital landscape

2020 is just a few years away and lawmakers are already realizing mobile’s potential for reaching its citizens and streamlining their lives. M-Government isn’t meant to replace but to link with eGovernment. It’s no longer a question of whether mobile applications will be embraced by public agencies, but how quickly they can be created to address the constantly changing needs of the people they serve.