MobileActive08: Mobile technology and government communication

South African Government Communication and Information Service (GCIS)

Two representatives from the above government office are here, and looking for feedback on how best to use mobile technology for communication from the government. Great to see people working really hard on working out the best models.

Where have we been: GCIS descends loosely from propaganda wing of previous regime, but with different ideal: make government available to everyone. Very expensive currently (hundreds of millions of Rand), questions about whether it’s a useful service. Mobile devices is a new medium, but usage testing has NOT been very successful. Now looking for suggestions from us. Platform on trial was WAP-based.

Some initial criticisms and points: I discussed the difference between push and pull mobile technology, and how push is very disruptive, that needs to be immediately relevant. Someone else discussed that mobile should be a part of a larger spectrum of channels, and so needs to be considered as successful as part of the larger project.

Question of whether government should use details requisitioned from elsewhere, or build databases from more opt-in processes.

Some suggestions: tag messages onto “please call me”s, confirmation SMSs to social grant grantees with additional messages attached.

Discussion is really interesting! I’m so involved I’m not typing. Sorry.

Lots of suggestions around service delivery issues, but of course that’s a local government issue rather than central government, so that’s a problem. But excellent idea seems to be a lookup service by SMS, where one can at least find out who the appropriate people to contact with an issue are. Call to use open standards and open source systems, and open information — get the IT sector involved in spreading the information further.