Written by James Miller
South Africa is ranked just ahead of Kenya and Egypt as the African country most ready to embrace mobile government services, according to Informa Telecoms & Media’s “Mobilizing public services in Africa” White Paper.
Despite South Africa’s appearance at the top of the index, joint authors Nick Jotischky and Sheridan Nye note that until now mobile government implementations have been far slower to take off there than in Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda and Tanzania. These East African countries have been quicker to realise the benefits to citizens and small businesses (agricultural advice, payment of utility bills, commodity pricing information) of delivering public services using cellular technologies.
E-government is being seen increasingly by African governments as a source of economic, social and political development that encourages greater citizen engagement and improves access to services. And yet two-thirds of respondents to a C-level industry survey that Informa recently commissioned believe e-government services are still under-developed in Africa.
Jotischky notes “It is striking when looking at e-government strategies in Africa that there is no clear articulation of the role mobile devices can play in the spread of e-government services. Given the importance of mobile in Africa’s economy and culture over the last decade, this appears strange. After all, not only does the continuing growth in wireless access ensure a wide audience reach, but messaging and data usage trends suggest many consumers in Africa are already using mobile for a variety of purposes. Furthermore, the mobile device market continues to mature and smartphone penetration is accelerating.” Informa projects that by 2016 over a third of mobile connections in South Africa will be via smartphones.
The report notes that many of the mobile government services already implemented are in east and north Africa. Most of these services are directed at citizens and businesses but as yet, governments have not used mobile technology as a way of overhauling internal processes and providing more flexibility to their workforces.
Nye suggests, “Technology providers in Africa have an opportunity to enable mobile government by encouraging the migration of public sector services to the cloud. Virtualisation of infrastructure and flexible, usage-based pricing would allow government agencies to pay for what they need and flex costs accordingly to match demand. Mobility services should form an integrated part of the public sector’s cloud migration.”
Informa’s mobile government readiness index is based on the following indicators: mobile penetration; 3G penetration; mobile broadband penetration forecasts; proportion of population living in rural areas; the size of public sector as a % of GDP; UN’s e-Government Readiness Index; fixed broadband penetration and literacy rates. The index excluded countries with a population less than 5 million.
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