Mobility: The next government model for public engagement

By GovTechReview Staff
Friday, 16 August, 2013

We hear much about the impact of workplace mobility in terms of the freedom to work outside the office, improve process efficiency, and reduce capital costs. But the real power of mobility is its potential to create whole new business models and offer new services and products to customers.

For a change, government is one of the industries leading this mobile transformation in the field by embracing mobility as a means to better engage with citizens.

Overall there is tremendous enthusiasm for mobility across federal, state and local governments. Mobility is really the next model for engaging the public because it goes beyond the web browser to position the mobile device as a way to catch eyeballs and create a two-way discussion with citizens.LeeWard-Unisys

The second annual Consumerisation of IT study, conducted for Unisys by IDC, found that from 2010 to 2011 the proportion of Australian workers in enterprise organisations who said they used iPhones for work purposes grew from 9 per cent to 28 per cent while iPads and other tablets grew from 14 per cent to 25 per cent.

However, the true power of mobility in the workplace is not just that more employees are using mobile devices for work. Sure, mobility can help improve worker productivity and provide another channel for customers to access to services – but the really exciting thing is the opportunity to better engage and collaborate with the public.

Mobility in this century is probably the most exciting evolutionary change in the way IT can help society transform itself. The public sector is at the centre of this, and what they are doing is very exciting: governments are using mobility to better serve what have been traditionally underserved demographic groups in ways that were not possible with the Internet because of the limitations imposed by the digital divide. In the U.S., the Internal Revenue Service has a mobile app that allows citizens to find out the status of their tax refunds, which is something that a lot of people want to know but was simply unavailable on a self-service basis in the past. The U.S. Federal Communications Commission developed an app for citizens to test their own broadband connection speed. This is actually a great example of changing a business process to put the process of collecting information in the hands of the public. It illustrates a new model based on public use of inexpensive mobile applications to collect information – in this case saving money that the FCC would have would have otherwise been required to spend to collect information about performance across the country for future broadband initiatives.

Australian governments are embracing mobile devices and apps to meet our local needs, such as more efficient communication of important information to our dispersed population, allowing public servants the ability to take action on the spot rather than having to wait until they have returned to the office. (a guide to government mobile apps is available here).

For example, the federal Attorney-General’s Department released its DisasterWatch mobile app to improve access to disaster information and help reduce triple-zero (000) call volumes during natural disasters. City of Sydney Rangers trialled the use of an iPad to identify and fine people on the spot fraudulently parking their cars in disabled car spaces. Rangers use an iPad to access a large state government database of invalid Australian Disability Parking Scheme (ADPS) cards that have been lost, stolen, destroyed, revoked, or were once for the deceased to identify invalid cards. At the end of last year, NSW Police launched a mobile website to give smartphone and tablet users greater access to the latest crime news, traffic alerts and emergency warnings. Australia Post uses a mobile website and smartphone apps to provide easy access to information and services such as to calculate postage costs, search for a postcode, view and track parcel items, pay bills online, find a nearby posting box and locate any Australia Post retail outlet. The NSW Government Transport Info 131500 app provides up-to-date trip planning details and maps for using train, bus and ferry services across greater metropolitan Sydney. In March this year, the Australian Department of Immigration and Citizenship offered a mobile app to drive community participation in its Harmony Day initiative providing information about how to participate in the campaign, watch videos, upload photos and participate in social media conversations. Yet there is still a long way to go. Many Australian organisations, both government and commercial, have not yet moved corporate applications other than email onto mobile devices. The numbers are surprising: for example, only four per cent of organisations responding the Unisys Consumerisation of IT study had modernised customer-facing applications for tablets or smartphones and only another four per cent expected to do so by June 2012.

However the possibilities are amazing – and Australian government at all levels is at the forefront of innovation. – Lee Ward

Lee (Leanne) Ward is Vice President and General Manager, IT Outsourcing and Infrastructure Support Services for Unisys Asia Pacific.

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