Study reveals potential for unplugging government

Mobile telecommunications research

Mobile and wireless technology has matured to such an extent in recent years that many applications are ready to be embraced for public services delivery, according to a research report commissioned by three government agencies and released this week.The report, entitled “Government Unplugged“, is a comprehensive study of the readiness of mobile and wireless technology for public service delivery.

Commissioned by the Centre for Public Service Innovation (CPSI), in partnership with the State Information Technology Agency (SITA) and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, with research led by independent research organisation World Wide Worx, it provides government departments with a framework for action in deciding which technologies to implement.

The study found that applications like wireless networking, cellular messaging, mobile data collection and database updating, access to databases from mobile devices, mobile inventory management, remote equipment monitoring and emergency caller identification, could be rolled out almost without delay.

“When one hears of the odd experiment or pilot study using these technologies, they still seem like wishful thinking,” says Imraan Patel, Programme Manager for Research and Knowledge Management at the Centre for Public Service Innovation, which coordinated the research project. “But when you add it all up, it is astonishing to find how much has already been achieved and how many of these technologies are in daily use in government and business.”

Says Dr. Dimakatso McKay Motshabi, General Manager, Research and Development, SITA,”This report is a logical extension of major ongoing projects such as the Government Gateway and Government Common Core Network. These projects promise to ‘bring Government to the People’ and make Government services accessible to every citizen. We as South Africans are becoming ever more advanced users of technology in the daily execution of our tasks.”

The report identified more than a hundred South African providers of mobile and wireless products, services and expertise. These range from small start-ups to the local subsidiaries of large multinationals.

“There is little doubt that mobile and wireless technology is ready to be deployed in government,” says Arthur Goldstuck, MD of World Wide Worx, who compiled the final report. “It is a rapidly evolving field, and the value of this report is in providing a framework for deciding which technologies and applications are most appropriate for adoption here and now. There is nothing futuristic about an unplugged government: it is a possibility today.”

The report provides an understanding of the extent to which legislation must be considered but not seen as an immovable obstacle, and the extent to which business needs as well as citizens’ needs should drive applications.

“Mobile and wireless not only offer opportunities for efficiency gains, but also the potential to impact positively on quality of life, knowledge, communications and economic activity, by providing access to services, which has not been possible before,” says Sello Matsabu, Director, CSIR Information and Communications Technology.

The report emphasises the gap between media hype and the real benefits of the technology. “We should always adopt new technologies in a focussed drive to enable our business and not merely to follow media and industry hype.”, adds Dr Motshabi.

Obtaining the report

You may download the Government Unplugged Report. For further media information, email  Jackie MfekaProgramme Manager: Communications and Marketing, or call him phone +27 12 672-2773.

Contact Arthur Goldstuck by e-mail or by telephone on+27 11 7827003.

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