Let’s face it, the world isn’t what it used to be. That is not to say that we were better off in the Stone Age when we still made use of the not-so-practical floppy disks, but merely that the world has changed in its core since then. Technology is the main culprit to blame here – it has transformed the way we work, communicate, how we spend our free time, etc. Have you ever thought about what the world would look like if we were to use technology in order to completely change the way we provide public services?
The Question of Security
Without privacy and security, e-services are rendered useless – no one will be willing to use them if they feel exposed. Hacker attacks and credit card information theft are both clear and present dangers, and represent the main reasons behind many governments’ choice to provide e-services. In order to streamline them, world governments need to find a way to make e-services secure, safe and private spaces; otherwise, no-one in their right mind will participate.
Our opinions differ when it comes to public and government services, but they are mostly negative. The main problem with most of these services is supervision – the only productivity motivator aside from money. Many government employees try to find a way around their duties, which may lead to some minor or greater issues (from teachers not showing up at school to police officers slacking during their shift). OnTrack is already available in Bolivia, Nepal, Zambia and Ghana, and it allows the user to provide feedback to government agencies – whether it’s about a slacking janitor, or a corrupted police officer.
There is nothing more tedious than collecting documents, filling them out and distributing them to the right parties. Moreover, if there are some inconsistencies, this might cause you to lose hours, even days on end. Electronic bonding is pretty much based on the same principle as the traditional one – the bond has to be signed by the principal who is required to have it, as well as the surety company issuing it. Getting a surety bond online, however, has been made easier and faster, owing to the fact that e-services allow bonds to be transferred between parties online, using web-based formatted environments and electronic signatures. This is brings a ton of convenience to the table.
Certain digital technologies are actually already being deployed for social innovation. For example, Casserole Club is a website dedicated to helping people share extra portions of home-cooked meals with those who live nearby and aren’t always able to obtain food.
Tyze is a secure, private online support network, created with isolated older people in mind, which allows friends and neighbors to coordinate their care with professionals.
The South Kivu province in the Democratic Republic of Congo allows its citizens to use “mSurvey” in order to obtain information about budget meetings. By means of a smartphone, a South Kivu citizen can monitor and discover what was decided at the meetings, as well as evaluate the decisions via online voting – this truly says “power to the people”!
Cancer research has also greatly benefited from e-services; by means of connectivity, life-saving research is being shared with the public, analyzing real-life cancer data. Cell Slider, for example, frees up trained pathologists so they can get into more sophisticated cancer research.
Although there is much more room for improvement, modern technology is slowly changing public services. E-services have yet to reach the status of “mainstream”, but are constantly being updated and researched. One day, in not-so-distant future, we’ll be able to experience even more online ease.