Mark Bar­tolo

Malta Independent - - NEWS -

On Mon­day 21st Novem­ber, the Prin­ci­ple Per­ma­nent Sec­re­tary launched the Mo­bile Govern­ment Strat­egy for 2017-2018. This strat­egy puts for­ward the Govern­ment’s plans for the pro­vi­sion of pub­lic ser­vices over mo­bile de­vices (mSer­vices) for the next two years and is an­other build­ing block in the achieve­ment of the ul­ti­mate vi­sion of pro­vid­ing ac­cess to 24x7 pub­lic ser­vices from any­where.

Haven’t we heard this all be­fore? Well, yes… and no.

eGovern­ment ser­vices have been with us for a num­ber of years. Th­ese had also her­alded the prom­ise of the avail­abil­ity of pub­lic ser­vices at any time. Through the eGovern­ment pro­gram, Malta has in fact fared very well in­ter­na­tion­ally in the pro­vi­sion of dig­i­tal ser­vices, both in terms of their num­ber and di­ver­sity. How­ever, th­ese were largely in­tended and de­signed to be ac­cessed and con­sumed on per­sonal com­put­ers and lap­tops, which meant that “any time” was any time that one was seated at a PC or lap­top. Since then, the use of mo­bile de­vices has in­creased rapidly and the preva­lence of mo­bile sub­scrip­tions per capita in Malta is now more than triple the num­ber of fixed broad­band con­nec­tions.

There­fore, the mo­bile chan­nel opens up the pos­si­bil­ity of reach­ing a greater num­ber of in­di­vid­u­als across a wider spec­trum of ages and walks of life. The fact that mo­bile de­vices are car­ried around in peo­ple’s pock­ets gives new mean­ing to “any time” and, fur­ther, adds the di­men­sion of “any­where”, mak­ing 24x7 pub­lic ser­vices far more real­is­ti­cally achiev­able.

Mo­bile Govern­ment is not in­tended to re­place ex­ist­ing forms of ser­vice pro­vi­sion, such as over­the-counter or eGovern­ment, but is the next nat­u­ral step in their evo­lu­tion and sup­ple­ments them by pro­vid­ing an al­ter­na­tive, more ac­ces­si­ble chan­nel. Soft­ware tools, typ­i­cally mo­bile apps, shall be made avail­able for use on in­di­vid­u­als’ mo­bile de­vices, thus plac­ing ac­cess to pub­lic ser­vices right into cit­i­zens’ hands. But al­though the tech­nol­ogy may be the most ob­vi­ous com­po­nent from the con­sumers’ per­spec­tive, it is but the tip of the ice­berg that is the Pub­lic Ser­vice Re­newal Pro­gram, driven by the Of­fice of the Prin­ci­pal Per­ma­nent Sec­re­tary in the Prime Min­is­ter’s Of­fice, which aims to achieve higher lev­els of excellence in the pro­vi­sion of pub­lic ser­vices by, amongst other things, re­duc­ing bu­reau­cracy. For Mo­bile Govern­ment to suc­ceed, the Pub­lic Ad­min­is­tra­tion shall also need to stream­line its pro­cesses and re­visit its or­ga­ni­za­tional struc­tures, as well as in­tro­duce any new work­ing prac­tices with as­so­ci­ated train­ing and skills-build­ing that are nec­es­sary to bring about the trans­for­ma­tion en­vi­sioned by the re­newal pro­gram.

It is gen­er­ally pos­si­ble to clas­sify mSer­vices into one or more of four cat­e­gories: mCom­mu­ni­ca­tions deals with two-way com­mu­ni­ca­tion of Govern­ment with cit­i­zens and busi­nesses; mTrans­ac­tions han­dles transactional ser­vices, in­clud­ing pay­ments that may re­quire user iden­ti­fi­ca­tion; mDemoc­racy fur­ther in­creases cit­i­zen par­tic­i­pa­tion in po­lit­i­cal de­ci­sion mak­ing while mAd­min­is­tra­tion in­tro­duces mo­bile-based tools for pub­lic of­fi­cers to in­crease their mo­bil­ity and fa­cil­i­tate per­son­alised pub­lic ser­vices on lo­ca­tion.

Fol­low­ing on from the Mo­bile Govern­ment par­a­digm, the next pro­jected step in the pro­gres­sion of pub­lic ser­vices is the once-only pro­vi­sion of in­for­ma­tion by cit­i­zens and busi­nesses. Al­though not strictly ad­dressed by this strat­egy, this prin­ci­ple is be­ing pre­sented as a tar­get for fur­ther im­prove­ment in the de­liv­ery of 24x7 pub­lic ser­vices.

The launch of the Mo­bile Govern­ment Strat­egy was ac­com­pa­nied by the soft launch of a num­ber of mSer­vices. Th­ese are the first wave of pub­lic ser­vices to ex­ploit the mo­bile chan­nel and fo­cus on the mCom­mu­ni­ca­tions cat­e­gory. They are also serv­ing to present a new ap­proach to in­tro­duc­ing pub­lic ser­vices by mak­ing their as­so­ci­ated mo­bile apps avail­able to ded­i­cated fo­cus groups for beta test­ing. In this way, in­ter­ested stake­hold­ers are be­ing in­volved in the de­vel­op­ment process from its ini­ti­a­tion. The feed­back gained from this ex­er­cise will be used to im­prove th­ese ser­vices be­fore their of­fi­cial launch for pub­lic use in March 2017. This de­ploy­ment model shall also be used for the sec­ond phase of de­liv­ery that shall see mSer­vices be­ing in­tro­duced in the mTrans­ac­tions cat­e­gory for beta test­ing by De­cem­ber 2017 and of­fi­cial launch in March 2018. By De­cem­ber 2018, the fi­nal set of mSer­vices cov­ered by this strat­egy, this time ad­dress­ing mDemoc­racy and mAd­min­is­tra­tion, shall be de­liv­ered, ac­com­pa­nied by a re­vi­sion of the strat­egy for the next pe­riod.

The Mo­bile Govern­ment ini­tia­tive is sup­ported by the Malta In­for­ma­tion Tech­nol­ogy Agency (MITA). MITA has ac­tively con­trib­uted to­wards the ar­tic­u­la­tion of the Strat­egy and re­lated con­sul­ta­tion ex­er­cises and is over­see­ing the tech­ni­cal im­ple­men­ta­tion of the re­sult­ing mo­bile apps. The Mo­bile Govern­ment Strat­egy is cur­rently avail­able on the MITA por­tal at Doc­u­ments/MOB%20STRATEGY%20SML.PDF

MITA En­ter­prise Ar­chi­tect – ICT Pol­icy

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