Civilization can only be consisted of civilized people, with an organization governing it with all the public services. This organization is known as government. Government in modern days has to face more challenge than any other organization to perform its tasks and meet the goals. The more technologies are being discovered, the more citizen needs are created. ICT provides the governments with the ways of meeting the ever growing needs of the citizens. In developed countries, Internet Technologies have already become an easily available service to the citizens while the rest of the world still keeps on hoping for it. The developing and under-developed countries, as an example Bangladesh is legging well behind to catch the pace of the ever developing technologies and the benefits which the citizens of developed countries are enjoying.
Basically when government activities take place by digital processes over a computer network, usually the internet between government and the members of public and regulated entities of private sector, then it is called e-government. And m-government would be an extension of e-government to mobile platforms, as well as the strategic use of government services and applications which are possible using the mobile phones, laptops, PDA’s and other wireless technologies.
M-government concept normally helps make public information and government services available “anytime, anywhere” (Emmanuel Lallana, 2008) and that the ubiquity of these devices mandates their employment in government functions, simply as an example of the usage of mobile wireless technologies could be the sending of mass alerts to registered citizens via short messaging services (SMS) in case of a national emergency.
Though m-government is at its early age, it seems to have a substantial influence on the generation of a set of complex strategies and tools for e-government efforts and on their roles and functions. It is quite clear after the studies that the number of people having access to mobile phones, PDA and wireless internet connections is increasing rapidly. M-government is already a manifold concept as being mobile or simply being capable of having the mobility options is generally associated with a positive, dynamic and seemingly indispensable form of lifestyle and a productive behaviour. The main advantage of m-government as an extension of the platform of e-government, would be this drastic change in our dynamic societies as well as peoples mind which is always influenced by new technologies and their affect, which also in a sense announced being mobile all the time as a great feature. In this context, the study of the various categories of contribution of m-government in developing countries provides a great deal of insight into how the ICT can improve their governments yield a good service to the public.
Statement of the problem
Developing countries, such as Bangladesh, are always struggling towards developing the infrastructure of its communication and technology sector. E-government has been implemented in developed countries and is in all sense easily available to their citizens. It needs a lot of power consumption and proper fibre optic connection to ensure full deployment of the system. On the contrary, in Bangladesh the need of electricity of 40% more than the total national production, with nearly 70% of the rural population have not yet have an electricity connection at their homes. Compared to that, nearly one third of the population occupies a mobile phone and this number is increasing every month by an average of 1.5 million mobile phone users. Hence the current study intends to analyze the pros and cons in implementing m-government options in Bangladesh with a feasibility study done after a complete research.
Purpose of the Study
Information and Communication Technology (ICT) can be considered as the backbone of modern day civilization. And m-government is one of the brightest assets of wireless ICT, feasible contributions of which could be inevitably numerous. Bangladesh is one of the poorest countries in the world. People of that country suffer from a good number of troubles all year round. And the private sector of Bangladesh is not as strong as that of the western world. So in case of any national or social trouble, the public have to rely almost solely to government arrangements. The dependency on the government is too high among the people of Bangladesh. As the author is from Bangladesh himself, there has been an honest purpose of finding a possibility of deploying an m-government system which might come out as truly beneficial for the common public of the country.
Importance of the Study
The study analyzes the importance of m-government in today’s world and also scrutinizes through the technical implementation of the various aspects f establishing a beneficial m-government system in Bangladesh. It has also worked on three case studies and made an attempt to find out about the results. The whole overview of the m-government framework has come out of this study which might benefit any one who wants to know about the implementation of m-government and its various aspects and impacts.
Rationale of the Study
There is a vast amount of literature available on the fields of m-government and e-government though there are only a few noticeable studies on the feasibility of deploying ICT in all sectors of Bangladesh government.
The study proves its rationale by making it an honest and logical approach to find out the positive impacts and benefits of deploying m-government in Bangladesh. Also by analyzing the case studies taken from the practical fields of Bangladesh, the research identifies that m-government would be a lot more efficient than e-government and has a strong likelihood of becoming a success on taking the country a huge step further ahead from the other developing countries.
In this study, it has also been tried to hold a simple overview of various m-government applications which might easily be possible to implement in developing countries.
Definition of Terms
M-government stands for Mobile E-government, which are an extension of e-government and a matter of getting public sector IT systems geared to interoperability with the citizen’s mobile devices.
Mobile devices are the devices using wireless ICT such as mobile phones, laptops, personal digital assistants (PDA) and wireless internet infrastructures.
ICT stands for information and communication technologies, which can be considered as the backbone of modern world information flow.
Decentralization is allocating the tasks of a central government to local authorities to govern a particular area in all aspects.
Overview of the Study
The current research paper intends to observe the emerging trends and the technologies establishing the trends in the field of m-government. The study also collects data on the benefits and challenges involved in the implementation of a full-functioning m-government in Bangladesh. The paper examines various scopes of m-government to become economically and democratically beneficial for Bangladesh as well as the developing countries basing on the data collected for this purpose. In this way, the paper finally analyzes the real impact of m-government on the public sector processes in Bangladesh and an attempt of proving this system being a better option rather than e-government has also been made.
In this study, there would be attempt to see through the potential of various fields of the implementations of m-government. And this research is going to ride a number of steps of deeper insight of the most promising sector of public administration for a smart 21st century country. M-government is a very much practiced and discussed issue in running local administration and the focus of connecting regular public with the administration has never seen such an easier option in order to establish proper democracy as well.
The review in this section would first try to understand the different functions of government and the long hand of administration to run a country. Thus, the possible integration of ICT in the facilitation of these functions would also be studied thoroughly with a view of finding the dignified contribution of the system where e-government and m-government are playing a vital role. The comparisons and reasoning would always be focused on our main topic, which is the implementation potential of m-government in Bangladesh. Bangladesh is a country representing the third world, with poor infrastructure and low communication facilities. The study intends to face the challenges in such present condition of the country and studies the possible issues of meeting them.
Mobile-government is basically the system of running government actions by using the utmost facility of mobile technologies. For this purpose it is not unreasonable to find out what actually are the basic functions of a government. Mobile technology might be sought into the stream of the various actions of a government. Let us see how below.
In a democratic country, the government is the core wheel-power of the system on which the country runs. The main functions of a democratic government could be listed as:
- Providing protection of the citizens and their property
- Ensure the enforcement of law at all parts around the country
- Keeping in order with the rights and contributions of each and every citizen
- Connecting with people, as the people is the maker and decider of the government
- Create and maintain good foreign relationship focusing the welfare of the country, etc.
At the end of the first decade of the 21st century, we are now looking forward to the acceptance of democracy in almost every country in this world. Though the list of the duties of a democratic country in not exhaustive, the above are quite the same for all the independent territories and countries.
The facts that we are in the 21st century now; upon the boom in the technological sector at the end of the last century the contribution of new and innovative technologies in modern government system is inevitable. In this study, it tries to see how various government functions can get facilitated by fitting in the new technologies that can be offered.
As it has been experienced in Bangladesh that mobile technology and at a wider prospect, we can e-technology has spread to be in use at a broader scale in the commercial sector already; yet the government of Bangladesh has not adopted the technology that way. Especially when speaking for Bangladesh, connection with the public as being a People’s Republic has not yet considered as the most important factor so far or the steps to be taken to strengthen this connection. But it is not expected for establishing proper democracy at all.
ICT Support Associating Government Functions
First to say, Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is without a doubt the driving factor of the wheel of modern economy, financial, commercial and even administration systems. A system which has not yet adopted this technology lagged a lot behind than its competitors. It is not untrue to say that the invention and innovation of electronic technology has made the world faster and easier as well. There was an age say about a hundred years ago, when the only medium of communication was by sending letters or telegrams. For this one had to go to the telegram office or a post office for trying to contact others. Although the postal systems or telegram were quite fast at those days, but after the invention of wired land-phone or wireless mobile phone or even the Internet, who would have thought that the communication system would grow this faster. The flow of information got so much easier and faster that it has become a matter of seconds now, not days compared to those posting-letter-days.
A government is the centre organization of a country. It has the empowerment to rule the country and the power is been given by the citizens of a country. So needless to say that, the government functions are always about the welfare of the public. In order to strengthen this relation between the public and the government, we could not think anything else other than ICT for its contribution. Towards a process of evolving e-government system for the lift-up in the performance of government systems, ICT plays the core role in its own innovative quality.
One of major positive impacts that ICT brings into a government system is transparency in government actions. ICT can reduce corruption of government officials as well, which is a necessary issue in improving the government system in Bangladesh, as it has become the top most corrupted country quite a number of times. Technology can automate some processes which could have bared possibility of officials to involve in corruptions. Even the information access becomes possible easily to public. Government projects can also be planned properly and realistically by the use of ICT. The expenses for a development projects can be monitored continuously so that there might not be any gaps or illicit misuse which is a major problem currently residing in Bangladesh government projects. Roads, bridges or any other infrastructure projects are often stopped halfway through because of the shortage of fund which was initially passed to be underway with full funding. These sorts of corruptions are a regular incident in Bangladesh, which could see a light on resolving these problems by the innovative use of ICT.
And mobile-government system here re-enforces e-government benefits of making the public administration system more transparent, open, accessible and better connected to the public, being supported by ICT.
Being Mobile, Being Smarter
The most notable advantage of being “Mobile’ is that it is being mobile. Mobile technologies enable the improvement of communication without a lot of infrastructural development, which might become a pretty much expensive project for most of the countries. This study will discuss the various projects of m-government taken throughout the world and tries to pay a deep thought about the prospect of those projects if being taken in Bangladesh.
So what is m-government and how can it become the new revolution towards a 21st century smart government? This study found after a lot of research that it is not a very difficult question to answer, as the contributions of m-government are pretty much crystal clear all around the world.
M-government has often considered for developing e-democracy. E-democracy can be defined by keeping the connection of the government with the public at the first line of consideration. Especially in developing countries where internet facilities are not available enough to really plan for public connection though web technology on its own. Without using mobile technology, the expectation for this would clearly see a failure. It has been a glowing fact that mobile phone users are running a pretty high number in developing countries. So the government could always think about mobile technology as a channel towards the citizens. With enhanced security and transparency, mobile systems may see a huge success in this context.
M-services under screening
Let us start with various pilot projects and existing systems using the service of mobile technology in different countries. The study would go on with the feasibility of the systems if to be implemented in Bangladesh.
This part of the study starts by stepping into China which is one of the most prominent countries in the world. China has seen some projects in order to improve the interaction between the government and the public. Such as, in China people can send text messages to the local member of their respective legislature. The local representatives can then be aware of their actions and continuously getting the feedback.
This is a great opportunity for the citizens to keep in touch with the person they have elected themselves to play on behalf of their local area. Mobile technology here holds a vital role by providing the SMS technology available. If we go for a cross-section of this service, say for example upon being elected as a representative of an area, the elected person has been given one or more mobile phone number which might be available for keeping communication from the citizens. Whenever there are problems arising or people are suffering in the remote rural areas, they can send their plea in a short informative form to the representative via SMS to take urgent steps about the matter. The representative could then be aware fully of this matter and take relevant actions as necessary. There might be a lot of communicational and/or technical gaps or complications needed to be solved, but we could just take this as simple awareness information. At least the representative would know what is going on with the people within the constituency.
In Bangladesh, issues related to the matter of clear and firm communication between the local parliament or union members and the public is not always dealt with adequate importance. The lack of this attitude is not acceptable in a country which has been struggling for over 30 years to establish democracy. It is not going to be babbling about if we say we could establish strong relationship between the public and their representative and reduce the distance between them.
Grameen phone is the leading mobile phone company in Bangladesh. Whenever the talk about the mobile phone technology in Bangladesh arises, Grameen phone would definitely appear with its solid base built upon its contribution towards setting up such a wonderful mobile network base in Bangladesh. Right now, about 98% of the population of Bangladesh are under the coverage area of Grameen phone. There has been already over $1.6 billion investment just to build and improve the network infrastructure with 10000 base-stations over 5600 locations in the country. And there is still, according to the last estimate in 2001, 79% of the population live in rural areas. Also as of September 2006, from an estimate only 38% of the population in Bangladesh have access to electricity. This means that even if the people from a remote rural part of Bangladesh do not have electricity, without which running a computer or a laptop is quite impossible; people would still be under the coverage of Grameen mobile network.
The introduction of Grameen phone here at this part of the study has a significant meaning. Considering the amount this company has invested developing the mobile telephony network infrastructure and the huge popularity it gained with over 20 million subscribers, this study keeps a preferable position for this company in mind while discussing about the feasibility of implementing m-government systems and its various applications.
Going back to the topic of building and strengthening the communication between the public and their political or social representative, having a strong mobile telephony network like Grameen phone has established in Bangladesh would come really handy for the case of remote rural areas. Even the people from far deep inside the hills and jungles could also be able to not be “lost’ at least by their local representative to the government.
Now let’s spot a light on what the experts in m-government systems are saying about the various features of this system. There were several seminars during the years of 2002 and 2003 on m-government and expert talks about this system came widely out at light. The experts defined m-government as a combination of two sets of features. There was the creation of the famous 24/24, 7/7 concept by Zalesack (2002) which gives importance on building the freedom of mobile access and services that can be delivered from anywhere at any time. It holds the core meaning of being actually “mobile’. Roggenkamp (2004) also emphasized mobility; device mobility, service mobility and user mobility. All these opinions of the experts support the idea here which is the distinguished advantage of the technology on the move.
It is not irrational to mention that with a mobile phone in a person’s pocket means a communication with that person is almost always possible as long as the mobile phone is in the person’s pocket. No other device has made it possible and it holds a lot of significance while considering m-governance system. Any citizen could be connected to government services 24/7 if appropriate systems are there. The government outreach can be expanded unimaginably based upon this fact of mobile telephony system.
In between 2002 and 2003, as a part of a Swiss national research project within the framework of COST A14, MIR-CdM-EPFL carried out an evaluation and comparison of e-government projects in six European contexts (Rossel, P Finger, M and Misuraca, G, 2006). Some of them were regional or national, others municipal, especially the cases of Bologna (Italy), Issy-les-Moulineaux (France), Tampere (Finland), Estonia, Ireland and France (Buser, Cotti, Rossel and Finger, 2003). The services which have been implemented were:
- In lssy-les-Moulineaux (France), the possibility to pay parking or reserving a parking slot using a mobile phone, to make a reservation for a local hotel room, to make a reservation for a local hotel room, to make a reservation for books, records, DVD at the media library or a game in the game library.
- In Tampere (Finland), the possibility to check availability and make reservations at the local library, to have access to bus schedules and to map service for addresses, road work or any zoning issue, as well to social service information, medical services.
- In Estonia, the facilitation of payment by internet and SMS.
- In Estonia and In Ireland, administrative data access, for the citizen, on a 24/24 and 7/7 basis and national database access, for businesses.
These above implementations were not as fruitful as expected after a revisit of the programs. According to the situation in Bangladesh, the possible impact that may be brought by these services being implemented would also come with a few question marks. Especially speaking of the information being sought after by mobile phones would require a strong and secure database at the service end which is not on its best condition in Bangladesh at the moment. But about the context of paying by SMS from a mobile phone is already been implemented in a number of notable projects:
- Grameen phone has started a service of “bill-payment’ which enables subscribers to pay the utility bills via SMS. The bill amount will be simply deducted from the users mobile phone account and going to post-offices or bill payment centres are not necessary now-a-days as it can be done from home simply by a text message.
- Cell-bazar is another innovative shopping idea that been introduced also by Grameen Phone. A customer can ask for a list of products in the area of interest by sending a text message. Upon receiving the list, the subscribers can then bid for the product by sending SMS and the bidding system is not a lot different than that of eBay instead the bidding is coming via a text message from a mobile phone. A subscriber can also sell by sending short description within the limited space of an SMS by sending a text message. When someone wins the bid, gets a text message containing the winning notification and even the customer then pay for the item via SMS as well. The product is then shipped by traditional portage though. But a lot of work here has been done simply by using a mobile phone from the rest of the customer’s phone.
- Most recently there has been an inauguration by the Prime Minister of Bangladesh of a new university admission project where m-technology has also been implemented. Shahjalal University of Science and Technology (SUST) have announced that student can now book for admission tests simply via sending SMS. Students will have to send their Higher Secondary Certificate exam results via SMS to the university. The university database will justify the student’s ability to sit for the exam and will send them their roll-number and the date f the exam, even with a short form of seat-plan. All the students have to do is paying the fees for the exam via SMS which will be deducted from the student’s mobile phone account and then appear at the exam bringing an attested copy of their photograph along with them. The complicated admission process is been simplified this way only by using m-technology even by sending the student results for their exams via SMS. The hassle of travelling to university to collect the admission forms and then going to the bank to pay the fees and come again to sit for the exams used to take half of the student’s stamina even before the exams. Now hopefully a student from a rural area wishing to attend the admission test at SUST will not have to sweat to even get a final registration number for the test by coming to the city.
Thus we could see that mobile-payment systems can be utilized at more widespread areas upon seeing these projects which are coming out to be pretty handy. So on considering the six European contexts, mobile payment method could be a feed for the thought of implementing m-government system in Bangladesh.
Another feature of m-governance that can be put into consideration is getting the public opinion in an easy way. It has been quite a regular practice at the newspapers in Europe. In the UK, popular newspapers regularly put up a poll about several government decisions and actions. People can easily express their clear opinions by sending SMS to the newspapers and they are getting published like broad daylight. Opinions of the citizens are not suppressed yet the government could easily get into people’s minds and be cautious on taking any steps against the will of majority. Sometimes it has not been proved handy though. Just to mention the huge protest in British newspapers along with a huge number of citizen’s opinion against the singing of British Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary for the re-introduction of European Union Constitution which could not be stopped eventually. But the opinions of general British public were being brought out into lights by the newspapers which gave the readers an option to send opinions via SMS.
Surprisingly true that the newspapers in Bangladesh has not yet adopted this method of receiving public opinions on various issues and matters related to the country or even their society. They still rely on letters being sent by the readers. Some of the newspapers do accept emails but they are very few in number. Keeping the huge number of mobile phone subscribers in consideration, it could become a widely accepted form of expressing citizen’s thoughts via national newspapers and could have a positive impact on even changing the society a lot more constructively.
Mobile technology can also be used innovatively in voting campaigns (Emmanuel C. Lallana, 2008). Mobile-voting has been a regular practice in television programs and new product feedbacks to the releasing companies for quite a long time. By connecting a database, SMS votes sent by mobile phones could possibly turn around the current scene voting reality. In a national election, it can encourage better voter registration and voter turn-out at the poll at the election days. There is a case of this in Spain 2004 election where voter turnout was at the highest rate.1
Even in Macedonia, mobile phones been used as election campaign tools when an organization sent two SMS to encourage women to vote for women in the 2006 national elections. And the result came out as an increased 29% of representatives at the parliament of Macedonia are women.2
These above facts are a clear indication of the ability of mobile technology of increasing public involvement in government elections. Bangladesh can obviously see the benefits from these projects and the outcomes of them as it is a democratic country that sees a national election in every five years. A country consisting of population over 100 million and having a voter number of almost 60 million voters, it experiences one of the biggest democratic elections in the world. Following the success of the use of mobile phones in the two countries mentioned above, Bangladesh can also use the same technology for the purposes. Although by taking a huge and almost incredible project for voter registration by providing the voters a National Identity Document (NID) in the year of 2008, Bangladesh showed its positive struggle towards becoming a successful democratic country. The project has gone for almost 18 months with tens of thousands of computer trained personals working hard to complete working for it, which is the first biometric voter registration process in South Asia. The voter’s data have been stored in a national database and each voter has been given a national ID number. This successful project can help in a lot of ways in the implementation of m-governance and e-governance. Since there is a secure national database now setup already, it should not be a problem to have a citizen’s mobile phone number added into the database along with the ID number as well. It is a matter of government’s duty to aware the citizens about the importance of it. Even the Non-government Organizations can also play a big part in helping the government in this matter. The outreach of the government would then be increased at a level when any useful information could easily be sent to the citizens via SMS technology. Moreover, women in Bangladesh have also been experiencing a second class citizen’s respect still. Because of the conservative nature in the society, most women would not step out of their homes to the polls for casting their votes. They are not even familiar with a widely accepted nature of women in power though Bangladesh herself has had two female Prime Ministers in the past and the current Prime Minister is also a female. Steps can be taken following those in Macedonia by sending awareness text messages to women to involve in the democratic process of electing a government with the same rights as men and even empower women of their choice with dignity as a democratic citizen.
Potential Problems on the way
Problems that may rise during the implementation of m-government system in Bangladesh are identified below:
- Infrastructure: The government of Bangladesh have to be aware of proper infrastructural development of ICT all around the country. Though mobile phone networks has 98% coverage of the country population, still the service-end infrastructure such as the PC which would send out information to mobile phones and to which the mobile phones will get connected to, should be set up with a secure database protected by a secure server. Right software should be installed and a trained manpower is needed.
- Secure Payment System: When considering m-payment as a future most widely accepted version of payment, the government should come up with a series of serious security regulations for online and mobile payment transactions and should put all attempts to enforce these regulations strictly to gain public confidence in freely use this convenient system without any mental stress or hassle.
- No Spam: There could be a new law about mobile phone numbers as there is now about email addresses. That is, the government should ensure that citizen’s mobile phone number or any information will be kept safe and secure and will not even face risks to go in the hands of third parties.