M-government is where it’s at

People are increasingly choosing to access their e-mail over mobile, a full quarter of Facebook users are updating their profiles via mobile phones, and m-banking is even beginning to take off among the banked in Europe and the US.

For Africa, the mobile phone remains the simplest, fastest and most affordable means of communication. Mobile penetration in SA is now a little over 100% and continues to grow. This places a mobile device in every household.

Add to this the raft of legislation we now have governing mobile phones – particularly RICA, which requires the network operators to know the identity of each SIM owner, and it is clear that mobile phones are now the most powerful tool for mass communication.

Yet, we are still not seeing a significant rise in mobile delivery in government. So much could be done to make use of the mobile device. M-learning is growing, but not very fast. M-payments have yet to take off in any kind of significant way and very few departments are even considering mobile as part of their integrated delivery mechanisms.

Technologies such as context-aware computing, augmented reality and other location-based technologies will have a phenomenal impact on mobile functionality, taking the small device we have in our pockets and turning it into a powerful computer. Near field communication will turn our phone into a wallet and cross border mobile remittance will effectively sweep away borders for migrant workers.

It seems foolhardy for the South African government to give m-government such a low priority, particularly when we could be learning so much from other countries, many of whom have quickly grasped the potential of mobile and are rolling out new services almost every month.

It is time for our leaders to wake up and realise: the future is calling.

DATE:  10 AUGUST 2010