Mobile Technology Could Provide More Economic Solutions in the Public Sector

By March 07, 2013
Telecommunication Tower

Mobile technology could help to provide the state sector with some very attractive business models, but they would need to be incorporated into everyday work processes.

In the United States the private sector’s ability to harness the disruptive power of information and communication technologies and use them to come up with better and more efficient processes has led to an increase in productivity of over 50% in 25 years. By contrast, the public sector has not managed to keep pace with the new technologies and a wide productivity gap has opened up in recent years. In order to help reverse this trend Deloitte has published a study*, highlighting the potential gains to be made from using mobile technology in the provision of public services. A mobile approach would not only improve internal communication and access to information across all state institutions but also, argues the international audit and consultancy firm, considerably improve public sector efficiency and productivity by adopting a ‘co-creation and co-production approach’ in which individual citizens help to provide solutions.

New mobile applications = time and money savings

Rob Frazzini, Principal at Deloitte Consulting, believes that using mobile applications – from making available basic information on government services to using far more ‘intelligent’ tools – “has the potential to reduce costs, increase work output and help the government to overcome limitations of time, space and location.” The study outlines how mobile data access could help US policemen save 30 minutes every day. Assuming that half of the 636,410 officers in the United States currently lack access to mobile technology, adopting it could save more than 50 million hours, equivalent to $1.3 billion in monetary terms. In addition, if mobile-generated
productivity could over time reduce new US federal government hirings, the corresponding lifetime salary and pension savings could exceed $25 billion, calculate the Deloitte experts.

Narrowing the productivity gap

Quite apart from increasing productivity, mobile has the power to totally revolutionise how governments interact with citizens, who will no longer simply be “passive recipients” of public services but will “come to play a more active role”, the report’s authors predict. Among the examples already up and running, New York City has launched a NYC311 mobile app. The 311 call centre was set up some years ago to enable citizens to report civic problems – street potholes, damaged street signs, graffiti, and other quality-of-life issues. Estimates indicate that even if half of these calls were now to shift to the fast mobile app, citizens would collectively save 513,888 hours of their own time, equivalent to $11.3 million a year. A very different example, which has been bearing fruit, is the introduction of iPads into the flight bags of US Air Force pilots, thus shifting away from paper maps, manuals and charts to an electronic flight kit. This has already led to a 90% reduction in staff hours required to build and maintain paper-based materials, saving 22,000 staff-hours per year. As carrying less paper also means lighter plane loads, the Air Force is now spending $770,000 less on fuel annually. A less successful case is that of mobile-enhanced telework: although US federal agencies are becoming more aware of the benefits associated with this approach, it is not yet happening in practice. The 2012 Federal Telework report shows that while 32% of the federal workforce is eligible to telework, only 7% of the staff actually do so.
*‘Gov on the Go: Boosting Public-Sector Productivity by Going Mobile’, by William D. Eggers, Joshua Jaffe; Deloitte Development LLC; 18 February, 2013.

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