Mobiles for delivery of public services

WITH THE RESERVE BANK OF INDIA (RBI) increasing the daily transaction amount using mobile to Rs 50,000 there is a sudden spurt of activities in mobile banking with some of the major banks announcing a foray in to this area. This is part of a trend that we are observing in mobile value added services (MVAS) that is moving away from strictly entertainment oriented towards utility based. Utility services can be defined as the ones that are of interest to a larger audience and which have transactional time value. With about half of our population subscribing to mobile services, what better way to disseminate pubic information than using MVAS. Indian mobile VAS industry valued at more than Rs 7,000 crore has so far been dominated by entertainment services such as mobile music, ring back tones (RBTs), wallpapers and plain SMS. Though services such as RBTs have been a real success, the MVAS ecosystem players often paid little attention to other innovative services that can be of use to a larger audience. However, with hyper competition in the mobile services sector with voice average revenue per user (ARPU) continuing to decline, operators cannot afford to ignore public utility services. What are examples of such utility services and how are they beneficial to the masses? How useful it would be for the travellers if they are forewarned about the closing time of Bandipur forest (in Karnataka) while one is planning to make a journey in the evening through the thickets, instead of getting stranded at the entrance. Would not it be good if everyone is forewarned through SMS about the harmful effects of radiation emanating from the corona and the needed precautions to be taken during the astounding solar eclipse which we witnessed late January? Though one has been getting travel alerts from the traffic police in the metros about major procession in the city, it would be of immense use to get alerts periodically; even better, based on the location in the city or town one is travelling and the possible detours so that traffic bottlenecks can be circumvented. SMS alerts targeted at specific locations may provide better reach than the traditional public address system to warn people of catastrophic events such as tsunami and flash floods that are quick and devastating. In countries such asJapan and Sri Lanka, technology known as “cell broadcast” is used to send early alerts about earthquake and tsunami through mobiles to specific regions of the country. There are a host of health-related public VAS services that can be provided, especially in the rural areas, to select target audience. SMS reminders and alerts can be sent to registered pregnant women on next medical checkups; to mothers of infants on next immunisation schedule; to patients on doctor’s arrival time; to nurses for attending and monitoring school health check-up programs in villages. For certain diseases such as tuberculosis, SMS alerts to patients on due dates for check-ups, and to doctors on the next doses of medicine to be administered to specific patients, will improve the efficacy of directly observed treatments. Tourism Promotion Councils in districts such as Kanniyakumari in Tamil Nadu that earn substantial revenues from tourism can enable SMS-based advertisements for hotels in the area indicating room availability, prices and directions to promote a tourist friendly hospitality industry. Farmers from far-off villages often go to nearby towns and cities once a week to participate in mandis to sell their agri products. More often than not customers do not know the advantage of coming to mandi and sometimes may not even know the venue and timings. Information on products and the mandi prices can be sent via SMS alerts so that customers have information and reason to come to mandi to buy products. Increase in demand will also encourage farmers to come to mandis to sell their products. Mobile devices, which are truly personal, provide an opportunity to learn anytime-anywhere. People in rural areas can be educated in languages using “worda-day” paradigm through which they learn words, their meanings and pronunciations using voice SMS. Mobiles may be the only channel available in certain rural areas of the country for enabling banking and can be deployed effectively using the strong distribution network of the mobile service providers. Mobile payment and banking enable quick turnaround time for remittances, especially in rural areas as demonstrated by service providers such as Zain on in Africa. Examples such as the ones mentioned above can be delivered by the ecosystem comprising of mobile service providers, the appropriate government/municipal agencies, and private content providers. So far, the various government agencies have not utilised the mobile services technology for disseminating public information. It is time that the agencies embrace this powerful and ubiquitous technology to disseminate public information for the benefit of the citizens. The service providers and content providers should also realise that utility MVAS remains an unexplored territory in India, however showing a good promise for the off-take of the still fledgling MVAS industry in India.

About imeitrack

IMEITrack is an Initiative to bring together the Information, trends in Mobile Industry to cater the moblie users, programmers, developers, manufacturers and stores and service industry.
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