Report urges greater mobile adoption in public sector

10 Apr 2006

A new report claims that the Government could save up to €20m a year by implementing mobile services and improving productivity within the public sector.

The study, compiled by the analyst firm iReach on behalf of O2, claims that mobile services represent an opportunity for greater application of e-government than traditional computer-based technologies.

The document, called Mobile Communications in the Irish Public Sector , identifies five factors that will drive a successful mobile government (m-government) strategy. The first of these is accessibility among a population that is technologically competent, which would increase participation in government services. The study also said use of mobile technology can reduce operational costs and offers the opportunity to maximise IT budgets and resources. Used efficiently, m-government can allow public sector staff to move to higher-value-added roles. Lastly, it is claimed that mobile services would make public services more transparent.

According to iReach, m-government would be best used where there are high levels of citizen interaction with public bodies such as in the Departments of Agriculture, Education, Health and Justice and in the Revenue Commissioners.

Internally, government departments could gain staff efficiencies by using mobile technologies, allowing offsite employees to remain in constant contact with information, which would lead to cost savings from workflow efficiencies. By calculating time saved over the course of a year by having access to mobile technology, iReach arrived at a figure of €9,720 per manager. Based on 25,000 civil servants with management to employee ratio at approx 12.5:1, the firm said annual cost savings could reach nearly €20m overall.

“The first big area for potential savings is internal communications within the public sector itself,” said Gerry McQuaid, commercial director with O2 Ireland. “For example, in situations where remote public sector workers can use mobile technology rather than wasting time having to return to the office to access email or file data.”

Examples of benefits for citizens include being notified by SMS about a hospital appointment or acknowledgement of receipt of tax returns. This would result in time and cost savings for the public, the report said. Based on discussions with senior management from the Revenue Commissioners, iReach cited the example of a service where citizens could automatically claim certain tax credits over their mobile phone.

“A ‘push’ service such as an SMS notification will mean that citizens are not required to call administrators to query appointments, while government departments can redeploy staff resources away from operational processes and into higher-value roles,” the report said.

Mobile technology can also overcome obstacles in the traditional e-government model that relies on PC and internet use, the report said. PC penetration in Ireland remains below the 50pc threshold and broadband adoption is low. In addition, many people using the internet are still at the learning stage, iReach said, concluding that such people are less likely to use complex interactive services such as Revenue On-Line. By contrast, recent research puts mobile phone penetration in Ireland at 100pc.

“Those in most need of access to public services are least likely to have PC or internet access but are much more likely to have mobile phones,” said Oisin Byrne, managing director of iReach.

By Gordon Smith