Using mobile phones to fix the holes in local government

Prof. Hannah Thinyane at IBP: “I live in Makana Municipality, one like many others in South Africa that is struggling to provide adequate basic services, such as water, sanitation, and electricity, to its residents….
We came up with a question that we would try to answer: Can we use mobile phones to increase citizen participation in local government? In particular, can we use mobile phones to facilitate dialogue between residents and their municipality about service delivery? We didn’t want to gather the information to provide “band-aid” fixes; instead we wanted to see if citizens could gather information via mobile phones to engage with government processes using PSAM’s social accountability monitoring (SAM) methodology. SAM involves citizen engagement in each of the five basic governance processes: strategic planning and resource allocation; expenditure management; performance management; public integrity management; and oversight.
MobiSAM is our answer. MobiSAM is a polling framework and platform that allows municipalities to ask residents questions like “do you have adequate water pressure?” and automatically collates reported cases of poor services and provides a visualization mapping these. The municipality then has the ability to respond to registered users via SMS or email to update them on reported cases or to inform them of planned or unplanned service delivery problems.
There are a number of other SMS-based systems available that support local governments in gathering “real time” information from their residents. The difference between those systems and MobiSAM is that MobiSAM provides “real time” feedback to the respondents, allowing them to see other cases reported in the region.  Also mobile data is currently significantly cheaper than SMS, reducing the cost of participation to residents.”