Central government is lagging up to five years behind local government in implementation of mobile services to citizens, one service provider with extensive UK public sector experience has told E-Government Bulletin.
The scale of rolling out mobile projects at central government level means projects take longer to deploy, and so progress has been quicker at local government level, said Andrew Darling, Director of Marketing at OpenMarket, an integrator of mobile payment, messaging and other services.
“The development of central and local mobile services is happening concurrently but there is more opportunity to try things out at a local level and the decision-making process is not as complex”, Darling said. “Local government has a great deal of flexibility to run trial projects on a smaller scale than national government.”
The result is that central government is “not as much as they could be doing” because it takes a long time to get the OK across different departments that may be involved, he said.
This is not to say there are no successful mobile technology projects underway in central government, Darling said: examples include location-based services for NHS Choices such as appointment reminders; and the Department for Work and Pensions is looking at using SMS for jobseeker alerts. “Early projects have produced some real return on investment and there are so many things they would like to use it for, but getting political will and decision-making seems to be a slow burn.”
Many local councils, in contrast, are already working towards streamlining and automating mobile services where residents can report problems such as flytipping or graffiti using geotagging.
“They are three to five years along the road.”
Greater sharing of services and integration between central and local services over the next few years might drive greater availability of online services in central government, Darling said. “They may look at what’s happening at a local level and think, we have to get up to speed.”
NOTE: Article originally published in E-Government Bulletin issue 345.