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“Reach your people when it matters” was the motto of last week’s post. This week, we shall look into mobilizing monetary transactions and applications for applications [I cannot resist puns, and will not apologize, either 😈 ].  

More convenience for motorists saves cities money

When citizens and employees requested online access to government agencies, government provided web portals and put content on the internet, allowing for inquiries, downloading and submitting forms, and many self-services benefitting citizens and agencies alike. When credit cards became main stream, DMVs installed commercially available credit card readers at their cash counters (POS). Now, that mobile technology has gained common ground and banks enable their customers to do secure mobile banking and transfer money via mobile devices [just google “mobile banking” for sources, or think Google Wallet…], government can again take advantage of these standardized secure technologies. Beyond the physical POS, agencies can move a set of transactions to mobile devices previously requiring cash or being available only on paper forms (or their digital equivalent, PDF). Many cities have started converting their old coin-based parking meter infrastructure into virtual meters with payments over the air. It does not only look a lot more modern, it also eliminates meter maintenance and eliminates a source of fraud, lowering cost [see e.g. DC]. Mobile applications can also announce the availability of parking space and associated cost to motorists, and reduce traffic, as e.g. SFpark, an app for San Francisco, shows. As the parking time expires, with some schemas, drivers receive text messages reminding them to leave, or to pay for additional parking time conveniently “over the air”, via mobile phone.

Waiting lines and paper forms should become memories of past centuries

DMVs and health screening agencies can reduce their spatial needs and eliminate wait areas as they introduce virtual queuing and SMS-based appointment solutions. Again, the benefits go both ways: citizens appreciate less wait time, as they don’t have to take half a day off for visiting a government agency. Agencies reduce their rent or increase income renting out space they no longer need: Waiting areas are often prime real estate [see e.g. QLess.com, MIKKOM.eu]. As some people tend to miss appointments, reminders are sent automatically via SMS, reducing idle time in agencies. For the economists among you: Here is your multiplier effect: Hours not wasted unproductively by citizens may be spent consuming or producing output, benefitting the local economy, and increasing wealth, and, yes, tax revenue.    

And government may want to take to heart the multiplier effect elsewhere, too: When small businesses have the apps to apply for permits via mobile device, their costs and the government’s are cut down. Example: A restaurant would like to apply for outside seating. With a mobile app, the owner would snap a couple of photographs of his restaurant, the sidewalk in front, simulate with a couple of chairs and tables what it would look like if the permission was granted, and submit. The smart phone knows the restaurant’s location, hence the government agency can assess all data comprehensively, map, pictures and all, give neighbors public notice to confirm or object online, e.g. using gov 2.0 features like voting and commenting. No lengthy paper forms to fill out, increased speed in applying and working on the application equal more business. Transparency throughout the application and validation process satisfies neighbors and businesses alike. Now, apply the same concept to any other application.

Mobile first!

Gov, it is time to shift the paradigm around: Try to not justify why a particular process should be mobilized, see it the other way round, argue from a “mobile first” standpoint. And why wouldn’t you? 

Commuting, and her virtual sister will be next week’s topics. Stay tuned. 

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