Smart governance solutions: Innovators tap the power of the crowds and analytics


It is not just startups that are pushing the boundaries of new media, but alert citizens and proactive governments as well. Leaders of some of the best award-winning initiatives in e-government from around the world gathered recently at the World Summit Awards conference in Sri Lanka, and offered the following tips to the eager audience of civic-tech innovators.

  1. Use the power of the crowd to tap their wisdom. Many eyes put together can spot discrepancies in government legislation and funding, and improve transparency and accountability of government.
  2. Use visualisation tools to make complex information easier to understand by a broader audience. Not everyone is a political junkie or analytics wizard.
  3. Don’t just gather information, mine it. Information about activities and transactions can be clustered for pattern recognition, and the results can become not just useful for analysis but potential sources of revenue as well.
  4. Don’t just selectively push data out. Governments should make entire data sets available for civic innovators to ‘mashup’ and come up with new applications.
  5. Look for pain points and offer mitigation solutions. Do your research well and find must-solve problems rather than nice-to-solve problems, e.g., reducing queue waiting times for citizens.
  6. Aim for customer and citizen delight. Word-of-mouth marketing works wonders, as show in the case of online visa application and issue. This brings great relief to visiting tourists, and they will spread the good word among other tourists.
Courtesy - Philipp Benedikt/Alexander Mattersberger

These words of advice came from the five winners of the World Summit Awards 2013 in the category of best digital content for e-Government and Open Data. Here are my brief descriptions of these award-winning projects, whom I encountered at the WSA Conference in Colombo recently:

LobbyPlag from Germany is a discovery and mapping tool to track the influence of powerful lobbyists in lawmaking. It s a citizens’ discovery platform and uses crowdsourcing and pattern recognition technology to track proposals and changes in clauses made by lobbying groups. It encourages the public to help out with the mammoth task of analysing government documents for comparisons.

The Saudi National Portal is the central portal by which citizens, residents, businesses and visitors utilise the e-services offered by the Saudi Arabian government and government agencies. The site has open data, single-sign-on and over 1,400 electronic services. The portal is accessible via mobiles also and is backed by a 24/7 call centre.

Transparent Nigeria is a movement to hold the Nigerian government accountable for its actions. By publicising the amount and use of Nigeria’s public funds on various projects, the online database aims to change widespread corruption rampant in the country and to offer people an alternative to frustration.

GoSwift is a border-crossing information service for travellers from Estonia heading to Russia. The process used to be time-consuming and corrupt, and had side-effects such as pollution and wastage from vehicles parked for hours. The Web and mobile solution has led to shorter waiting times and the elimination of physical lineups as well as bribery. The system saves Estonian transport companies four million Euros a year.

The Electronic Travel Authority (ETA) and Integrated Border Management System of Sri Lanka is a web-based system providing 24/7 service, including speedy state of the art issuing of online visas or new passports. Produced by the Sri Lankan Department of Immigration and Emigration, the program manages the complete life cycle of border control. It is the only border management system in South Asia connected to Interpol. Within the very first year, the online system drew almost US$ 17 million in revenue.

These five winners were picked by the international jury of the World Summit Awards, the global follow-up initiative of the United Nations World Summit on Information Society (WSIS). It selects and promotes the world's best e-Content and innovative ICT applications; to date, more than 160 countries are actively involved.


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