Last year, I wrote about how the ubiquity of mobiles had helped a Bangladeshi doctor improve vaccination rates and win a Gates Foundation Prize. Here is another story about how the ubiquity of mobiles is helping improve government service delivery in Lahore, Pakistan.
Even among the poorest fifth of households, 80% now use phones, so the technology can reach almost everyone. Illiteracy is a problem, but the chief minister’s call alerts a recipient to get help, if needed, with reading the text message when it arrives. It contains a specific question: did the police respond, as required, within 15 minutes of your emergency call? Were you asked for a bribe at the hospital, or when registering property? By collating the responses it is possible to spot problem departments and crooked officials.
Around 25,000-30,000 automated calls are now being made each day, and “we are gathering remarkable data on who is corrupt and where,” says Mr Saif. It is heartening that in the first two months after the scheme began, 60% of respondents said they were happy with their recent experiences of public services. That could help put anger over corruption into perspective. It is striking, too, that many complaints were over unclean offices, unclear fees for official services and petty frustrations, rather than corruption alone.