As the COVID-19 pandemic has progressed, it’s become more and more important for government to keep its citizens informed and involved in fighting the virus and its spread.
Government has turned to “fireside chats” – or “Family Meetings” as many South Africans are calling them – where the President addresses the nation on TV. These have proven effective in communicating important COVID-19 related information to citizens and keeping them abreast of important developments.
However, these events don’t happen regularly or to a predictable schedule, and are one-way communiques. Thus, they are only half the equation when it comes to keeping the population informed and involved in the goings-on in the country.
The solution to facilitating a full-featured, two-way conversation between government and citizens lies in public sector platforms that engage all stakeholders.
Public Sector Platforms
To the South African government’s credit, that is exactly what they have set out to build with platforms like Boxfusion’s Smartgov for Citizens app, and the Mpilo app. These platforms empower citizens by giving them a way to interact with government around important issues; Smartgov for Citizens lets them report infrastructure issues and be put in touch with spokespeople within various government spheres, while the Mpilo app has put information like the nearest clinic and important health tips in the hands of smartphone-owning citizens.
The Mpilo App
Our Mpilo app (available right now on all major mobile platforms) is particularly useful in the current pandemic situation, as it’s morphed into more than just a basic health app: government has used it to communicate the latest COVID-19 updates to citizens, as well as advise them of symptoms and what to do if they believe they are infected with the virus.
This move to a mindset that embraces new platforms to empower and inform citizens has been a much-needed advantage in the fight against this insidious disease.
In an academic paper that explores the notion of IT platforms used in the public sector, titled Private and Public Sector Platforms – Characteristics and Differences, the writers outline the benefits thus:
“For regulators, the benefit [of public sector platforms] is obvious: consumers voluntarily take on new responsibilities and tasks, turn into active citizens and this way relieve the government of certain organizational tasks. For consumers, such public sector platforms provide a space for taking an active role in current societal and political concerns, such as the support of minorities or environmental activism, and to shape their own future (Ottlewski et al. 2019 forthcoming).
Furthermore, those public platforms facilitate exchange processes among consumer citizens faced with economic or societal challenges and allow for innovative ways to orchestrate collective action. It is important to note here that consumer citizens participate in these public sector platforms voluntarily, without any monetary incentives.”
Having a direct line to government, then, is not only possible in this day and age, but it’s hugely beneficial for both citizens and governments alike. Governments get to control the messaging around important subjects, and citizens get to participate in the conversation and feel involved in what’s going on around them.
Boxfusion is proud to be leading the charge when it comes to these initiatives. Our Smartgov for Citizens app, Mpilo, and the MySAPS app that we developed were made with the intention of putting the power of communication in everyone’s hands. We leverage the cloud to make these apps work their magic, and by making them available on the most popular mobile platforms means that the vast majority of SA citizens can use them for their intended purpose.
In the time of COVID-19, this two-way conversation between government and her people is more important than ever, and we look forward to being involved in the further development of additional solutions that push the notion of public sector platforms even further.