With cell phone connections outnumbering PCs connected to broadband by a ratio of 65 to 1 and the gap growing wider, all sorts of efforts are underway to utilize the technology to deliver all sorts of services. From a New York Times article, here are two examples currently being worked on in India:
In the southern state of Andhra Pradesh, citizens who file a right-to-information request can now check its status via text message. Anyone who has been to an Indian government office, begging men in safari suits to do their job, will welcome this service.
A number of civic groups, meanwhile, have devised cellphone-based ways of informing voters about candidates for Parliament. If you text your postal code to the Association for Democratic Reforms, it will reply with candidate profiles like this:
DEORA MILIND MURLI (INC) Crim. Cases – No, Assets 175373142, Liab 0, Edu graduate_professional
MOHMAD ALI ABUBAKAR SHAIKH (BSP) Crim. Cases – Yes (1), Assets 445015617, Liab 2489959, Edu illiterate
Being able to receive details about political candidates on your mobile phone is something that might do wonders for political transparency in the Pacific Islands.
Some other aspects of this article that are interesting involve the discussion of the technology of individuation. Recall the discussion of Sotia Central. 20,000 user accounts created on a popular Fiji social network cannot be ignored.
The popularity of Sotia Central shows just how much desire people have to finally get the ability to speak for themselves. The article put it more eloquently: to be the only one that answers when a phone number rings, send a text message, read an email, put up a post on a social networking site, etc.
What happens in India will definitely not stay in India. For the people of the Pacific, there is a glimmer of hope that these possibilities might soon help people get more responsible delivery of service from their governments.