Reinventing the Rules

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Mobile Survey Enables Citizens to Evaluate Delivery of Justice in Niger

Posted from the World Bank

In Niger a local store owner sends an SMS message containing the single word “JUSTICE” to the short code 311. He immediately receives a series of messages asking him questions about the Niger Ministry of Justice’s hotline called LigneVerte, or the Green Line, that was first launched in 2011. This simple ICT solution allowed over 65 thousand citizens to participate in improving the delivery of justice services for the first time by providing their feedback with the help of SMS.

Credit: Operation Blessing

Credit: Operation Blessing

In Niger, 60% of the population has access to mobile services, and the government aims to have 72% of the population covered by a mobile network by 2015. This level of connectivity, with targets to continue increasing access, makes SMS a viable tool for citizen feedback in the country. Using this tool, the survey garnered responses from more than 46,000 citizens from all eight regions of the country including rural areas in a period of eight days.  Participants responded to questions designed to evaluate citizens’ experience with LigneVerte as well as broader issues concerning access to the judicial system.

The survey results highlighted issues such as citizens’ lack of understanding of how the justice system works: 53% of women respondents and 40% of male respondents cited this as the main reason for not turning to the justice system‘s services. While 63% of participants had heard about the green line, only 16% had ever used it.   Those with current access tended to be male, educated, and living in urban areas. Through these results, the Government of Niger became aware of the need to raise awareness on the hotline, especially among women. The preliminary results of the survey were available in real time at ict4gov.org/wbi/ne/map. The Ministry of Justice also made the preliminary results available on its website (justice.gouv.ne).

One of the survey participants shared his thoughts about the SMS survey saying, “It is an innovative mechanism that evaluates if the citizens are satisfied or not, so that the government can move forward. I personally think this is an initiative that should be strongly encouraged and lauded.”

Credit: ODTA

Credit: ODTA

The new Government of Niger has focused on improving its  governance and anti-corruption strategies and has placed a special emphasis on addressing transparency and accountability issues. The hotline was aimed to help bring citizens closer to the government and address corruption issues in the judicial system. The next  step was to see if the hotline was effective and achieving the desired objectives by gaining the perspective of the citizens.

This is where the World Bank’s Open Development Technology Alliance (ODTA) fits in. ODTA provides advisory services on ICT-enabled citizen engagement to World Bank projects for enhanced accountability and improved public service delivery through the use of Knowledge, People, and Tools. ODTA, in partnership with the World Bank’s Africa Region leveraged these three pillars to support the launch of the mobile survey, the first in Niger to use SMS for citizen feedback on public services.

“There is a hotline that currently exists in the justice system,” says Marieta Fall, Operations Analyst with the World Bank Insitute (WBI) and ODTA’s engagement leader .” This basically was the only thing that existed in the area of ICT-enabled feedback for government services and we thought that would be a good entry point to try and take what exists and see how to strengthen it … and here the tool in question was SMS”.

The program worked closely with the Ministry of Justice’s Bureau in charge of LigneVerte, the Prime Minister’s office, and all four mobile phone operators in the country to develop and integrate an SMS survey to evaluate the hotline in terms of the population’s knowledge of and satisfaction with its use and accessibility. The evaluation was launched on August 22, 2012 through a press conference held at the Prime Minister’s Office. Citizens were invited to participate in the survey through TV, radio, and newspapers announcements as well as a mass mobilization SMS sent to mobile phone subscribers.

The mobile platform used in Niger has a far range of benefits:  a low cost for participation, an automated data collection process, reduced risk of data corruption, and an ongoing and sustainable feedback loop. The platform is easy to replicate and can be easily adapted in other sectors and countries to gather information directly from citizens and users of public services.  Tools such as SMS are making it easier to automate and systematize these types of data collecting systems and are integral to institutionalizing the importance of citizen feedback. Mobile surveys such as this have the potential to improve governance and increase positive interaction between citizens and government.  In Niger, it all started with “JUSTICE.”

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This entry was posted on July 16, 2013 by in Innovative Programs and tagged , , .

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