This initiative aims at the development of an SMS-based Citizen Reporting Mechanism (CRM) and a related data-analysis tool to improve the outreach and assess the impact of public-service delivery to the poor in Mauritius.
Despite significant increases in the share of social security expenditure as a percentage of both total government expenditure (from 21.8% in 2002 to 28.2% in 2017) and GDP (from 5.3% in 2002 to 7.8% in 2017), relative poverty incidence in Mauritius has increased from 7.7% in 2002 to 9.4% in 2017. This situation suggests a possible lack of outreach to the poor using the current service-delivery mechanisms. Gaps and uneven quality in public-service provision, which affect the poorest disproportionately, have been identified as issues to be addressed by the Marshall Plan Against Poverty, a national instrument to deal with the root causes of poverty, launched in 2016. In the same vein, UNDP’s Country Programme Document for 2017-2020 suggests that the advancement of Mauritius from an upper-middle-income to a high-income country will require civil-service reforms to improve performance and increase public-sector effectiveness. This has more significance to the poorest, as described in the Marshall Plan Against Poverty, which states that power dynamics between civil servants and citizens, in some cases, lead to behaviours that stigmatize people coming from pockets of poverty, thus reducing their access to services.
The solution consists in the design and implementation of a Citizen Reporting Mechanism (CRM) that uses mobile-phone technology to report cases of unavailability of and delays in the delivery of public services and programmes, or their uneven quality, particularly regarding the poorest. The very high penetration rate of mobile-phone technology among the poor in Mauritius (more than 93% in the least developed region, according to the last census) makes the use of this mechanism possible. Citizens will be able to report on their experiences with public-service delivery by simply sending an SMS from their mobile phones.
Based on UNICEF’s RapidPro open-source software, the CRM system will include features that will allow the users to receive information on new pro-poor policies, and to share feedback and report issues in the delivery of services. The mechanism will be mainly operated by the Ministry of Social Integration and Economic Empowerment (MSIEE) and its anti-poverty implementing arm, the National Empowerment Foundation. The target audience is eligible applicants registered in the Social Register of Mauritius (SRM) who benefit from social programmes under the Marshall Plan Against Poverty (the SRM is a tool to identify the poor and their socio-economic profile so as to inform policy-makers on the effective demand for pro-poor policies).
An expert in RapidPro deployment was fielded in Mauritius in November 2017 for the design of the CRM and the gathering of stakeholders’ expectations and feedback; the key deliverables of this mission were:
– Prototyping of a first version of the CRM;
– Establishment of the CRM’s user interface, technological backend specifications and standard operating procedures;
– Definition of the terms of reference of the local service provider for the installation, customization, configuration and deployment of RapidPro, and of the local hosting at the Government Online Centre;
– Training of local staff in the utilization of the system through the ‘designing with the user’ approach, using practical cases encountered by staff in their day-to-day work;
– Planning of the system’s deployment, including the estimation of costs for different options; and
– Preparation of an instruction manual for the development and management of the system.
All stakeholders to be involved in the initiative were consulted during the mission: the Prime Minister’s Office; the ministries in charge of ICT, finance, social integration, social security, education, gender, labour; all the concerned ICT institutions, including regulatory bodies and private telecommunications operators; case-management officers working in the field; and the beneficiaries themselves. The findings and recommendations were presented to the Minister and high officials of the MSIEE in November 2017. Following a unanimous positive response regarding the initiative and the allocation of funds in the national budget, the Government of Mauritius is presently identifying the service provider through a bidding exercise.
The lessons learned so far from this ongoing initiative were shared during the UNDP Innovation Facility Hackers Workshop held in November 2017 in Cairo (Egypt). Interests were expressed by UNDP Namibia’s representative, who is working on a similar citizen engagement initiative, to collaborate with Mauritius, leading to a potential South-South Cooperation opportunity.
Beneficiary country: Mauritius
Supported by: UNDP Innovation Facility and Government of Mauritius
Implementing agency: Mauritius’s Ministry of Social Integration and Economic Empowerment (MSIEE) / National Empowerment Foundation (NEF)
National Consultant, Social Register of Mauritius