Crowdsourcing is the practice of soliciting ideas or contributions from stakeholders to solve problems, make decisions, etc. using online tools. It is commonly referred to as “online dialogues” or “virtual town halls” and connects agencies to stakeholders or constituents and provides cost benefits and efficiencies, serves as an outreach and awareness tool.
In May 2013, the UAE leaders set an ambitious goal as part of the call to action for customer-centric government: within two years, all government services should be accessible through mobile devices. In May 2015, Sheikh Mohammed announced that 96 percent of citizen services in the government’s 337 most important departments had successfully gone mobile. Now a new target has been set: by 2018, 80 percent of those who use government services should be accessing them via mobile devices. This goal puts pressure on the government to promote the shift of its services to mobile while ensuring optimum userfriendliness.
To support and encourage ministries and to generate citizen engagement, the government launched the Best m-Government Award in 2013. The annual award is given to four categories of participants: national, Arab, and international government entities, as well as students in UAE universities. Any type of government service-delivery solution provided via a mobile phone is eligible, from smartphone apps to web solutions to automated text messages. The award recognizes innovation in eight categories: health, education, environment, social affairs, safety and security, tourism, economy and commerce, and transportation and infrastructure. The entries are assessed using three criteria: efficiency and effectiveness (40 percent), ease of use (40 percent), and innovation (20 percent). In addition, the solutions must be related to a core government service offered to external customers, be they consumers or businesses. This excludes governmentto-government services; while improvements in this area are important to the country, the award aims to generate citizen- and business-focused solutions.
To encourage creative and new ideas from students in particular, the winner of the student category is awarded a monetary prize of 1 million UAE dirhams (roughly $300,000) and given business support to commercialize the application. Participation in the overall contest increased by 58 percent in the award’s second year, which saw 411 entrants, up from 260 in the first year. This competition has prompted government entities across the emirates and abroad to develop apps aimed at improving the ways citizens interact with their governments. Winners in the second cycle included the following:
- The Dubai Police, in the safety-and-security category, developed a solution that allows citizens to pay fines, report crimes and traffic accidents, and check on the status of applications, among other services. Within a year of launching, the Dubai Police reported that its mobile website had registered more than 1.3 million users and that its mobile app was used by more than 300,000 people. When the app was updated in November 2014, more than 3,000 users downloaded it within a week.
- Drive Now Text Later, created by students from Khawarizmi International College, in cooperation with the Ministry of the Interior, aims to reduce the number of car accidents caused by texting while driving. The app locks the phone screen when a motion sensor detects acceleration and unlocks it when speed reduces or the car stops.
- The General Women’s Union app, in the social-affairs category, serves as a medium for women-run, home-based businesses to sell their products and handcrafts. According to the General Women’s Union, within three months of launching, the online shop had 200 traders registered and more than 2,000 products on offer, all handmade in the emirates.
- Active Citizen, in the social-affairs category, was created by the Moscow city government in the international category. The app encourages citizens to participate in surveys by earning points that can be redeemed to receive public services free of charge.