Exam Results Through Short Messages Services (SMS)
Ministry of Education

A. Problem Analysis

 1. What was the problem before the implementation of the initiative?
Prior to the implementation of the initiative, announcements on the release of 'O', 'A' and 'AS' level examination results to the public were broadcast through radio and television as well as published in newspapers. They were also made available for viewing and collection from their respective schools. Either students or/and parents were able to collect their results the following working day prior to its release. Diskettes were also made available for sale at a cost of BND10 upon release of the results to the public. A major issue concerned the time gap between the release of the results and the actual collection of exam results. Students and their families would have to collect their results as per usual from their education institution which has resulted in a congestion of people on the day the examination results were released. Privacy and security issues were also raised, as diskettes containing examination results for all students were easily distributed to public with no cost after purchase. This has led to individual private risk of students as their full name is made available to anyone. Some diskettes were also found to contain viruses, which spread from one computer to another as the diskettes were usually shared among peers once received. Misinformation was also another problem as examination results would then be made available through unofficial channels due to being posted on website forums and blogs. Families on holiday would rely on these sources or second hand information, only to return to have different information presented to them. This practice has resulted in criticisms towards the integrity of information made available from educational institutions. On a macro level, Brunei Daurussalam is also striving to develop the ICT industry to enhance and develop a knowledge based economy. This is a move to lessen Brunei’s reliance on the oil and gas sector which contributed to over 60% GDP of the overall economy. Due to this, the government of Brunei had been looking for ways to engage local ICT companies for partnerships in projects that would enhance public service as well as provide opportunities to develop the growing ICT sector of Brunei.

B. Strategic Approach

 2. What was the solution?
The common motivation of governments is to provide SMS based e-government services which have become popular due to the characteristics of SMS technology. Based on the fact that the penetration of mobile phones are very high, coupled with the popular usage of SMS which is simple to use, low cost, has an extensive infrastructure, and able to reach mobile phone users anytime and anywhere, even in areas with no internet access, it is believed that an SMS based e-government initiative could reach and enable more citizens to use e-government services. The SMS based e-government solution was considered a better alternative to internet based e-government solutions due to the number of users. In 2008 the SMS based solution was also preferable due to the still developing Internet infrastructure, high IT illiteracy rate, high cost and low affordability of computers and devices to access Internet services. Although much has been modernized in Brunei since then, mobile subscribers are still higher than Internet subscribers. The extensive mobile technology infrastructure has been much improved but the SMS cost is much lower compared Internet costs and mobile phones are still more affordable than computers in Brunei. Based on the Brunei Darussalam Key Indicators 2011 (Department of Economic Planning and Development, Prime Minister Office (http://www.bedb.com.bn/documents/bdki/bdki.2011.pdf), the mobile subscribers are more than the population. In 2010, the population of Brunei Darussalam was 414,400 and the mobile subscribers were estimated at 435,104. Thus, the mobile penetration is more than 100 percent. In comparison, there were less than 71,000 Internet subscribers for both broadband and dial-up services, which is about 16 percent of the Brunei’s population Department of ICT under the Ministry of Education proposed the initiative in collaboration with Mobile Service Providers namely; DST Communications Sdn Bhd (DST), B-Mobile Communication Sdn Bhd (B-Mobile) and Mach Telecommunications Systems Sdn Bhd (MachTel) as Solution Provider. The solution proposed was to provide a SMS based system of examination results to candidates. The results can be obtained by registering to the Ministry of Educations web portal platform or/and SMS to service providers. Results are made available to registered mobile phone number(s) via SMS by matching the index number stored in the registration database from the Department of Examinations, Ministry of Education. This would deliver more personal information to the relevant recipient(s). The time taken for students/families to obtain their examination results were reduced due to the instant delivery of information to subscribers once the results were allowed to be made available to the public. This solution was also more convenient for students/families that lived far away as they did not have to travel a great distance in order to check their examination results. Students/families were also assured of the integrity and reliability of the first-hand information received as it was delivered directly from the source. They did not feel the urgency to journey to educational institutions in order to verify the information which in turn reduced crowding at schools when examination results are released. As this was also a collaborative effort by government with local ICT companies, it provided exposure and experience to the companies involved in implementing a nationwide project as well as a return on investment to fund future projects.

 3. How did the initiative solve the problem and improve people’s lives?
Towards the end of 2007, mobile phones became an important part of human lives for not just making calls but also for information gathering, personal management and entertainment. The SMS based examination results system contributed to the reduction of time taken for students to retrieve their results. This is achieved through instant SMS compared to time consuming manual procedures. In context to Brunei Darussalam, this particular initiative is innovative as it makes use of the current infrastructure and popularity of mobile phones in order to streamline and improve a well-established routine and practice by Bruneian citizens by evolving a manual based procedure into digitalized technology. What makes it creative is that it is an option for obtaining examination results as an alternative to the manual procedure which is still made available. Furthermore, the subscribers are charged a fee of BND3.00 for every SMS result received. To date, the Ministry of Education has reached over BND50,000 in revenue from this initiative and can be considered another creative catalyst in assisting the nation’s economic development in ICT on top of providing opportunities to develop local companies.

C. Execution and Implementation

 4. In which ways is the initiative creative and innovative?
1. Submission of Project Charter to MOE: Project Charter was submitted to the senior executive officers of the Ministry of Education for approval and sponsorship. 2. Application of the short code number to telcos: A short code number is required so that each subscriber from each mobile service provider can send the SMS request to their respective short code number assigned. 3. Application for the provisioning of the SMS Examination Result to telcos: An application for the provisioning of the SMS Examination result is submitted together with the detail message flows for mobile service provider verification and approval. 4. Design, development of the SMS Examination Result Application: The design and the development of the SMS Examination result application are initiated. The design is based on the exact requirement of the Ministry of Education and verification from each Mobile Service provider. 5. Designing the database for the student list and examination results: The design of the database shall be in sync with the database structure given by the Ministry of Education with additional fields for the report, status and control. 6. Integration to the SMS Gateway: The SMS Gateway is configured to select an appropriate message for a specific short code number to be sent to. 7. Testing and debugging: To test a different scenario and verify the expected result is produced, else review the coding and correct as necessary. 8. Configuration and Integration of the SMS Gateway to the mobile service providers’ core network: To configure the SMS Gateway with the parameters given by each mobile service provider to establish connection to their core network. 9. Live testing with dummy data: Dummy data is generated to be used on the live testing scenarios in order to verify all the functionality of the application is working as expected. 10. Production stage: The application is ready for the registration and pushing.

 5. Who implemented the initiative and what is the size of the population affected by this initiative?
After a series of business scenarios conducted within relevant Ministry of Education stakeholders (Department of ICT, Department of Examinations and Department of Schools), requirements were gathered and validated in order to implement the initiative. The Mobile Service Providers (DST and B-Mobile) and Solution Provider (MachTel) were also communicated throughout the project in order to understand the requirements and specifications for the initiative. During the final stages before the release of the examination results system, all the stakeholders collaboratively supported the business processes needed to materialize the initiative. Press Media were involved for change management in order to provide awareness to the public regarding the process involved in registering for the service and as well as the announcement of when the examination results system would be released.
 6. How was the strategy implemented and what resources were mobilized?
This initiative is a Public Private Partnership (PPP) between the Ministry of Education, Mobile Services Providers and the Solution Provider through a revenue sharing model. With this model the Ministry was still able to invest with zero capital and mitigate maximum risk through the PPP. The other stakeholders were incentivized by the possibility of a greater return on investment to Mobile Service Providers as well as providing exposure and credibility to the Solution Provider (MachTel).

 7. Who were the stakeholders involved in the design of the initiative and in its implementation?
Over the course of 5 years, the initiative has accumulated more than 80,000 subscribers and generated about BND250,000 allowing the service to remain sustainable and self-sufficient. Furthermore, positive comments have been directed towards the Ministry of Education from subscribers especially parents and students on the effectiveness and efficiency of the initiative. Since the launch of the service, the Solution Provider (MachTel) was able to expand on their services by being able to provide other solutions besides SMS-based services diversifying their expertise, thus achieving the government direction in supporting local companies. Misinformation has also been reduced as subscribers were able to obtain information from a valid source either through the web portal or via SMS, whereby other means such as web forums and blogs have become less relevant. This initiative has also provided a positive change to the culture of students and families that are expecting their examination results, as the alternative method of SMS based notifications have been replicated by higher and lower educational institutions in Brunei.

 8. What were the most successful outputs and why was the initiative effective?
The system allows a two-way flow of information. A student registers either through the Ministry of Educations web portal or via mobile phone and sends an SMS using a short code to a dedicated telephone number of the mobile service provider. The message received by the subscriber will immediately trigger a specific feedback to the sender. For each registered candidate, the system will send the result to the matching student index number stored in the registration database. The system incorporates features enabling continuous technical monitoring to recognize and record, in an error-registration, inconsistencies such as wrong SMS formatting, incorrect registration information or logic mistakes indicating that a user may be having difficulties with registration. It is a very useful source of information for Ministry of Education and both the service providers as a monitoring progress to provide feedback on the usability of the platform. Coupled with this is the monitoring of index registration counts in order to observe candidates that have received their examination results.

 9. What were the main obstacles encountered and how were they overcome?
During first cycle of implementation, for registration purposes, any user could register any student ID assigning the examination results to any phone number anonymously. There were complaints from the general public as the system was abused for unintended subscriptions. It was then overcome during the next implementation cycle, utilizing Citizenship Identification as another layer of security for better identity management of the SMS Exam subscription. Other obstacles include the delay in subscribers receiving their results by few hours due to network congestion which is a common issue with SMS technology. Discussions and analysis are still ongoing on whether web-based or mobile applications are the way forward for the system.

D. Impact and Sustainability

 10. What were the key benefits resulting from this initiative?
The key benefits resulting from this initiative are as follows: • Fast and efficient delivery of information – This system provides instant personal examination results anywhere and anytime. • Improves communication and availability – With the instant SMS system, this initiative fills the gap of the availability between the release of the examination results and the students obtaining their results from school. • The system is self-sufficient due to the return on investment from the cost of each SMS sent. • The initiative has drastically changed student culture of Brunei by providing a convenient alternative to viewing examination results. • Increases credibility and capabilities of the companies involved in the initiative which in turn contributes to the vision of the country to have knowledge based economy and lessen reliance on the oil and gas industry for income. • The initiative has been replicated by the Ministry of Religious Affairs for their religious schools which shows confidence in the initiative. • The SMS based system has also been replicated for high education institutions as students are now familiar with the system from their previous institution.

 11. Did the initiative improve integrity and/or accountability in public service? (If applicable)
The SMS based system is sustainable through revenue received from each SMS request. In the future, the Ministry of Education hopes further sustain the initiative by expanding the SMS-based services which encompasses absenteeism alerts, student / parent’s notifications, teachers / parent communications and exam timetable alerts. An example for this radical innovation would be ‘mobile apps’ dedicated for students’ portfolio on the go. Recently, the Ministry of Education has embarked on a national information system branded as Integrated National Education Information System (iNEISTM) that will provide self-services to all students, teachers, departments as well as the wider community. Future integration of notifications will include all areas of school management ranging from not just exam based results but also attendance notifications, timetables, emergency case scenarios and many more, similar to the SMS based system. These notifications are planned to be further implemented through web-based or mobile application solutions. This successful initiative has been replicated by Ministry of Religious Affairs for disseminating their exam results as well as higher educational institutions such as the University of Brunei Darussalam.

 12. Were special measures put in place to ensure that the initiative benefits women and girls and improves the situation of the poorest and most vulnerable? (If applicable)
Despite the fact that this system provides many benefits to its users, some limitations do exist. The first is regarding the limited number of characters per SMS imposed by the Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) technology. Due to this limitation, the examination results conveyed to students via SMS must be written in condensed form, which may require some information such as student names or school names to be excluded from the text. Additionally, some information may be too long but important to be excluded from the text such as the course names. This would require the examination result information to be split into more than one SMS message. As a result, the examination results are less user-friendly. The second limitation is that the SMS-based examination results cannot be used for official use, which normally requires a formal printed slip. In other words, the examination results received via SMS are targeted for personal use and could not be used as an official document. As a result, students are required to redo the requesting process of examination results, for example download or print from web portal in order to get formal-printed slips. By shifting towards ‘mobile apps’ or any correlated platform the two issues of limited number of characters and informal slips as mentioned above would be overcome. With email and print features available, this would complement the SMS examination result systems instead of replacing them. It will overcome the stated two limitations while preserving all the benefits of SMS examination result systems.

Contact Information

Institution Name:   Ministry of Education
Institution Type:   Government Agency  
Contact Person:   Haji Abdul Rahim Derus
Title:   Mr  
Telephone/ Fax:   +6732380792
Institution's / Project's Website:  
E-mail:   rahim.derus@moe.gov.bn  
Address:   Department of ICT, 4th floor, Block C, Ministry of Education
Postal Code:   BE3115
City:   Bandar Seri Begawan

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