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.
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.