mVoting, a New Way to Communicate with Citizens in the Mobile Era
Information Planning Division, Seoul Metropolitan Government

A. Problem Analysis

 1. What was the problem before the implementation of the initiative?
A city of "mobile citizens". As of March 2013, the number of smart phone users in Korea exceeded 37 million, while the average daily amount of time each user spent using their smart phone was around 2.5 hours. Furthermore, citizens were constantly producing and consuming contents using their smart phones. Seoul Metropolitan Government now refers to such citizens as "mobile citizens.“ A communication channel that is limited to PCs will fail to meet the needs of "mobile citizens.". However, as the existing communication channel was PC and website (e-poll)-based, it was difficult to post opinions and obtain feedback from citizens who could not afford to use a PC. This made it crucial to offer Seoul's citizens a communication channel that allows easy access anywhere anytime, so the city turned to smart phones to resolve this issue. Technical limitations of the previous voting system (e-Poll). The previous voting system, e-Poll, lacked a tool for filtering multiple votes, which made it possible for some citizens to cast a double vote (i.e. one with and one without membership) on their PCs. Citizens could also cast unlimited votes by moving between different PCs, which could result in a manipulated outcome. No effective channel for receiving citizens' opinions to meet the needs of the mobile era. On 9 August 2012, Seoul Metropolitan Government brought together about 1,000 citizens at an event at which citizen groups were supposed to discuss public policies and vote for their ideas. However, the voting procedure, which made use of a separate, standard foreign maker's terminal, did not run smoothly due to radio interference between smart phones and WiFi for PCs. Some press media printed unfavorable articles about this, which had a negative effect on Seoul's reputation as well as its "Together with Citizens" vision and its image as the global leader of e-government. To tackle this issue, Park Won-soon, the mayor of Seoul, requested the development of a special channel that would effectively receive citizens' opinions, as befitting "Seoul's standing as an IT superpower," and that would, more broadly speaking, meet the needs of "the mobile environment." As such, the IT Task Force embarked on the planning and development of a special channel.

B. Strategic Approach

 2. What was the solution?
The committment of the Seoul Information Planning Division made it happen. mVoting was initiated at the request of the Mayor of Seoul, who wanted to use smart phones to listen to citizens’ opinions at town hall meetings, and at informal public meetings at which community members raise and discuss current issues and concerns. The Seoul IT Task Force, in cooperation with other stakeholders, rose to the mayor's request, mobilized the necessary budget and resources by replanning other weak projects, and collaborated with other divisions to bring the project to life. Conceiving the "mVoting" system, a communication channel fit for the mobile environment. "mVoting", which is a compound of "Mobile" and "Voting", has been developed into a smart phone App by Seoul Metropolitan Government, in line with the needs of the 37 million smart phone-using population in Seoul in order to quickly collect their opinions in real time. "Mobility, promptness and GPS capability", key features of the mobile service. mVoting enables Seoul's citizens to post their opinions anywhere anytime through its powerful "mobile" functionality. It also allows citizens to generate a vote and instantly check the result by using the mobile technology's "instantaneous" service. Finally, the "GPS capability" indicates the ability to produce a sample based on citizens' locations. For instance, it allows the user to determine a radius from a square and let only those within that radius participate in the vote. Isolating the source of redundant votes. The mVoting app limits its installation to a single instance for each smart phone. It is designed to allow users to cast only one single vote per smart phone number, thereby making duplicated voting impossible from the outset. A flexible voting mechanism that can be adapted to the purpose of the service. The mVoting service is largely divided into three types: I) "open voting," whereby any legitimate citizen who has the installed the app on his/her phone can cast a vote; ii) "limited voting," which is limited to particular regions or groups of people; and iii) "on-the-spot voting," which accepts only participants in particular events - such as presentations and product demonstrations. Purposeful promotion of a democracy-oriented lifestyle. The mVoting system is designed to spread the democratic decision-making process not only with regard to dry government policies but also into the daily lives of citizens. For example, a group can use the functions of mVoting in a decision-making process if necessary to reconcile the conflicting ideas of each member.

 3. How did the initiative solve the problem and improve people’s lives?
A two-way communication channel focused on the needs of citizens. In the past, central or local governments conducted surveys of their citizens, often in a unilateral way and over a long period. mVoting, however, establishes an equal relationship between the government and its people by allowing effective two-way communication. With the mVoting app, citizens can generate a vote and check the outcome, anywhere and anytime. Self-regulatory ability secured through citizens' collective intelligence. As many citizens generate various types of votes with mVoting, they sometimes post what may be termed as unsound votes. In such cases, website administrators usually have the authority to remove them. However, with mVoting, a citizen can be both generator and auditor of a vote. In other words, any citizen using the mVoting app can report an instance of unsound voting by pressing the "Report" button beneath the vote item. The reported vote item in question will then be submitted to a citizens' watchdog to determine whether it should be deleted or not.

C. Execution and Implementation

 4. In which ways is the initiative creative and innovative?
Workshops for design with citizens: July - September 2013. As mVoting is a voting system that entails personal participation and the generation of votes on the part of citizens, the implementation of designs and features custom-tailored to the citizens' needs was of paramount importance. To this end, Seoul Metropolitan Government hosted a "citizens' design workshop" to reflect citizens' opinions in the efforts to develop the system, and in which the developers' project managers also participated. Through these workshops, fourteen specific features were actually applied to mVoting, including "showing the outcome", "setting areas of interest" and "connecting SNS." Development reflecting the opinions of experts and citizens: July 2013 - January 2014. We chose the right system developer from among the various candidates by holding an open competitive bid, after assessing their experience in building mobile solutions. We invited the bid winner to participate in the Citizens' Design Workshop, thereby allowing its representatives to listen to the citizens' voice, as soon as the contract had been signed. The subcontractor completed the system development project in seven months based on an analysis, design and coding process. "Guidelines" on overall management drawn up in January 2014. We established guidelines on how to share policies among internal employees, access routes of citizens, how to manage negative ideas, how to distribute and use data, and the constitution and roles of the Citizens' Watchdog to pave the way toward stabilizing the overall operation of mVoting. Pilot operation (Jan 2014) for settlement of the system and official launch (March 7, 2014). To stabilize the system, we held an internal vote of the Information Planning Division (to select teams with good performance after their presentations) in a bid to verify the usability and functionality of the mVoting system. During the pilot operation, we did not disclose the feature enabling citizens to generate a voting instance, but rather chose to do so after the official launch of the system and adequate efforts to raise public awareness about mVoting. Recruitment and utilization of "mVoting Policy Supporters" among citizens highly interested in city policies. We recruited citizens to support the operation of mVoting from among those who showed great interest in the policies of Seoul Metropolitan Government. These "mVoting Policy Supporters" have driven the city's efforts to promote and raise awareness of the mVoting service, by generating and participating in voting events. They will also be working as a political decision-making panel.

 5. Who implemented the initiative and what is the size of the population affected by this initiative?
mVoting Committee composed of government employees and experts from the private sector. We launched the mVoting Committee (April 8, 2013), which is composed of members including labor union officials, college professors, chief judge, councilor, public relations specialist, and developers, in order to determine effective approaches to implementing the system and predicting social relationships, etc., afterwards. During three consulting sessions, the mVoting Committee dealt with a wide range of issues including legal considerations, how to involve citizens in the system development process, security issues including privacy, and how to promote the system effectively, thereby improving the feasibility of the initiative while reducing potential risks. Service Design Workshop for citizens' direct participation in city policies. We held a Service Design Workshop - in which citizens, experts and government officials all participated - as a solution to eliminate the sources of inconvenience of our service based on appropriate design of overall city policies. The workshop continued for eight weeks, with the mentoring of a panel of specialists including citizens, professionals and government officials. We were finally able to determine the design of the mVoting service through representations and assessment at the end of the workshop.
 6. How was the strategy implemented and what resources were mobilized?
Financial resources: The project was funded by the budget remaining from the previous PC-based e-Poll system development project. As no budget had been officially allocated to the 2013 mVoting development project the previous year, we decided to liquidate the e-Poll project and redirect the rest of its budget into the mVoting system development project. We invested a total of ₩151,228,000, which included the remaining e-Poll budget of ₩15,284,000 and the planned budget of ₩135,944,000 reserved for mVoting, in building the new mVoting system. Technical resources: "GPS-based voting" connected to Mobile GIS. We applied the GIS technology implemented in existing mobile solutions to mVoting so as to grant the right to vote only to people within a certain location. We also used a technology to "push messages" to these legitimate voters. As of now, applications for patents for these technologies have been filed (Jan. 24, 2014). Human resources: experts and ordinary civil groups. The mVoting system building project was participated in by experts and civil groups. First of all, an expert panel, the mVoting Committee, summarized the data including the philosophical background to and anticipated achievements of mVoting and the implementation strategies. It also received citizens' ideas and offered consulting about how to promote the system. In the "mVoting Service Design Workshop" for ordinary citizens, the participants tried to conceive specific features and designs of the mVoting system. They also exchanged ideas with each other through SNS and shaped the opinions generated from the workshop.

 7. Who were the stakeholders involved in the design of the initiative and in its implementation?
Using the mVoting system as a means of collecting citizens' opinions and mediating conflicts. Through mVoting we have tried to share the city policies with citizens and listen to their voice. We also pay attention to citizen groups' own voting activities in which they ask Seoul's inhabitants for feedback regarding the current policies of Seoul and the civil environment. We have been committed to expanding the application of mVoting to various situations involving conflicts in all strata of society. For instance, the "Tree Planting" event had traditionally used a famous celebrity as its PR ambassador, the pros and cons of which later divided public opinion. To mediate this conflict, the relevant department staged an mVote to receive the public's opinions. As a result, 47% of respondents voted for using a forestry/landscaping expert while 38%, a celebrity. Reflecting this outcome, we decided to choose a PR ambassador from among forestry and gardening professionals. Dramatic expansion of opportunities to participate in the policy-making process. Since we launched the mVoting service, the app has been downloaded 19,810 times as of September 20, 2014; 150,000 citizens have participated in votes; and 1,264 voting agendas have been suggested by citizens, providing ample evidence of active participation by the public. Compared to the previous e-Poll system, which used to involve the participation of just 400-500 people during a 10-day voting period, mVoting, which engages an average of nearly 700 people a day, has seen a sharp increase in civil participation in the policy-making process. Furthermore, we now receive even more and varied voting agendas from citizens, ranging from polices on raising the price of cigarette to lifestyle-related matters such as coffee consumption and road width. A voting function that enables the setting of ranges based on details or purpose. mVoting is capable of adjusting the range of disclosure of voting information depending on the agenda and purpose. It offers a wide range of voting features, from one limited to a certain area or target group to confidential. In an "on-the-spot vote", which is the most specialized service of the mVoting system, a list of voters who gather at a particular venue for a session, demonstration, etc., is compiled from the participants' cell phone numbers, and they can only cast votes after authentication with QR codes. mVoting guarantees viewing the voting result in real time.

 8. What were the most successful outputs and why was the initiative effective?
Weekly checkup meeting during the system development stage. Every Friday while the mVoting system was being built, we discussed project implementation and development issues and sought possible solutions during meetings with IT planning managers, competent team leaders and government officials, and system developers. Reporting of corrupt voting activities such as political or commercial ads and the Civil Watchdog. mVoting features a tool named "Report a Unsound Posting" (located directly beneath the voting item) that is designed to prevent potentially corrupt voting agendas and ensure sound communication with and between citizens. Any citizen in Seoul participating in a vote can report a posting of a political, commercial, abusive or obscene nature simply by using this tool. Any voting item thus reported is delivered in a Push Message to the "mVoting Civil Watchdog"; if the Watchdog makes an additional report, based on their decision, the same voting item will be eliminated. The mVoting Civil Watchdog consists of thirty citizens who are required to apply for membership through the monitoring team of the Seoul Metropolitan Government website, internet watchdogs or city policy monitoring groups.

 9. What were the main obstacles encountered and how were they overcome?
Unbalanced participation resulting from some social classes' unfamiliarity with the mobile environment. During the initial stage of planning the mVoting system, it was claimed by some observers that the elderly and other social classes unfamiliar with the mobile environment could be isolated from the city's policy-making process. Some citizens also suggested that the failure of citizens without smart phones to participate in votes would make it difficult to ensure fair surveys or votes on public opinions. In response, we offered a system that allows citizens to cast their votes without necessarily having to use a smart phone by accessing mvotimg.seoul.go.kr, in order to resolve the unbalanced participation issue. Duplication issue. The previous PC-based e-Poll was a voting system that did not require membership and authentication, making it very likely that duplicated votes would be cast. In contrast, mVoting requires a character-confirmation process during its installation, which categorically does not allow the duplication of votes. This feature can be said to have successfully manifested the principle of "Equal Voting" as represented by one vote for one person. Likelihood of public sentiment being influenced or biased by certain groups. mVoting is basically designed to allow the user to check the voting result as soon as voting is closed. This may sometimes tempt a certain group to check the intermediate result of voting to influence public sentiment in a desired direction. To resolve this issue, Seoul Metropolitan Government took a measure to prevent the intermediate result from being disclosed in real time, and decided not to offer a share function for any vote involving the potential for conflict between different groups. Infringement of privacy. mVoting, as part of the effort to preserve the principle of the "secret ballot", only allows the voting result to be saved in the server computer, and not in the client's terminal. In other words, it offers a safety tool that prevents Seoul Metropolitan Government from analyzing the votes cast by each individual and his or her political orientation. In fact, mVoting never collects the voter's full name, Resident Registration Number, or other items of sensitive private information.

D. Impact and Sustainability

 10. What were the key benefits resulting from this initiative?
Reflecting citizens' ideas in current policies. We received 222 voting agendas through mVoting on June 2, 2014, many of which were reflected in our policies. The topics covered by mVoting are not particularly grandiose on the whole, but are closely tied to citizens' daily lives. For example, in a vote on the use of a Korean traditional melody to inform the train's arrival at a transfer station, 53% of all participants voted for the current policy. Based on this response, Seoul Metro decided to maintain the current melody used to signal the approach to transfer stations. Other ideas put to the vote include the attachment of transparent route maps on bus windows and the establishment of a bucket list of the best cultural activities that Seoul Metropolitan Government has to offer. Raising government employees' awareness of the importance of sharing policies. In an operation lasting around seven months, Seoul Metropolitan Government asked the opinions of its citizens on 123 policies, or approximately 17 policies per month. Now, the city employees are trying to put to the vote the policies they have made or are going to make, instead of agonizing over what to do, as part of an intiative that has seen a dramatic drop in failures of decision making. Actively used in contests in addition to votes. mVoting is mainly used by citizens or government employees to propose a vote for an agenda, although it has also been actively used to determine the winners of certain contests. For instance, in the Civil Architecture Awards, the winner was selected 100% by the result of a vote held through mVoting. The vote presented the participants with drawings, images and descriptions of each piece of work to allow voters to gain sufficient appreciation and understanding of them prior to voting. We hold the "Seoul App Contest" each year to encourage young people to exert their ingenuity in developing applications and, for the first time in 2014, we held a vote on the contest for our citizens. This vote, which lasted for 15 hours, attracted the enthusiastic participation of 3,785 people.

 11. Did the initiative improve integrity and/or accountability in public service? (If applicable)
Maximum political effect for minimum cost. We developed mVoting with the basic features of an ordinary PC-based system without any additional high-performance work station. Therefore, any nation with adequate PC-based systems can develop such a system as mVoting for a modest cost. mVoting is a relatively simple software program for the generation and aggregation of votes, and can be developed with only a small capital investment. Saving the enormous expense of collecting public opinions. The previous polling system that we used consisted of sampling, direct interviews, and telephone surveys, so it always involved an enormous amount of time and expense, especially if such an activity was commissioned. mVoting has helped us cut this social cost to a dramatic extent. If samples for each age group, region and social class are collected in a balanced manner to ensure an objective result of the vote, the surveying activity itself may cost very little. Selected as a representative leading initiative of Government 3.0. Government 3.0 emphasizes the value of "opening, sharing, communicating and cooperating," and mVoting has all of these values. It opens and shares government policies to and with the general public, communicates with citizens through votes, and cooperates with them by reflecting their ideas. In the "Government 3.0 Benchmarking Tour Program" launched on October 1, 2014, bringing together the representatives of about 150 organizations from around the country, Seoul gave a good presentation of its Government 3.0, which was well received by other local governments. In addition, a Swedeish TV broadcaster covered the documentary titled Mobile Connecting the World, which was also covered by a Taiwanese TV broadcaster on September 23. Easy to use in underdeveloped nations with a mature wireless network. Seoul Metropolitan Government has exported a number of its own e-government software solutions to other countries, including the mVoting system. As part of this effort, we will target those nations with a good mobile (wireless) infrastructure which can be managed at a relatively low cost, inviting them to introduce our political participation initiatives and mVoting system to their own citizens.

 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)
The importance of communicating our administrative service using mobile solutions. According to a recent press release, nine out of ten people tend to look for and use their smart phones, even in front of their own PCs. This means that smart phones are a cut above PCs in terms of their accessibility and convenience. That being the case, what types of channels should all the communicating and feedback process of our administrative service use? The answer must of course be the "mobility" represented by smart phones. It might be safe to say that mVoting makes the most of mobile features in this regard (promptness, GPS capability, and accessibility) for the effective sharing and communication of the city's policies with citizens. Directing the interest of citizens to municipal government through IT solutions. The seven-month-long (so far) operation of mVoting has seen a sharp expansion of the opportunities for citizens familiar with mobile systems to participate in the Seoul Metropolitan Government. In particular, mVoting allows a citizen to check voting agendas more easily using an advanced tool, "Push Message." This tool does not involve any additional cost, and anyone can use it by clicking the "View" button in the message to participate in a vote. Now, the government should make active use of mobile solutions for the sake of citizens accustomed to using them, and pay close attention to their voice.

Contact Information

Institution Name:   Information Planning Division, Seoul Metropolitan Government
Institution Type:   Government Department  
Contact Person:   Nam Su Kim
Title:   Manager  
Telephone/ Fax:   82-2-2133-2590
Institution's / Project's Website:  
E-mail:   policyshare@seoul.go.kr  
Address:   110 Sejongdaero, Jung-gu
Postal Code:   100-744
City:   Seoul
State/Province:  
Country:  

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