mobme-keralaState governments in India are exploring m-Governance options for providing critical (and often tedious to retrieve) information to citizens: the state of Kerala recently awarded an M-Governance contract to VAS company MobMe Wireless.

This particular m-Governance project covers 21 pilot projects over 8 months across state government departments using a single number, 537252 (i.e.: KERALA on non-qwerty keypads). There will be a single platform at the back-end which will support customized solutions on USSD, SMS, Voice for multiple departments. Starting mid-December, a pilot project is expected to be launched every week for around 4 months.

Sony Joy, co-founder and COO at MobMe Wireless, told MediaNama that the company will be expected to submit a detailed project report to the Kerala Government at the end of the pilot, which will form the basis for a four year plan, involving over 100 departments of the government. The tender bid was at Rs. 97 lakhs, but there will be offshoots for each of the projects that are done. Joy said that it is important to ensure that the service is either profit making or at least covers the cost for the government: it will be a combination of free, paid and premium services. “Consumers wouldn’t mind paying Rs. 5 extra to check the status of the passport copy, to avoid going down to the Passport office, for example. Some projects will have alternate revenue models like advertising.”

The pilot project will involve services like:

— University exam results and related information
— Vehicle details over SMS
— Lottery results on mobile
— News alerts to journalists
— Insurance details
— Electricity and water bill details as well as alerts for due-date and payment confirmation
— Agricultural product prices and advisory services on SMS, as well as fishing information
— Blood donation requests sent out, taking into account location inputs (for blood donation camps)
— Movie ticketing on mobile for Kerala State Film Development Corporation
— Complaints that can be sent to the police on issues on eve teasing, auto rickshaws not plying
— Bus route timings
— Land tax collection over IVR
— Audio guides for tourists at hotspots
— Inventory tracking for Public Distribution System

MobMe Wireless has worked with the Kerala government in the past, which helps its case: Joy said that they’ve been interacting with 8 departments, including the Kerala Tourism department. “We have been working with the Public Relations department for 2-2.5 years. For Kerala Tourism, we ran a contest on different tourist attractions in Kerala on SMS and WAP, targeting consumers in other states, as well as European countries. We have also worked with the police department, where they could take a photo of a traffic violation or crime scene, which is sent as an MMS and uploaded on a central database. This evolved as a digital file for the police department. 14 flying squads in Kochi use this system on a day to day basis.”

For MobMe, the pilot will also serve as a showcase, when it comes to bidding for tenders for other state governments. Spice Digital recently won an M-Governance project for Himachal Pradesh. The scale of these project appear to be massive because of the sheer number of government departments it covers in one go, and the number of services that can be launched given the kind of utility based information governments have access to.