The geography of Fiji poses unique challenges for basic access to social, economic and legal services, especially for those in urban informal settlements, maritime zones and other remote rural areas. Citizens, many of whom reside in such areas, usually cover long distances to reach government offices, which are typically situated in urban and semi-urban areas. As a result, they face delays and challenges, in addition to lost income, as they must bear additional costs in transportation and accommodations in order to access basic public services. Moreover, public service delivery faces difficulties in ensuring start-to-finish service provision. It is not possible to track and monitor individual service delivery requests or update citizens in remote locations on the progress and ultimate resolution of their requests.
Towards a Solution
To address this challenge, the Rights, Empowerment and Cohesion (REACH) for Rural and Urban Fijians Project was developed, with support from the Government of Japan and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). A mobile service delivery approach was undertaken to reach communities throughout Fiji, beginning with those furthest behind.
The project aimed to accomplish the following key results:
- Increase awareness in urban, rural and maritime communities of constitutional rights regarding socio-economic well-being and justice, with a focus on legal aid, through the deployment of mobile teams.
- Enhance the delivery of services provided by the Ministry of Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation and the Legal Aid Commission through the deployment of mobile teams to urban, rural and maritime communities.
- Strengthen the capacity of the Ministry of Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation and the Legal Aid Commission by supporting strategic planning and monitoring results for effective and coordinated service delivery.
- Inform evidence-based policymaking through the research and analysis of areas related to the empowerment of women and girls; the promotion of peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development; access to justice for all; and effective, accountable and inclusive institutions.
The Start-to-Finish (S2F) Service Delivery Tracker consists of web-based software with a mobile application specifically designed to track applications to the Poverty Benefit Scheme, under the Ministry of Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation. The existing services provided through the REACH mobile service delivery platform served as the foundation for an S2F pilot initiative, which was proposed for 2017 and 2018.
With support from the Aspire to Innovate (a2i) Programme of the Government of Bangladesh, UNDP experts shared innovations for initiating South-South learning opportunities with Fiji. Specialists from a2i innovation undertook a dedicated mission to Fiji and conducted multiple workshops on S2F service delivery from 5 to 7 July 2017 with key REACH Project stakeholders. During the mission, two additional consultations were undertaken with non-governmental organizations, civil society organizations and youth, as well as a small sample group in Suva to test the applicability of the S2F pilot programme. The feedback gathered was integrated into the overall design and tested during the pilot phase in the Eastern and Northern Divisions of Fiji in 2018.
The public service delivery system of Bangladesh had undergone systematic revisions to better meet the needs of its citizens, with a focus on the needs of the most vulnerable groups. As a result, it was easier to adapt a successful model to the context of Fiji. Adapting the existing Bangladesh system also provided savings in development costs. This partnership has created several opportunities for the two countries to share knowledge and resources to promote South-South cooperation and innovation in public service delivery.
As a result of the project, 22,233 people (9,306 women, 9,050 men and 3,877 children) benefited from the REACH mobile awareness-raising and service delivery, which impacted 956 communities in 139 districts in 15 provinces and the Rotuma dependency. The Ministry of Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation; the Legal Aid Commission; the Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission; and other institutions immediately provided 37,807 services to 21,587 women and 16,220 men in the communities. In addition, 168 people (94 women and 74 men) from the Ministry of Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation; the Legal Aid Commission; the Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission; and other key stakeholders further strengthened their capacity to undertake awareness-raising and service delivery.
The mobile application initiated during the REACH project has been integrated into the main system to track the progress of applications, with the ultimate aim of empowering citizens with up-to-date information, including final approval and delivery. The project also seeks to ensure full accountability and transparency in the process, providing the Ministry of Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation with concrete data and information to streamline the application process and improve business processes, thereby ensuring the project’s sustainability. Adapted to the country context, this project could easily be replicated in any country where the connectivity and availability of digital devices can be ensured.