In the first-of-its-kind service in Nepal, the transport department is providing vehicle information through mobile text messages, a citizen service that is particularly useful in a country where cars, two-wheelers and other vehicles attract an annual tax.
Mobile phone subscribers of all the three major wireless operators in Nepal can use this service to access vehicle tax-related information such as the amount due, receipt numbers, and the last amount paid.
This service is an outcome of an initiative of the transport ministry to digitize all vehicle information. With an initial investment of 1,30,000 Nepali rupees about two years ago, the government partnered with Focusone, a private mobile software developer. Focusone developed a service called Vtax that is directly connected with the vehicle registration system of the department of transportation and can send tax-related information to any cellphone subscriber. A user needs to send an SMS to short code 4321 typing Vtax (space) vehicle number and the service responds with a text message on the amount paid, date of payment, receipt number, and on any amount that’s due. The charge for the SMS is two Nepali rupees plus tax.
Out of the 1.4 million vehicles registered in Nepal, the service in the first year catered to 600,000 owners in three districts. Till April, the number of queries generated through the service exceeded 300,000 from over 50,000 unique phone numbers.
“Three months back, out of 14 districts offices only three were digitized. Currently, all 14 districts of transportation offices have been digitized,” said Ashish Basnet, chief executive of Focusone in Nepal.
Revenue generated from the service is shared between the telecom operators and Focusone as the provider of the value-added service. By April, the service earned in excess of 7,00,000 Nepali rupees. Since there is a steady stream of revenue, the service is capable of sustaining itself, Basnet said.
Focusone initially developed a vehicle registration system for the transport department. “Later, we suggested the ministry for the information system via SMS to general public for less hassle,” said Basnet. “The ministry and department were convinced with this and hence we implemented this one and half years back.”
With rapid expansion of wireless services in all South Asian nations, information services from the government to public have received some attention and gained a measure of success. The Vtax project, short-listed for this year’s mBillionth Awards, also seems to be getting popular.
“The service is really easy to use and cheap,” said Sheekat Nepal, a resident of Kathmandu.
The information is accurate because it is sent by a computerized system with updated information on vehicles.
“This is the first tax-related information service launched by the government,” said Basnet. “The challenge was to spread the awareness by the government since it’s a paid service, but now there is an overwhelming response from the general public.”
Mint has a strategic partnership with Digital Empowerment Foundation, which hosts the mBillionth Awards.
Also Read | Earlier articles and commentary