Dubai: The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries are expected to be a particularly active market for mobility. In fact, throughout the GCC, mobile subscriptions already far outnumber inhabitants. The steady rise in mobile phone uptake has contributed positively to the expansion of broadband Internet access across the GCC region.

Mobile broadband accounted for close to 82 per cent of the 6.49 million total broadband Internet connections across the GCC in 2007. This ratio is forecast to increase to over 91 per cent of the 78.89 million broadband Internet connections across the region by 2017 — a trend consistent across all six states that make up the economic bloc.

Given these trends, it is not wholly surprising to see strong levels of interest by governments throughout the GCC region to utilize mobile applications to expand their reach and transform the way they provide online information and services to constituents.

The UAE government is an early adopter in the region, with its recently announced initiative to activate all electronic government services via mobile apps, create new mobile government services, and invite government entities to devise unified mobile strategies for transformation into smart government.

A myriad of mobile applications — from those that provide basic information on public services to sophisticated GPS-enabled, real-time apps — create the opportunity to open fresh channels of exchange between citizens and the government. However, IDC observes that governments are often not at the forefront of mobile application design, development, optimization, or management — for this, mobile gaming studios represent the best-in-class. For government leaders at the top of the planning pyramid, IDC believes the mobile gaming sector can be mined for various strategies to better serve citizens through the mobile platform. The following, in particular, stand out:

1) Methodical Approach to App Creation

Successful mobile gaming studios spend an inordinate amount of time analyzing a vast array of quantitative and qualitative criteria as inputs into their game design. In addition to reviewing historical and projected data, emphasis is also placed on better understanding of the context behind users’ game acquisitions and use in order to design newer and more relevant applications. For designers, the answers to these questions can greatly affect the course of a mobile game’s design. Government authorities should take the same methodical approach to creating mobile applications.

While simply replicating or migrating existing processes to the mobile platform might offer citizens an alternative access channel, more is possible by adapting existing workflows based on the specific behavior and requirements of citizens, coupled with the unique capabilities of mobile phones.

2) Decreasing Churn and Increasing App Stickiness

The majority of mobile game players have a limited attention span. They might download a game one day and run the application for a brief period of time, but by the following day they have moved on to a new app and that game is forgotten. Industry data indicate that, of the top 100 mobile applications on Apple’s App Store at any given moment, approximately 45% churn in 30 days and up to 85% churn in three months. It is thus extremely important for gaming studios to keep their application churn rate to the absolute minimum. The way that many approach this issue is by optimizing the user experience.

Likewise, IDC believes it will be important for governments to complement its efforts to launch mobile applications with the discipline of optimizing them and ensuring that they are able to fully deliver on their intended aim.

3) Ensuring App Scalability

Given the surge in downloads and usage that typify mobile games, the overhead required to ensure the scalability of gaming engine servers is considerable. For instance, Rovio, developer of the popular Angry Birds franchise and a user of Google’s cloud-based App Engine, revealed that its mobile app, Angry Birds Space, recorded more than 20 million downloads in its first week alone.

Accordingly, many mobile gaming companies are choosing to leverage public cloud platforms to boost the scalability of their games, thereby allowing a consistent gaming experience irrespective of whether they are hosting a handful of players in a single location or millions worldwide.

While most current government mobile applications differ vastly from mobile video games in terms of the depth of features, richness of graphics, levels of interactivity, and ability to support multiple “player” environments, IDC expects steady evolution in requirements for government mobile applications, particularly as select use cases might be better suited to the richer experiences provided by mobile gaming applications.

Following on the lead of the UAE, we expect more governments in the GCC to put mobility at the center of their multi-channel service delivery modernization efforts. Rather than approaching this initiative in an opportunistic manner, IDC suggests that governments recognize early the importance of a wider strategy that outlines the key desired outcomes and create a road map to achieve them. This strategy should further consider the addition of new partners to complement the capabilities of government entities. Mobile gaming studios have the experience and know-how governments lack in this area; governments are therefore advised to learn from their expertise.

The columnist is Group Vice President and Regional MD for the Middle East, Turkey and Africa at global ICT market intelligence and advisory firm, IDC.