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Technology led Citizen Centric Governance

  • Categories
    Science & Technology: New frontiers & Beyond
  • Published
    24th Jan, 2023

Introduction:

The Government of India has been making continuous efforts to set up systems of good governance through various schemes and laws. Earlier these systems were based on records, files and transactions which were generally physical. However in the recent years the concept of ‘citizen centric e-services’ has come to the fore.

These services aim to digitally empower the society and transform the economy. They aim to restyle how citizens can avail the government services and participate in the economy using less cash, opting instead for UPI, internet banking, direct benefit transfer, digital payment platform etc., using unique identification techniques, like Aadhaar, so as to drive financial inclusion with minimum lapses and delays. Government’s push towards these digital initiatives has transformed the economy.

Need of the Citizen-Centric governance:

  • The new citizen centric and transformational digital platforms that have been developed include e-NAM, GSTN, DigiLocker, GeM, e-Hospital, MyGov, UMANG, SWAYAM, Jeevam Pramaan, NSP etc.
  • These efforts are heavily dependent upon the efficient use of technology and as a result technology is increasingly being used to transform learning, economy and citizen services delivery mechanisms.
  • In the field of education, technology is playing a greater role than ever before.
  • It is transforming classrooms from being isolated units of learning to more collaborative and communicative spaces with digital pedagogies, critical enquiry and demographic spaces that go beyond geographical constraints.
  • In Agriculture: Likewise, to minimize farmer’s distress, digitalising of farming systems and creating a database is also a step towards achieving sustainable agricultural production.
  • These citizen centric e-services focus on accessibility, quality, efficiency, affordability, delivery, and mobility and user experience.

Technology oriented Citizen-centric governance initiatives in India:

  • Digital India programme:
    • It was launched in 2015 for ensuring digital access, digital inclusion, bridging the digital divide and digital empowerment leading to India’s transformation into knowledge based economy and digitally empowered society.
    • This programme was implemented with a dedicated focus on making use of digital tools and techniques for the delivery of paper-less, presence-less and cash-less governance.
  • Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT):
    • It enables transfer of government benefits directly to the bank account of beneficiaries.
    • The de-duplication and removal of ghost beneficiaries have been remarkable in all schemes integrated with DBT.
    • There are benefits of DBT in citizen centric services, such as LPG Distribution, Public Distribution System (PDS) and Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment, Fertilizer Subsidy and National Social Assistance Programme.
    • DBT brings in efficiency, effectiveness, transparency and accountability in the Government system.
  • DigiLocker:
    • It enables paperless governance by providing private space on public cloud to citizens for storing their public and private documents.
  • Aadhaar:
    • It has provided a cradle to grave digital identity that is unique, lifelong, online and authenticable. This has led to de-duplication and removal of ghost beneficiaries in all schemes integrated with Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT).
    • It has enabled DigiLocker thus enabling Paper-less governance by providing public documents to citizens digitally and facilitating consent-based data sharing for availing services.
    • It has enabled eSign which provides easy authentication for digital transactions eliminating the need for physical presence.
    • Aadhaar Enabled Payment System (AEPS) facilitates banking services and digital payment.
  • Jan Dhan Yojana:
    • It has provided financial inclusion to unbanked people and thereby, it has enabled banking, pension (PMSBY and PMJJBY) and insurance (Atal Pension Yojana) services to common citizens.
  • Common Services Centres (CSCs):
    • Common Services Centres (CSCs), as Digital kiosks, are providing services to citizens in rural areas.
    • CSCs are a unique PPP model where micro-entrepreneurs are creating sustainable livelihoods and bringing about a digital revolution in the villages of India.
    • It has strengthened digital delivery of services. It has spread across 2.3 lakh Gram Panchayats in the country that provides digital access to rural areas at an affordable cost.
    • These centres have led to empowerment of marginalized sections of the society by creating jobs and promoting rural entrepreneurs specially women.
    • CSCs have also undertaken Stree Swabhiman initiative to create awareness about menstrual health and have set up many sanitary pad units.
  • Umang:
    • It provides one mobile app for availing government services through backend integration with several government applications and databases.
  • E-Hospital:
    • It facilitates automation in hospitals through 20+ modules of Hospital Management Information System namely patient registration, IPD, Pharmacy, Blood bank, etc.
  • SWAYAM
    • It is a massive online open courses (MOOCs) platform, which offers more than 2000+programme categories.
    • It allows credits to students on the completion of course. The credit is recognised by Universities.
  • National Scholarship Portal
    • Provides facility of multiple scholarship schemes through a single online portal and includes application submission from students, verification by School Administration, approval by Authorities and disbursal through DBT.
  • PMGDISHA:
    • The world’s largest digital literacy programme, Pradhan Mantri Gramin Digital Saksharta Abhiyan (PMGDISHA), is bridging the digital divide and helping people to access benefits of the digital world.
    • It has been started with an aim to make at least one person per family digitally literate.
  • GeM:
    • An e-commerce platform for public procurement of common use goods and services.
    • Many sellers from small towns are participating in public procurement due to end-to end automation.
    • This effort is attempting to increase the efficiency in public procurement by increasing transparency through an online platform for sourcing.
    • This platform is acting as a single localised national market under one roof, where all buyers and sellers can interact and carry out their business across the country regardless of their geography.
    • This makes GeM a truly digital tool of empowerment and entrepreneurship. This is boosting the growth of MSMEs, small manufacturers and other sellers.
  • Digital Payment:
    • Even though a late entrant, India set to leapfrog in Digital Payments bypassing the era of Cards and Net Banking.
    • Many innovative digital payment tools, namely BHIM-UPI, BHIM-Aadhaar, BHARAT QR Code, National Electronic Toll Collections etc., have been implemented.
    • The experience of UPI has transformed the digital payment ecosystem in a span of two years.
    • Various private players are on-board on unique payment platform that is not only eliminating friction of cash from economy but also creating a new ecosystem for new business models, such as flow-based lending, credit scoring, insurance writing etc. providing sustainable solutions to serve the needs of the citizen.
  • E-Courts Mission Mode Project:
    • It promotes automation in Courts including Supreme Court, High Courts, District Courts and District Court Complexes.
    • National Judicial Data Grid is also implemented, which analyses the data gathered from all integrated courts and shows all India figures through dashboard.
  • MyGov:
    • MyGov is an example of the Government’s commitment towards participative governance, bringing citizens and Government closer to one another by democratizing the decision-making.
    • This facilitates participatory governance in the country by providing a common digital platform, where citizens can share their views on government programmes and schemes.
  • BPO movement:
    • The BPO movement for smaller towns is facilitating balanced regional growth and creating job opportunities.
    • It is changing the digital profile of the nation as the BPO industry which used to be metro centric earlier but has now dispersed and is permeating into small towns such as Jammu, Srinagar, Sopore, Baddi, Raipur, Sagar, Mohali, Jaipur, Unnao, Siliguri, Kohima, Shillong. Auroville, Hosur, Madurai, Mayiladuthurai.
    • As of now, 222 BPO units are functioning across 97 small cities and 27 States and UTs. It has the potential to create employment opportunities to around 1.5 lakh persons across the country.
  • Artificial Intelligence:
    • Artificial Intelligence along with other emerging technologies is envisaged to provide solutions for the benefit of citizens in all social sectors / domains.
    • National Programme on Al has been designed with priority mission areas, namely Healthcare, Agriculture, Education, Smart Cities, Transportation, Cyber Security, Energy, Finance and Indian Languages.
    • This programme will be implemented in a hub and spoke model, wherein the proposed National Centre on Artificial Intelligence will act as the hub and Centres of Excellence (CoEs) along with start-ups will act as spokes.
  • Geographic Information System (GIS):
    • Location-based information is a vital aspect of a digital economy not only to plan and monitor the developmental programmes but also to manage transparent, efficient and effective delivery of citizen-centric services.
    • The use of Geographic Information System (GIS) as a decision support system for developmental planning is a critical component of e-Kranti pillar under the Digital India programme.
    • To leverage GIS under Digital India, Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) had launched National Centre of Geo-Informatics (NCoG) in December 2015.
    • A major e-governance sub-system, GIS is an important lever to accelerate growth and increase focus in numerous domains including government, education, environment, natural resources and business.

How the Citizen-centric governance is working so far?

  • By ensuring digital access, digital inclusion and digital empowerment, the Digital India Programme has harnessed digital technologies to bring about a positive change towards good governancethat is easy, economical, transparent and efficient governance.
  • These e-services have made the slogan ‘Maximum Governance, Minimum Government’ a reality. It is a conscious strategy towards ushering reforms in governance and transforming country by making governance simple, fast, flexible and effective by application of innovations and technology.
  • These e-services have led to participative governance, a key element of a responsible democracy.
  • It has reduced the human interfacein delivering services to the people and has also enhanced the experience of the citizens, while also providing them with enormous opportunities.
  • Through the application of digital technologies, the Government is undertaking specific initiatives to improve the delivery systemsto ensure that the benefits of the welfare schemes of the government reach directly to the targeted beneficiaries, including the poorest of the poor in a convenient manner without any pilferage.
  • India has moved ahead from the era of dongles/keys required for digital signatures-with the advent of Aadhaar based eSign that is an easy, efficient and secure way to sign and authenticatedocuments digitally.
  • This eKYC based authentication enhances service delivery experience of citizens and can be used anywhere, anytime.
  • In order to ensure growth of the digital economy while keeping personal data of citizens secure and protected, the Government is working on privacy protectionthrough enabling Personal Data Protection Framework.
  • The advent of technologies and its fast adoption has generated huge and personalised data that can be used to alleviate societal problemsrelating to areas, such as, health, food security, transport and urban planning.

Benefits:

  • For Specially-abled people:
    • Citizens with disability use assistive technology to access various modes of ICT channels such as web portal, mobile application, kiosk, etc.
    • Blind or visually impaired citizen would use screen reader which would provide audio output of operating system and its application such as Windows OS, Microsoft office, Google Chrome, etc.
    • Various computer programmers of India have contributed significant amount of effort to enhance features of open source windows screen reader software which provide audio output of computer software’s.
    • Non-visual display access (NVDA), an open source screen reading software, is now available in 7 Indian languages comprising of Hindi, Bengali, Tamil, Marathi, Kannada and Indian English.
    • In the era of mobile app; hear to read is a text to speech (TTS) app which is developed for Indian language for Android such as for Gujarati, Marathi, Kannada, Punjabi, Tamil and Telugu.
    • The disabled community can independently book cab through iPhone/Android using voice over /talkback feature which provide audio output of mobile app.
    • Home delivery food ordering based apps can also be used by persons with disability with ease as they comply with digital accessibility international standard.
    • Convenience of enjoying online shopping from home or anywhere through online shopping sites can also be availed by community of citizens with disability empowering them to overcome their mobility constraint.
  • For Marginalised section of the society:

A democratic Government has the duty to provide the basic necessities of life to its citizens. As Aadhaar verdicts indicated that the idea of a socialist state under a mandate to secure justice-social, economic and political will be completely illusory if it fails to secure for its citizens the basic necessities in life.

Therefore, Government has come up with a well formulated and substantive methodology to help people who suffer starvation, subjugation, deprivation and marginalization. Following are the efforts by government:

  • Aadhaar is a ‘unique’ identity of Indian citizens that is nationally accepted as a proof of identity.
  • Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) based on Aadhaar platform bypasses existing leakages and standardises delivery procedures by delivering cash directly to the bank accounts of beneficiaries. It ensures accurate targeting of the beneficiaries, de-duplication and reduction of fraud.
  • This addresses the key issue of correct identification of targeted beneficiaries for delivery of various subsidies, benefits, services, grants, wages and other welfare schemes of Government where funds flows from the Consolidated Fund of India.
  • The combination of Jan Dhan bank accounts, mobile phones and digital identity through Aadhaar i.e. JAM trinity is helping the poor to get benefits directly into their bank account.
  • It is estimated that in India only about 10 per cent people are English- speaking and it is obvious to presume that a large population is deprived of benefits of technologies due to language barrier.
  • The internet and digital technologies can only be useful to people once it serves citizens in local language.
  • Today India has Indian language content in cyberspace in at least 15 languages and the rest would soon be available on the Internet.
  • Pradhan Mantri Digital Saksharta Abhiyan has been appreciated as the world's largest Government effort to bridge the digital divide. It aims to make 6 crore rural adults digitally literate - one person in every household, out of which 2.21 crore persons have already been trained.
  • The BPO Scheme in Tier-II/III locations are offering services in local languages which is in turn creating employment opportunities for the local youth near their home in small towns. The schemes provide special incentives to the units encouraging employment to women and differently abled persons.

Challenges:

  • The full potential of the technology has not been utilized yet. The government should unleash it to transform and disrupt the existing order, to provide a leveller to bridge the divide and move towards a more equitable and inclusive society.
  • Abundance of E-services: The emergence of web-based delivery systems has increased the relevance of technology in the collection, collation, and sharing of information at a low cost. As the information is more readily available on the Internet and citizens become more comfortable in accessing data, hence is expected more from the government. Managing and deployment of such a large number of exponentially growing services and data is becoming more and more complex.
  • Data Coherence: Data coherence becomes a problem when dealing with the data or information for an E-government initiative. Data deals with the raw information and to convert it in a more intelligent form, i.e., to information, raw data from various diverse sources need to be integrated and processed before using it as information for deciding policy matters. Data coherence deals with the adherence of data to common standards so that the data is consistent, updated across all government sites.
  • E-Governance Interoperability: As more and more organizations become online and data verification among different departments contributes major data exchange across the departments, there arises the need for cross-departmental communication which comes under the ambit of interoperability due to the heterogeneity of technology (hardware, software) used in solutions.

Way forward:

  • India’s resonance towards digital technologies should now move from the corridors of the empowered society and provide substantive benefits to the common masses, thus demonstrate the power of technology.
  • Government should embrace changing landscape of technology and should ensure the state-of-the-art technology enables citizen centric services for the benefit of citizens, welfare of the society and for the socio-economic development of the country.
  • The Government should work on leveraging and integrating emerging technologies such as Block chain, Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Internet of Things, Big Data Analytics with GIS to give further boost to developmental planning, foster citizen-centric service delivery and good governance.
  • The Government should encourage innovation in digital payments. There should be a push for increasing digital payments acceptance infrastructure. The entities in the digital payments space should be given freedom to enable merchants to accept digital payments in whatever way they deem fit-be it wallet, UPI or any other new innovation.
  • The Government should increasingly move beyond conventional aspects while formulating public policies. It should expand beyond traditional domains to include new areas, such as, privacy protection, disrupting software product development, IP creation and fostering quick adoption of digital technologies, leading to trust and enhanced customer experience.
  • The Government should focus on achieving the automation. Every step from acquiring data, its transformation into information and then into knowledge, development and management of a project, and the delivery of service should be meticulously designed and automated for faster processing.
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