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Citizen Centric e-Services

  • Categories
    Yojana/Kurukshetra
  • Published
    6th Sep, 2019

Introduction

The government 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. Banking is fast moving from branch banking to a virtual world of banking called Digital Banking.

Other 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. 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, mobility and user experience.

The Digital India programme and the tremendous focus of the Government on providing these services are resulting in the Indian citizens witnessing not only a transformational shift in the delivery of services but also a better engagement of the Government with its citizens. In the article ahead we will see what infrastructure the government has created to provide a foundation for launching these citizen centric e-services, what all initiatives have been launched, how they have impacted the lives of people specially the disabled ones and the marginalized section of society, what challenges the government is facing in implementing them and how the government can address them.

Digital Infrastructure refers to the foundational services that are necessary to develop the information technology capabilities. It is necessary for the economic growth and improving the quality of life of the people.

National Informatics Centre (NIC), an attached office of Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) works closely with Government in provisioning state-of-the-art infrastructure. Digital Infrastructure for Government was further strengthened through a number of initiatives taken under the National e-Governance Plan. Following were the initiatives taken:

  • NICNET
  • It is the Pan India communication network for exclusive use of Government has continuously evolved since 1980s in terms of its geographical expansion, state of the art technology, reliability as Well as security architecture.
  • Today it connects Government offices across the length and breadth of India using a combination of technologies viz. fiber optic, copper cable, VSAT, Radio Frequency based on availability and suitability of technology to terrain of the land.
  • Today, NICNET is at the base of all Government communications right from Government to Government, Government to citizen as well as Government to business communication.
  • National Knowledge Network
  • It is another important initiative which provides Multigigabit nationwide network connected through 10G backbone.
  • It also extends high speed connectivity to leading Research and Academic Institutions is of the country.
  • Data Centres
  • Realizing the importance of Data Centres, National Informatics Centre (NIC) has established large Data Centres at Delhi, Hyderabad, Bhubaneswar and Pune
  • These centres are offering robust, resilient and secure set-up for e-Governance applications, web portals and websites with high availability and accessibility.
  • Mini-Data Centres are also operational in all NIC State centres to cater to the e-Governance requirements at the state level.
  • National Cloud (MeghRaj)
  • In order to utilize and harness the benefits of Cloud Computing, Government of India initiated a Government Cloud initiative titled MeghRaj” in 2014.
  • Bharat Maps
  • Bharat Maps is a multi-layered GlS platform / web service comprising of seamless country wide base maps, satellite images and hybrid maps aligned as per the global geo spatial standards.
  • Video-Conferencing
  • NIC has been offering Video Conferencing services since 1995 for connecting and bringing administration close to each other.
  • As on today, over +1852 Video Conferencing sites have been established, thus becoming an integral component of Government functioning and processes.
  • Video Conferencing is now extensively used at all levels of governance i.e. Centre to State, State to District and Sub-districts, and government to public.
  • It provides state of the art, high definition, multi-party, anytime, anywhere video conferencing services. This has resulted in substantial saving of time and cost.
  • Cyber Security
  • To address ever increasing threat of cyber-attacks in terms of their magnitude as well as their sophistication, Computer Emergency Response Team (NIC-CERT) group has been constituted.
  • It has an objective of analysing, monitoring and responding to cyber threats on critical government cyber infrastructure, like websites, emails and various services.
  • NIC-CERT coordinates with other stakeholders to mitigate the cyber threats by monitoring network for security incidents and issuing advisory for vulnerabilities.
  • NIC-CERT works in close guidance of CERT-In, which is the national nodal agency for responding to computer security incidents as and when they occur.
  • 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.
  • IndEA
  • India Enterprise Architecture (IndEA) aims to offer One Government experience to citizens and businesses by establishing the best-in-class architectural governance, processes and practices with optimal utilisation of ICT infrastructure and applications.
  • 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 Startups 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.
  • 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 governance that 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 has led to participative governance, a key element of a responsible democracy.
  • It has reduced the human interface in 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 systems to 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 authenticate documents 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 protection through 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 problems relating to areas, such as, health, food security, transport and urban planning.

Promotion of welfare for the Differently Abled

  • 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 to 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.

Special E-Governance Initiatives for the Differently Abled

  • Avaz:
    • It is an alternative and augmentative communication device.
    • It works by generating speech from limited muscle movements like that from the head or by the hand, and is used by people with speech disorders such as cerebral palsy, autism, intellectual disability, and aphasia.
    • It was widely used as a communication device, and was subsequently converted into an app for the i-Pad and for Android tablets.
    • This device is 90 per cent cheaper than the devices which are available in developed countries and cater to Indian languages.
  • Kabi:
    • It is an app for speech impaired children.
    • It assists them for quick communication with the external world by selecting pictograph image on their hand held Android devices.
  • Blee watch:
    • It is a smart watch especially designed for the needs of hearing impaired citizens.
    • The watch enables recording emergency sounds like doorbell, fire alarm, baby's cry into the connected app.
    • Whenever that sound is played next, Blee Watch notifies the user with unique vibration patterns, colours and icons. It also indicates the feel of music even if it is not being heard. Blee Watch converts sound into vibration patterns. The user can then express through dance on the basis of these vibration patterns.

E-Governance Initiatives for the Inclusion of the Differently Abled

  • e-Services has also led to financial inclusion of citizens with disability. Earlier blind and visually impaired had to suffer consequences of cheque being dishonoured on account of variation in individual signature but today digital channel has solved this problem to a large extent by online transactions through web portal or mobile app instead of cheque based instruments.
  • DAISY forum of India (DFI) in collaboration with Government of India has launched Sugamya Pustakalaya, an online library of digital books in accessible format for print impaired citizens.
  • Government of Chhattisgarh has taken initiative of enabling citizens of Chhattisgarh to report emergency by- dialing 112. This central number integrates all three emergency services such as police, fire and ambulance working together to serve citizens during emergency situation. This app is equipped to respond to hearing impaired citizens through texting features and can interact in real time.

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.

    E-Governance Initiatives for STs

    Several e-Governance initiatives for ST welfare schemes have been launched by the Ministry of Tribal Affairs. Following are the initiatives taken:

    • Online portals namely DBT Tribal and NGO Grants Online Application and Tracking System have been launched for bringing in greater e-Governance in implementation of welfare schemes for STs.
    • In DBT Tribal portal, there are 3 main modules for Pre-Matric and Post-Matric Scholarship:
      • Data Sharing module is mainly meant for sharing beneficiary-data by states.
      • In Communication module, the states have facility to upload document, raise query and DBT data uploaded by states is used for faster release of funds.
      • Monitoring module has facility of MIS reports and Dashboards.
    • The NGO portal is developed for implementing the scheme - Aid to Voluntary Organisations working for the welfare of STs. It has been fully revamped and redesigned with simplified Application form, Inspection Report and Fund Processing module.
  • 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.
  • 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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