The last few years have witnessed a marked acceleration in India’s efforts to embrace information and communication technology (ICT) for effective governance. Various government programmes have leveraged ICT on a large scale to transform the public governance ecosystem in the country, which is a key step towards making the country “Fit for Future”. Some of such large-scale digital-led successes include the transformation brought out in direct and indirect tax regime in the country, government procurement reforms driven through Government e-Marketplace, roll-out of Pradhan Mantri Jan Aarogya Yojana (Ayushman Bharat), direct transfer of government benefits to citizens, participatory governance enabled through MyGov, amongst others. One of the big contributors to success of these and many other programs has been the creation of a strong ICT backbone in the country, which comprises of multiple horizontal enablers such as Aadhar, Unified Payments Interface (UPI), Digital Locker as well as a robust infrastructure later made up of BharatNet, government of India Cloud etc. Backed by this strong ICT backbone, nationwide digital delivery of paperless, cashless and faceless service has become a reality.
Having built a robust foundation for itself we, now, need to prepare for the next wave of digital governance. The next wave of digital governance needs to align itself with the perspective of digitally empowered citizens, businesses and government alike. To take the ‘Digital India’ story forward, a paradigm shift in e-governance approach is needed, where service delivery is both ‘pro-active’ and ‘life-cycle driven’.
The shift in approach requires a change from the traditional ‘department-centric’ view of service provisioning to a ‘stakeholder-centric’ view driven by their personas, ensuring delivery of services becomes more seamless across the value chain, and such services are delivered pro-actively, wherever possible.
Let’s visualise this through an illustrative persona Manohar (‘Manohar’ here represents any typical Indian citizen). Can we create the next generation service delivery framework where touchpoints with government of all the major events in the life of ‘Manohar’ are identified and digitalised without any broken chain, where governments across levels reach out to Manohar proactively for delivery of services and benefits, where Manohar accesses such services and benefits on a channel of choice, in local language, where information once provided by Manohar is recorded and not asked for again.
While challenges do exist in creating an unbroken value chain like this, this is the right time to embark on this journey. Advances made by government through its Digital India program provide us the right launch pad to take up such persona-based approach for delivering services. Also, in wake of the large-scale roll-out of various e-governance initiatives, the government now has a multitude of data. This data can be leveraged across secure government platforms to reduce redundancy in information sought from the businesses and citizens across the value chain, identify trends, improve delivery mechanisms and for better policy planning. All this can be done within the larger framework of respecting an individual’s privacy and ensuring security of gathered data.
This approach needs to come up with newer models of e-governance. It needs a design thinking approach to understand life-cycle events and pain points of stakeholders. It needs a lot of focus on the usability aspects of the delivery channels. It would also mean bringing in appropriate changes in various government rules and regulations, aligning with the stated objective of ‘minimum government, maximum governance’. Apart from new designs and processes, new structures for service delivery within various levels of the governments would also be required, structures that focus both on stakeholder needs and departmental needs. On one of my consulting assignments, I came across a government organisation that has formed a Customer Happiness center and an Employee Happiness center. Can we think of something on these lines?
This is the right time for us to take yet another leap in e-governance. Today, India is making rapid strides in adoption of emerging concepts such as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), Internet of Things (IoT), blockchain, cloud computing, drones, microservices etc, which have a huge potential in transforming governance. The platforms we have created—many more are being created— form the bedrock for this service delivery transformation. These technologies and platforms have all the potential to ameliorate certain structural and capacity constraints in our existing service model.
Several initiatives are being taken by the government to enhance existing governance mechanisms by leveraging advancements in technology. This includes building various AI-based applications, implementing blockchain pilots, creating new architectures for delivery, amongst many others. Some of the states have already embarked on the journey of creating technology driven frameworks, which would enable pro-active delivery of services and benefits to citizens. Such efforts are bound to intensify, given the growing challenges in governance and availability of technology in the country. The need is now to converge such efforts and align them with a futuristic governance framework, a framework that has a ‘human-need centric design’, a framework that considers demand as important as supply side.
Going forward, we will no longer be followers in the digital governance space but will soon emerge as trend-setters.―Authored by Anurag Dua, Partner, Advisory—Government and Public Sector, PwC India for Financial Express