Can you visualise a government office without a long queue outside? Can you think of walking into a building and having access to multifarious government services through a single window?
This scenario is not a vision of the future but a reality of today, as it exists in some cities.
The era of e-Government has arrived in India and governments are now increasingly decentralising responsibilities and processes and integrating citizen services using ICT as a tool. Governments now understand the power of e-Government which can help them to carry out activities more effectively in a structured manner, and in lesser span of time.
Integrated citizen service with ICT
Numerous studies have been conducted during recent times which highlight the expectations for superior service that citizens and businesses have from the government. Integrated Citizen Services may be a viable answer to this growing impatience and urgency felt by people who are not willing to waste their time and energy chasing the government departments to get their work done.
Integrated Citizen Service Centres as many are aware are one-stop centres, where varied government services are made available, thus doing away with the need for the citizen to travel to different locations interacting with different government departments. Constituted on the public-private partnership most of the times, the government provides services to citizens through a private vendor who sets up kiosks and is paid on a transaction-cost model.
Public sector organisations around the world have adopted a number of strategies to improve both service access and service quality. In Canada, efforts were undertaken to consolidate varied government services in a single office. This concept of coordinating service delivery across branch, departmental, and jurisdictional boundaries was broadly defined as Integrated Service Delivery (ISD). Coordinating services with several levels of government by making services available through new channels such as the Internet ensured government services to be more citizen-centric.
In Latin America, the vision of the 'Electronic Government Innovation and Access' (eGOIA) project is the provision of a single virtual space supporting the interaction of citizens (independent of social status, gender, race, abilities and age) and the public administration in a simple, future-oriented and cost-effective way. eGOIA aims to demonstrate an e-Government system based on an open services infrastructure
in order to allow the access of citizens through the Internet to integrated public services at several levels. The project began with the demonstration of some integrated citizen-centric e-Services based on a current set of public services. These services were offered to a selected citizen user group in the newly established Citizen Access Points. Service usage is evaluated by monitoring the behaviour of selected user groups associated with the assessment of the results. The lessons learnt are passed to different Brazilian regions/states and also to other countries (i.e. Peru and Portugal) to help in replication of the project.
In Philippines, the Philippine Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) has introduced an e-Governance programme as the main supporting tool of good governance. The priority projects of the BIR as categorised per e-Governance framework are citizen focused government-to-citizen (G2C) services, web-based government-to-business (G2B) services, linking with other agencies' systems for government-to-government (G2G) and G2B services and integrated back office for networking to field offices.
India is never one to lag behind. In step with the world, India is effectively utilising ICT for the welfare of citizens. The initiatives undertaken by Indian states in this regard are noteworthy.
One of the earliest initiatives in the Integrated Citizen Services domain in India was e-Seva, implemented in Hyderabad city, Andhra Pradesh. The state soon went on to become an e-Governance model for other states in the country. Some of the other projects implemented in Andhra Pradesh as a part of e-Governance were, Computer Aided Administration of Registration Department (CARD), Vijaywada Online Information Centre (VOICE), e-Procurement System etc.
Akshaya Project implemented by the Kerala State IT Mission, aims to set up a network of 6000 information centres that would be able to impart basic IT literacy to at least one member in each of the 6.5 million families of Kerala. Additionally, it will also provide services like data entry, desk top publishing, computer training and Internet telephony; generate and distribute locally relevant content; improve public delivery of services for networking and computerising the 1214 local self-governing bodies to expedite transactions like issue of certificates, licenses, tax collection etc. The existing centres are also being tapped to serve as Agri-business centres for providing more services to the citizens such as agriculture related information and services. These Agri-business centres will provide numerous agriculture related inputs to the farmers.
In Maharashtra, Integrated Citizen's Service Centres, SETU have been established in 25 district headquarters and 225 taluka places. These centres provide all the information related to collector office. Several Wide Area Networks are also being created for specific tasks.
Gujarat Gyan Ganga Project, 'Swagat' (Online Grievance Redressal System) and Mahiti Shakti in Panchmahal district are initiatives in the state of Gujarat towards providing Integrated Citizen Services. All district headquarters have been linked with the Secretariat and all talukas are linked with district headquarters.
The West Bengal Government has started government-to-citizen portal where anybody can download non-saleable government forms and avail many more facilities through the Internet. 82 information kiosks have been created to provide services at a nominal fee. Three major hospitals have been connected to rural hospitals to provide the benefits of their quality healthcare facilities to the rural populace.
The State Government of Himachal Pradesh has taken up the implementation of 'LokMitra' project on a pilot basis. Intranet set up has been built with servers at the district headquarters, connecting 25 Citizen Information Booths located in the rural areas throughout the district.
Where the focus of government lies in providing varied services in one single centre, private agencies and the civil society too are realising the role ICT's can play in providing integrated services to citizens. M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) launched the Pondicherry 'Information Village Research Project' for the Pondicherry fishermen. ICT was the medium of delivering key services to these fishermen. Computers were placed in the village centre and connected to the Internet through which regular weather reports of the Indian meteorological office could be accessed. The weather report is then broadcasted by loudspeakers and also through Very High Frequency (VHF) radios enabling the fishermen to determine low and high tide before sailing off to the sea.
Integrated citizen services in Karnataka
The Government of Karnataka (GoK) has been striving to leverage ICTs to provide global standard services to the citizens of the state. Bhoomi and Rural Digital Services are two such initiatives that have touched the lives of the people in the state's rural areas. Bangalore One (B1) is another initiative of GoK that aims to redefine citizen-government interaction through its focus on integrated citizen-centric services. B1 has been funded mainly by the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MOCIT) and the United Nations Development Programme funded ICTD Project being implemented by the National Institute for Smart Government (NISG).
Where governments have mostly been associated with endless waits and tangled red-tape, Bangalore One's objective is to make government transactions a hassle-free exercise. Implemented on a Public-Private-Partnership (PPP) model and run by a private consortium of CMS Computers Ltd. and Ram Informatics, the vision of the B1 Project is 'to provide to the citizens of Karnataka, all G2C and G2B one-stop services and information of departments and agencies of Central, State and Local Governments in an efficient, reliable, transparent and integrated manner on a sustained basis, with certainty, through easy access to a chain of computerised Integrated Citizen Service Centers (ICSC's) and through multiple delivery channels like electronic kiosks, mobile phones and the Internet'. Modeled after the highly successful e-Seva project of Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh, B1 aims to build on the success of the project.
The B1 project was launched on 2nd April 2005 with the inauguration of 14 centres in Bangalore. With the opening of these centres, the citizens will not have to stand in long queues to pay monthly or other bills at conventional or manual counters. They will be able to complete transactions in 10-15 minutes at the e-Kiosks in air-conditioned facility. Payments for other services such as stamps and registration, passport applications, birth and death certificates, license renewal and traffic fines will also be available at the e-Kiosks, with each centre having 15 counters.
To make the e-Kiosks customer-friendly, the centres have been installed with a TV set, coffee/tea vending machines, Internet facility, an Automated Teller Machine (ATM) and a well-stacked collection of newspapers, magazines and books. B1 aims to bring all G2C and G2B services under one roof to reduce the laborious interface between citizens or business people and the government offices, except for specialised or complex services.
Various departments of GoK like Bangalore Water Supply and Sewage Board (BWSSB), Bangalore Electricity Supply Company (BESCOM), Regional Passport Office (RPO), Regional Transport Office (RTO), Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BMP), Stamps and Registration and Commercial Taxes are actively involved in the project. The project is initially providing approximately 25 services of 7 government departments and would eventually provide almost all the simple day-to-day services (about 100 G2B, G2C and B2C services) citizens require.
Bangalore One Centre – Vijaynagar
Some of the main objectives of the project are as follows:
- To provide 25 G2C services in a convenient and efficient manner through B1 service centres;
- To scale up the operations to cover eventually all the G2C services throughout Bangalore;
- To enhance the accountability, transparency and responsiveness to citizen's needs;
- To provide cost-effective methods of service provision;
- To manage the service provision through partnership with a consortium of service providers to be selected through a competitive bidding process;
- To ensure speed and certainty of providing the services through enforcement of a service level agreement with the selected partner;
- To enable the government departments and agencies to focus on their core functions and responsibilities by freeing them from the routine operations like collection of revenues and accounting, issuing of certificates etc, and thereby enhance the overall productivity of the administrative machinery.
In the next phase, the number of Bangalore One service centres would be scaled up to 50. The scope of the services provided would also be expanded to about 200 services which would include G2B and B2C services. Bangalore One is envisaged to move to the smaller cities, towns and finally cover all the rural areas of the state of Karnataka.
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