November 2005

LOKVANI: An (e)ffort to (e)mpower citizens

Views: 707

Lokvani is an innovative model of Citizen Service Centres (CSCs) implemented in district Sitapur in the state of Uttar Pradesh, India. It is a self sustainable solution, wherein the existing cyber cafes are being leveraged to act as franchisees, benefiting the citizens, the administration and the kiosks operators.

“Lokvani” in Hindi language means the voice of the people. Lokvani is a public-private partnership e-Governance program, which has been initiated with the combined efforts of both the district administration as well as the National Informatics Centre in district of Sitapur in Uttar Pradesh. Lokvani has tried to fulfil a commitment to the people in providing them with transparent, credible and accountable systems of governance.

The conventional administrative mechanisms are constrained by their inability to reach out to most of the citizens. The only way out of this issue is to use technology effectively to make governance more approachable for citizens.

Government offices have traditionally been the only dependable source of information regarding various schemes. As a result, the process of obtaining the birth, death, domicile, caste, income and other certificates, has been marred with red tapism and bureaucratic hassles. Citizens have had no other option other than personally visiting the District headquarter/ Tehsil for government related work and/or getting their grievances addressed.

In Sitapur, the citizens had been allotted a specified time span of two hours within which they could interact with the District Manager. This caused a great strain on the system and therefore very few grievances could be addressed satisfactorily.

Generally district administration officials in India have a very large population base under their purview. Hence, without the deployment of ICT, the task of managing the services becomes insurmountable. But prior to Lokvani system the infrastructure was abysmally inadequate due to a very limited number of computer systems and non-existential computer networks.

Another factor contributing to the perceived inefficiencies in governance has been the inability of the administration to effectively monitor the government officers. Again, ICT can be a tool to address this drawback.

Operational model of Lokvani
The Lokvani model has been formulated keeping in mind the three key stakeholders – (a) the citizens, (b) the government and (c) the IT entrepreneurs/Kiosk operators. Essentially, since the IT literacy (and also any form of literacy) is very low in Sitapur, hence the kiosks form an interface between the IT enabled government and the IT illiterate citizens. The key players in the model are as follows:

Government

A society by the name of Lokvani was constituted at the district level to implement the project  autonomously to reduce some of the bureaucratic pressures. All the financial decisions have  been under the purview of the society itself. The rationale for such a framework is that the  budgets of small districts have a limited scope for extra expenditure and the process of getting  finance is a long drawn out one.

The Lokvani society meets its recurring expenses  from the money received from the registration of kiosks, short term and lifetime membership  fees. The initial costs for setting up the society were also negligible as the hosting services was provided free of cost by the National Informatics Centre.

IT entrepreneurs / Kiosk owners

The key achievement of the solution is its selfsustainability and long-term financial viability. Lokvani kiosk centers are set up in the existing cyber cafes and computer training institutes. This has ensured the financial viability and long-term sustainability of the kiosks due to an  alternate source of stable income. The conversion of existing cyber cafes/computer training  institutes into Lokvani Centers was a key factor driving the financial success. This step  ensured that extraneous capital was not a vital requirement for the solution. The society  signed contracts with existing kiosk owners for the purpose of registering them as Lokvani  franchisees with only a nominal annual fee of INR 1,000.

The kiosks are run by IT entrepreneurs. A typical kiosk has an Internet enabled PC, a printer and a webcam. It also has a CD ROM drive. Some kiosks also have a power backup (typically, power is available 5 hours a day).

Kiosks earn profits through the income generated from various services of Lokvani provided to the citizens. One complaint generates a minimum income of INR 20 for the kiosks. A single  complaint needs an investment of INR 10 for registering, INR 5 for its printout and INR 5 for  retrieval of the current status. In addition, the kiosks can also generate some extra revenue  by providing disparate facilities like computer education, computer typing, digital photography,  Internet access resulting in cross sales.

Citizens

The citizens are the reason as well the force behind the solution. Although, the kiosk owners and the government seem to be the driving force, it is the citizen who finally is the target  audience. The citizens form the customer base for which the model has been designed. The  citizens save tremendous amount of opportunity cost and effort in getting government  services. In an economy riddled with poverty, it is an enormous burden on the citizens to  forego daily wages to obtain government services. Therefore, with the Lokvani system, the  citizens are the key beneficiaries and it is ensuring the continuation of the system by putting pressure on the government, based on the response from the citizens.

Services offered by Lokvani

Lokvani system has empowered the citizens by generating awareness towards their rights  through a seamless flow of information. It is an outstanding manifestation of the “right to  information”. The services offered by Lokvani encompass a wide range of government  departments (Department of Public Grievances, District Administration, Development  Department and Department of Land and revenue). The services offered by Lokvani are (a)  Grievance and Petitions, (b) land records, (c) tender service, (d) employment services, (e)  information related to government schemes and (f) information about government services.

Lokvani grievance and petitions services

This is the most popularly used service of the Lokvani system as of now. This service allows  citizens to register and then track the status of their petition via a nearby Kiosk centre. The complaint is then transferred to designated officials, who can read but cannot modify it. It has  many unique features including one, which enables the citizens to follow up on their complaint  on the mobile phone. Another salient feature is the color coding of complaints to ensure a  prompt and satisfactory reply. It begins with the complaints being coded white, which automatically transforms into yellow if the petition remains unresolved after a period of 10  days. Lastly, in the event of the expiration of the deadline date, they are coded red otherwise  the complaints are coded green and disposed off.

Various functionalities provided are:

• Status of complaint
• Officer wise summary of all complaints
• Summary of all Complaints
• Date wise Received Complaints
• Centre wise sent Complaints
• Date wise marked Complaints
• Date wise modified Complaints
• Date wise disposed Complaints

Land record system

Information about the type of land, list of villages and details regarding the allotment of land in  villages is available online in the local language. Individuals can view the land records  through just a nominal payment. In the case that the information regarding a particular land  record is not available online at the kiosk centre, the applicant gets to receive it within a stipulated period of 5 days by speed post.

Tender services

Notices regarding the tenders and their terms and conditions are published under the Lokvani  Tender Service. The forms are also available for download. Interested contractors can send the filled tender forms through speed post to the concerned offices. Results and comparative charts of all bids are displayed on Internet within 24 hours of allotment.

Employment services

The Lokvani system provides information on all vacancies in the district as well as downloadable application forms for job seekers. Detailed information regarding the financial help provided by the government under various self-employment schemes is also available.

Information relating to Government
schemes

The data of various schemes funded by the Central and State Governments through various  Developments and Social Welfare Departments is accessible via Lokvani.  Application forms for social schemes like Old Age Pension Scheme, National Family Benefit Scheme, Professional  and Vocational Education, Loan for the Physically Handicapped, Loan for the  Development of Small Scale/Handicraft/Cottage industry are made available for download.  Citizens can down load these forms and submit them through traditional methods.

Information about development works

Lokvani also provides a list of developmental programs which are running under various departments like Educational Department, Jal Nigam, Electricity Department, Food and Civil Supply Department, Social Welfare Department, Public Works Department, Revenue  Department and other Development Departments. It also provides information about the  people who have received employment under the National Food for Work Scheme and allotees  of homes under the Indira Awas Yojana. Information about the development work  done under various schemes like National Food for Work Scheme, Member of Parliament  Development Scheme, and Member of Legislative Assembly Development Scheme is also  available online. Detailed information about the food allocated to Kotedars and other agencies  is also freely available.

Single window system

Lokvani Single window system deals with the filing of application for Birth, Death, Income, and  Domicile Certificates at the Kiosk centers. These certificates are received after the due completion of the verification process. It has been introduced on a trial run basis.

Benefits of the Lokvani system

Some of the key benefactors of the Lokvani


Citizens

Citizens can easily obtain pertinent information from the kiosks that are conveniently located  in every block and in a few villages as well. Unlike the traditional method, people are not  required to visit the district/ tehsil headquarter and as a result save on precious time, money and effort.

Filing of grievances and their follow up has also been streamlined. In a 7 month period approximately 21,000 complaints were filed by the people and out of which more than 80% complaints were resolved amicably. Citizens can receive disposal reports and can track the status of their filed complaint without personally visiting any government officer.

Computerization of land records has precluded the dependence on the Lekhpal for furnishing  the official documents. Citizens can access information about various government schemes  and their preconditions through kiosks. They can also obtain the list of persons who are  benefiting under various schemes. system are.

Moreover teachers can view their GPF account detail at any kiosk. Previously, they had to wait weeks end for their account details. Online tender services have significantly reduced the  preexisting monopoly of some influential contractors. Results and comparative charts of all  bids are displayed on Lokvani within 24 hours of the allotment. This has drastically abated the likelihood of illegal negotiations after the allocation of tender.

Government

Before the implementation of Lokvani, there existed no easy method of checking the time  taken by an officer for solving his assigned complaints. This encourages a lackadaisical  approach and dereliction in solving problems. However in the new system, the officer is  assigned a fixed period of 15 days within which he has to redress the issue. This strict  schedule has dramatically increased the efficiency and accountability of officers. Moreover the  District Magistrate and the citizens can access the progress report of the work by any officer.  Transparency brought about by the easy availability of information on land records has  reduced the possibility of land scams.

Kiosks

Kiosk operators are earning extra money besides their regular income, without any extra  investment. This has caused the number of registrations to climb up drastically. Apart from  this their earnings from their staple business also went up. There are 42 uniformly distributed kiosk centres at the block and tehsil level.

Hence each and every one of the level benefits from Lokvani model. This is a highly desirable feature which although quite hard to achieve, can be single handedly attributed to the success  of any e-governance solution.

The Lokvani project has successfully showcased a paradigm that can be incorporated by other administrative organisations. It has also proved that a low literacy rate and financial  constraints is not a barrier for implementing a successful e-Governance project.

Comments

comments

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Latest News

To Top