April 2007

AN E-FFORT TO EMPOWER CITIZEN

Views: 251

Lokvani is a single window, self-sustainable e-Governance solution providing transparent, accountable and responsive administration for grievance handling; land record maintenance as well as an eclectic mixture of essential services. Lokvani is an e-effort to empower citizens through the use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in rural areas.

INTRODUCTION

e-Governance is defi ned as the use of Information Technology for the purpose of enabling and improving the effi ciency with which government services and information are provided to the citizens, employees, businesses, and other government agencies (Ref. McClure, David: Electronic Government Challenges Must Be Addressed with Effective Leadership and Management, 2001). e-Governance supports good governance, which in turn promotes progress in developing countries. Another key benefi t is that the democratic, business and governmental aspects of governance are simplifi ed and improved. This further leads to a reduction in costs with provisions of better services to citizens and businesses. Hence numerous governments are in the process of modeling innovative and effi cient models of electronic governance. This also leads to a reduction of multiple and redundant points of contact between government and citizens.

Lokvani is a public-private partnership e-Governance programme, which has been initiated with the combined efforts of both the district administration as well as the National Informatics Centre in the district of Sitapur, India, which has 88% rural population with 38.86% literacy rate. It is an outstanding example of a highly cost-effi cient, economically self-reliant and user fi nanced community network. This solution is targeted at 3.6 million citizens residing within the district, located in the province of Uttar Pradesh, the world’s fi fth largest political entity in terms of population. Lokvani has been projected as a commitment to the people in providing them with transparent, credible and accountable systems of governance. This system is grounded in the rule of law, encompassing civil, political as well as economic and social rights underpinned by accountable and effi cient public administration for multiphase development of rural people. The primary objective of the IT solution is to bridge the digital divide and “connect” the common man to the strategy makers in a seamless fashion.

OPERATIONAL MODEL OF LOKVANI

“Lokvani” in Hindi means the voice of the people. The Lokvani model has been formulated keeping in mind the three key stakeholders– (a) citizens, (b) government and (c) 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.

key players

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 long drawn and complicated process.

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 self-sustainability and long-term financial viability. 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 fo 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 (USD 22).

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. 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.

Geographical spread: There are 42  uniformly distributed kiosk centers at the block and tehsil level. A black dot in map below  represents the location of a kiosk centre in Sitapur. More than one kiosk can be situated at the same place.

Sevoces 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 such as Department of Public Grievances, District Administration, Development Department and Department of Land and revenue). The services offered by Lokvani include  (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 move with the help of a mobile phone.

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  Development schemes 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.

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. The system has been introduced on a trial run basis.

Benefits of the lokvani system

Some of the key beneficiaries of the Lokvani system are:
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. Citizens can receive disposal reports and can track the status of their filed complaint without personally visiting any government officer.

Computesisation of land records has precluded the dependence on the Lekhpal (land record keeper) 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. A complaint can be filed against the concerned officer in the case of any discrepancy.

Moreover teachers can view their EPF (Employee Provident Fund) account detail at any kiosk. Previously, they had to wait week ends to visit banks 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.

“The self-sustainability of Lokvani is derived from the innovative operational  model wherein existing cyber cafes are being leveraged to act as franchisees of the  system. Such a strategy avoids upfront investments from the government to set up  such kiosks as well as avoids any operational support from the government. This is  possible as the system generates its own funds from the citizens and contributes to  the earnings of the kiosk operators.”

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.

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.

Conclusion and Key Learnings

Lokvani system is a self-sustainable solution that efficiently and effectively caters to the needs of its three key stakeholders that are (a) citizens, (b) administrators and (c) kiosks operators/ the IT entrepreneurs.

The self-sustainability of Lokvani is derived from the innovative operational model wherein existing cyber cafes are being leveraged to act as franchisees of the system. Such a strategy avoids upfront investments from the government to set up such kiosks as well as avoids any operational support from the government. This is possible as the system generates its own funds from the citizens and contributes to the earnings of the kiosk operators.

Another dimension of sustainability is provided by the transparency created by the system,  which has allowed the press to take up issues related to administrative efficacy. This has  created tremendous citizen pressure, which will ensure that the system continues to exist  even when the champions of the system move out.

The citizens are obviously the key beneficiaries from the solution as is evident from the  number of petitions filed per day and the efficiency with which they are now being resolved. The system has also made government more approachable for the ordinary citizen who had to  earlier forego wages to stand in a queue to merely file in a petition. The citizen would then  have to follow it up with countless visits to various government offices to find out the status  and outcome of the petition that was filed. Clearly, with the Lokvani system, the citizen is able  to put his or her time to a more productive use which definitely adds up to the local GDP.

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  constraint is not a barrier for implementing a successful e-Governance project.

Sitapur has a negligible computer literacy rate. However this did not prove to be a deterrent to the project as the existing kiosks were used as an interface between the systems and the citizens.

A key learning from this solution is that word of mouth is the most effective and efficient mechanism for generating awareness among rural and semi-urban citizens that have low literacy rates.

Change management was identified as the toughest task for this project. Attitudes of officers towards learning new technology have not been up to the desired levels. Therefore, it is necessary to have a programmatic approach to change management in order to ensure an effective implementation of the system. In order to make the solution robust and scalable, the solution is now being migrated to Oracle 10G.

Lokvani has brought about, a well appreciated transparency to the workings of the  administration. People were unaware of their rights as well the possible support provided by  the government under various schemes. Widespread awareness as well as a stronger  formulated public opinion can go a long way in the fight against corruption.

The success of any project is gauged by the extent of which it achieves its pre-defined goals.    Going by this metrics, the Lokvani system has proved to be a major success in the field of e-Governance. It has not only met the expectations but has surpassed them in every imaginable way.

Comments

comments

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Latest News

To Top