Interview

Building Sound Local e-Government : Nabroon Bhattacharjee, Urban Team Leader and Program Manager, Office of Economic Growth, USAID

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“Municipalities have signifi cant citizen interactions as they provide a large number of basic civic   services to millions of citizens living in urban areas. Hence, introduction of e-Governance,    on a massive scale, in municipalities would lead to better services and ‘good       governance,” says Nabroon Bhattacharjee, Urban Team Leader and Program Manager, Offi ce of Economic Growth, USAID, in an interview with egov magazine.”

What is the goal and vision of Indian government’s initiative on urban e-Governance? What has been the role of USAID in designing the Mission Mode project on urban governance?

The Mission Mode Project for e-Governance in Municipalities is one of the State Mission Mode  projects under NeGP. Municipalities have signifi cant citizen interactions as they provide a  large number of basic civic services to millions of citizens living in urban areas. Hence,  introduction of e- Governance, on a massive scale, in municipalities would lead to better  services and ‘good governance’. It is also envisaged that this project would also provide a  major fi llip to the urban reform programme that has been initiated by the Ministry of Urban Development (MoUD), Government of India.

‘The vision for the National Mission Mode Project for e-Governance in Municipalities (NMMP) is to leverage the ICT opportunities for sustained improvement in effi ciency and effectiveness of delivery of municipal service to citizens.’

The key objectives of e-Governance initiative include the following:

  • Provide single window services to citizens on any time,anywhere basis;
  • Increase the effi ciency and productivity of Urban Local Bodies (ULBs);
  • Develop Single and integrated view of ULB information system across all ULBs in the state;
  • Provide timely and reliable management information relating to municipal administration for effective decision making; and
  • Adopt a standards-based approach to enable integration with other related applications.

It was decided that in order to comprehensively conceptualise, design and implement the NMMP, an assessment of various initiatives already on the ground should be carried out so as  to draw upon lessons from the various initiatives and plan to systematically integrate and build upon the various components and lessons from these initiatives. USAID-FIRE project  supported MoUD in carrying out the assessment in four states (Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, and Maharashtra) and seven ULBs (Hyderabad, Bangalore, Trichy, Coimbatore,  Vizag, Kalyan and Mumbai). The assessment highlighted that, preparing the ULBS for fundamental change, re-engineering core business processes, creating integrated databases  and the capacity to manage information are prerequisite for taking up e-Governance as a national level initiative.

Further, in order to comprehensively conceptualise, design and implement the NMMP, USAID  supported in the design of the NMMP The design covered four major aspects: Programme Design: Defi nes institutional / organisational and implementation arrangements  including the fi nancial arrangements.

Functionality of e-Governance Modules: Defi nes the generic functionality of e-Governance  modules which may be customised at state level depending on the local needs and suggesting/redesigning process improvements.

Design e-Governance Architecture: Defi nes broad e- Governance architecture for effective  implementation in terms of application software, infrastructure software, hardware, infrastructure components, etc. Also discusses Standards, Guidelines and Recommendations  for data/database, security, privacy, software architecture, technology infrastructure,  disaster recovery, local language, integration technologies, etc.

Program Implementation and Management: address key components such as organisational aspects, tools for implementation and support arrangements for implementation and sustainability.

The broad recommendation of the design was:

  • Single application for state-wide implementation for effi cient and fast integration between the application modules
  • Web enabled application for delivery of the services
  • Application should support n-tier architecture
  • Integration with the Government of India initiatives such a state wide area network, Common Service Centre, National Urban Information System, etc.
  • Development of a single and integrated view of ULB information across all ULBs within the states

Based on the design USAID FIRE project helped in formulating the scheme on e-Governance in  municipalities. USAID FIRE project also helped during the approval process of the scheme,  Planning Commission and Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs. USAID also assisted in  preparing draft guidelines for the scheme, Empanelment of Software Vendors and preparation  of draft RFP for selection of National Level Consultant.

Could you please tell us about any success story in terms
of improvement in effi ciency and effectiveness of service delivery of urban local bodies both from the point of view of government and citizens?

During the last few years in India there have been major initiatives among different state  governments and urban local bodies towards ushering in Information Technology and its tools  in the functioning of Government. There are striking examples of e-Governance  initiatives in the delivery of basic services including health and education; social services including pension, registration of licenses and certifi cates; rural services, like the accessing of  land records; services in the agricultural sector that include weather forecast and information.

Several State Governments and urban local bodies have taken various innovative steps to  promote e-Governance and have drawn up a roadmap for IT implementation and delivery of  services to the citizens on-line. The applications that have been implemented are targeted  towards providing services with emphasis on use of local language. The emphasis has been on  providing better services to citizens and in improving the internal productivity.

The major areas covered by e-Governance initiatives are:

  • Public grievances: Facility to lodge their complaints and grievances through the web site. The unique point here is that the citizens have full access to the entire process of the disposal of the complaints.
  • Social Services: Provides information regarding birth and death certifi cates that citizens can access this information easily and are also able to get these certifi cates online.
  • Utility payments: Access to information pertaining to their property assessment, and view the calculations that have gone into it; facility of submitting the building plan applications  and water tap applications.

Some of the successful projects are e-Seva in Andhra Pradesh, Setu in Maharashtra, Bhoomi in Karnataka , Citizen Service Centers in Vizag and Kalyan etc.

What are the key challenges in achieving the set goal? How are these being planned to overcome?

Evolution of e-Governance is a highly complex process requiring provision of hardware,  networking, and software and re-engineering of the procedures for better decisionmaking. Re-engineering of the existing government processes and procedures is essential to bring about  transparency in working, reducing bureaucratic controls, increasing effi ciency and  productivity, reducing cost of service delivery etc. Successful implementation would also  depend upon organisational leadership and capacity (including the capacity to lead and  manage change and to re-engineer major business processes). Therefore, preparing the  organisation for fundamental change, re-engineering core business processes, creating  integrated databases and the capacity to manage information are pre-requisite for scaling up e-Governance as a national level initiative.

What are some of your future initiatives planned in leveraging ICT for improvement in delivery of municipal services to citizens?

ULBs will implement their e-Governance initiatives in waves. Wave 1 (Raise Visibility); This  wave of services aims to quickly raise the visibility and image of municipalities by  establishing a professional and effective web presence. Wave 2 (Build Critical Transactional  Services); This wave seeks to establish the core transactional services required to support the  key customer segments and focuses on the services essential for effective customer  relationship management and common transactional services. Wave 3 (Sustain Value); This  wave aims to sustain the value delivered to municipalities/ULBs and their customers through  implementation of additional critical transactional services. Services implemented  as part of this wave generally possess low customer visibility.

For ensuring timely execution of the project 2.5% of the total project cost has been earmarked  for providing training and capacity building of personnel responsible for the project and  elected representatives This will be the fi rst step towards implementing urban e-Governance.

The implementation under NMMP is to be completed within a period of fi ve years coupled  with the need to cover as much population as possible and as early as possible. In the First  Phase (Year 1) 35 municipalities have been included. The 35 municipalities have been  selected as they have more than 1 million populations and cover a large proportion (approximately 20%) of India’s urban population.

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