October 2007

Mumbai to a Global City

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An e-Government Perspective of the Journey!!!

It is not easy to create and govern a First World global city in a Third World environment. Nor is it impossible. Malaysia has managed to do that with Kuala Lumpur. China has Hong Kong, Beijing and Shanghai. South Africa has Johannesburg and Cape Town. The problems faced in Mumbai are not new. They have been solved by dozens of cities; many in the third world.

Developments on all quarters seem to be the mantra of the day. There is an urgent demand for a major transition that would facilitate citizen services to be more transparent, simplified, efficient and  accountable. Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) is the largest municipal corporation in India and it is spread across 24 ward offices and 550 locations. For a city as large as Mumbai, development is not an over-night task. The sheer size and rapid but disorderly growth of Mumbai presents a challenge in inducing sound institutions for urban governance. With the increase in population, comes the increase in demands. However progressive changes are being effectively implemented to enable this transition by the state government under the leadership of the Hon'ble Chief Minister with active involvement of agencies like MCGM, Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA), Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation Limited (MSRDC) etc.  This transition  also involves enormous infrastructure such as complete beauti-fication of the city; building bridges and over-bridges; improving transport through metro rail and new roads. Plans and strategies that piled up for decades have started moving at a great pace.

Challenges in Making Global City

A Mumbai citizen is one of the most “global citizens” compared to different metropolis in India. Even in general, the citizens are becoming more and more demanding with each passing day, be it for their civic amenities or government services. Leaders cutting across the political parties want our city to compete with any other global city. There are several challenges in achieving this goal related to infrastructure which is well acknowledged by all the stake holders. Time has become the major constraint now. With technology, this time can be efficiently saved and things can now be done much faster than before. Satisfying demands is another Herculean task because of interference and objections from all quarters. What the citizens need is a trend where development is positive in spite of the change in the existing political scenario. Is it very optimistic to expect such a thing in a democratic country like ours?  What is necessary is development with unprecedented support from all quarters, be it the people, government or the numerous investors who pave the way for the same.

Global and National Efforts

Extensive efforts are being made by the government and the local body to cater to the needs of the citizens. Creative usage of technologies in an innovative manner is helping the civic body develop a secure and collaborative platform for effective management and exchange of information within the civic service. Many projects are being implemented and effectively executed by the Government of Maharashtra to help Mumbai cope up with the influx of migrants. National level initiatives like the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission brings together the State Governments enabling the urban local bodies to catalyse investment flows in the urban infrastructure sector. The aim of this mission is to encourage reforms and fast track planned development of identified cities. Focus is on efficiency in urban infrastructure and service delivery mechanisms, community participation, and accountability of Urban Local Bodies and other such agencies towards citizens.

It is not easy to create and govern a First World global city in a Third World environment. Nor is it impossible. Malaysia has managed to do that with Kuala Lumpur. China has Hong Kong, Beijing and Shanghai. South Africa has Johannesburg and Cape Town. The problems faced in Mumbai are not new. They have been solved by dozens of cities; many in the third world. We have the man power, the technology and the need to do the same. Tokyo follows a pattern almost similar to Mumbai wherein all the wards are united into one when it comes to processing. Office automation techniques, financial adjustments, tax management are all processed perfectly and is available to the citizen at the click of a finger. Following on the same notes, Mumbai is now readying to  serve the citizen  24/7 through its Citizen's Facilitation Centres (CFC's) and web access for several civic services.

Improving Governance- Need of the Hour

Shorter turn around time and reduced touch points for citizens seems to be the need of the day. Elimination of redundant activities and lower cost of providing services will go a long way in improving the cities, functioning. Joint operation of e-Government provides more convenience to both residents and businesses while improving administrative operations and reducing cost at the same time. What is new is the strengthened focus and emphasis on transcending organisational structures, changing rules and procedures, to reorganise and integrate the government around customers' and citizens' needs and intentions.

It is well appreciated that giving citizens a better quality of life entails quality infrastructure as mentioned above like roads, bridges, sewers etc. But at the same time providing the citizens hassle free interface for availing services from goverment also needs high focus. It can be concurrently achieved by improving the “governance” with the help administrative reforms and Information and Communication Technology.

Success Stories- Singapore and Shanghai

Cities like Singapore and Shanghai have successfully leveraged technology to gain a competitive edge over competitors in the global economy. In all these cities many government services can be obtained on the click of a finger. Any related data that a citizen might require is provided on the websites enabling faster, effortless access. These cities have governments that streamline common functions and integrate backend processes such as Human Resource and Finance to improve business operations. Integrated clinic management system, health care Call-for Collaboration, EdVantage, enhanced e-Learning experience are some unique programmes launched by the Singapore Government to facilitate excellent progress.

MCGM- Towards Global City

The MCGM too listens to citizens needs and demands 24/7 and is readying to cater to them online at the click of a finger. MCGM formed a Project Management Task Force (PMTF) two years back for steering the e-Government initiatives and has been extensively working towards leveraging technology to giving better quality of life to the citizens. Comprehensive initiatives in the areas like process reforms, consolidation of  earlier piece meal efforts, employee development, citywide computer network, updating/cleansing history records and implementing multiple software solutions has been undertaken.

For the first time even budget details, deadlines and proposal details are being made available to one and all on MCGM portal. Health services, budgetary details, bill payments, tax management pertaining to MCGM are planned to be made available 24/7 to the citizens. Better city infrastructure, along with the efforts mentioned above to harness technology  will go a long way in making Mumbai into a city of global standard. Though a difficult task, it is definitely not impossible. Right from the good infrastructure to flawless governance, the choice is ours to make it happen.  

e-Governance for India's commercial capital Mumbai

Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM), the largest municipal corporation in India, has successfully launched its Citizen Portal dedicated to the citizens of Mumbai. A first of its kind project in the country, it is all set to transform the way the City of Mumbai functions, ensuring “Freedom from Queues” though e- overnance. The Citizen's Service portal enabled by solutions, consulting and services by a consortium of SAP AG (provider of enterprise software applications), Siemens Information Systems Ltd.(Solution Design and Implementation partner) and ABM (domain expert  and post implementation support partner) will operate efficiently and transparently delivering benefits directly from government-to-citizens and government-to-business interactions.

Designed to be highly responsive and interactive it will address the needs of the citizens, administrators, employees and corporates. Online availability of services through interactive forms, secured payment gateway for online payments, online registration of complaints and status monitoring, property tax, water billing, octroi and e- endering processes will be enabled, delivering citizen empowerment like never before.  Citizens of Mumbai would be able to see a significant reduction in delivery time for the 215 new services by as much as 25-50%.  Time bound and speedy service, blending of ICT and administrative reforms, enabling single window service across multiple departments, avoiding repetitive data gathering from citizens and importantly  anytime anywhere service.

The entire e-Governance initiative was steered by MCGM through the Project Management Task Force (PMTF) formed two years back under the chairmanship of Shree Kant  Singh, IAS, Additional Municipal Commissioner, MCGM. By appropriate usage of Information Technology through “Portal” and “Walk-in CFCs” MCGM shows the way forward on how e-Governance can help municipal corporations in other part of India to reach the entire city population by bridging the digital divide.

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