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Mee Seva The Silent Revolution

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Sanjay Jaju
Secretary, Information Technology & Communications
Department, Government of Andhra Pradesh

Over the years a large number of e-Governance initiatives have been taken by the state of Andhra Pradesh. One of the most outstanding initiatives is the Mee Seva. Please provide us with your view on how the Mee Seva initiative has developed?

The eSeva and AP online were started in 2001, and over the years they have developed synergies with various MMPs like CSCs, SDC, APSWAN, SSDG and others, and have evolved into the modern ‘Mee Seva’ initiative for governance. The first ‘Mee Seva’ programme was launched in Chittoor District on pilot basis in November 2011. At present about 40 Government to Citizen (G2C) services are being provided under the Mee Seva umbrella. By December 2012, we plan to make more than 100 G2C services available in Mee Seva. The popularity of the programme can be judged from the fact that

The people living in the rural areas in the country are not that comfortable with digital technologies. What kind of response is Mee Seva getting from rural areas?
The Mee Seva programme is getting great response from rural areas. The people in rural areas use the Common Service Centres to avail of Mee Seva services. Earlier people in rural areas used to to access services like Community, Income, Birth and Death Certificates. The copies of Pahani/ Adangal, etc.,were also difficult to come by. The process followed by the Department was manual, and the citizens were required to submit physical application and collect physical signed copies at the office for get-ting any certificate. The citizens living in remote rural areas had to travel long distances for reaching the Taluq headquarters or the District headquarters where such services could be accessed. Thus it was a time-consuming and costly affair for a common man to access citizen services. The Mee Seva programme has taken the entire process of availing government certificates online. The rural folks can get hold of documents and certificates through the Web-based system on an anytime, anywhere basis. Even people who are not comfortable with digital technologies can avail of the services by visiting the Common Service Centres (CSCs). The bottom line is that the Mee Seva is a system, by which documents and certificates, pertaining to individuals, are issued by the Government through a common kiosk. There is no waiting time, no multiple visits to the offices, no pleading, no frustra-tion – it’s a genuine silent revolution.

“In democracy citizens should have access to necessary services from the government in a transparent, fast, hassle-free and painless manner”

What are the key features of the Mee Seva programme? Provide us with an overview of the infrastructure that is being used for delivery of the services.
The Mee Seva programme uses advanced solutions for enabling secure and transparent transac-tions. There is PKI integration for digitally signing the certificates or documents. The legal validity of the digitally signed certificates is ensured through Andhra Pradesh IT Rules (Electronic Service Delivery), 2011. There is integration with Cyber treasury for seamless transfer of trans-action fees collected. The success of Mee Seva is mainly due to the fact that this programme is designed to make the best use of IT infra-structure like State Data Center (SDC), State Wide Area Network (SWAN) and Common Service centres (CSCs) created under NeGP initiative of Government of India. MeeSeva is a true convergence of all these NeGP initia-tives in rendering G2C services in a transparent, fast and secure way.

Tell us about the technology and security related features that are being used in Mee Seva.
The entire solution is hosted in a state-of-art State Data Centre with a robust infrastructure. As the developed system is a web based one, deployed at a central location, it is easily accessible by all the stakeholders, anytime and any where. The entire web-based solution has been developed on Microsoft. NET (Framework 4.0) technology using ASP.NET for application development with MS SQL. Server 2008 R2 as the database platform. It is incorporated with PKI Engine and Payment Processing systems. Current system can be scaled up horizontally or vertically based on future needs and requirements of Government as well as Departments. At the Kiosk or SCAs the citizen’s request for services are collected. These requests are routed through the web services to the respective departments.

WORK – FLOW IN ME SEVA

  •  CSC Operator enters the details in the Online Application Software and issues a receipt to the applicant
  • There may be a need to submit supporting documents as per the checklist. These paper documents are digitised by adding a scanner and uploading the scanned documents
  • Citizen comes to Common Service Centres (CSC) for submission of application for certificates
  • Applicant purchases and fills up a Physical Application Form
  • Tahsildars/Sub-Registrar/authorised officer logs on Online Portal with his User ID /password/Digital Certificate and downloads the Applications and carries out Field/Office verification
  • If the record is not available as a hard copy, the record shall be created following the due process and digitally signed and uploaded by Tahsildars
  • Most of the records have already been scanned/entered and digitally signed by the authorised officer and placed in the respective databases for access. However, if the record is not available, the record has to be physically digitally signed by Tahsildars uploaded in the online portal
  • All the digitally signed certified copies are stored in the SECR
  • Kiosks take printouts and deliver the Certificates to the applicant’s address through courier and update the delivery details in the online portal. An SMS is then sent to the Applicant’s mobile number with the certificate delivery details
  • In case if the application is rejected due some reasons, Tahsildar has to enter the reasons for rejection and change the status of the application to closed status in the online portal
  • Kiosks take printouts of all the Memos of the rejected Applications and deliver the Memos to the applicants address through courier and update the delivery details in the online portal.

So how do the respective departments process the citizen requests that come in through the Mee Seva web interface?
In order to the process the citizen requests that have been received by any department, the department user has to log into Mee Seva programme with secured user ID, password and digital certificate. Once logged in, the department user can see all the requests submitted by the citizens at various kiosks like APOnline, eSeva or the CSC centres. The department user processes all the requests by conducting field verification and updates the status and remarks accordingly on Mee Seva portal. This application for implementation of these kinds of programs reduces lot of manual efforts in consolidating the data and makes decision making fast and easy. The thing is that you should not see Mee Seva as a purely IT initiative. It is, in fact, a multi-departmental, multi-location, technology-rich initiative, in which Department of Revenue, Registration,Municipal administration, Education and service delivery channels are deeply involved. The scope of the Mee Seva programme is so vast only because of the involvement of large number of key departments.

But the nodal role in getting the MeeSeva implemented has been played by IT&C Department. What is the crucial role that the Department of IT&C has played in development of Mee Seva?
As I already said, the main reason behind the success of the Mee Seva is the involvement of large number participating departments. The participating departments have supported well in delivering their departmental service through Mee Seva by organising trainings for their departmental staff and following up with the progress of Mee Seva and adhering to the timelines. However, the IT&C Department has played the role of the key catalyst in the entire process. The IT&C Department convinced all other departments of the utility of this concept and got their processes re-engineered to suit the technology.The department evolved the concept, became the main implementer and technology partner. It developed the project, got the necessary approvals and budget, and grounded it. Important components of the Project such as creation and updation of databases, developing of front-end and back-end applications, strengthening of connectivity, procurement of digital signatures and training of field functionaries in their usage were identified, The establishment of additional CSCs was also an important target. The role played by the media in popularising the initiative must also be recognised. Posters, hoardings, advertisements pro-active reporting have all played a role in stabilising this initiative in urban as well as rural Andhra Pradesh.

Mee Seva is an example of a very effective e-Governance programme. What is your vision for e-Governance in general? In your opinion, why is e-Governance important?
I think the essence of democracy lies in the fact that the citizens should have access to all the necessary services from the government in a transparent, fast, hassle-free and painless manner. After all, governance is all about providing better services to deserving citizens. The manual methods of service delivery have lot of drawbacks, all of which need to be summarily removed. Efficiency in matters of service delivery should be taken as an essential duty by the Government servants rather than as a burden.While it is true that these certificates and documents issued by the Government authorities are very useful for the citizen, it is also true that these have been mandated by the Government itself,hence the citizen has no choice but to approach the Government officers for their issuance – and this situation should not be exploited. e-Governance programmes like Mee Seva have had the effect of making services easily accessible to the citizens. Our analysis shows that in 90 percent of the cases, the certificates can be issued within 15 minutes of request being filed on Mee Seva. This is undoubtedly a great achievement and possible only under e-Governance.

Can you give us some idea of the cost that is being incurred by the user in availing of Mee Seva services?
We have endeavoured to put minimum amount of burden on the shoulders of our users. There are two broad category of services being provided under Mee Seva – the Category A services, and the Category B services. The Category A services are those for which the databases are already available, and all that the CSC operator needs to do is access the data-bases and pull out the information; which then gets printed and given to the user. The cost to the user in Category A service is Rupees 25. The Category B services are those in which some kind of work-flow is required at the level of issuing authority. This work-flow might include field inquiries, etc. The cost to the user for availing Category B services is Rupees 35 only. For Printing of more than 1 page an amount of Rupees 2/ per page is charged. The cost for the Application Form is Rupees 2. The manual systems for service delivery cost much more and also take much more time. The citizen is also
forced to waste time and money in travel costs and other areas.

You will agree that even the best created systems can prove to be difficult for some citizens to access. What systems have you developed to provide more information to the citizens or to provide them guidance in case they are unable to take full advantage of the Mee Seva due to any reason?
We do have a comprehensive system in place for problem resolution. The citizens who are facing any problem can call at the Mee Seva all centre number at 1100 and register their complaints or seek information. The Mee Seva website also has a comprehensive FAQ section, where all kinds of information is listed in an easy to understand format. The Mee Seva website also has a Help Desk. Users can directly send mails to this help desk for suggestions, complaints and grievances. There is an easy to use tracking system for all the requests that have been filed at Mee Seva. Request Tracker is easy to use, as one screen records all information about a single request. Extensive search capabilities allow users to use the program’s database to identify similar problems or requests that were handled in the past, making the solutions instantly available.

As citizens are using the Mee Seva service to download important personal documents, so security can be an area of concern. What kind of security measures have you implemented on the Mee Seva website to safeguard the privacy of the citizens?
The entire ownership of the data vests with the Department itself. All the data is located in co-located servers owned by the Department and located in a highly secured environment in SDC. Additional hardware has been provided to some Departments from IT&C Department on need-basis. NMS is in place and firewalls are functional. At the application level, Mee Seva application has been security-audited initially by a Cert–in certified Agency and by STQC and the deficiencies have been rectified. Class-3 digital signatures have been issued to all the Departmental officers and kiosk operators for accessing Mee Seva portal for delivery of services. All the certificates issued are being stored at the SECR for future on-line verification through the portal. SECR also serves as a repository, where certificates issued under Category B, which involve Departmental work-flow and field level verification, are stored and can be reissued second time across the Counter. The Mee Seva Portal is integrated with PKI components for authenticating the respective individual for accessing the portal as well as for processing the requests through digital signatures. Mee Seva Portal uses standard Web technologies and techniques such as Secure Sockets Layer (SSL),HTTP redirects, cookies, JavaScript, and strong symmetric key encryption to deliver the single sign-in service. The sign-in, sign-out, and registration pages are centrally hosted in the MeeSeva Portal.

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