Secretary, Information Technology & Communications
Department, Government of Andhra Pradesh
Sanjay Jaju says, “Mee Seva is self-sustainable and easily replicable. It is now being used as a model of e-Governance in many states” In conversation with Mohd Ujaley.
Mee Seva has come a long way. Now it is being adopted by e-District MMP project. Please tell us about the key achievements in this project so far.
Before Mee Seva started, Government service delivery systems were manual and opaque. Many citizens will easily be able to recall the difficulties that they faced in accessing government offices, which would often be mired in tedious bureaucratic processes. Quite often, the service delivery took too much time. Instances of overcrowded government offices with unfriendly employees combined with chronic absenteeism, inefficiency in service delivery, long queues, resultant delays and rent seeking, were common. In addition, the focus in administration was more on following procedures and keeping records rather than catering to the needs of citizens. The vision of governance was being lost, and citizens were being treated as the subject rather than the object of development. However, under Mee Seva, things have completely changed. You don’t have to face these hassles now. You just have to go to a Mee Seva centre and request for the service which is being offered through Mee Seva and you will get it there and then without having to run around different offices.
Would you agree that it is essentially the power of IT that has led to the creation of an excellent e-Governance initiative like the Mee Seva?
Yes that is the case. Earlier the power of IT was primarily under-utilised and most of the departments had ineffective interfaces for service delivery to the citizens. Government employees too were not satisfied as the system induced drudgery. Lack of occupational motivation was affecting overall productivity in every department. With Mee Seva, the efficiency levels of departments have also increased as IT deployment has drastically reduced their avoidable workload and also led to the abandonment of unproductive practices and business process reengineering. You can also measure the achievement of Mee Seva in terms of the wider digital inclusion of the entire population of Andhra Pradesh towards development and growth. With 70,000 transactions every day rising up to 1,00,000 transactions per day in few months, annual savings to the citizens are whopping $ 600 million which the hapless citizens paid for travel, loss of livelihood, brokerage etc. So far, we have been able to achieve some of our goals with Mee Seva; however, there is a lot that still needs to be done, in terms of bringing more services under Mee Seva. We need to keep innovating for developing even better systems for serving our citizen.
Today Mee Seva is being hailed as a great success story in e-Governance. But when Mee Seva got started what was the key motivation?
Mitigation of the travails of the common man in obtaining G2C services was the principal motivating factor for the development of this project. This was led at the top by the Chief Minister who provided the political and administrative support and laid out the vision for the project. The Information Technology and Communications Department played the seminal role in the execution of the project. The entire political leadership in the state was enlightened about the immense potential that Mee Seva would have in benefitting the common man. This vision of helping the common man served as the rallying point. Various state departments also found this to be an effective opportunity for reforming their internal processes and they too joined the bandwagon. Making administration, transparent and accountable, and leading to enhanced citizen welfare and improving the economic productivity of the state is the vision statement for this project.
In your personal experience, how have other departments in the state responded to Mee Seva?
As far as support from other departments is concerned, we have received tremendous support and encouragement. Almost every department in the Government of Andhra Pradesh and that is why from 12 services in 2011 and now we are able to provide more than 150 services pertaining to 15 departments. By October 2013, we are planning to offer 331 services covering 28 departments.
e-Governance in our country has moved from computerisation of government departments to initiatives that are essential for good governance
How sustainable is this project when you compare it with some of e-Seva projects of other states?
Mee Seva is self-sustainable project. Basically this project is based on Public Private Partnership (PPP) mode wherein Mee Seva Centres are maintained, operated and run by Authorised Agents (AAs) who are appointed and managed by Authorised Service Providers (ASPs). We launched this project with an initial seed investment of `9 Crore, however, the user fee model allows ploughing back the revenues for maintenance, development and upgrading of services. User charges are fixed considering the profitability for various stake holders involved in the project without unduly burdening the citizen. With `2 crore transactions by now, project has already made more than `70 crores in user fees and recovered the entire initial investment allowing decent returns for all the stakeholders, which are being shared amongst them. More than 20 percent is shared with respective departments (to maintain the databases, necessary infrastructure, capacity building), 15 percent with Director, ESD (to maintain MeeSeva Infrastructure/application maintenance), 10 percent with Authorised Service Providers (Monitoring & Infrastructure) while the majority of 55 percent is shared with the MeeSeva centre which is a cutting edge interface at the local level. This has made the project self-sustainable.
Earlier you have mentioned that Mee Seva is being replicated in other states. What are the factors that are enabling rapid replication of Mee Seva?
As far as replicability is concerned, we have achieved both vertical and lateral expansion in the state. Now Mee Seva has been adopted as a National model for delivering G2C services and the e-district MMP has been accordingly redesigned making it ready for replication at pan-India. The Department of Electronics & Information Technology, Government of India, has already sanctioned grants to Andhra Pradesh to replicate Mee Seva in five states and convert Mee Seva into components to be placed in the National eGov app store for wider use. Therefore, the project is self-sustainable and highly replicable and both of these are happening simultaneously.
How do you look at overall IT industry, given the fact we have low rate of growth, depreciating rupee and the investor community seems bit less enthusiastic about India?
Whatever you have mentioned is true but that has more to do with global economy. Since there is overall slow growth across major economy, it has impacted us also. However, when you look at IT industry, it is very positive today. It is true that industry is not able to recreate the magic of 25 percent growth that occurred between 2003 and 2008 but it can regain the momentum by focusing on strategic leadership and product innovation. If you look at Andhra Pradesh, we have been on the forefront of encouraging IT industry in the state, our ICT Policy 2010-15 has been created to promote IT investment in the state. We are creating state-of-the-art and affordable ICT infrastructure that provides an enabling “Walk to Work” environment for IT/ ITES units to thrive and grow. We are also heavily focusing on the Start-up companies, SME, SC/ST & Women Entrepreneurs and Tier-II & Tier-III cities.
It is quite evident from your work, the research project you undertook and the presentation you have given on various forums that your focus has been on citizencentric initiatives. What is your sense of various e-Governance initiatives being undertaken in the country?
e-Governance in our country has moved from computerisation of government departments to initiatives that are essential for good governance such as focus on citizen centric initiatives, service orientation and transparency. If you look at National e-Governance Plan (NeGP), it has a holistic view of e-Governance initiatives across the country, collective vision and a shared cause. Today, e-Governance is not a choice; it is a best way for wiping out the inefficiency, corruption, lack of transparency and non-responsiveness in our administration. It has the power to serve the people as per their expectation of hassle-free interaction with government. I feel, a lot of e-Governance activity is taking place in our country but now we have to focus on convergence