150th Issue Articles

Back 2 Future: Technology Trends in Governance

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It is not the role of governments or their character which is likely to change drastically in the next decade. By adopting technology, the same governments can aim to truly bring about change in the lives of their people, says Tarun Malik, CEO TakshilaLearning.com & Managing Partner ANSAN UNI PTE LTD.

Scale and diversity which give India its unique character also make governance challenging and the legacy systems comforting. Technology has been making inroads into our local, State and Central governments albeit slowly. The next 10 years could help the country override hurdles and develop technology-driven solutions to address these complexities.

One of the key factors driving this change is that the governments are spearheading some of these technologies themselves, different from earlier shelf-based solutions or other country models. Adopting technology is no longer a ‘to keep up’ strategy, it is perhaps the road to faster implementation, providing access and achieving a better state of social- economic equality or at some stage truly being a developed country.

Choosing the government

The next 10 years will see technology-led solutions enable citizens to work closely with their governments, as it brings the systems closer to home, breaks the language barriers and becomes user-friendly. Increasing the involvement of citizens has been the mandate of most democracies. With the right use of technology, it can be easier to implement this. Technology can help to increase the citizen involvement in selecting the government and help work with the candidate-elects for their agendas

  • Gaps between political promises and on-ground work can be minimised if elections can be handled electronically — right from candidate selection to converting the agenda to a to-do list. At the local level where issues involving citizens are closer to home, a single window electronic system can enable citizens to define scope of work in their areas which can be picked up by the candidates as tweaks to their agenda and made into an electronic manifesto. Once elected the candidate can easily work with a simple task tool and assign a virtual assistant that can help citizens understand the work in progress or even offer assistance, if so required.

Day-to-day affairs

Once elected almost everyone finds it challenging to implement the election promises. This not only leads to gaps, it compounds the work not done over the years and causes an overall acceptance of status quo. With technology guided action plans, these gaps can be reduced much faster than before. A higher level of satisfaction in the day-to-day management leads to increase in overall productivity.

Citizen records

  • Capturing and updating citizen data can be made a continuous single-window process, easing the work of government departments and the people. One-citizen one-government can be a reality when people interact with an e-government. Technology will enable departments to capture and maintain identities. While enabling people to register themselves, record family births, and deaths online has already been in place for over a decade now. The challenge in the next 10 years will be to make it a single-window, self-service platform that helps break the bureaucracy shackles for individuals and companies. The inefficiencies of dealing with multiple departments can be removed with a single window front end platform that functions as a payment system, a tax assistant, delivers tax utilisation reports, processes identity cards, registers birth, death and assets etc. Data security, enablers such as virtual assistants, translators, will be critical to implement such a large scale system.

What a single-window citizen portal could look like?

  • Allows access using a UID/ AADHAAR No. / Finger print
  • Customised dashboard for each individual- with their currently online and offline records such as birth registration, asset records
  • Ability for the individual to edit their profile- demographic, work, address
  • Information customised as per the individual’s profile e.g. a Senior Citizen can have access to their Local Police Officer, a girl child can have information on education incentives
  • Payment bank which allows citizens to access their bill payment history, pay bills, or auto-debit from their linked bank accounts. A single payment system can also be used to incentivise citizens for paying taxes say by giving them discount on their electricity bill or no traffic tickets can ease the road tax.
  • Training modules that help citizens gain important training such as on using the unified public transportation system, driving sign boards, using the subways, on approaching the judiciary, on social issues, waste management, solar energy etc.
  • Customer care or helpline where citizens can request for help on current services, share complaints, offer suggestions, track their cases
  • For it to be inclusive, the platform can be designed to provide web access, mobile access, have offline kiosks with virtual assistants. Citizens can also be given a choice of language including braille.
  • Infrastructures Transportation, utility services management, digital infrastructure all can benefit when there is timely access to not just data but the analysis of it. Right from decision-making of the project requirement, location setting, addressing environmental concerns to raising capital, developing and managing the infrastructure- technology can help to speed up, improve the quality of decisions, processes and outcome of the projects. Using Internet of Things technology (IoT), we can achieve greater control and improve efficiency of public infrastructure. Reduce electricity, water, and waste in public places through the use of IoT devices. Unified access to public transportation with planned routes, access to air, train, metro, battery bikes, self-driving buses all can be managed by a single platform.
Government online

  • – City infrastructure projects
  • Electricity and water concerns
  • E.g. Solar street lighting – replaced bulbs in NW city.
  • River, water body awareness – Feedback, discussion boards
  • Education and Healthcare
    Education for all can be an achievable goal with customised Indian classrooms. Local governments can reap the benefits of a digital education infrastructure to supplement the physical one which is a challenge considering the large geography of our country. Further, the gap between education and employability can be reduced with the use of tools such as adaptive learning which evolves the curriculum as per a student’s capability, and industry requirements

    • Virtual classrooms with robotic teachers that are monitored at a district level can help educate in low staff areas.

Technology is good buddies with anyone in health care, from telemedicine to artificial organ development there have been huge advances. For India specifically, while the best of healthcare is available, there is room for improvement in the horizontal spread. The access to basic healthcare can be improved with the help of technology.

  • Virtual doctors in e-clinics, portable hospitals linked to telemedicine, health bots can help supplement the short staffed health services. Robotic nursing can help provide preliminary care, assist doctors or even perform administrative jobs.
  • Health ATMs with talking doctors can help patients in remote locations reach out for advice, and even dispense basic medication.
  • Preventive health care can reach millions of people through mobile technology which can also be a platform for customised health-related communication campaigns. In addition, emphasis on preventive health can help a majority of semi-urban, rural people avoid the lifestyle diseases prevalent in the urban cities.
  • An intelligent data-based health census can be made a reality so that governments can plan for deficiencies, genetic conditions prevalent in the country and region wise.
  • Medical waste being a huge area of concern will be treated better with the help of automatic waste management systems.
  • Integrated organ and blood bank system can help in need-based movement from donor to patient and help reduce the illegal trade.

Livelihoods

Two sectors, which have not received adequate technology support, are agriculture and small scale industries. In addition, the higher education and professional training will attract a lot of investment to spur the next round of growth.

  • Grown and processed in India
    India could emerge as the food company of the world, given the right impetus to the entire food supply chain. With a focus on large farm holdings, it is time to look at investing in the small farmers and help with improved seed quality, organic pesticides, irrigation, soil management, impact on farm efficiencies, storage capacities, market negotiating ability. When a large part of the world was rethinking their chemical use on the farm, a lot of Indian farmers who used the tried and tested natural pest control methods were proven right. It is time to combine this indigenous knowledge, with innovative tech solutions that can solve farmers’ basic challenges of irrigation, cash flow management, crop protection, seed selection etc. The coming decade will see the Green+ revolution in Indian agriculture with the setting up of Tech-Agri Zones with facilities such as banking, tie ups with research institutes, company linkages, e-mandis, and storage facilities. Investment in technology can help the farmers improve their crop yield, crop utilisation, move up the value chain with product development such as get involved in development of natural raw material to replace non-biodegradable materials such as plastic, and food processing among other things.
  • Magic carpet
    Village industries have helped the country carve out its own niche in handmade products, forest derived produce, natural products and services. With directed tech impetus, these can be scaled up to create employment opportunities as well as offer alternative earth-friendly products to the world. The coming decade will see a surge in tech intervention in these industries. Tech can help India gain a distinct advantage by helping in the shift from setting up co-operatives to scaling up and moving up in the value chain.
    The government can help in doing this by incubating skill centres that not only cater to urban service industries also help to revive local industries.
    Industries such as handlooms could achieve design and scale competency with the use of simulation, augmented reality design studios, producer to market connections that can all be made possible at small business facilitation centres. This is one area to watch out for the revival of traditional skills, which for decades, faced migration of people to more attractive service industries.
Green + Revolution

  • Tech Agri Zones
  • Financial support and training
  • Advanced farming techniques
  • Tie-ups with industry, research institutes
  • E-mandi and market facilitation
  • The employable skill training programme will pick up momentum in the coming decade. Increased government focus, gap between industry requirement and the education systems, and growing awareness are strong indicators of this trend. Indian workforce reaped the benefits of the English education system and a strong engineering college base to emerge as the world’s back-office and software developer. With the changing industry requirements, there will be upgrade in professional training, emergence of interesting online and offline education models, e-apprenticeship, simulation-based learning etc.

Improving the system

Improving the current system will involve a well thought out plan of system analysis, update, removal of redundancies, and adopting new practices. An on-going process it will increase the number of people who are part of the organised socio-economic system and increase the number of interactions between governments and citizens.

  • Social and Economic Inclusion in the Smarter cities
    Development has been criticised for being exclusive in nature. Increasing the reach of our facilities requires multi-directional implementation. Technology is helping us to build the smart cities. Technology can also help us to develop those into smarter cities that are sustainable, inclusive and accessible. These will cater to the vulnerable sections such as the elderly, illiterate, digitally challenged or differently-abled people. Unlike other countries, basic education is a barrier in India because of which a lot of people have been left out of the organised economic system. With the help of technology, virtual assistants, finger print banking these challenges can be overcome and people can be encouraged to participate in the e-government system.
  • Detect and report issues for timely human intervention
    Accidents are emerging as a modern-day health epidemic. With the help of virtual monitoring, automatic route planning and diversion system and connected network of nearby emergency teams these can be managed better. Virtual road sheriffs can help people speak or report cases into the box or through their phones so that timely action can be taken even on unmanned streets.
  • Advanced business support environment
    India could well be on its way to become a country of 36 business hubs with each State and union territory poised to make a mark. Thriving entrepreneurial environment, aggressive State governments, inter-connectivity between States mean we may have all the answers within the country. The start-up culture, which till now has been the strong hold of cities such as Bangalore, Hyderabad, Pune, and Gurugram, is spreading. State sponsored business facilitation centres and unified online platform will help to explode this growth beyond these cities in the coming decade. With technology enabled business processing, the country will be an attractive trade destination for countries that shied away due to bureaucracy, inter-state differences, security, corruption-related issues. Inter-state business connectivity will see marked improvement with the support of the business facilitation centres for setting up business, one country one travel cards, seamless State licensing system, tie-ups with local industry, and workforce.
    The cultural diversity of India will witness trade diversity with unified policy, tax laws, convenient and transparent online business processes all helping in the ease of doing business.
  • Protect people, systems and digital infrastructure through advanced communication, and equipped Cyber Policing.
    Simplified government to citizen communication is undervalued in ensuring not just compliance but also building an environment of self-aware people requiring little government intervention. Social campaigns focussed on inclusive communication i.e. free of language and medium bias- helps people of all regions, multiple levels of education, reading, hearing and speaking ability to understand policies, procedures. This can be implemented with the help of chat rooms, animated interactions and digital assistants. Cyber policing will emerge as a world unifier as countries across the globe face the cyber threat menace. With internet being boundary less, cyber policing will emerge as one of the largest collaborations between governments. Slack on the part of any nation can impact the others drastically. The coming decade will see cyber police emerge as a specialised task force at the local and national-level in India. At the same time, there will be greater awareness among people on cyber security across the country with the increase in digital interactions.
Advanced cyber security

  • Updated, secure government e-networks
  • Specialised cyber police teams
  • Courses for citizens and businesses

Promise Earth

After many years of being regarded as a fad, environmental concerns have taken centre stage. India being one of the largest democracies in the world carries the onus of caring for the planet as we consume. Fortunately, our slow development allows us to adopt sustainable measures at an early stage of development as technology has introduced us to alternative sources which were not commercialised earlier.

  • The focus of development will shift from construction projects to built-in sustainable city and village development models which adopt alternative energy sources, have upgraded infrastructure, and incentivise planet friendly businesses and households. In the last two decades, cost-effective alternative energy sources have been produced which will be used widely in the coming decade in India. By adopting eco-friendly approaches to building, transportation, food, manufacturing and agriculture, the damage caused by large scale development and increased consumption can be offset to a certain degree.
  • Measured utilisation
    Pollution meters for industries and businesses can help achieve greater control and incentives to entrepreneurs who focus on green tech. will help in making it a sound business practise.
    Sustainable living parameters such as solar electricity, rain water harvesting, sewage water treatment plants can be subsidised or attract tax incentives for households or group housing societies. Along with this, household waste management practices, electricity and water utilisation can be measured and good practices can earn citizens benefits.
Define and measure pollution

  • Segregate pollutions types
  • Enable people to measure their levels
  • Increase access to alternative energy, water, sources
  • Incentivise good practices

Getting Real
Even while writing, the trends above seem like a wish list. Some challenges which are unique to us as a country and the routes of development that we have undertaken also make some of these tough to implement. Beginnings of an E-governance model have already been made, and progress will go on. What might create serious impact will be a well thought out Cyber Security action plan and tech driven agricultural reform.
A strong Cyber Security plan including strengthening the cyber police and tech driven traffic systems, will strengthen some of the other reforms mentioned above.
How much agriculture impact can be seen from the effects of monsoon on not just food production on the entire economy. It has been glaring at us all how neglected farm economy is bad for production, bad for goods consumption, and increases the economic divide. And, farm reform which is more technology-driven is here to stay once the right beginnings are made.

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