Interview

eGovernments Foundation: Building Digital Infrastructure for Urban India

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Nandan-Nilekani

Bengaluru-based eGovernments Foundation – a not-for- profit trust founded by Nandan Nilekani, former Chairman of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) and Srikanth Nadhamuni, former Chief Technology Officer of UIDAI – aims to transform urban governance in India through a scalable, inter-operable and open technology platform that enables digital service delivery to citizens and efficient functioning of Urban Local Bodies. Viraj Tyagi, CEO of eGovernments Foundation, shares the renewed vision, working experience with State and Local Governments and 2020 year Goal of the Foundation, in an interview with Elets News Network (ENN).

You have recently completed one year in office. What has been your mandate?

eGov foundation was established in 2003 by Nandan Nilekani and Srikanth Nadhamuni to partner with city administrators in their drive to leverage technology for better service delivery and enhanced productivity. At a very fundamental level we are like a Digital Operating System for the cities – we provide the technology and know how to digitize services delivered, automate the internal processes like works and file management and drive revenue collection by putting robust digital applications in areas like property tax, water charges, trade licenses, etc. We have over years invested more than Rs 100 crore in building this platform in last 14 years.

The mandate is very simple – to create a National Digital Infrastructure for urban governance as a public good and transform 2000 Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) in India by the year 2020. In addition we are building an innovation ecosystem around the platform for enterprises and citizens to build new applications and solutions. Our Platform is open source and we provide open APIs for developers and enterprises to build new applications and solutions. We believe this approach will speed up innovation and also lead to sharing of new ideas at a quick pace.

How do you scale up to meet your goal? What has been your experience with ULBs?

We are making rapid strides in meeting our goals of transforming 2000 ULBs in India by the year 2020; we have already covered 324 ULBs in India, including civic bodies in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, and New Delhi. We have been working with these local government bodies anywhere between three to six years. We are right now in the process of deploying our platform in 370 ULBs in Maharashtra. With this, we have reached around 700 ULBs so far.

As far as the scale-up is concerned, there are 3 pillars of our strategy:

1. Firstly, we are focusing on building an inter-operable & scalable Urban Governance platform on cloud that can be adopted by all states. A cloud based open source national platform will dramatically reduce the time to adoption and total cost of ownership; we are talking about a quantum reduction in both these dimensions. In addition, it will create common standards for Urban Governance across cities and states.

2. Enable a massive partner eco-system to act accelerate market penetration: The partners will co-operate with us on two dimensions – sell our product to the state and central governments and act as system integrators. This will dramatically increase our reach and reduce implementation time. In addition, we can continue to focus on our core capabilities and point of maximum leverage – creating a powerful software platform for urban governance. At some stage we also expect some of our partners to take our product to other markets internationally.

3. The third pillar of our future plans is build an open innovations ecosystem on eGov Platform. Think of eGov platform as an Android equivalent in the Urban Governance space. Everything that we are building comes with an Open API and we will foster an ecosystem of hackers, commercial partners and communities to build new applications on top of it. This includes data API which will help build building analytical sandbox to leveraging data generated by the eGov Platform to equip policy makers and administrators with tools to make better decisions. In addition to tools like real-time dashboards and reports we will also build machine learning capabilities to pick up patterns and predict events.

Who are your customers? What are your solution offerings? Being a not-for- profit Foundation, what has been your working model with ULBs and partners?

Some of our customers, include the state of Andhra Pradesh, state of Karnataka, New Delhi Municipal Council, Vijayawada Municipal Corporation, Greater Visakhapatnam Municipal Corporation, Directorate of Municipal Administration, Government of Andhra Pradesh, Delhi Transco Ltd, Directorate of Municipal Administration, Government of Karnataka, Nagpur Municipal Corporation, Corporation of Chennai, etc.

eGovernments Foundation has been at the forefront of developing and implementing municipal eGovernance solutions since 2003. Our products have been serving ULBs across the country. Our time tested products have impacted the ULBs in a large way. We have also been involved in several eGovernance reform initiatives in the country.

Our solutions help local self governments achieve technology enablement, process improvements, accountability and transparency at various levels of administration. The data analytics solution also helps realise data driven, efficient decision making at the highest levels of administration. Our expertise spans building digital infrastructure and domain knowledge of urban local bodies and their functions.

Together with our Partners – we can meet the hardware, software and infrastructure needs of a client. The Foundation, with its 100+ developers, offers the effort, talent and technology required to successfully execute large green field, turn key projects for governments. Our ready- to-use product helps achieve quicker implementation timeframes, a distinct advantage over competitors.

You have developed eGov Smartcity Platform. Highlight it!

“eGov Smart City Platform” is a comprehensive, state of the art Open Source, interoperable and scalable civic tech solution for citizens and city administration to manage, monitor and interact in a transparent, effective and efficient manner. The components include: ERP for Municipalities – to fully digitize civic body operations for both revenue and expenses management.

 Cashless, Paperless Citizen Services – digital service delivery to citizens for more than 30 services

 Financial Management – includes budgeting, forecasting and financial accounting that are compliant with National Municipal Accounting Standard

 Digital Payment Systems – enabling government offices to go cashless both internally as well as with citizens

 Data Driven Governance – Our Big Data Analytics Engine provides real time information& dashboards to administrator’s and employees across various levels in government to drive data driven decisions making.

 mGovernance – We have deployed a) Citizen App to enable citizens to raise complaints and avail services digitally across the state of AP and b) Employee App: A separate app that allows them to manage their workflow , upload pictures / evidence of the work done and provide status

You have been key driver of Open Source technologies. What has been your philosophy in using OSS?

Our primary business motivator is to increase the footprint of eGovernance across the country and drive adoption in as many ULBs as possible. Going open source with our products is a decisive step towards lowering barriers to adoption of eGovernance. It also gives us the ability to tap into the immense talent pool in India for strengthening and improving our cities. Open source also blends well with our ethical fabric of being open and transparent in our business.

We welcome anyone willing to take the journey of solving hard to crack urban governance challenges. Our philosophy is to build Open source, interoperable and scalable solutions where anyone can contribute to make urban governance more efficient.

Further, the Government of India announced a big push into open source as a part of its Digital Initiative. It came up with a policy with the following objectives. eGov’s SmartCity platform is in compliance with the requirements of the policy.

( http://negd.gov.in/writereaddata/files/Digital%20Repository/Policy%20Document.pdf )

 To provide a policy framework for rapid and effective adoption of OSS

 To ensure strategic control in e-Governance applications and systems from a long-term perspective

 To reduce the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) of projects

How does your Board of Directors & Advisors contribute to eGovernments Foundation’s vision and its regular business activities?

eGovernments Foundation is an initiative of Nandan Nilekani and Srikanth Nadhamuni, with an intent of transforming urban governance in India. Both participate actively in quarterly board meetings and strategy sessions. They are instrumental in guiding our key decisions around architecture, engagement models and go-to market strategy. Their involvement is a big motivator for the team at eGovernment Foundation, including me.

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