e-Governance represents the strategic and systematic use of modern information and communication technology by governments to improve the efficiency, transparency and accountability in their functioning and interface with citizens. In August 2002, Government of India announced its plans to implement a comprehensive programme to accelerate e-Governance. A high-powered Task Force on “Information Technology and Software Development” prepared the National e-Governance Action Plan (2003-2007) which pointed to the need for creation of appropriate governance and institutional mechanisms; setting up of core infrastructure and policies; and implementing Mission Mode Projects at the centre, state and integrated service levels to create citizen-centric environments for good governance. Several state governments have since undertaken innovative steps to promote e-Governance and help implement on-line delivery of their services. This paper documents two innovative integrated service delivery e-Governance initiatives in urban areas in India, namely eSeva and Sampark.
eSeva is an e-Governance initiative of the Department of Information Technology and Communication, Government of Andhra Pradesh (GoAP). It provides one-stop shop for a variety of Government to Citizen (G2C) and Business to Citizen (B2C) services. eSeva provides 128 G2C services of 15 State Government Departments and 2 Central Government Departments.
At present, eSeva covers twin cities of Hyderabad and Secunderabad and 116 municipalities in the state (excluding Hyderabad and Secunderabad) through 273 Integrated Service Centres. All service centers in the twin cities are operational between 8 am and 8 pm on working days and 9 am and 3 pm on holidays. In the districts the service centers operate from 9 am to 7 pm on weekdays and 9 am to 3 pm on weekends and holidays.
The primary objective of eSeva is to provide citizens with a transparent, efficient, effective, and hassle-free administrative system through the application of electronic and information technology. Citizen access to services offered through eSeva remains easy and convenient, as there are no jurisdictional limits and any service can be availed at any centre in the city / district. Service centers also have long working hours and are operational even on holidays. Citizens are also offered a variety of payment modes including cash, cheque, demand draft or credit card. Besides counters, utility bills can be paid through the online facility. The online payment facility is available only for the payment of water and electricity bills and property taxes. For using eSeva’s online payment facility, a consumer has to register with www.eSevaonline.com as well as have an Internet banking account with any of the following banks (UTI, GTB, HDFC, IDBI and ICICI) with whom eSeva has an agreement. Once registered the customer can add services like payment of electricity bills, telephone bills and property tax etc., on line. After selecting the bank where the customer has an account, the control is transferred to the bank site. Here the customer logs in with the user name and password given by the bank and the amount is debited from the account and credited to eSeva account. The transaction is updated on-line on the departmental server. Citizen gets a receipt, which can be printed. The transaction reference number can be quoted for any future correspondence.
An electronic queuing system at the center helps reduce waiting time. Along with consumers, service providers have also benefited greatly as it saves them resources in maintaining separate counters and staff for effectively carrying out collection of utility bills.
eSeva was implemented in a phase wise manner– there were three phases, namely, the pilot phase that covered one ward of Hyderabad, the replication phase to the twin cities of Hyderabad and Secunderabad and the replication phase to the districts covering all municipalities in the state. While the pilot phase was implemented by the Information Technology and Communication (IT&C) Department, GoAP, the replication phases were implemented in a Public Private Partnership (PPP) through a Build, Operate, Own and Transfer (BOOT) model for a period of five years. In the replication phases, while the state government provided the building and required infrastructure facilities for eSeva centers, the private technology partners were responsible for providing hardware, developing and maintaining interface software for all services and operating the eSeva centres and data centres.
The revenue model is based on three types of charges, namely, service charges for G2C and B2C transactions and revenues from advertisements. Transaction costs were arrived at based on the anticipated volume of transactions vis-à-vis capital and operating costs of the initiative. The transaction costs varied with the nature of transactions and the geographical area of implementation There were different charges for payment of utility bills, tax payments, ticket reservations, paper based and PVC based transactions. The transaction costs were different for the twin cities and also varied across different zones comprising of districts, Sets of revenue sharing formulae were established between government and the private technology partners for the replication phases. The revenue sharing formulae were based on the volume of transactions (actual number of transactions per month) and the time that had elapsed from the beginning of the initiative. The total project capital cost is approximately INR 530 million.
eSeva has revolutionised the Government to Citizen (G2C) interface. The service is immensely popular among citizens, evidenced by the huge increase in the number of transactions over time. The service is being used extensively for payment of utility bills. During April 2002 to July 2004, 89 percent of the total transactions in the twin cities were for the payment of electricity bills, telephone bills, water bills and property tax. eSeva has translated in substantial increase in revenue collections. In the twin cities from a modest collection of INR 43 million in August 2001 the collections through eSeva are at INR 3050 million (December 2004). The scale up phase to the districts also saw a substantial increase in collections.
Sampark (literally meaning contact) is an e-Governance initiative of the Department of Information Technology, Chandigarh Administration. Sampark envisions improving the interaction between citizens and government departments by providing all government services under a single roof. It aims at eliminating difficulties encountered by citizens when they visit numerous government offices for availing different services / paying their bills, etc.
At present, Sampark offers fifteen services of various central, state and local government agencies through eight Sampark centres located across the Union Territory. The centers are located in the refurbished existing bill collection centers of electricity office and municipal corporation. There are no jurisdictional limits as to where the services can be availed i.e., citizens can avail of any of the offered services at any centre. Service counters have long working hours from 8 am to 8 pm and are operational from Monday to Saturday. The services are available through three delivery channels, namely, Sampark centres, online through a website (www.chandigarh.gov.in) and through mobile phones. While all services are available through the Sampark centres, only payment of taxes / utility bills is possible through the internet. In association with Indiatimes, Sampark offers access information on a host of services by sending an SMS to 8888 through mobile phones. By sending an sms from mobile phones to 8888 citizens / consumers can receive access information on a whole range of Sampark services. By sending an sms “SBILL” users can get their electricity / water bill details; by sending an sms “SLOC” users can get addresses of various Sampark centres across the city; by sending an sms “SSERV” users can get details of various services offered by Sampark centres; and by sending an sms “SDOC” users can get a list of documents accepted for age / residence proof. These codes and more can also be obtained by sending an sms SMENU to 8888.
Sampark has been implemented on a Public Private Partnership (PPP) through a Build Operate and Transfer (BOT) model for a period of five years. SQL Star is the private sector agency responsible for setting up and operating the Citizen Service Centers and launching a transaction based Citizen’s portal. While the Department of Information Technology provided the building, electricity and ISDN connectivity for centres; the private partner was responsible for providing hardware, developing and maintaining interface software and operating the centres. The total capital investments for the initiative are approximately INR 9 million.
The service has gained tremendous popularity among citizens. In the last one year (1st Nov 2004 till 19th Nov 2005) a total of 0.80 million transactions have been recorded. The average number of transactions is approximately 66,841 per month and 2228 per day. The service is primarily being used by citizens for the payment of utility bills including electricity bills and water and sewerage charges. Of the total revenue collections of Sampark, majority of the collections are by the Engineering Department, Chandigarh Administration.
eSeva and Sampark has been successful in revolutionising the Government – Citizen (G2C) interface. Based on a customer centric approach, they have greatly enhanced the value of services available to citizens.
For the participating departments the service has translated into several benefits including increase in the bill paying consumer base, increase in revenue collections, cost saving on operating department specific bill collection centres, and has also enabled utilities to allocate surplus bill collection staff to other work streams.
The Public Private Partnership on a Build, Operate, Own and Transfer (BOOT) model has proved a useful model for sharing the capital and operating costs between government and private partners and for leveraging private technological expertise. The quality of service delivery in a partnership arrangement depends largely on the strength of the arrangement. The contracts with the private technology partners were so designed that they made conditions favourable to the private partners. The transaction costs and revenue sharing formulae were fixed to enable private partners to recover their investments and cover the operating costs. The experiences have also brought forth the need for a conducive policy and political environment for success of e-Governance initiatives.