Towards Efficient and Effective Municipal Services : S P Singh, Senior Director, Department of Information Technology, Ministry of Communications and Information Technology and In-charge, e-Governance

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When one talks about implementing e-Governance in municipalities, one is really focussing on increasing efficiency and effectiveness of the municipal bodies in improving service delivery mechanism to the citizens and ensure involvement/interaction with the  citizens and other stakeholders. This mission mode project has been planned with a view to providing efficient and effective municipal services to the citizens,” says S P Singh, Senior Director, Department of Information Technology, Ministry of Communications and Information Technology and In-charge, e-Governance in Municipalities Mission Mode Project.

What is the vision behind e-Governance in municipalities mission mode project?  What implications does it have for bringing about good governance in the urban local bodies?

As we know,  National e-Governance Plan (NeGP) has already been approved by the Government of India and is being spearheaded by the Department of IT in consultation with various other stakeholders to implement the various mission mode projects (MMPs) that have been identified in the NeGP. e-Governance in municipalities  is one of the important mission mode projects, which is being driven by the Ministry of Urban Development (MoUD). This project basically is expected to focus on clearly identified list of   services that will be covered, with clearly laid down service levels and outcomes that will have to be achieved.

The services  include birth and death certificate, getting   building approvals, payment of property tax or citizens grievances redressal issues etc. In a way, once this project is implemented it will stimulate good governance within the urban local bodies and improve transparency and accountability in the governance of urban local bodies (ULBs) and  providing delivery of services to the citizens electronically, online. That is the basic emphasis of this mission mode project.

Since local government is the first interface between the citizens and the government, so introduction of e-Governance in municipalities assumes a very   important role when we   talk  about use of ICT in the government with clearly defined focus on delivery of services conveniently in the manner,   language that the citizens understand and  at an  affordable cost.

What is the budgetary outlay for municipal e-Governance? What is the central and state share in the total cost of the project?

The scheme for e-Governance in  municipalities that has been approved by the government covers 423 municipalities with a total outlay of INR 787 crores (7,870 million), to be implemented over a period of 5 years. The cost of this mission mode project is to be shared between the central government and the state government. For 35 locations with a population of one million and above, 75 percent of the capital cost and 75 percent of the annual cost for the first two years, will be met by the central government. The balance will have to be met by the state government. However, for the rest of the municipalities,  the central government will bear 90 percent of  capital cost  and 90 percent of the annual  cost  for first two years and the remaining cost will be  met by the state government. The scheme also entails preparation of Detailed Project Report (DPR) by the ULBs, for which the funding expenditure will be part of the overall financial assistance from the central government. The state government  can engage and be assisted by hiring technical consultancy so that they can come up with well formulated DPR for implementation of this mission mode project.

What is the implementation strategy being adopted and what are the different services that are planned to be delivered online to ensure improvement in urban governance and service delivery?

The National Mission Mode Project on Municipalities has been conceptualised and the broad guidelines for implementing this project have been framed up. These have been also sent to the various states by the Ministry of Urban Development (MoUD). 423 ULBs, which are basically the class I cities,  have been planned to be covered initially over the period of 5 years (starting from the year 2007 till the year 2012). Initially, this mission mode project will be implemented on a fast track, in 35 cities having million plus population, so that cities which have a large population can render most of these e-Governance services on an urgent basis.

The various services that are planned to be covered under this project are:

  • Registration and issue of birth and death certificates
  • Payment of property tax, which also include utility bills (like water supplies and other utilities) and management of utilities that come under ULBs
  • Grievances and suggestions
  • Building plan approvals
  • Procurement and monitoring of projects, which would include e-Procurement
  • Health programme

There is a structured way of implementation that has been planned. In fact the whole scheme   has been put in place with clear focus in mind that only those applications be  considered for implementation which meet the basic functional requirements and having   been implemented and operational with certain ULBs and considered good examples for  replication.

So, as a fi rst step what has been done is that the Ministry of Urban Development initiated a  study by the Price Waterhouse Coopers (PwC) in association with United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to look at certain good examples of e-Governance in  municipalities in Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh etc. to capture complete functionality requirements for various functional modules as a part of this MMP.

These successful implementations and other available applications of solutions providers are being evaluated by Standardization Testing Quality Certifi cation (STQC), Department of IT, and benchmarked. This evaluation has been completed recently and the results are being  analysed. As a result of this study, the applications of some of the qualifi ed application  providers, which meet the broad requirements, will be taken up for implementation by the MoUD/ULBs .

This methodology is the fi rst of its kind in the country adopted under NeGP for a mission mode project. This will help and catalyse, rather than re-inventing the wheel, to get into the  implementation quickly.

What is the current status of the implementation of this mission mode project.

This MMP which is largely citizens focused needs to be implemented on priority. MoUD being   the line Ministry for this MMP is taking all necessary steps in this direction. The best  implementations and the duly qualifi ed solutions now need to be taken up for faster  implementation and roll-out across the ULBs/ States.

Please tell us some of the capacity building programmes planned for the  functionaries at the ULB?

Municipalities, being the 3rd tier of the government, and having total autonomy and  independence, I think here a whole lot of sensitisation about what role the ICT can play in the ULBs, needs to be highlighted and has to be taken up with the elected representatives. Building the capacities within the elected representatives, therefore, needs immediate attention. I think, that is where the higher level call will have to be taken to create awareness.

But down below, at the ULBs level, there has to be honing of the skill sets of the employees,  which will be a very important factor, in implementing this initiative not only faster but effectively and successfully.

The success of this project lies in the change management that has to be brought about within the ULBs. As part of this mission mode project a lot of attention is being paid to fulfi ll the  capacity building requirement and 2.5 percent of the total project cost has been earmarked  for training and capacity building for the project and elected representatives.

What role has been envisaged for public-private partnership under this mission mode project?

As these will be very large implementations covering the whole municipalities, and also  service delivery centres, which will be spread all over to provide the services to the citizens, I  think, this is a project which can really be implemented on a public-private partnership basis.  In fact, that is also the emphasis of the scheme, which clearly outlines that the States/ ULBs should examine possible PPP options and work out a cost effective implementation which  will ensure fi nancial sustainability of this project.

What are the plans of introducing applications, such Geographical Information System (GIS) and (Monitoring Information System) MIS for various services   provided by ULBs?

GIS and MIS are very important components of this programme. If you look at the Jawaharlal  Nehru National Urban Renewal Programme of the MoUD, the use of GIS and MIS has been put  as one of the mandatory reforms of the overall urban renewal programme. Without GIS being integrated in the project, you cannot have a very effective decision support system.

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