e-Governance: Making Service Delivery System Inclusive & Efficient – Saket Agarwal, Global CEO, Spice Digital

Saket Agarwal, Global CEO - Spice Digital

We live in a democracy and the defining feature of this setup is the interaction afforded between the government and the people of the state or the citizens. The citizens choose a government and entrust them to build an appropriate service delivery system that includes dissemination of services like healthcare, education, economic development, infrastructure and more. This appropriate service delivery system that we are talking about here is however changing in the digitally charged environment that we are a part of, writes Saket Agarwal, Global CEO – Spice Digital.

India is going digital, and the government set up is matching up to this digital movement. The concept of e-Governance is quickly getting its deserved pace and place with some well placed and planned initiatives from the government.

The physical barriers of reach and delivery are increasingly being broken by the penetration achieved by smart devices and internet. As Aadhaar was launched the reach of the benefits and subsidies extended by the government reached the intended beneficiaries directly, instead of the beneficiaries going through complicated paperwork and processes to get them. According to the World Bank, as the world’s largest biometric based identification system – Aadhaar would be saving $ 1 Billion per year for the Indian government. The recent beta version launch of mAadhaar app is a notable step to help expand the reach of m-Governance.

By registering the mobile numbers with their Aadhaar, one can use mAadhaar app and download their Aadhaar number profile on their smartphones thus eliminating the need to carry the hard copy of their card. Linking your mobile number with Aadhaar brings to you a plethora of services like GST registration, e-Verification of ITR, link PAN with Aadhaar, Digilocker, eSign, online Aadhaar updates and more. mAadhaar enables you to store your Aadhaar profile on your mobile, lock or unlock your biometric data from anywhere, generate T-OTP for Aadhaar services, view & share your updated Aadhaar profile via QR code, and share your eKYC information with any service provider while protecting the same with a password.

The bottom of the Indian economical pyramid was thus far undocumented and disorganized, with most of the citizens being underserved by even the government policies and benefits or subsidies like DBTL, MNREGS, fertilizer subsidies, PDS and more. Prime Minister Jan-Dhan Yojana (PMJDY) made it possible for the lowest stratum of the economy or the weaker sections to finally hold an account of their own. Facilities like overdraft of INR 5,000 and an accidental insurance cover of INR 1 lakh has encouraged opening of Jan-Dhan accounts.

With this economic support made available through PMJDY initiative, account holders have actually been able to escape the clutches local moneylenders and the mounting debts. According to an RTI filed by a PTI correspondent, the total number of PMJDY accounts on June 14, 2017 stood at 28.9 crore of which 23.27 crore accounts are held in public sector banks. The total deposit amount in these accounts, as declared by the Finance Ministry is INR 64,564 crore of which INR 50,800 crore are deposited in public sector banks and INR 11,683.42 crore in regional rural banks. These figures are strongly indicative of the traceability and accountability of cash and debts through the cross section of the Indian economy. The interesting thing to note is that between November 16, 2016 and June 14, 2017, INR 311.93 crore have been added to Jan-Dhan accounts which is a figure worth noting.

The policies and subsidies designed for the benefit of the Indian citizens are many and well intentioned; however during the disbursement from the Government of India to sub-national governments or other implementing agencies, these funds tend to get diluted or delayed. Tracking these funds from their disbursement to the final recipient has been enabled through Public Financial Management System (PFMS) earlier known as Central Plan Scheme Monitoring System (CPSMS).

Transparency, clarity and efficiency have definitely improved with this initiative and the beneficiaries have developed a stronger faith in Government. The significance of this is better understood when we see the budget (2017-18) and see an allocation of INR 300 crore for the restructuring of CPSMS to PFMS. The aim is to bring in at least 90 percent of the Pension Accounting Offices (PAOs) and 20 percent of the Drawing & Disbursing Officers (DDOs) under it for receipt and payments by the end of this fiscal. As PFMS sets out to integrate all the State Treasuries and implement DBT for welfare and scholarship scheme the inclusion of the mobile platform increases the traceability of funds throughout the process of disbursement.

There is a continuous effort from the Government to provide a liveable space for its citizens with safety, medical care, and apt infrastructure. In this direction Smart Cities Mission was launched by the government of India for proliferation and establishment of effective e-Governance.

On 23 rd June, 2017, the government announced 30 new names to be developed as smart cities including Ahmedabad, Karnal, Aligarh, Jhansi, Patna, Bengaluru, Puducherry and more. With the launch of this list the total number of cities selected by the government of India under their flagship urban modernisation program reaches a total of 90 and another 10 would be joining them in the year ahead. The Smart Cities Mission will work to revive the crammed up areas, offer a lot more housing prospects for Economically Weaker Sections (EWS), enhance safety in the neighbourhood, uphold e-governance, revivify the financial centres, generate best-in- class infrastructure amenities and extend integrated urban mobility options in the newly revamped city. This mission would cast its impact on a total urban population of 95,955,046.

As one of the most recent e-Governance initiatives Goods & Services Tax (GST) rolled out, Goods & Services Tax Network (GSTN) – a unique & complex IT infrastructure firm would be managing millions of invoices filed by around 8 million indirect tax payers. This initiative has continuously been bringing in more and more number of businesses under the indirect tax radar. This is exhibited by the 1.6 lakh new GST registrations in 4 days (25th to 29th June 2017). This number is only of those businesses that had by far not registered for VAT, excise or service taxes. GST has effectively increased the ease of doing business by eliminating the need for multiple taxes across India. As Aadhaar is linked with GST and mobile devices, there is an accountability & traceability in the economy inducing a refreshing transparency in the whole system.

A cashless economy should not be limited to just the urban areas and there is a conscious effort at the Government’s end for inclusion of the rural areas in a digital economy. Aadhar Enabled Payment System (AEPS) is one of the most effective initiatives in this regard. AEPS is essentially a bank led model that is suited to m-Governance as much as it is to e-Governance. Currently, there are 131 live AEPS entities which were responsible for a total of 10,19,62,503 AEPS transactions in the month of June 2017 alone. As AEPS brings the remote areas closer to the government extending directly the benefits intended for them, m-Governance establishes deeper roots.

As e-Governance is delving deep into the Indian landscape, m-Governance is shaping up to be a key tool here. Bharat Interface for Money (BHIM) is one such mobile application that extends payment and transactional services through Unified Payment Interface. The monthly transactions on UPI crossed the one crore mark in a mere 11 months since its launch and BHIM had a considerable role to play in it. UPI volume including BHIM and SMS transactions was 72 lakh in April 2017, 93.6 lakh in May 2017, and in June 2017 it stood at 1.03 crore. There are 49 banks (from both private and public sector) that are live on BHIM. The multilingual feature on BHIM is one of the reasons that it is proving to be an extremely effective m-Governance tool. The number of downloads for BHIM is 15.38 million on android (as on June 30, 2017) and 0.63 million on IOS (as on July 1, 2017).

Currently, there is a multiplicity in the number of apps for various government and non-government services. To avail any of these services there is a need for a number of apps to be installed on your mobile device. m-Governance maybe the theme for today, but this multiplicity makes it cumbersome and sometimes confusing. Looking at the launch of Unified Mobile Application for New-Age Governance (UMANG) a master app to be launched by the government of India will offer a single portal access to 200 different apps with 1200 different services.. Taking m-Governance on a path of efficiency and convenience UMANG will completely eradicate the need to remember and install multiple apps and bring in the concept and convenience of one stop shop.

An enabler for PFMS, PayGov India is aimed to ease out the process of disbursement of benefits directly to the beneficiary with traceability and transparency without the involvement of a third party service provider. In this regard, as of April 2017, 84 departments and agencies were already live with transactions worth INR 5159.02 crore. Agencies like Commercial Taxes, Transport and Generic Portal (Jharkhand), CSC (Kerala), Delhi Jal Board, MahaOnline, CSC e-Governance Services India Limited, NIELIT, Centre for eGovernance (UP), M-One (Karnataka), etc. are just some of the recent ones to have joined in.

As of January 2017, the number of smartphone users in India crossed the 300 million mark. According to a report by the Internet and Mobile Association of India and market research firm IMRB International of the estimated 444 million already has 269 million using the internet. However, in case of 906 million strong rural populations only 163 million are internet users. The report also mentions that 77% of urban users and 92% of rural users use mobile phones primarily to access Internet, which is essentially due to the availability and economic viability of smart phones.

The reach of smart phones and devices is a lot more when compared to desktop or laptop computers, hence the trend of e-Governance is naturally evolving into m-Governance, where initiatives like PFMS, UMANG, BHIM, UPI, and others are emerging to gain importance and acceptance. The response of citizens belonging to the remote areas of the country is considerably greater when compared to traditional modes of governance or even e-Governance. Even though e- literacy might not be as high as we would like it to be, the usage, access, and convenience of smart phones is promising for the m-Governance to take effect.

Authored by: Saket Agarwal, Global CEO – Spice Digital