Ahmedabad augmenting online services accessibility for people amid COVID crisis

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Arun Mahesh

In an effort to bring in light the transformation of India, in recent years, Elets Technomedia organised the India Transformation Summit from July 10 to Jul 12. Arun Mahesh Babu, District Development Officer (DDO), Ahmedabad addressed the summit on ‘Local Governance Through Digital Transformation’ and spoke on how Ahmedabad is coping up with the COVID-19 pandemic-induced challenges.

Mr Babu opened his address saying, “Ahmedabad is one of the worst-hit districts in the country and initially it posed a major challenge to handle the COVID-19 crisis. However, slowly we have been able to get the situation under control.”

Talking about the digital transformation, Mr Babu said, “People in the district are used to reaching out the government offices in traditional manner lie writing physical letters or visiting the office. However, in the city, people have started shifting to online platforms but in other parts of the districts it is a major challenge to get people to shift to digital space.” All the ‘Jan Sev Kendras’ and e-gram centres have been linked to satellite link of the Gujarat wide area network. And, BharatNet is adding as a benefit. All these ‘kendras’ and centres have been activated and people have started using these to apply for various government services. However, the major challenge has been convincing people, he added.

Adding on to the scenario, he said, “People have this tendency to reach out to the office and talk to the district head or the head of the department as they feel unsatisfied talking to junior officers. This mentality creates a situation that restrains people from adapting to online means. Hence, we started allowing only a certain number of people to the office and ensure that all the safety precautions are being taken care of. We have put in thermal scanners in place to check every individual entering the office and other precautions are also taken.”

Also Read: Managing Corona Pandemic: Insights from Arun Mahesh

Another challenge was to deliver services to people’s doorstep. So, ‘gram yoddha’ was introduced to serve the purpose. Under ‘gram yoddha’ the head of the village committee or sarpanch, one teacher, one constable and one worker was appointed as a committee to decide who should enter the village and who should temporarily leave the village in case needed. The scheme was well appreciated by the Centre as well. Moreover, the committee also ensured that the online services are accessible to all through the e-gram centres and suvidha kendras, told Mr Babu. So, these committees screen the applications initially and streamline the process for people.

Further, talking about the digital interventions, Mr Babu said, “We also have a digital portal for agriculture-related services… Getting people online and using digital platforms was a major challenge and gram yoddha committees played a major role in bringing people to online platforms.”

Concluding his address he said, “The gram yoddha model has been well appreciated and is scaled in various other districts as well. How digital systems are placed, how the authorities engage the people online without making causing them any discomfort and provide the services in a smooth manner as possible.”

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