IT & e-Governance expert, Shailesh Parmar proposes how the Indian government can use tech, AI and big data for public services in the future.
India is a sovereign, socialist, secular, democratic republic with a parliamentary form of government. It is federal in structure with unitary features. The main forms of administrative units in India are the Centre, the States and Union Territories. Each state and UT have their distinguished government service delivery models.
Government’s e-Services are Still Manual in Approach
A decade ago, to avail the government services, citizens had to visit physically-assisted counters that were made available at designated government offices or PPP (Public-Private Partnership) based framework like CSC (Common Services Centre).
At present, all the public administration activities are conducted on the information highway i.e internet. The major public services can be availed over the internet, which provides citizens with a single-window access point to avail all the required e-services of the government.
Although the applications submission for required services is being done via internet platforms at government offices, the application scrutiny, verification and approval is still being done at Village/ Block/ District offices manually across the state. This process of physical and manual verification remains similar in the entire governance system. Wherein the majority of government staff and agency’s manpower are occupied in manual application processing part in government offices across the states.
A Need for e-Governance
In this spacefaring time, wherein technology has become an essential part of daily life, the daily public administration and public service access need to be made easily available in simple way. It has become essential for the governments to transform their services delivery so that they are offered via a centralised platform.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, the entire world was pushed towards remote working. The pandemic situation increased the use of technology even for very menial tasks. So it is the peak time to transform government services into centralised service delivery i.e faceless, cashless and paperless.
I have had more than 15 years of experience in conceptualizing and implementing large scale Government citizen centric initiatives. Through this experience, I would like to lay down my vision of how the Indian government can use state-of-the-art technology like big data, AI and deep learning to deliver public services.
- To use e-Governance as a tool to provide Government services at home to ease public administration through centralized mechanism.
- To usher in an era of good governance, ensuring transparency, efficiency, accountability, accessibility, and reliability in the delivery of public services.
- To enhance citizen-centricity, responsiveness, and inclusivity in governance.
Create a Centralized Government Services Centre
To achieve the above vision, my first recommendation would be to constitute a Centralized Government Services Centre under the State Government’s IT Department.
The proposed centre will work on creating the State Enterprise Architecture (SEA). SEA will be a comprehensive architecture that will leverage e-Governance solutions and digital transformation. It will help government departments and agencies to inter-operate with ease and provide integrated services to citizens.
Passport and Aadhaar are the best e-Governance models which would be used in a centralized service delivery model. Aadhaar authentication of the UIDAI is transforming the entire KYC process by making it paperless, instantaneous, secure, economical and non-repudiable (legally valid). The application can be submitted at any CSC, bank or govt. office to avail the Aadhaar card, but approval and disbursement is done from the Central office.
One of the key success factors of the PPP-based passport project is the joint management of passport centres by government officials and the private sector, following clearly defined process steps along with isolated and secured information flows.
The proposed solution will work on these two models. For example, the application can be done from any government office or online; and the application process will be done jointly by government officials and the private sector under one roof.
The government will act as a bridge between the industry and the public by providing the essential ecosystem for the successful implementation of innovative solutions. Hence, public-private partnerships will help to leverage broader economic and social benefits from joint investments to address key challenges of governance and societal well-being.
The Proposed State Enterprise Architecture (SEA)
The proposed Government Services Centre shall be constituted under state Government’s IT department. It will solely work to move away from the piecemeal approach and provide an integrated ‘one governance’ that will be citizen-centric, transparent, and effective. This centre will further work on creating the following to achieve the vision of having State Enterprise Architecture (SEA):
- Unified platform for application submission– A single platform for all the (G2C, G2B & G2G) services and schemes. All the government departments could bring their services on this platform.
The portal shall have 3 major interfaces:
- Web Portal: for online service delivery
- Mobile App: for service delivery through mobiles & handheld devices
- Physical assisted counters & KIOSKs: assisted delivery counters at District, Taluka (Block), City and Village levels.
- Centralized Service Delivery Mechanism- There will be a centralized service delivery centre in the capital of the state and the applications received through various interfaces shall be processed and disbursed through this centre. It will have centralized processing of the applications at one place, instead of distributed workflows (at District, Taluka & village) level. The proposed centre shall have representatives/ Nodal officers from all the departments.
The Solution: Government Services Centre
Following are the major set of activities to be carried out by the proposed centre:
- Applications scrutiny: Scrutiny & verification of the information and supporting documents provided as a part of the application by performing the following tasks:
- Verification of information/ documents using existing databases.
- Gather information and crosscheck the same by asking for reports/ recommendations from District/Taluka/Village level officials.
- Service Approval: The concerned department officials will approve/ reject the basis of the application during the scrutiny process.
- Field level Verification: By leveraging straight-thorough processing and providing online interface to field level government officers such as the Patvari (Talati), police and Deputy Mamlatdar (Nayab Tahsildar), circle officer, etc. to provide their field level report/opinion on the online portal or mobile interface, the process will significantly reduce turnaround time and will simplify the approval process.
- Service Delivery: The online/e-Service delivery and final disbursement of services (certificates, licenses, etc.) and schemes will be approved using e-Sign and e-seal and certificates. They will be delivered to citizen’s email ID, DigiLocker, WhatsApp, etc.
- Helpdesk & Support services: To provide centralized support and grievance redressal services.
Ultimate target: The proposed centre can leverage emerging technologies. The following are the envisaged benefits and ultimate goals for the proposed centre:
- Unified portal for the state government:
- Single Portal for all government (G2C, G2B, G2G) services
- Single portal for all government departments’ websites
- Single portal for all GRs and gazettes
- Centralized service delivery mechanism
- Citizen Profile Repository – Digital Identity (DI)
- Make services faster and efficient through use of emerging technology:
- Blockchain- can be used for digital profile, digitally signed certificates and land record services. It will reduce the time, cost and risks of managing sensitive information.
- Big Data – Citizens are today accustomed to on-demand and speedy delivery from private organizations and many have similar expectations from the government. This platform can implement big data to develop innovative delivery channels and improve citizen services. Governments have massive amounts of data, and this data can be used to extract administrative insights on various citizen services including identity management, health services, scholarship, food distribution, land registration, etc.
- Artificial Intelligence (AL) and Machine Learning (ML) have massive potential to transform governance and enhance the service delivery experience. AI and ML can set up a more cohesive flow for this platform, making service delivery more intelligent so that the services are readily accessible to the citizens. For example, if an applicant uploads a picture of their ID card for an application, AI can update it in their existing DI records by recognizing their photo.
- Automated service delivery:
- This platform proactively anticipates citizens’ needs before they approach the services (predictive analytics). For example, a student that qualified for a government scholarship scheme will automatically obtain benefits in their bank account even when they have not enquired about it.
- Automatic requests can be triggered on the occurrence of identified events in certain services for making relevant updates in this platform. For example, when someone applies for their child’s birth certificate, there is an automatic trigger for addition of the child’s name in ration card, or schemes related to Girl Child Education. Similarly, child vaccination can be suggested automatically, and even a voter’s ID when the child turns 18. This type of process will be very convenient for citizens.
- Government service delivery will be fast, transparent, and user friendly.
- Thanks to this venture, India will be ready for faceless, cashless, paperless government services delivery.
- Below diagram shows the broad architecture of the proposed centre:
Technology will help cut out the middlemen and thus malpractice. Furthermore, tech will be an enabler for processing re-designs, and the physical or practical side in the processing centres will be shifted to the single office.
One of the overriding success factors will be the entire application scrutiny, document verification and approval will come under one roof, by the private and public sectors respectively. Also, the implementation of this solution will lead to enhanced efficiency of District Administrative officials as their additional burden of delivery of citizen services shall be carried out by the centralized service delivery mechanism.
Most notably, the introduction of existing government databases, e-Sign and Aadhaar significantly reduced fraud and time delays caused by intermediaries. Furthermore, the use of e-KYC authentication of Aadhaar and the use of digital signatures will bring accountability. This will drastically reduce the time it takes to handle an application. Also, it will help the government to manage its resources.
Ours is an economy with exploding demographics where citizens are taking advantage of their newfound social mobility. So the scalable and extendable model of my proposed concept will be a big advantage here. By enabling all government services online and available at the nearest physical assisted counters, the project will ensure citizens in remote and rural areas are included.
The proposed Government Services Centre will enhance the e-governance platform with a fast-paced life. This concept will demonstrate what can be achieved if process re-engineering, digitalization, and innovative ways of partnering come together.
The centre will require necessary modifications to suit the respective states’ frameworks. Afterwards, the proposed solution could bring a transformative impact on public service delivery in our country. The transparent governance system can be established with structured efforts. And customised regional public administration needs can be met as per the geography/state where the proposed centre will be established.
Shailesh Parmar works as Manager with KPMG India Services LLP in Gandhinagar. He is a Computer Engineer and has 17+ Years of experience in managing & implementing large scale IT & e-Governance projects.
He has worked on multiple projects of various departments in Government. His area of expertise is IT transformation, mainly in Government services delivery. Originally from Vadodara, Shailesh has a masters in education degree.