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Sunday, July 22, 2018

Online Services: On the table, a measuring formula

Despite adoption of various methods to improve the quality of services delivered, lack of mechanism for evaluating the improvement in services has proved to be a key hurdle for development of online governance

Written by Pranav Mukul | New Delhi | Published: April 11, 2017 2:02:46 am


e-governance, digital india, cashless economy, aadhaar, e-governance news, india news, indian express Illustration: C R Sasikumar

Notwithstanding the Centre’s increased focus on e-governance, the lack of a credible framework to calibrate the maturity of e-governance in the country is a void that the government is attempting to fill up by way of an assessment mechanism for the three key tenets of digital maturity — cashless, paperless, and faceless. According to a recent presentation made within the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, the framework would be based on two kinds of assessment models — top-down, which would look at the maturity of services being offered; and bottom-up, which would evaluate the services based on citizens’ experience.

“The traditional view is that implementation of e-governance services and improvement is a continuous process, which is conceptualised in different phases. Despite the level of sophistication of the e-government service landscape of India, the maturity of e-government services has not been measured in detail. This can be partly attributed to the fact that there is no official maturity assessment model and framework tailored for Indian purposes and needs,” a senior government official told The Indian Express.

The official added that the formulating of this framework was at an early stage, and did not provide a timeline by when it could be rolled out to various government departments and agencies. As per the presentation, the mechanism, while following the broader framework, would also look to grade individual services being offered by the government’s ministries and departments. For this purpose, these services are proposed to be categorised into ‘informational’ and ‘transactional’ types, and would be given weightages for the purpose of aggregation, based on the ministry or department.

The top-down assessment model would look at five levels of maturity across services in the three tenets of cashless, paperless, and faceless. According to the presentation, for the cashless pillar, the highest level of maturity would be attained with use of Aadhaar-enabled electronic transactions. Similarly, level five for the paperless pillar would mean a department’s services are offered in a completely dematerialised form without the requirement of generating, printing, and storing any physical paper. A fully matured faceless aspect would mean no human interface with government personnel, and proactive delivery of services to the citizens anytime, anywhere, and through any means.

The bottom-up assessment model would attempt to evaluate experience of citizens from services offered by government departments and ministries under five tenets of accessibility, experience, completeness, participation, and personalisation. These aspects would have three levels of maturity. Under accessibility, issue of multiplicity of channels would be measured, which would include channels like web portal, mobile app, a separate portal that is disabled-friendly, among others. The experience tenet would be measured on aspects such as ease of navigation, multi-lingual support, browser support, low transaction failure rate, etc. Completeness tenet would measure the delivery of the said service. Participation would look at active involvement of citizens through use of social media tools. The final tenet in this assessment model would measure the level of personalisation of service delivery, while also grading relevance and whether the content is contextual to the service and its user or not.

As per the presentation, every department and ministry would be able to score 15 points from each of the assessment models, and the results obtained would be plotted on two dimensional axes to see the overall maturity of the e-governance services. To assess the results from both these models, the presentation said, a public feedback survey tool would be developed for the bottom-up model, and a closed governmental assessment tool would be developed for the top-bottom model.

Various agencies and departments of the Central government use a number of information and communication technology tools for exchange of information with citizens, businesses, or other government departments, faster delivery of public services, improving internal efficiency, reducing costs, restructuring of administrative processes, and improving quality of services. However, despite the adoption of various methods to improve the quality of services delivered to the citizens, lack of mechanism for evaluating the improvement in services has proved to be a key lacuna for development of e-governance in India.

“The renewed focus for the government is to further improve the quality of service delivery and to offer such e-governance services. The ruling government’s demonetisation exercise towards a cashless economy was one of the biggest financial initiatives in the world. The other services at state and central level have also matured and evolved significantly in the meantime,” the government official cited above said. “Change in the mindsets of the bureaucracy in coming out of their traditional perception of being a controller in administering various services for development of the people to a reversed role of being a facilitator for reaching public services to the citizen has helped significantly to bring about this change,” he added.

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