by July 1, 2005 0 comments

Most e-governance projects are designed with some key objectives, which are meant to help the citizens in some way. Yet, how many of them actually deliver upon those objectives today still remains to be seen in most of them. For instance, despite all the computerization, one can still easily find inefficiencies in most government departments. What’s needed therefore is a clear set of benefits to be defined for the citizens and told to them, and some mechanism by way of which the government can get periodic feedback on whether those are being delivered or not. 

One thing that must clearly be understood is that e-governance is not just about computerization. It’s about making the government processes more efficient for the citizens. To take an example, suppose you spot some mistakes in your cellphone bill today. You wouldn’t think twice before calling up the cellphone service provider and taking out all your anger and frustration on the executive at the other end of the phone. In all probability, the executive would listen to you politely, take down your details and try to get something done about the problem. Now had the same situation occurred with a government department, you wouldn’t have called up, and even if you did, there was no guarantee that your call would be taken care of. Therefore, one of the key expectations for citizens from e-governance projects is accountability. Who can the citizens go to in the government if they face a problem somewhere? It must clearly be defined. 

Accountability brings us to another interesting point-that of the government’s grievances cell. Typically, you would find that most government websites have a separate section for this, where citizens can enter their complaints. While it’s good to take inputs from the citizens to understand their problems, what’s achieved at the end of it? How long does it take for the problem to be resolved? Can the citizens expect to receive a time commitment by when it will happen, and further still, can a tracking mechanism be put in that checks which stage has the complaint reached? Without these, the grievance cell isn’t doing what it’s truly supposed to be doing. 

Having such an approach to looking at the citizen’s problems would definitely improve the turnaround time in complaint handling. This leads us to another interesting point, of how quickly is the government able to serve the citizens after implementing e-governance. How good is the visible face of government that interfaces with the citizens? Just as you would call up your cellphone service provider and expect good service and prompt response, can you expect the same from a government public services department? Such should be the approach. 

Transparency is another key point that’s required in an e-governance project, so that citizens know exactly what’s going in the background once a request has been put forth. The citizens should not be left at the mercy of the front-desk government executives. They should be able to track their service requests and meet higher government officials if needed. 

The objective of any e-governance project is to improve the quality of service the government provides to its citizens. The quality of this service therefore needs to be maintained and sustained over the years. This is only possible if there are periodic reviews of the infrastructure, and government employees are constantly trained to serve the citizens better. ¨

Anil Chopra

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