The Punjab Municipal Infrastructure Development Company (PMIDC) had been trying to introduce an e-governance system across 167 ULBs since 2012. It faced many barriers to implement this because of technical constraints and the high financial load of about ₹200-300 Cr. In 2018, the Government of Punjab partnered with eGov to implement DIGIT in 167 towns and cities in the state. Over the next 90 days, 100 Urban Local Bodies were brought onto the platform. As DIGIT already had most of the required components and applications needed, this approach freed up resources to focus on critical non-technology elements like program management, governance and capacity building.
In only three years, it saved the government time and money (coming up to only 1/8th of the cost of a point solution) and, at the same time, enhanced ease and speed in accessing government services. Punjab’s example charged up the ecosystem to take a leap of faith. In no time, 10 other states adopted DIGIT.
eGov now works with all ecosystem actors through open learning sessions, workshops, webinars and hands-on training to boost co-creation and co-ownership. At the central government level, eGov helps in bridging policy, digital blueprints and governance structures. Together, the efforts of eGov and the ecosystem enable impact at scale and with speed.
As part of the Punjab implementation, the mSeva platform for citizens and ULB employees was launched including the mSeva app, mSeva website, mSeva mobile application and mSeva Whatsapp chatbot for citizens to streamline civic service delivery.
As a result of the mSeva implementation, 70% of citizen users report improvements in their quality of life because of mSeva. To gauge depth of impact, citizen users were asked to reflect on whether their quality of life has changed because of mSeva. In total, 70% said their life had improved, with 21% of all citizen users reporting it had ‘very much improved’.
Our experience of creating digital public goods to improve urban governance in India has taught us that the oft-forgotten beneficiary of digitising governments is the frontline government employee. With e-governance, employees no longer have to sift through reams of documents and files to locate citizen records. Going paperless has helped save 11 hours a week on an average per employee. A ULB employee in Punjab’s Rayya district told us how earlier it would take him about 20 minutes to manually calculate property tax. Now all he does is type in the property ID on the computer, and it is done in minutes. This has translated into reduced workload, less scope for manual errors, and efficiency in municipality offices. Less paper and files at government offices have also helped restore employee dignity at the workplace. The visual of cramped offices littered with heaps of old files and records is slowly becoming a thing of the past. There are even health benefits: the improved conditions have made these office spaces less appealing for rats and mice. Click to read a field story from Punjab, Kartarpur.
An enhanced employee experience has altered the citizen experience too. Often overwhelmed with work, government employees’ frustration at times translates into a negative citizen experience. But our data from Punjab shows that post-digitisation, the average time taken to resolve citizen complaints is down from 45 days to 7 days. Moreover, with access to real-time, digitised updates on citizen complaints and faster-moving citizen queues, the chances of an altercation between citizens and government employees have also gone down.
Since every service that is digitised gets a corresponding dashboard, municipal employees also have access to reliable and structured data at all times. This substantially boosts their ability to manage the performance of their cities and towns, and direct resources to high-traffic areas. This is leading to quality planning that is data-driven. For instance, grievance redressal trends can help anticipate an increase in pothole complaints in monsoons, allowing the city to be better prepared before the season begins.