Learner’s Submissions: Online Public Services in India

“The difficulty and trouble ordinary Bangaloreans had to undergo to pay bills and make tax payments before 2003 is no longer necessary. The truth however is that E-government has been partially realized and E-Governance has never entered the electoral politics. As a beneficiary of the automation and Informatization of Karnataka Government I’m personally extremely grateful to the great soul, among our politicians, who showed the courage and foresight to go ahead with the process.

Bangalore-ONE – online bill payment intermediary that arrived in 2001-03, arouse curiosity and drove families to search for computers and internet. Since then, the time spent on traveling, standing in long queues and amount of lost wages, due to avoidable absence from work to pay bills, have drastically come down. Bangalore-One, accessible through bangaloreone.gov.in is a comprehensive billing process which mediates between the clients/citizens and the governmental departments in collection of bill payments. The earliest services provided by Bangalore-one have been the Water Bills, Electricity Bills, Telephone Bills, parking Fine Payment, Chief Minister Relief Fund Donations. As of now they have added postpaid bills of private telecom companies and parking fee payments. The offline services of Bangalore-ONE are provided through a call center/s running in key public areas like shopping complexes and apartment complexes. They control access to Public Intranet(Karnataka Government) allow applications for Caste Certificates, Income certificates, Attestation of official documents, receive and process passport applications, Traffic fine collection, property Registration. The Entire Website and Payment Process and gateway are handled by Private operators, usually a Contractor/s. There are services like – Google drive – that provides support for printing post-script documents into .pdf format and digital storage in clouds.

Property taxes In Bangalore is paid through website – bbmp.gov.in we citizens are invited to register and pay our property taxes. Registration on the BBMP website is not voluntary and is effectuated only through an administrator approved process. Depending on the updated BBMP records of Citizens, who would in turn use their PIN (property Identity Number) or Application Number, whichever is relevant and applicable, to access the webpage for payment of Property Tax during each financial year. Despite the change, the payment processes and technology applied on the BBMP website is obsolete. The customer service is incomplete and most of times very frustrating. There have been cases of officials demanding favors for completing an incomplete process even under this electronic format.

Obsolescence of technology is one of the emerging problems in Bangalore administration. The lack of political will, policy decisions being delayed, in expectation that the council will be replaced once the new state govt is overthrown. Such thought processes have gripped Bangalore administration and have delayed tendering processes. Need for
continued pressure and “lobbying” have become essential to ensure the officials are pushed to take measures to ensure technology remains cutting edge and state of the art. The involvement of NGOs has been largely on invitation only. This exclusivity in NGO participation has made the entire process of privatization and liberalization and multiple actor participation an elitist indulgence. Inclusivity and competence is grossly lacking. The above behavioral aspects have encouraged obsolescence of technology and frequent failures of E-Governance mechanisms. There is growing cynicism among officials and citizens about the future prospects of the incumbent technology processes. The lacks of upgradation, scaling of technology have left a vacuum in E-Governance. As citizens, we are using all democratic means at our disposal to pressurize bureaucracy to take scaling, upgradation and capacity building. Not in any order, nevertheless, pursue the change to its logical goal of E-Governance.

Public key infrastructure has not been robust in India. The citizens should be exposed to Public key infrastructure so as to enable the citizens to send and receive documents in an encrypted format, reducing chances of interception and leakage of vital data to unscrupulous agents. The PKI in India is extremely immature, to obtain certificate it takes a long 3 months. Through private contractors I have obtained it for a premium of `1500. Which should be done away with? Certificates should be available for free or at a subsidized rate. The certification authority reminds me of the working of ISBN agency in India. The ISBN Agency in India takes 1 year to authorize someone to issue an ISBN. It’s very unfortunate…” – Anil Dev Gopalakrishna – Karnataka, India

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