The Government of India and the World Bank this week signed a Loan Agreement of US$150 million (Rs 675 Crores approximately) for the e-Delivery of Public Services Development Policy Loan under the National e-Governance Plan (NeGP), a flagship e-governance initiative of the Government of India aimed at transforming the service delivery system across the country. The Agreement was signed by the representatives from the Government of India and the World Bank.
National e-Governance Plan of India (NeGP)
The e-Delivery of Public Services Development Policy Loan signed today will support NeGP’s countrywide plans of increasing online services for citizens in their locality to improve the quality of basic governance in areas of concern to the common man.
With a vision to make all Government services accessible to the common man in his locality, through economical, transparent, efficient and reliable common service delivery outlets, the NeGP has identified various key components including Common Core and Support Infrastructure and Mission Mode Projects to be implemented at the Central, State and Local Government levels. These will help in providing efficient and cost-effective online services including birth and death registration, tax filing, land records, driver’s licenses and vehicle registration, passports and visas, agricultural extension services, and a wide range of municipal and panchayat (local government) level services. It will also enable e-services for a number of critical services to be provided by the private sector like banking, insurance, and trade.
While this World Bank loan will not target specific services per se, it will support the various policies and institutional actions of the Government of India (GOI) in accessing more services online as well as in increasing its outreach to the common man.
NeGP, which was approved in May 2006 as a national program, will operate on a single common IT infrastructure, thus allowing faster and easier sharing of information between departments, saving infrastructure costs, and lowering cost of service delivery for citizens as well as government agencies. Citizens will, ultimately, no longer have to go to multiple departments, but will have the option of accessing e-services either through the internet or through ‘single window’ Common Services Centers (CSCs), set up mainly to assist villages or remote areas.
“The NeGP has plans to significantly widen citizen access to e-services. We are certain that, this loan from the World Bank will support NeGP in its efforts to ensure efficient, cost effective, accessible and transparent delivery of public services across the country,” said Venu Rajamony, Joint Secretary, Department of Economic Affairs.
NeGP has identified 27 priority projects to be transformed using e-services, each one to be owned and spearheaded by the concerned ministry/department at the National or State level. The program is also expected to have significant social benefits for the poor, particularly in relation to services like social welfare schemes, pensions, certificates, dues and recovery, PDS-related services for food and essential items, rural health, compensation and relief packages, grievance services, and for the use of the Right to Information. For example, citizens at the village level will be able to electronically access information such as benefits under several social welfare schemes; details on land records; Panchayat meetings; and government schemes. The IT-enabled Common Services Centers (CSCs) at the village level will help villagers’ access e-services and facilitators at these centers will assist them.
“The Government of India’s aim of providing web-enabled anytime, anywhere access to information and e-services can have significant social and economic benefits. Reducing the financial and opportunity costs of obtaining specific services through enabling policy measures can go a long way in transforming service delivery in the country,” said Roberto Zagha, World Bank Country Director in India.
Though NeGP has made substantial progress since its adoption, implementation lags behind the GoI’s expectations. A majority of citizens in rural areas still do not have access to e-services. Plans are being drawn to extend such facilities in some 250,000 panchayats where rural users can access public services online. In the medium term, some of the major impediments identified are weak capacities of states to prepare and implement projects; partial development of technical standards; need for an effective monitoring system; insufficient participation from citizens and end-users; inadequate identification of real beneficiaries in e-transactions; limited internet penetration in rural/remote areas; inadequate use of mobile platform as a service delivery channel and need for re-orientation of government processes and officials to implement it. The World Bank loan will finance the Government of India to address some of these medium term challenges.
Last mile connectivity in India continues to remain a major challenge as the delivery of e-services is dependent on the quality of broadband access in remote areas. However, the mobile tele-density now stands at over 60 percent and is expected to increase. In the near future, this is likely to facilitate delivery of mobile-based government services at a low cost to citizens.
“This loan will also support the adoption of a policy framework for the delivery of basic financial services using mobile phones, which we hope will increase citizens’ access to online services,” saidRanjana Mukherjee and Shashank Ojha, Project Team Leaders and World Bank’s Senior Public Sector Specialist and Senior e-Government Specialist respectively. “The new IT-enabled system, as opposed to the manual one, will be able to take feedback from citizens, automatically log the time of processing and track the quality of services provided,” they added.
The loan from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) has a 5-year grace period and a maturity of 18 years.