Giving urban bodies a digital makeover

Written by Sudhir Chowdhary | Updated: Aug 25 2014, 07:57am hrs
For decades, various government departmentsat the Central and state levelhave suffered a technology bypass, relying on centuries-old processes and processes to manage and deliver public services. Simple day-to-day functions such as issuing marriage certificates, passport, birth and death registrations, or more complex tasks like tax collection, health services, water supply, city infrastructure development, including roads, parking or traffic signalsit is a difficult task for an ordinary citizen to get work done. Rural-urban migration and the hyper growth of cities in our country has only added to the urban chaos.

In todays fast-paced environment, and thanks to Prime Ministers direct intervention, the government has got keen on getting closer to the citizens with initiatives such as apps, mobile platforms, short messaging service etc. It aims to leverage wireless and new media technology platforms, mobile devices and applications for delivery of public information and services to all citizens and businesses. The big idea is to widen the reach of public services to all citizens in the country.

The governments strong impetus on technology to make it run better is music to the ears of technology companies, which are aggressively promoting their latest solutions and services encompassing social media, cloud, analytics and mobility. The German enterprise software maker SAP, which has witnessed strong growth in the public sector in India, feels that various state-owned departments will unleash a major technology initiative in the next few months, with e-governance in the forefront.

Putting IT to work

Earlier this month, SAP announced that Bhopal Municipal Corporation (BMC), with a view to improve quality of life through better administration and citizen services, has implemented solutions from SAP to automate and centralise public service offerings. Available in Hindi, the solutions will help BMC manage and streamline its functions such as issuing marriage certificates, birth and death registrations etc. The solutions will also streamline permits, health services, water supply and tax collection, among other services.

Globally, about 25% of SAPs revenue comes from the public sector. According to company officials, there are several more pilot projects happening with municipalities across India. In a first for SAP in the wider Asia Pacific region, BMC plans to deliver citizen services through project CityApp. This project aims to develop an SAP mobile app that will provide an easy

access point for city services and will help citizens navigate through city services, stay informed and engage with their neighbours. The CityApp project is intended to simplify citizens day-to-day interaction with the corporation on the mobile platform of their choice.

Look at the way people voted after 30 years for Narendra Modi-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) into a clear mandate; the two messages that were given very clearly was firstly to bring back effective governance and secondly transparency in public spending, says Ravi Chauhan, managing director, SAP India. The only solution is e-governance, to really use technology to make governance more effective, more time bound, more high quality and to ensure transparency. Theres a great opportunity for us in the government and public sector space. (See interview).

Across India, says Mathew Thomas, vice-president, Strategic Industries in India, SAP, local governments are turning to innovative technologies to help them address the challenges of urbanisation. We aim to help local governing bodies to accelerate innovation and connect directly with people and communities to deliver efficient governance.

A digital future

In the government sector, SAP has a whole lot of utility and power companies using SAP solutions. Indraprastha Power Generation Company, a government-owned utility that generates and sells electricity to distribution companies in Delhi, has implemented the SAP ERP application for effective decision making. The benefits have come in the form of automated creation of request for quotes from purchase requisitions, eliminating manual data entry by personnel in contracts and materials (C&M) department; complete visibility into asset maintenance history and spare-parts movement and so on.

In the area of treasury management, Andhra Pradesh government is using SAP system. Also, most of the top airports today are managed using SAP solutions. Even Amul, which is a dairy cooperative, is managed using SAP system. In the defence sector, the financial planning system of the Navy is with SAP.

But it is urban India where there is real action happening. With many new challenges facing urban areas today, urban bodies and municipalities are at the forefront of e-governance. SAP is doing its bit by helping the public sector and local governing bodies to accelerate innovation and connect directly with people and communities to deliver efficient governance.