WASHINGTON, DC, March 31, 2011: The World Bank today approved $150 million loan to India to accelerate the implementation of its 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 e-Delivery of Public Services Development Policy Loan, approved today, will support NeGP’s countrywide plans of increasing online services for citizens in their locality. Projects which have been identified for such online computerized services on a priority basis – also known as e-services – include 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 private sector services such as banking, insurance, and trade.
While this World Bank loan will not target specific services per se, it will initiate policy and institutional actions that will affect all services.
The loan will support NeGP – approved in May 2006 as a national program – to 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 no longer have to go to multiple departments, but will have the option of accessing e-services either through the internet on the government’s common website, or through a 'single window' Common Service Centers (CSC), set up to assist villages or remote areas.
“The NeGP has plans to significantly widen citizen access to e-services. We hope 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 a relevant ministry/agency of the national and or state government. 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 Service 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,” said Ranjana 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.