Washington: The World Bank will support the government in providing citizens in the Indian state of Assam, particularly in tribal districts, access to public services in a timely efficient and accountable manner.
Aimed at facilitating the implementation of state’s Right to Public Services (RTPS) Act, the project will help departments with a large public interface restructure their processes and set up e-platforms so that citizens can access services digitally. This blend of technological intervention and administrative reform will be initiated for 18 key services in four major government agencies, including the Transport, Revenue, and Welfare Departments as well as the Guwahati Municipal Corporation. The initiative will cover the various government authorizations, approvals, licenses or certificates needed to secure core social services or to access government records such as those pertaining to land and property. In the case of the Guwahati Municipal Corporation, the project will focus on issuing birth and death certificates, trade licenses and building authorizations.
In 2012, the Assam government passed the RTPS Act to help citizens access services in a time-bound manner and create a formal appellate process in the case of non-compliance. Currently, 14 state departments provide 55 RTPS services. However, in order to make the RTPS Act more effective, a stronger ICT platform as well as more efficient processes are needed.
The project will create a new online portal for applying, processing, tracking and delivering services across the state. The portal will offer information on the procedures and processes needed to access services as well as allow citizens to apply for available services online. For this to be successful, it will ensure robust connectivity of at least 2mbps through a service level agreement with a provider. Such a telecom backbone will help the state transform its backend processes for reliable electronic service delivery across departments.
About 428 Public Facilitation Centers, will be made available closer to where people reside, particularly at the Block and Circle level. These centers will benefit from reliable connectivity and provide services to citizens, using electronic means. The project will place citizens at the center of the service delivery process by strengthening feedback mechanisms and creating channels for grievance redress. A high-level delivery unit will be established to monitor the implementation of the RTPS Act across Assam.
“Providing more responsive service delivery, particularly for the poor and underserved groups, will go a long way in making Assam a reference for other low-income states striving to provide access to public services to its people,” said Junaid Ahmad, World Bank Country Director in India. “The state’s efforts at strengthening its ICT infrastructure will also have a higher impact on all its poverty alleviation schemes,” he added.
The Government of Assam is also keen to learn from and adapt good RTPS initiatives from states like Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka and Bihar. “Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka have developed effective one-stop centers to deliver services. Karnataka has also led the way in developing a portal that allows for easy online access to many services. These lessons have been incorporated into Assam’s strategy to promote better service delivery through RTPS,” said Vikram Chand, Lead Public Sector Specialist and World Bank’s Task Team Leader for the project.
The $39.20 million loan from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), has a 5-year grace period, and a maturity of 19 years.