‘There should be a concrete plan to implement m-gov policy’

In conversation — Krishna Giri, managing director, accenture’s health and public service business in india


Samir Sachdeva | April 3, 2012

As managing director of Accenture’s health and public service business in India, Krishna Giri is responsible for all of the firm’s work for the national and regional governments of India. He discusses the potential of mobile governance in an interview with Samir Sachdeva.

How do you see the emergence of mobile governance as an extension of e-governance, globally and in India?
Mobile governance is not an extension of e-governance, but another alternative channel for service delivery in government. Many countries have already embraced mobile government as a key delivery channel, including the US, the UK, Singapore and Bahrain. The major advantage of this channel is its huge reach and widespread usage among all demographic groups. All developed countries have provided enough bandwidth, in terms of 3G or 4G services, and people can afford for high-end devices which has enabled many possibilities on mobile governance, ranging from simple informational services to transitional and payment services.
India has one of the highest mobile penetrations (much more than the internet), but mobile bandwidth and affordability of smart phones and data usage are unresolved issue. However, innovative ways of delivering services are coming up in India. The next generation e-government vision and plan of the government of India will definitely focus on mobile governance.

Is Accenture associated with any m-gov programme in India or abroad?
Accenture has undertaken several mobile governance initiatives in the world. Some examples are mobile-based security solutions for a leading railway system, mobile payment services for a large credit card company, mobile technology for various solutions and consultancy for several international banks. 
In India, Accenture is currently engaged with a state government (for which) we have developed the first mobile site with mobi-apps. The services provided through this mobile portal are: blood bank locator, UID enrolment station locator, resort availability and leave and travel request for government employees.

What are the prerequisites for a vibrant ecosystem for mobile-based public services in India? What could be the possible government-industry partnership models?
In India, a key challenge is the availability of bandwidth. The non-availability of bandwidth hinders the development of high-end applications on mobile devices and it has restricted the Indian private sector and government players to developing only SMS or USSD based services. Also, the high cost of this bandwidth has made it non-affordable for the common man. Thus, the government and private sectors do not want to venture into  mobile apps development on a large scale.
This can be overcome by creating a healthy eco-system which includes the following key stakeholders: government (the service provider), the software companies (for the apps development) and the mobile industry (the bandwidth providers and hardware manufacturers). This ecosystem should develop a shared revenue and profit sharing model to reduce the cost of infrastructure and create a mass uptake of government and private-sector services. The benefit is the reduced cost of delivering service to users.
What are the activities undertaken at Accenture’s mobile application lab in Bangalore?
Accenture Technology Labs in Bangalore is focused on developing innovative solutions for the mobile world, ranging from SMS-based services to mobile portals, mobile apps and embedded solutions and near field technology. This lab supports our global mobility team with research and development and in converting ideas into solutions.
What role do you see your organisation playing in helping build the knowledge base as well as development of m-government applications in India?
Accenture has several active mobility projects in India – from complex healthcare issues to e-gov collaboration. Accenture has developed and is piloting an m-health platform, called iDoc, to collect clinical data across India and provide physicians with clinical decision support. The offering addresses several problem scenarios and potential solutions to illustrate how mobile decision support can leap geographic boundaries and improve standards of care in the developing world.
Another example is the latest mobi-site developed by Accenture for one of the state governments in a short span of time with minimal effort. This involved interaction with five key ministries to develop mobile services. Some of the services were not e-enabled. In addition, already existing services are developed on disparate technologies. Further, the government wanted the mobile services to be accessed by anyone who has basic internet connectivity. Accenture quickly understood the business complexity and the technology challenges. The solution provided was mobi-apps that can be accessed by any basic phone with GPRS or a 3G connection on any browser.
What are the key challenges in deploying mobile governance services in India?
The challenges are manifold in India. The first is that the use of a government service on mobile devices requires certain information to be preloaded and used every time. Further, the sanctity of the requester requesting the service is not verifiable. These create administrative and legal challenges for the government in providing the service. This also hinders the development of transactional services like mobile-based payments.
Secondly, in India, the government services are not integrated and hence each department has its own database, applications and services. When a service is enabled on a mobile device, interoperability becomes a major issue from a technological standpoint. The demographic barrier is another challenge faced in India. Every state has a different local language and, therefore, all mobile services have to be developed in various languages. In addition, the low literacy rates necessitate technology that is speech-enabled rather than text-enabled for mobile-based services.
What are your views on the draft m-governance policy prepared by the government?
The mobile governance policy and roadmap is all encompassing and addresses the current requirements. However, there should be a concrete plan to implement the policy. We recommend that the policy document should have a directive on how it should be implemented and what components need to be addressed. Further, most public services are provided by the state governments barring a few at the central level. Therefore, the policy also should have a directive on the governance body or structure at the central and state levels that would ensure the right way of implementing the policy.
Which areas have a good potential for mobile-based delivery of services?
Mobile-based delivery of services can create a direct impact in most of the major government schemes like PDS, agricultural subsidies, JNNURM and MNREGS. It can also boost transparency by aiding the checking of status of application for any service (passport, birth and death certificates). It can also be used by farmers to know day-to-day commodity price information; in checking availability of vaccines and drugs at rural health centres. It can also be used to get blood bank information, in grievance redressal systems for the public and for voice-based biometric authentication on mobile.



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