The Andhra Pradesh government has taken several technological initiatives to improve the provision of civic services. The government launched the Mee-seva system in 2011 to ensure effective and efficient civic governance. The system is developed as an integrated service delivery model with an aim to provide improved efficiency, transparency and accountability for citizen-related services through a single point.
The central government’s National e-Governance Plan (NeGP) aims at digitisation of government records. Initially, the Mee-seva system covered 10 services, and its scope has now been expanded to a total of 300 services through 7,097 Mee-seva centres spread across Andhra Pradesh. The ambit of the system includes services like payment of utility bills and the issue of birth and death, caste and encumbrance certificates, among others. The aim is to bring services to consumers (and not draw citizens towards services) through the effective use of information and communication technology. The system creates an integrated database for all services under a single roof, thereby providing citizens a transparent system.
The system is an improvement over the e-seva initiative launched in 2001 and the common service centres (CSCs) established by the Andhra Pradesh government. The scope for improvement in e-seva centres, limited service roll-out through CSCs, and below-par utilisation of developed infrastructure provided the basis for initiating the Mee-seva system. Under this, all e-seva centres and CSCs were converted to Mee-seva centres. These centres provide services across 31 departments including agriculture, education, industries, municipal administration, the Unique Identification Authority of India, the Warangal Municipal Corporation, the Hyderabad Metropolitan Water Supply and Sewerage Board, and the Panchayati Raj.
The services provided under the system can be divided into two categories:
- Category A: These services are provided to citizens across counters or by kiosk operators within 15 minutes. Citizens are not required to submit any supporting documents at the kiosk.
- Category B: Services covered under this category are transactional or statutory in nature. These are further categorised as B1 and B2. The service delivery time under B1 is less than five days and can be moved to Category A from the second and subsequent requests. The delivery time for B2 services has statutory limits and cannot be moved to Category A as they require field verification and back-end processes for every request.
Structure of the system
The system involves a three-tier structure to connect citizens with the departments. Tier I of the system is related to citizens. The central server in which information from citizens is fed is the Tier II system. This information is processed for the concerned departments, which conclude the structure as Tier III. Tier I and Tier III are connected to a central server through a leased line and an integrated service digital network is created as a backup. Every department is registered in the system with a secure user identification, password and digital certificate. The portal displays applications by users across the service centres. The concerned departments are liable to conduct the procedure and update the status of the application with their remarks on the Mee-seva portal.
The system has been deployed at a centrally located state data centre. The technology for development and maintenance of the system and the centres has been outsourced from organisations including HCL Infosystems Limited, Spanco Telesystems and Solutions Limited and the Data Management Corporation.
Advantages of the system
The foremost advantage of the system is that it clubs a range of services and offers them through a single window. Thus, the system provides an alternative to the conventional process of visiting the respective offices to avail of each service with restricted timings and at different locations and helps citizens in saving time and costs of travel. It also provides consumers flexible hours to file an application related to the services offered online. Users have the option of paying for these services online through Airtel Money, debit cards and credit cards. The entire data is updated online, which makes the process transparent and provides an efficient system.
It also provides the state government an additional source of revenue. This can be used to improve existing systems or re-invest into the same system, expanding the scope by including additional services and covering more departments, and increasing the area of operation. The total cost of implementing the system was Rs 90 million, and within a year, the government had accumulated revenues of more than Rs 1,500 million.
The system has also eliminated the role of middlemen. “The centralised architecture of the Mee-seva system has helped in eliminating the requirement for huge hardware establishments at the regional level, which has led to significant savings in terms of power consumption and e-waste. In addition, all services are provided online, through Mee-seva kiosks, which helps in saving paper used for government approval processes,” says Sanjay Jaju, secretary to government, information technology and communication department, Andhra Pradesh government.
Issues and challenges
There are some issues that need to be addressed to widen the scope of the system. The first among these is the lack of education and awareness amongst citizens. The system also faces resistance from various departments, that are unwillingly to offer their services through Mee-seva centres. Six departments have taken back control over their respective services from Mee-seva centres – for example, the police department issues antecedent and character certificates, which was previously undertaken through Mee-seva centres. This creates confusion among citizens and has time and financial implications, thus defeating the purpose of the Mee-seva system.
The way forward
“The system has so far worked well for citizens and the government. However, in order to provide more convenience to online users, the government has decided to develop an online secured portal, through which any citizen can avail of Mee-seva services from home/office,” says Jaju.
The government also plans to modify the departments and significantly improve the application platform for the system. It aims to accomplish this by identifying senior officers as nodal officers, adding more departments and services to the network, digitising of existing data for Category A services, and training operators. Other plans include approving and digitally signing Mee-seva requests, scanning and uploading digital signatures for approval of requests related to Category B services, and enabling mobile applications for availing of services.