India Infrastructure Research conducted a survey to highlight the implementation status of information and communication technology (ICT) in the civic agencies or urban local bodies of various cities for improving urban governance. More than 55 civic agencies were surveyed and analysed in terms of ICT budgets and funding, the key ICT solutions currently in use and under consideration, city demographics, ICT benefits, and issues and challenges.
The key findings of the research report highlight the use of ICT applications in areas like tendering and procurement, citizen services, water and waste management, e-governance, m-governance, and geographic information system (GIS). Information related to budgetary allocations for the implementation of IT solutions, utility-level capacity, the key benefits of IT implementation, and the major issues and challenges have also been highlighted.
IT budgets are laid out as per the requirement and type of service to be provided to the public, and many factors are considered prior to deciding allocations. The readiness of IT infrastructure and the cost-benefit of IT solutions are the main factors. Other key aspects include the maintenance requirements of the existing system (software, hardware, network, etc.); the requirement of new peripherals, consumables and new planned projects.
Even though the scale of the municipal budget has increased over the years, most civic agencies allocate less than 1 per cent towards IT. These budgets are funded through internal revenue in most cases, followed by grants from the state government and the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM). In addition, the level of utilisation of the IT budget is low.
Ten civic agencies account for more than 75 per cent of the municipal budget allocations for all cities surveyed for 2014-15.
Poor capacity at the municipal level
In more than 60 per cent of the civic agencies that were surveyed, less than 40 per cent of employees were found to be computer savvy. The majority of employees were well versed in computer applications in less than 15 per cent of the civic agencies. This was true of big agencies in particular, including in Delhi, Hyderabad, Lucknow, Navi Mumbai and Pimpri Chinchwad.
Tendering and procurement
The JNNURM has been the key driver for the adoption of e-tendering and e-procurement solutions in civic agencies. About 65 per cent of respondents have either already implemented or are in the process of implementing an e-procurement system. Until 2016, the focus will be on e-procurement, online vendor registration and the empanelment of consultants. Cities like Lucknow, Naya Raipur and Bhavnagar plan to deploy two or more of these systems over the next one or two years.
Most civic agencies have implemented IT modules in citizen services. Driven by the JNNURM, many e-governance modules have been implemented, these modules provide a basic information tool as well as establishes an interactive database involving citizen engagement and participation in governance.
Services like the issuance of birth and death certificates, customer grievance redressal, and the establishment of civic centres/e-seva kendras have been made IT-enabled in more than 85 per cent of the ci
ties that responded.
Water and waste management
At present, ICT has limited penetration in the provision of smart water and waste management services. Only 28 per cent of the respondent civic agencies extend these services electronically.
Though limited, opportunities in meter installation and billing are expected to increase over the next one or two years. Government-sponsored programmes like the JNNURM and Smart Cities will drive growth.
About 85 per cent of the res
pondent civic agencies have either implemented or are implementing the issuance of birth and death certificates, bill payments (property tax and utility) and citizen grievance modules under the e-governance system.
M-governance is picking up pace in India, with most modules already implemented or in the process of being implemented. Most of the respondent civic agencies have provided customers with SMS-based alert services.
The major m-governance areas include information on taxes (water tax, property tax and professional tax), complaint registration and grievance redressal system, and alert systems (for vaccination and birth/death registration).
Current status and potential deployment areas: GIS
At present, the focus is on GIS-based property mapping and property tax collection, with over 60 per cent and 40 per cent of the respondent cities having implemented such systems. Apart from these areas, GIS will be in demand for spatial mapping and city mobility plans in the short as well as long term. GIS will also be used for planning and designing water and sewerage projects. Civic agencies are also actively considering the integration of GIS applications across utilities.
The main drivers for deploying IT solutions are improvements in service delivery in terms of saving time and being cost-effective, and in making services more accessible and user friendly.
The majority of civic agencies that have responded (94 per cent) believe that ICT implementation results in improved efficiency and transparency. Another 84 per cent believe that ICT implementation results in cost savings and the promotion of citizen participation.
Issues and challenges
According to 70 per cent of the respondent cities, limited capacity at the city level is one of the biggest management concerns. The other major challenges are the lack of technical know-how (62 per cent) and change management (58 per cent). Some cities have also highlighted the lack of coordination among departments and delays in administrative approvals as issues that hinder ICT implementation, while 50 per cent have cited low IT budgets and lack of customisation.