In June 2014, the Government of India launched a crowdsourcing platform called MyGov, which aims to foster participatory governance through increased citizen partnership in decision-making. Launched as a part of the Digital India campaign, the online portal provides citizens with a window to participate in various ongoing government projects and programmes at the central and state levels.
The central government initially launched a website under this initiative and after receiving an enthusiastic response, developed the platform as a mobile application. At present, it is being jointly managed by the National Informatics Centre and the Department of Electronics and Information Technology.
Using this platform, citizens can provide insights and suggestions during various policy implementation stages and also put forth their grievances. It aims to engage the general public as well as experts in urban governance while providing an option of on-ground participation through a “do” window. At present, the website has approximately 1.81 million registered members. About 168,320 suggestions have been given and over 2.61 million comments received in 478 discussion themes.
MyGov allows citizens to take part in discussions, polls, blogs and groups as well as upload documents, case studies, videos and work plans. It has 19 broad citizen engagement themes relating to different policy challenges, such as expenditure reforms, job creation, energy conservation, skill development and government initiatives like Clean India, Digital India and Clean Ganga. As per the current guidelines, a citizen can be part of only four groups at a particular time. So far, about 211 issues have been put up for discussion.
A distinguishing feature of the MyGov platform is the poll on major policy initiatives. These polls provide citizens the opportunity to cast their opinion on a particular policy, giving the government an idea of its effectiveness and reception. Some major polls have been conducted on the platform to obtain suggestions for the selection of cities under the Smart Cities Mission and to further narrow down the various areas to be developed. Polls were invited for selecting locations under area-based development in Dharamshala, Jalandhar, Ghaziabad, Rampur and Agra; areas to be developed through retrofitting in Karnal, Bhagalpur, Allahabad, Kanpur, etc.; and priority sectors to be developed in the chosen cities.
In all the polls, suggestions were invited on development areas and infrastructure augmentation, and various civic agencies at the local level were directly involved in this process. For example, the Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation launched a Citizen Connect initiative in October 2015, wherein suggestions were invited on the key sectors and efficient transport facilities to be developed in Bhubaneswar. The suggestions and poll results received on MyGov have helped civic agencies formulate efficient and citizen-centric smart city proposals.
In order to participate in any activity, a citizen first needs to register on the website or mobile application. Separate criteria and guidelines have been stipulated for government employee registrations and for the general public. If the citizen is a government employee with a gov.in or nic.in email address, he or she can use the same credentials to sign up without providing any other details. The general public can register on MyGov through an email ID and mobile number. Every time a person enters his/her mobile number or email ID, they receive a one-time password, which they can use to log in. Alternatively, they can generate a permanent password and use that to log in.
Efficient use of IT
As the online platform grows in popularity, various changes have been undertaken to enhance its accuracy and security. Initially, the website allowed citizen participation only through discussion groups, but a new version (2.0) launched in early 2015 began allowing participation through discussions as well as polls. It has also started extensively using analytics and data mining tools and become easier to navigate. On the landing page, it shows real-time data pertaining to registered users, task submissions and a number of comments across different themes.
At present, the government is using big data analytics in collaboration with PricewaterhouseCoopers to process citizens’ ideas to gain details of customer preferences and usage for further analysis. The data can be shared among various inter- and intra-ministry departments, offering government-integrated solutions that preserve data integrity, reduce friction, and seamlessly connect disparate data sources. The tool collects data from the website, the mobile application, Facebook page and Twitter handle at one place and analyses it. These ideas are then placed in the context of the public mood as reflected in trends on social media and further used to generate reports for the consideration of ministries and departments.
The tool also provides the option of segmenting reports and filtering them as per requirements. Real-time views provide the government information on the content, tweets and blogs drawing the maximum attention. At present, ministries are being asked to revert with an “action taken” report on the suggestions and ideas received on the MyGov platform.
Big data analytics also provides information on user engagement, utilising the flow visualisation tool to visualise and analyse the path taken by visitors on the website. The in-page analytics tool also provides details about the interactions on each page along with information on the most frequent searches. These techniques make available detailed information on audience attributes and preferences, along with information on demographics, interests, language and location, devices and operating systems.
The government is also planning to add features like hashtags and the location-tagging of comments to the MyGov website, which will use Google Analytics for analysing and reporting on a dashboard. It intends to upgrade the platform from being a one-way flow of citizen ideas to a dialogue-based forum. The provision of information on the steps being taken to put citizen suggestions into practice is also being explored.
“It’s turning out to be fairly action oriented. I think it is distinctly possible that 30-50 million people will actively be contributing to MyGov.in over the next year and a half, given its current pace of growth,” says Neel Ratan, executive director, PricewaterhouseCoopers. In light of this expected increase, big data analytics will play a key role in efficiently managing the growth in traffic to detect significant statistical variations and generate alerts as and when they occur. These techniques will also provide insights into the variations that occur due to a particular campaign, a new group or poll, or factors specific to a particular city.
MyGov allows the central government to remove layers of bureaucracy and establish a direct link with citizens. The portal has been successful in stimulating citizen interest and drawing out productive ideas from across the nation. The responses have been utilised by various civic agencies in formulating plans for ongoing central government policies. The platform has been particularly successful in inviting suggestions for the Smart Cities and Swachh Bharat Missions. A number of urban local bodies are also responding to these suggestions by posting their draft smart city proposals on the platform.
The scope of the platform can be enhanced further by inviting suggestions on key policy initiatives. This will help authorities understand the public mood and provide citizens with the services they require.