In order to support the adoption of smart facilities across the city, the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) has been taking various IT-related initiatives. With the aim of offering improved service delivery to citizens, the civic agency has been at the forefront of the adoption of e-governance initiatives. It recently launched a dedicated online portal for the payment of water and property tax bills. Recognising the need for an efficient service delivery system to streamline and improve its functioning, MCGM also launched a trial version of the mobile application.
In 2004, MCGM decided to comprehensively use information and communication technology (ICT) to improve the quality of interactions with citizens. It decided to simultaneously take initiatives for infrastructure development as well as ICT deployment.
In 2007, it launched one of the most ambitious e-governance projects in India. The portal was developed by a consortium of ABM Knowledge Limited and SAP Software Solutions along with reputed systems integrators to develop and maintain a comprehensive online portal for water-related services. The portal covers almost 70 per cent of the civic agency’s core functions such as finance, materials management, project systems, plant maintenance, and water and drainage systems. The contract value of the project was $10 million.
The consortium deployed an enterprise resource planning software to track all activities of the civic agency. Under the project, a citizen portal and ward management system (customer relationship management module) was developed, offering all citizen services through multiple delivery channels like web-based portals and mobile phones. Other civic services such as finance management, fleet management, and hospital and fire brigade facilities were also brought under the ambit of the online portal.
The portal allows citizens to pay their water bills online using a unique customer number. The payment can be made through net banking, debit and credit cards, and national electronic funds transfer and real-time gross settlement systems. Citizens can also apply for a new water connection using the online portal. The list of documents required for a new connection is provided on the portal. Applicants can check their application status on the portal using the unique identification number. The process of granting a new connection is completed within 15 working days from the date of receiving the application. The portal also has an option to apply for a plumbing licence online. Applicants need to submit their details along with the required documents to obtain a licence.
In June 2014, MCGM launched the beta version of its mobile application “MCGM 24×7”. The application has been designed by Pune-based Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC) and National Securities Depository Limited (NSDL). For the payment of bills, the application prepared by C-DAC has been integrated with NSDL’s payment gateway.
Through this application, people living in the Greater Mumbai Municipal Corporation area can pay their water and property tax bills through their mobile phones. The application has currently been launched on a trial basis for Android users only. It can be downloaded from the Google Play Store in both English and Marathi.
The application enables the payment of various bills like water and property tax. In the coming months, its coverage is expected to be extended to include facilities such as the payment for municipal services, and renewal of permits for shops, establishments and factories. The civic agency will also allow citizens to register and track complaints through this mobile application.
Once the application is installed, citizens need to register themselves with their name, address and mobile number. Each citizen will have a separate home page with sections like “my water bill”, “my property tax, my licences” and “my complaints”. Under the “my water bill” section, citizens can view their previous bills and receipts and pay their current bills using their bill number. The payment can be made through net banking, credit cards and debit cards. Those paying their bills through net banking have to pay Rs 5 as fees to the civic body for a transaction amount of up to Rs 500 and Rs 10 for amounts over Rs 500. Meanwhile, those using debit cards and credit cards will have to pay 0.75 per cent and 1 per cent respectively of the total bill amount as fees to MCGM.
Under the “my property tax” section, all previous paid bills can be viewed, the receipts printed and the current bill paid. Under “my licences”, citizens can renew their licences and download their certificates once they are ready.
Once the complaint registration feature is enabled by the corporation, people need to log in using GPS to allow the location to be tracked. Complaints are registered under the appropriate category head. Complainants have to give a detailed description of the problem faced, the location and the nearest landmark. They can also post a picture of the issue along with the description. On a complaint being registered in the system, it is forwarded to the central control room for scrutiny and a unique complaint number generated and sent to the customer’s registered mobile number via SMS. To check the status of the complaint registered, the complainant can call the customer care number (1916) and provide the unique ticket number.
Issues and challenges
Almost a year and a half after the mobile application was launched, it still faces a number of issues. Its home page shows the “complaints” tab, but it is yet to be enabled by the corporation. The complaints section was supposed to go live by July 2015.
Besides, citizens are facing problems such as double deduction of the bill amount or transaction errors. Since the application does not have a complaint registration facility, citizens need to visit MCGM’s office for the issues faced in online payments, which defeats the purpose of online payments.
According to MCGM’s IT department, the civic agency wanted to focus on the other three services, which had the maximum user response and demand, and hence the launch of the complaint section was delayed. It is now planning to launch the complaint feature by July 2016, as the software development of the section is already complete. The feature will now have to pass through the testing and security audit stage.
The way forward
Going forward, when the online portal and the mobile application become fully operational, the burden on MCGM’s officials will reduce significantly, allowing them to concentrate on other core civic services. It will also eliminate the occurrence of human errors in water billing and improve customer satisfaction by allowing them to pay their bills in a trouble-free manner. Users can even obtain records of previous outstanding and paid bills.
MCGM is set to launch the complaint redressal feature in the coming months. The grievances will be reviewed every month and strict action taken against officials who do not address the grievances within the stipulated time.
However, the authority needs to make the application also available on iOS and Windows phones in order to broaden coverage. If these initiatives are implemented in a timely manner, they will significantly improve MCGM’s operational efficiency and service delivery. Further, the successful adoption of these initiatives can serve as an example for other local bodies to learn from and implement similar initiatives.