To develop an efficient service delivery system, the Bhopal Municipal Corporation (BMC) is undertaking a number of IT-related initiatives. A recent step in this direction is the adoption of m-governance for improving access to civic services, encouraging citizen participation and strengthening the grievance redressal mechanism. The civic agency has recently launched a dedicated web portal, smartcitybhopal.org, and a mobile application, Bhopal Plus. With this app, the state capital has joined the league of several other cities that have created apps for civic services. These include New Delhi (Swachh Delhi), Bhubaneswar (My City My Pride), Patna (Apna Patna), Pune (Pune Connect) and Surat (Citizen’s Connect).
Web portal and mobile application
In November 2016, BMC launched a new mobile application, Bhopal Plus, and a web portal, smartcitybhopal.org to improve service delivery and enhance customer participation in governance.
Bhopal Plus and smartcitybhopal.org are one-stop solutions aimed at facilitating government-citizen engagement and collaboration. Through these platforms, citizens can avail of civic services, access live city feeds and seek grievance redressal. The mobile application is available on the Google Play Store as well as on BMC’s website. It can be downloaded free of cost and is available only on Android-based mobile phones.
Once the application is installed, citizens are required to register their name, address, email and mobile number. Thereafter, each citizen will be directed to a personal homepage, which is similar to the website homepage. The homepage has seven main sections – citizen services, collaboration platform, city dashboard, popular discussions, complaint registration, discussions and online bill payment.
In the citizen services section, citizens can view and avail of all citizen-centric services available on the Bhopal Plus app. These include payment of electricity, water and property bills; registration of birth, death and marriage certificates; and locating hospitals and clinics. Citizens can also track the status of their requests using their unique application number.
Citizens can engage in the governance process through the “collaboration platform” section. It helps them participate in the policymaking and decision-making processes of the government through various options that involve discussion, forum, polls, talks, volunteer and ideation.
The application also consists of a public dashboard, which disseminates live data feeds related to the city and provides a quantitative analysis of the citizen engagement and service delivery sections.
Further, citizens can register their complaints through the “complaint registration” section, which opens the complaint description page. Complainants have to give a detailed description of the problem faced, along with personal information such as the name, address, phone number and locality. Then they have to select the appropriate department, scheme and ward. The complainant can check the status of the complaint both through the web portal and the mobile application by using the complaint ID.
Under the “online bill payment” section, citizens can view their current and previous electricity, water and property bills and receipts. They can also pay their bills using their service number and mobile number. The payment can be made through net banking, credit cards or debit cards. In May 2017, BMC partnered with MobiKwik to encourage residents to pay their taxes and bills through the mobile wallet. In order to incentivise citizens to pay their bills through the mobile wallet, 5 per cent cash back will be provided on all bill payments.
Since the initiative is fairly recent, it is yet to show any significant impact on the quality of service delivery. However, in the past three to four months, the successful adoption of the Bhopal Plus web portal and mobile application has reduced the burden on BMC officials, allowing them to concentrate on other core civic services. It has also made officials more accountable resulting in greater transparency in operations. Further, the application saves complainants’ time and effort by resolving grievances in a systematic manner. It has also eliminated the occurrence of human errors in water billing and enhanced customer satisfaction by allowing them to pay their bills online.
The successful implementation of the application promises to improve service delivery and enhance the customer experience.