Empowering Citizens: Mobile Seva leverages wireless technology for better governance

Mobile Seva leverages wireless technology for better governance

Launched in 2013, the National Mobile Governance Initiative (Mobile Seva) aims to leverage wireless and new media technology platforms, mobile devices and applications for the delivery of public information and services to all citizens and businesses through the mobile service delivery gateway (MSDG). The objective of the initiative is to provide mobile enablement and mobile delivery infrastructure, which helps all government departments and agencies offer their services through mobile phones without having to invest heavily in creating their own mobile platforms. Mobile Seva enables the integration of mobile applications with the common e-governance infrastructure for the delivery of public services to the users. The availability of government-wide shared infrastructure and services enables rapid development and results in reduced costs for the integrating departments.

The initiative was conceptualised and formulated by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY), Government of India. The Centre for Development of Advanced Computing, the premier research and development organisation of MeitY, is the technical implementing agency for this project.

Solutions envisioned under the initiative

Mobile Seva aims to enable all government departments and agencies to provide their services through various mediums such as SMS, voice/ IVRS (interactive voice response system), USSD (unstructured supplementary service data) and mobile applications.

  • SMS gateway: The SMS gateway provides both push and pull SMS services for the government and citizens respectively. Under the push service, common information can be pushed to a group of people based on the gender, location, community, etc. Meanwhile, under the pull SMS service, citizens can request information at an individual level by sending an SMS in a specific format to a particular number.
  • USSD: This is a session-based service, wherein the user can send command to an application in a text format, acting as a trigger for the application. Currently, this service is being used for checking prepaid mobile balance and financial account balance. A three-digit short code *166# has been allotted to the Mobile Seva initiative. USSD is more interactive than the SMS. This facility is useful for submitting requests for a service through an interactive menu and for tracking their status.
  • IVRS: IVRS enables the pre-recording of menu options, which can be selected by the caller using the mobile phone keypad. In the context of mobile governance, the IVRS application aims to serve the citizen-to-government and government-to-citizen wings of the e-governance model. Through IVRS-based services, status enquiries for a large number of services can be automated and the requisite information can be provided to the service seekers without causing undue overheads on the e-governance infrastructure.
  • Location-based services: This service is useful for the government departments and is used for customising their services according to the location of the citizens using the global positioning system. MSDG intends to connect to such systems and provide a unified interface to departments or developers of mobile applications, which can be used by them for customising or developing the applications.
  • CBS: This service is particularly relevant for sending notifications/alerts to citizens in a particular area. This can be very helpful in pre- and post-disaster management. MSDG is likely to collaborate with telecom operators for cell broadcasting services (CBS) and provide a unified interface to the departments.
  • Mobile payment service: Many transactional services of the government involve some amount of payments to be made by service seekers to the government departments. A mobile payment gateway has been developed by incorporating various channels for making electronic payments through mobile devices. These include credit/debit/cash/prepaid cards, SMS-based payments through mobile money identifier, mobile wallets and net banking. The mobile payment gateway has been made available to government departments and agencies for integration with their applications. Citizens can use this facility to make payments for various government services through their mobile devices.
  • Mobile applications: A mobile application is a software application designed to run on smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices. Mobile applications are fast becoming the preferred mode of accessing a particular solution or service, especially amongst the country’s youth.

Current status

At present, 3,815 central and state government departments are using Mobile Seva for providing SMS-based services, and over 19.78 billion SMS notifications have been sent to citizens for using various mobile-based services. Further, 723 public services have been made available to the citizens. A total of 1,033 live mobile applications are being hosted on the Mobile Seva Appstore currently.

Key benefits

The Mobile Seva initiative helps in the implementation of innovative schemes and projects by leveraging mobile connectivity, thereby enhancing the scope of interoperability and providing round-the-clock availability. The system is poised to make public service delivery systems more efficient, transparent and more accessible to the common man. It has facilitated inter-departmental procedures by making the dissemination of information less cumbersome.

Areas of improvement

In order to make the Mobile Seva portal more user-friendly, there is a need to adopt a flexible user interface. For instance, bulk SMS senders like Way2SMS and SMS4YOU, can be approached for disseminating information to citizens. This will not only make the portal more user-friendly but also increase its acceptability and thereby the ease of adaptability. In addition, it is important to have a 24×7 call centre with well-trained and highly professional staff to achieve the high standards of service that the Mobile Seva team strives for. This will help in streamlining response effectiveness and closure of various queries/complaints within the prescribed time.  Further, there is a need to spread awareness about the various services offered under the initiative, which can be rolled out to the existing partner departments to help them enhance their business. The state governments can promote the initiative by making it compulsory for at least one major department to implement it every quarter. In addition, measures should be taken to ensure the secure handling of user data like telephone numbers and email accounts.

The way forward

The National Mobile Governance Initiative is significantly enhancing the government’s capabilities to deliver outcomes for citizens,  and businesses, and driving the overall economic growth of the country. Mobile Seva is a powerful tool to expand the delivery of new services, increase active citizen participation in government operations and change the way of working in the public sector. It is a step towards enabling India to harness the potential of mobile governance for inclusive development.