The Vijayawada Municipal Corporation (VMC) is amongst the few civic bodies that employ information technology (IT)/smart solutions to offer improved customer interface and services. It launched the People First mobile application on September 21, 2017 with the aim to provide citizens with real-time tracking of civic complaints and enable two-way communication between the state government and the citizens. In the past, various other initiatives have been taken by VMC to resolve civic issues through smart techniques. For instance, in December 2015, a mobile application called VMC Citizen Services was introduced for the online payment of taxes and fees such as property tax, water cess and sewerage charges. This initiative received a positive response from the citizens of Vijayawada.
Features of People First
People First is currently available only on Android phones and is soon expected to be launched on the iOS platform. The app requires an Aadhaar number and a mobile number linked to it for logging in. It has several inbuilt features to benefit both citizens and the government. For instance, it has a grievance redressal platform through which Vijayawada residents can lodge complaints about civic issues. Further, the application offers a calling facility that is linked to Parishkara Vedika, a mega call centre which was launched in April 2017. Parishkara Vedika staff randomly call people to elicit their feedback on the implementation of various schemes introduced by the Andhra Pradesh government. Users can call on 1100 (toll-free) to register their complaints with Parishkara Vedika using their Aadhaar number.
Another feature of the People First application is My Profile, which provides users access to complete information related to their registered family data, bank details, occupation details and other personal information. The personal data of users, which was collected earlier as part of the Andhra Pradesh Smart Pulse Survey, has been uploaded on the servers of the real-time governance centre to be used for the My Profile feature.
The M-pocket feature allows downloading of e-certificates like caste, residence, income, birth and death. Further, there is a “Village Profile” containing complete information about villages within the VMC area such as lists of (community) assets and schemes being implemented by the government in different villages.
The Government Benefits feature of the People First app provides users with details about benefits related to various welfare schemes introduced by the state government like the public distribution system, and pension, insurance and housing schemes.
The People First application has gained wide acceptance among citizens because of the benefits it offers. One of the key benefits is that it enables real-time monitoring of the complaint status by selecting the grievance identification (ID) number. Moreover, it enables uploading of photographs of overflowing drains, potholes and pipeline leakages while lodging complaints to facilitate inspection at the respective spots by officials. Unlike other public grievance applications like PuraSeva, the People First application verifies the user through an Aadhaar number at the very beginning and bars those without a proper unique ID and a valid phone number from using all services, including registration of grievances. This ensures transparency and reduces the chances of fraud.
The application has gained significant momentum since its launch with around 5,000 people having already downloaded it. Going forward, with the introduction of the application on iOS, it will have a wider customer outreach. However, the mere introduction of the application would not suffice and awareness with respect to its features and usability has to be created. For this, VMC can act on the lines of the Guntur Municipal Corporation, which had resorted to massive campaigns to promote PuraSeva applications and distributed pamphlets among students, teachers, officials, traders and other sections of society. Further, it had provided Wi-Fi on the corporation premises for the benefit of the citizens. These initiatives have greatly helped in increasing the number of complaints registered on the application per day. VMC can also benefit from such promotions and can achieve the bigger objective of reaching out to the masses and quickly addressing their grievances.