The Hyderabad Metropolitan Water Supply and Sanitation Board (HMWSSB) has launched various information and communication technology-based solutions to improve civic amenities. In December 2006, it set up an online water bill payment platform to ease the process of making payments. Further, in September 2015, it launched a mobile application called Consumer Services, which allows consumers to book a water tanker, register their grievances, make online payment of bills and check bill status. It also supports other non-consumer functions such as reporting leakages or missing manhole covers, filing a request for setting up rainwater harvesting facilities, and checking new water connection status. In September 2017, the Telangana government deployed water ATMs. These ATMs are connected via cloud-based technology for real-time monitoring and analysis of their operational parameters so as to minimise downtime.
As part of its most recent IT initiative, HMWSSB, on December 1, 2017, introduced an online single-window application process for getting new water supply connections. This online platform will ensure fast processing of applications as compared to the conventional application process.
Conventional application system
Earlier, getting a new water connection was a time-consuming process as obtaining approvals took more than 45 days. The applicant was required to submit the application manually and wait for the inspection officer’s approval. However, the inspection officers took a long time to report back to the office with their approval and rejection lists. This would result in initial processing delays. Further, the relevant documents were to be submitted only at a later stage when the approvals were in place, thus adding to the inconvenience of citizens.
Online application process
In order to increase efficiency and accelerate the processing of applications, HMWSSB introduced an online application portal – www.hyderabadwater.gov.in. It requires the applicants to enter their personal details such as name, address, locality, area, and upload their supporting documents. Subsequently, a copy of the application form is generated along with a unique file number which can be used to view the status of the application.
As compared to the conventional process of submitting applications, the online application window provides a number of benefits. The single-window platform is a faster mechanism for getting new water connections as applications will be approved within 18 days of submission. As the word single window suggests, the applications have to be submitted to a single authority rather than at different levels. Further, the related documents are uploaded at the time of submission of application, which helps in eliminating the initial delays.
Now with the new online application, officers are expected to submit their approval or rejection the same day itself. This will help fast-track the overall process. Under the single-window system, all applications except those for bulk connections will be processed at the subdivision or division level. Besides, the new system provides an option of paying the processing fee online. This spares the applicant from making late payment.
Another key benefit of the online application system is for below poverty line families. They are exempt from paying road restoration charges, which are levied in case any roads are being broken to lay pipelines. Moreover, accountability and diligence on the part of the officers need to be ensured as HMWSSB will levy penalties if files are not processed within the stipulated time period.
The way forward
Going forward, the civic agency needs to replace all conventional systems with more IT-based solutions. Further, apart from introducing new initiatives, the efficacy of existing systems must be monitored regularly. Public feedback should be taken on various initiatives undertaken by the utility so as to modify the services as per customer specifications. A bilingual mode of filling applications and online platforms in traditional languages will help cater to the rural areas of Hyderabad. Raising awareness regarding the application of these services will lead to wider acceptance. Further, levying penalties for any delay in the process will increase transparency, which is essential for the successful implementation of any initiative.