e-Seva, Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh

Background
The project was started as a pilot in the twin cities of Hyderabad and Secunderabad, and was thus called TWINS (Twin Cities Integrated Network Systems). It was started at a cost of Rs 10 million, fully funded by the Government of Andhra Pradesh. The project provided services such as registration of birth and death certificates, registration of vehicles and learners’ driving licenses. After a successful pilot, 10 centres were started on 25 August 2001 and then the project was renamed as e-Seva (Electronic Service in Hindi). On 10 October 2001, a portal -http://www.esevaonline.com - was launched. Currently, there are 33 centres operating in the twin cities.

Objectives and Goals

  • To provide real-time online transactions.
  • To improve government-customer interface at all levels.
  • To improve service quality and innovation.
  • To improve operational efficiency.
  • To provide cost-effective services.

Planning
It was planned on the lines of Singapore Online (http://www.singaporeonline.com), a well-known
web portal that provides information about so many items such as job vacancies and business opportunities.

Services Provided
Presently, the e-Seva centres provide around 46 services such as payment of water and sewerage bills, property taxes, commercial taxes, income taxes, phone bills, registration of vehicles, issue of learner driving licenses, transfer of ownership of vehicles, registration of new trade licenses, renewal of trade licenses, registration of birth and death, birth and death certificates, filing of passport applications, collection of examination fees, registration of documents and stamps (non-judicial), sale of bus tickets, sale of non-judicial stamps, collection of small savings etc. The services are provided within 60 seconds to 120 seconds. The centres operate on working days from 8 am to 8 pm and on public holidays from 9 am to 3 pm. Citizens are not charged for any utility payments. Services like the payment of electricity/water/telephone bills and transport/property taxes are available on a 24x7 basis on the Web portal.

Target Group and Intended Beneficiaries
Citizens of the twin cities of Hyderabad and Secunderabad are the target group and intended beneficiaries.

Institutional Arrangements
The Directorate of e-Seva is headed by a director and has two deputy directors, one assistant director (technical), one assistant director (promotion), three senior assistants, one grievance officer and two helpers. Almost all the hardware and software services have been outsourced. A PPP was envisaged at the outset, in 2001. Global tenders were called for entrepreneurs to take up e-Seva centres. CMS Computers Ltd got the tender for managing the centres. Software was designed at a cost of Rs 2.5 million by another company called RAM Informatics. The Government provided the premises and the managerial staff. The managing company provided the hardware, networking solutions, operators (with salary paid by the Government), engineering staff; help-desk staff and security staff at all the centres. The Government provided updated databases concerning the services while the company paid all telecom/leased line bills and electricity dues. A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between the Government and the company for five years. On each transaction, Rs 5 as a user charge is collected from the concerned department out of which 75-80 percent is paid back to the private partners. Earlier, four new-generation banks -- Global Trust Bank, ICICI, HDFC and UTI -- were selected to facilitate net-transactions of the payments. Later, two more banks, IDBI and Centurian Bank, also joined. A 4 percent surcharged was charged on every credit card transaction, which has been reduced to 1.5 percent.

Technologies
The network architecture is designed as an Intranet on a Wide Area Network (WAN). The network is designed in three tiers. The first tier for the client-end is located at the e-Seva centres. The front end is Java-based. All the centres are on 64 kbps dedicated leased lines, with ISDN backup. The second tier has two Sun E250 model and two Compaq ML530 model data servers. The second tier also consists of Application Servers (using Oracle GiAS and running on Sun Solaris 8 Operating System), Database Servers (using Oracle 8i R3 and running on MS Windows 2000 Operating System), Network Monitoring Servers (using Cisco Works and What’s up Gold on MS Windows 2000 Operating Systems), Management Servers (using MS putin), Firewall (using Cheuqn) and Web Servers (using Apache). All the machines used in this tier are Intel machines, along with Cisco switches and routers. The third tier is made of Departmental servers with an Oracle database as the backend in the concerned departments (Electricity, Municipality, Passport Office, Transport Department, Registration, Commercial Tax, etc). These servers keep consolidated databases. They are linked with 64 Kbps DB link (except the Electricity Department server which has a 2 Mbps pipeline). The network architecture provides dedicated leased lines, with ISDN backup.

Primary Access Points
Primary access points for e-Seva services are the e-Seva centres, which are established on spacious premises. Each centere has a waiting foyer, help desk, token counter and eight to15 operator counters. Six of the e-Seva centres have ATMs (two each of State Bank of Hyderabad, State Bank of India and Andhra Bank). Citizens can excess the portal from their households as well to avail of the services online.

Capacity Building
All the operators are given four-day operational training on the operator terminal. Some efforts have been made in providing IT training in the concerned departments. The Government and its numerous departments have paid little attention towards creating an e-workforce. There is an over-dependence on private technological partners, CMS Computers Ltd and RAM Informatics Ltd, for all technological solutions. The dependence on RAM Informatics Ltd and Jyothy Computers to provide all e-worker needs to be rectified by building the capacity and skills of redundant government employees. This becomes important in the context of a proposed expansion of 237 new e-SEVA centres and the fact that the Government has to pay monthly salaries to all the operators engaged in these 237 centres.

Constraints and Implementation Challenges
The initial resistance came from vested interest groups, especially government officials and middlemen. The central success factors are political will, bureaucratic support, e-support of departments and infrastructure, and public demand. The revenue database of numerous government departments has been exposed (without impregnable safety measures) by multiple agencies (e-Seva operators, banks, citizens from the Web, technological partners). The project has not yet shown its technological and financial sustenance in poor and rural settings.

Project Outcomes
In the year up to the time of the study, the number of transactions for the year doubled and the payments increased six times. Between 18 July 2002 and 17 July 2003 (in one year), 8.27 million transactions took place in the e-Seva centres and Rs 32.796 billion were collected as payment from these transactions.

Key Lessons Learnt
e-Seva is India’s pioneering e-governance project. It has paved the way for others to follow. It has also embarked on a sustainable PPP. This project has a very sound business model. The project has provided integrated multi-departmental government services at one stop. The software, hardware and networking technology has been functioning satisfactorily well since the inception of the project with almost no instance of breakdown (uptime percentage is 99.6 percent). It has shown the importance of laying down a reliable telecommunication infrastructure for the success of e-governance efforts.

Sustainability
This project is financially sustainable. The government, private entrepreneur and users, are all winners in this project. The huge acceptance by the public of e-Seva counters also confirms its future sustainability. The organizational re-engineering and management practices adopted are also favourable for its sustainable existence.

Replication and Scaling Up
It is very unfortunate that the country’s most successful e-governance project has not been seriously replicated in any other parts of India. The Government has decided to add 13 new e- Seva centres in the twin cities. This project is also going to be scaled-up with the installation of 237 new e-Seva centres (including all 117 municipalities) in the rest of the 23 districts in the state of Andhra Pradesh. These new centres fall in six zones (four zones are taken up by CMS Technologies, one zone by United Telecom Limited, and one by CCS Technologies). Each district will be a separate Intranet to start with, which will eventually be integrated into the Internet. Six new e-Seva centres have already been started in Rajmundri (Western Godavari district) on 30 July 2003. New services like railway reservations, sale of movie tickets, payment for traffic related offences, payment of degree examination fees of the Open University, collection of bill payments of private landline and cellular companies, issue of encumbrance certificate, market value assistance, general insurance, reservation of tourism tickets for accommodation, call centres, Indian Airlines ticket reservation, life insurance premium payment, issue of caste certificates, sale of Indira Vikas Patra, renewal of drug licenses, issue of bus passes, etc., are also planned to be added. All the ATMs of the State Bank of Hyderabad, State Bank of India and Andhra Bank will be converted to e-Seva centres.

Recommendations
The project is highly recommended for replication and up-scaling into the urban and semi-urban areas of India. Presently, the project is using the Java platform, which requires creation of an interface to integrate databases that are in diverse formats. It is recommended that the data structure be kept uniform for all government departments. The Government should coordinate billing procedures for all the relevant departments, so that citizens receive bills of different utilities at the same time, and the citizen has to travel only once a month to e-Seva centres for clearing them. This would increase citizen satisfaction and would take care of the customer load on the network. The bandwidth of the communication lines between ICSCs and the Data Centre at Khairatbad, as well as between the Data Centre and Departmental Servers of utility providers may be increased (to say, 128 Kbps), based on a network audit, which should also show the density of traffic flowing in each segment.

All departmental servers should be shifted to the Khairatabad centre, which should be developed as a full-fledged data centre with a ‘server-farm’ maintained on 24X7 basis, with due disaster-recovery and business continuity provisions. e-Seva centres started in ATMs need to be revitalized and the procedures simplified, as only 12 transactions have taken place in the two years prior to the study, though there are six ATMs providing the services. The usage of e-Seva centres in poor areas is very low (e.g., the Bahadur Pura centre has less than 300 transactions per month against an average of 25,000 in any other centre). Special efforts should be made to popularize the services amongst the poor and also to include services more relevant to the lower income groups. To reduce the huge expenses incurred in expanding the project, it is recommended that a to change to Linux open-ended software be made. Basic amenities like toilets should be set up in all the centres, as half of them still lack toilets.

The expansion of 229 new e-Seva centres in 21 districts is planned to start on a WAN. Instead, it would be more cost-effective for the Government and more convenient for the citizens if the expansion is carried on the Internet. It is also important to take steps towards discouraging cash transactions and encourage the plastic-money culture, especially with a view to attracting increasingly more number of customers. A co-branded e-Seva Debit Card (on lines of Petro Card) could be developed, in association with major tech-savvy banks. With such a Card, it would also be possible to introduce innovative schemes for inducing citizens to pay their bills promptly, like the accumulation of ‘usage points’, ‘loyalty points’, ‘timely-payment points’ which could perhaps be redeemed as a certain percentage discount on the bills. There has been no effort towards the introduction of Smart Cards in the project, which could safeguard the transactions against frauds. The expansion of the services in the project is more focussed on services involving payments and revenue collections. Social-centric services are taking a backseat, but should be further considered.

Human Interest Stories

Catch-22
S. Raghawan, 28 years of age, is an operator at Vanasthalipuram e-Seva centre and is facing a After completing a Masters in Geology, he started working as a Medical Representative and earning Rs 9,000 per month. He had an interest in computers and had earlier done a six-month course in Java and Oracle. When the e-centre was started in his locality in August 2002, he took a four-day training course and joined as an operator. But now he is only earning Rs 2,500 per month. He wants to quit the job due to the reduction in his earning. But his love for computers and the smile his work brings to his people is keeping him in the job.

A Short Walk from the Hospital
Sudhakar Reddy, 55 years old, was blessed with a son recently. He was in the nursing home with his wife and his first child. He was very happy and was planning a celebration for his relatives when he got back home. His wife insisted that he should take a walk to the e-Seva centre in the locality (LB Nagar) and make his electricity bill payment. He showed some hesitation, as he was not willing to leave his wife in that condition. He walked down to the centre and deposited Rs 228, in 45 seconds flat and was able to rush back to the hospital.

All Cash, No Files
S. Yadagiri, a 51-year-old accountant from the Vanasthalipuram e-Seva centre, takes his responsibility of handing over the cash collected daily to the agent of CMS Securities, Phani Kumar, very seriously. He makes bundles of currency notes and cheques separately. On this particular day, Rs 1.88 million was collected in cash and Rs 0.24 million in cheques. He had only one small print out in front of him, from which he crossed checked collections from each of the seven counters. After cross checking, he handed over all the cash and cheques to the agent, took the receipt of the printout and filed it in his monthly folder. That’s it. His work was done. There was absolutely no file on his table or in his cabinet. He is happy that he has got rid of innumerable files, which used to be dumped on to him when he was working as a junior accountant in the Irrigation Department earlier. He is handling cash, and no files in the e-Seva centre.

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