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BMC gets SMART-er

The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation has adopted e-governance to manage its ever-increasing workload and provide hassle-free civic administration. And the ward citizens have been happier ever since. by Soutiman Das Gupta & Minu Sirsalewala

We heard a lot about e-governance and its promise to change the way a government functions. Many of us were skeptical and felt that an Indian Government organization would not be very successful in adopting IT. And some had dismissed the very idea of e-governance being successful in India and labeled it a distant dream. But e-governance is for real, and right there in Maharashtra. The BMC (Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation) has undergone a revolutionary change by e-enabling its facilities in a significant step towards effective e-governance.

BMC has been in existence for over 100 years and its departments are spread over six administrative zones at 24 wards in Mumbai. IT infrastructure implementation in BMC has been carried out in controlled phases over the last five years. In the first phase of IT implementation, the corporation computerized its backend operations at various wards. These applications however were not visible at the front-end and citizens did not experience the speed and efficiency they provided. There was a need to get these applications to the front so that citizens from a particular ward could avail of BMC's services in an efficient and friendly environment.

This is when ABM Knowledgeware Limited, a solution provider, stepped in and helped BMC move into its second phase of IT implementation. In the second phase, BMC implemented e-governance as a pilot project at its northernmost ward at Dahisar. Pleased with the success of their pilot venture, BMC has started replicating the project in the other 23 wards of the city.

SMART governance

BMC plays the basic role of providing administration and governance to the citizens of Mumbai. It administers an area of over 437.71 square km and caters to the civic needs of over 10 million citizens. It employs about 149,471 employees in the different categories with a budgetary outlay of Rs 4391.15 crores. It performs functions like birth and death registration, water billing, accounting, and slums, shops & establishment registration. Now that's a mammoth task indeed!

R.A. Rajeev, Joint Municipal Commissioner said, "the prime reason for the need of e-governance was the enormous volume of administrative jobs at every ward. Another reason is to provide transparency in the administrative activities. Since BMC's main objective is to provide civic administrative services to citizens, there has to be transparency and quick response to the citizens needs."

BMC felt that its services and activities should have a few key attributes. And it introduced these attributes for better administration in the form of an acronym SMART (Simple, Mobile, Attitude, Responsive, and Transparent).

Simple - BMC's activities should be simple and not complex like it was before implementing e-governance. BMC exists to facilitate services to the citizens and not to complicate matters. It is thus important to process the services in a simple manner.

Mobile - There should be mobility and flexibility in operations. For example, if you need a certificate for any land you own, you have to go to the ward office of the area where the land is located. Here you have to contact the officer and process your application. You do not have the flexibility to apply for the certificate in any other ward. There should be mobility to carry out the process anywhere.

Attitude - The attitude of the staff at the offices is usually negative. The attitude should be eager, helpful, and not slack.

Response - There should be prompt response and execution of services and applications.

Transparency - Since the corporation is answerable to the citizens, its activities should be transparent.

Now that the ideal services were laid down in the SMART guidelines, it was time for IT to move in. With the help of intelligent software applications and minimum hardware installation, BMC set about to provide good e-governance to the citizens of Mumbai.

Phase one

A BMC ward office typically has around 19 sections which are classified into three broad segments. They are: citizen-oriented services which include health services, licensing services, and property tax; engineering services which cover maintenance of roads and bridges; and administrative services within the ward office.

BMC concentrated on the segment that deals with citizen-oriented services to trigger off the first phase of IT implementation. These services were computerized over the last five years. During this time, the corporation established, stabilized, and institutionalized itself and created large databases. This provided BMC the required impetus and muscle to embark upon its aim of citizen centric e-governance. The other segments were IT-enabled soon. Computer applications were deployed at the front-end to provide efficient and fast services.

Phase two

In the second phase, the solutions were devised to support front-end applications. A CFC (Citizens Facilitation Centre) was conceptualized and implemented as a part of the pilot project. The objective of CFC is to deliver time bound services. Each ward aims to have a computerized single window facilitation center for rendering various citizen services. This can provide governance in a phased manner, which offers more convenience and speed. The first CFC was set up at Dahisar in the northernmost suburb of Mumbai. It has six cash counters, two help desks, a complaints desk, a registry counter, and a delivery counter.

Hareshwar Patil, the Mayor of Mumbai said, "I am sure that by using the CFC, BMC will provide prompt and efficient services and become even more people-friendly. The elected representatives and the employees should dedicate themselves to work for extending better services".

A network of bilingual touch-screen kiosks has been set up in parts of the city as a part of the e-governance project. This enables citizens to submit applications and complaints, check the status of their letters, and receive vital and useful information related to BMC. The kiosks are connected over leased line links to a router. This in turn is connected to Web and application servers.

Hardware infrastructure

Every ward of the BMC has departmental LANs with desktop PCs and servers covering 25 nodes. A server room has a central server which runs the e-governance applications. The LANs use 10/100 Mbps Ethernet and is capable of supporting 100 nodes. Some of the applications are distributed to facilitate distributed intelligence. The NOS (Network Operating System) is Windows NT. The servers at the wards are from multiple vendors and have different configurations. CMC has been chosen as the network consultant.

ABM's role

ABM Knowledgeware Limited's core objective was to provide a solution which is citizen-centric and has adequate frontend operations support. ABM designed a one-stop computerization application delivery process for the entire ward office which offers all civic services and information under a single roof. The governing applications are customized for BMC and supported by other application packages like MaiNet and MOIS 2000. MaiNet allows easy accessibility of information, like birth and death registration, water billing, accounting, and shops & establishments registration. And MOIS 2000 allows easy handling and tracking of letters and files.

Treading a smooth path

ABM did not have to face too many technological problems in implementing the e-governance applications. The only technological issue was to integrate the legacy back end applications with the new front-end applications. The software systems were put into place without any service blackouts. "The backend operations integration could have been a bit better. Currently if a revenue transaction is entered into the system, it is not automatically updated in every journal, ledger, or book of accounts. It has to be done separately", said Rajeev.

ABM had to conduct a series of workshops for the BMC staff, counselors, and the top-level management. The workshops provided application training, personality development, and development of communication skills among the staff. Fortunately, the BMC staff has been very open to the idea of computerization.

"The e-governance implementation has allowed us to streamline our activities and services, and offer our staff a better work environment. Data mining and maintenance have become easier. One does not have to go through numerous large files for days on end to retrieve a single document. The citizen has the option of getting information using the kiosks. Since people do not have to face time-consuming procedures, there has been a rise in tax revenue collection as well"' said Rajeev happily.

Further down the e-road

With the successful pilot project of e-governance at the Dahisar ward, BMC is set to provide services by replicating the project at the remaining 23 wards in the city. The citizens of Mumbai can definitely look forward to shorter queues, quicker response, and warm, amicable, and efficient services provided over the counter. BMC has spent one Crore Rupees on the entire e-governance implementation exercise. It certainly hopes to break its typecast image and provide the citizens a government they can talk flatteringly about.

"In future, BMC hopes to WAN-enable all ward offices. We will offer data concerning birth and death registration, taxes, licenses, status of applications, and status of complaint online. We hope to e-govern the Octroi department and monitor check post activities from the main office. The entire project involving all the ward offices is expected to be implemented and operational in the next 8 months", said Rajeev.

CFC services

Over-the-counter services

  • Issue of certificates and licenses
  • Collection of payments
  • Dynamic information about status of applications
  • Facilitation services
  • Supply of blank application forms
  • Online computerized acknowledgement for all letters
  • Printed complaint token numbers from kiosks
  • Dual screen facility at help desks
  • Grievances redressal functions

Other services

  • Appeals for help
  • Programmes/events detail for socially relevant activities
  • Information of important useful institutions and organizations in the ward
  • Felicitation of achievers and eminent persons residing in ward
  • Electronic submission of applications
  • New shops and establishments license
  • General information
  • The Corporation

BMC administers an area of over 437.71 square Km and caters to the civic needs of over 10 million citizens. It employs about 149,471 employees in the different categories and has a budgetary outlay of Rs.4391.15 Crores.

The need

BMC's 24 wards had to provide its citizens faster, less complicated, and friendlier services. It had to make a strategy for better governance.

The solution

ABM Knowledgeware provided the software application tools to enable e-governance. It introduced a concepts called CFC and will help setup help kiosks in places around the city.

The benefits

Certificates and registrations are handled over the counter. The time to process applications has decreased dramatically, and grievances can be lodged and addressed quickly.

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