How Efficient Is e-Governance in Kerala?

The technological boom has made life much easier. It is advancing at great speed and has made many complicated things simple. While the internet has brought people throughout the world under one umbrella, many services like banking and shopping have gone online.

Of late e-governance has gained more importance and government offices have started adopting technology as the platform to address the various issues of citizens. Are these developments and innovations an eyewash or are these really working?

All of us are aware of the complex paperwork involved in getting even a simple permission or certificate from a government office. However, despite technology being introduced to simplify these procedures, the amount of strain required to acquire a certificate still remains more or less the same.

Liji Jinaraj, an NRI who had recently come to Kochi, wrote about his experience of applying for his mother’s duplicate death certificate, which he required to close some of his mother’s accounts, of which he was the nominee. The techie who expected to get his work done through online services available in government websites received nothing but disappointment and finally had to do a multiple-step offline process in order to get the certificate.

The Kochi Post reached out to him to know more about his unfortunate experience.

“The main difficulties were with the failure of the online service and then the number of steps involved getting it done offline. Now, this is my first time getting a death certificate anywhere, so I don’t have anything to compare it with. But being in the tech field, my expectations were of a simple process of filling the form, making the related payment, and having the certificate provided right away or mailed,” he said.

Lijin has also mentioned in his write-up about the steps involved in getting a death certificate through offline procedure from the Kochi Corporation, which according to him is an age-old technique and it’s high time these steps be revised and new ones be formulated that are precise and quick.

The authorities, however, are of a different opinion. They say that e-governance or introducing technology has helped the employees and the public to a great extent.

Salil Cletus, Executive Engineer at Public Works Department, says, “The vision behind making various services in government offices available through websites is really great and by introducing such initiatives the government has taken a giant leap in making things convenient to everyone. However, we cannot deny the fact that government processes may encounter a delay because everything has to be recorded. Moreover, all departments have not been digitised and therefore it is even difficult for us to provide prompt services.”

When asked his opinion on the reason behind the poor functioning of these websites Lijin commented, “I feel there is a reliability issue with the online service. In my case, searching for my mother’s death certificate did not produce any results. So it did not get me very far. Secondly, there is lack of coordination between the online and offline process. In this case the offline process is more manual and not making use of the online service that’s built. I think its lack of attention to detail and lack of building an end-to-end service with ease of use, efficiency, and reliability in mind. May have to dig deeper to know what kind of engagement the Cochin Corporation has with TCS for building these services.”

This is not the only instance where people have to face trouble while approaching a government office. Siddharth Nair also had a similar experience while collecting his marriage certificate from the Changanacherry Municipality.

“I had to get my marriage certificate from the office. I had completed the steps online and taken all the necessary papers to the office. However, at the office they again gave me the form and asked me to fill it up. It got serious when they discovered that I was married for two years and they were not convinced by the fact that I did not collect my marriage certificate earlier. The certificate that I received from the wedding venue was the clear proof regarding the date but the authorities told me that they had certain doubts and therefore they had to see the register at the NSS office where our marriage was registered. I had no other option other than to show him the register and get the certificate,” says Siddharth.

Many people like Siddharth are also of the opinion that there are government authorities who encourage offline methods for even small services so that they can take bribes.

Main photograph by John Ward via Flickr

 

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