Innovation in government services to citizen (G2C) service platform
By Claudia Eyzaguirre, Shaloo Jeswani, Taekyeong Yoo, Vrashabh Kapate
The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) won a landslide victory in the state elections in India’s national capital of Delhi in 2015. Their campaign was run on reducing corruption and increasing transparency in governance. The Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and his deputy tasked the Department of Administrative Reforms to come up with a program that would increase access to government services for citizens, and reduce bureaucratic corruption.
The department, assisted by external consultants, went a step further and added a layer of employment generation, to rollout ‘AAP ke Dwaar’ – a door-step delivery of citizen services. This service can be availed by calling a helpline and will be facilitated by a delivery agent hired by the government, who receives a sum of 50 rupees from the citizen for the assistance. The journey was not without challenges as explored further in this article.
Launched in 2018, 40 services were offered which eventually increased to 100 by December 2019. The program in its first year alone successfully processed 216,054 service requests. Due to the in-person collection of required documents, there was also a reduction in rejected applications from 47% to 9%.
National Capital Territory (NCT) of Delhi, or simply Delhi, is a city and a union territory containing New Delhi, the capital of India. Delhi is home to over 30 million people, with over 40% of its population coming from other Indian states, making it a true melting pot of different ethnicities. The political administration of the NCT of Delhi closely resembles that of a state of India, with its own legislature, high court and an executive council of ministers headed by a Chief Minister (CM). New Delhi is jointly administered by the federal government of India and the local government of Delhi.[i]
The late 2000s saw multiple cases of political corruption in India that gave birth to the public anti-corruption movement, India Against Corruption[ii] (IAC). From this movement emerged the ‘Aam Aadmi Party’ (AAP, the Common Man’s Party) which positioned itself as an alternative to the two main political parties in India. On the promise to provide transparency and a corruption-free government, AAP ran in the state elections in the National Capital Territory (NCT) of Delhi. It won with a landslide victory in 2015. [iii]
Since AAP was a new party, there were no legacy party members lining up to take up plum roles in the government and bureaucracy. Instead, there were volunteers, who had worked on building the IAC movement, and had been brought on as advisors in different realms of the government – communications, media, social media, legal matters, and technology.[iv]The coming of people with strong subject matter expertise into bureaucracy was a breath of fresh air in the power corridors. These were a new breed of bureaucrats, who had the backing of the CM, and brought some private sector ways of doing business in the government. This led to the shift from bureaucracy to technocracy.
The mission of the Department of Administrative Reforms, the nodal agency leading this scheme, is to improve government functioning through administrative reforms. These reforms could include process improvement, promoting modernization, restructuring the government, organizational structure, etc.
From the moment a person is born, government services are required. From birth certificate to death certificate, and all the in between certifications and services- like water connection, drivers license, marriage certificate, labor certificate – a common person in Delhi seeks the services of various government offices. Due to the opacity of steps required to acquire these services, and the inefficiency of the bureaucracy, the elapsed time and avenues of corruption gave rise to the touts who are middlemen that will help broker the service for a fee. These touts collected a sum from the citizen to get the work done in addition to the prescribed fee. A portion of the sum was paid by the touts to the government officials as a bribe to expedite the applications submitted by them. Due to lack of clarity in the documents required for the service, many applicants would also stop their application midway or their applications would get rejected for being incomplete. The AAP government under the leadership of CM Arvind Kejriwal, and Deputy Chief Minister (Dy. CM) Manish Sisodia, asked the Department of Administrative Reforms to come up with a solution that would increase the reach of government service to the citizens, reduce bureaucratic corruption, and break the nexus of the government officials and touts.
The Department of Administrative Reforms, inspired by transformative governance solutions across the world and the rise of the door-delivery of private services, came up with a solution of providing an integrated platform for citizen services. The department, through the help of consultants, brainstormed different models of service delivery and came up with a helpline-based, micro-entrepreneur-provided, door-delivery of citizen services, called ‘AAP ke Dwaar’ (At Your Doorstep), which was rolled out in September 2018. [v] [vi] [vii]
The idea for transforming government services and bringing greater transparency was sparked by a technocrat, Gopal Mohan, who was the chief advisor to the CM.[viii] Under his leadership, the team came up with a vision for the project. The first innovation was to provide multi-department services to citizens in a time bound manner with no requirement to visit government offices. Then Mohan led a reduction in the complexity of getting the G2C (Government to Citizen) services within various departments and their multiple platforms. Lastly, Mohan envisioned providing the G2C Services at doorstep on request of a citizen. These steps would aim to provide faster delivery of citizen services[ix]. Though not explicit, tackling corruption was embedded in the program from the beginning. AAP, with its party symbol of the broom, had set its agenda of cleaning the system.
While brainstorming for solutions, a consensus was reached by the team that to increase ease for citizens, all the services have to be provided under a single common platform. An initial idea was to set up kiosks at various places in the jurisdiction that would serve as a decentralized government office that would provide all services. This solution would solve the access problem, however the kiosk agents could still demand bribes and the touts could set up shop at the kiosks. The mode of the platform had to be one that most citizens, irrespective of language, class, and disability barrier could access. This led to the adoption of a telephone-based helpline. A call center would receive requests for the service and guide citizens in the process.
The access problem was solved, but the delivery aspect remained. Taking a leaf out of private delivery service companies, the team came up with the idea of mobile sahayaks (assistant), hired on behalf of the government, who would collect required documents from the home of the citizens, go to the office for processing, and deliver the respective service back to the citizens. One mobile sahayak would be hired for each municipal ward and would be paid a facilitation fee of Rs.50 (70 cents) in return for the service. The department also identified and created service level agreements (SLAs) for each of the services.[x]
Challenges: Internal and External Hurdles
The primary challenge that AAP faced was approval from the head of the state. The Lieutenant Governor of Delhi has the executive powers over the state. When AAP took the proposal to the Lieutenant Governor (LG), he rejected their initial plan and asked them to make reconsiderations. The LG’s office objected to his perceived introduction of another layer of human interface with its attendant complications, including concerns associated with safety and security of women/senior citizens, a possibility of corruption, delays, bad behavior, loss of documents, breach of privacy, etc. They also felt the project was an unnecessary expenditure for the government and the people. AAP leaders were extremely unhappy with this rejection. The AAP party leader, an avid follower of Gandhian principles, decided to stage a sit-in protest outside LG’s office. Seeing the widespread community support, LG gave in to their demands. The plan was finally approved by LG’s office with the initial budget of Rs.18 Crore (2.4 MM USD) revised to Rs.10 Crore (1.3 MM USD).
The secondary challenge was the pushback from the various departments that provide this service. Over 400 such services existed that were under the jurisdiction of about 35 departments[xi]. These departments did not want their services to be brought under one platform. There were departmental and service-related nuances that led to significant delays in the rollout of the program. Notwithstanding some pushback, eventually the departments got aligned with the initiative as it was fully backed by the CM of Delhi.
AAP faced other hurdles too while rolling out the service. The new service made hundreds of touts jobless.[xii] The service weathered early negative feedback from the public as general trust on government schemes is low in the city. Some criticism aimed at the sahayaks as not fully trained to know the details and procedures around the service. The opposition party slandered the service with allegations that the helpline was not functional. AAP responded with simple videos explaining how the service would work and benefit the common citizen, the reform administration won the public’s trust.
The At Your Doorstep program has been successful by all metrics of increased permit processing. After one year of operation, At Your Doorstep had 1.36 million phone calls, of which 0.21 million requests were for services. Since the applications were filled out by the agent, the drop in rejected applications fell 47% to 9%.[xiii] The five-fold reduction in rejected and incomplete applications saved hundreds of hours of time for Delhi citizens and the officials in government offices.
The success of the program required 35 distinct departments in Delhi to coordinate with a central process. Success or failure hinged upon bringing dozens of distinct local government service offices under a single service umbrella. However by year two, the At Your Doorstep service rolled out an expanded second phase with another 40 services in August 2019[xiv]. A third phase followed closely in December 2019[xv] incorporating another 30 services, taking the total to 100.
In a city of millions with long standing infrastructure challenges, why was innovation successful? The answers are timing, public support, and design thinking. The AAP party came into power in a landslide victory on a wave of new energy. The party’s newly appointed department heads created an opening for innovation. Timing explains the opening for innovation but the innovation must also be viewed from the Herman Leonard’s analysis framework of intersecting circles of support, capacity and public value to more fully understand the success[xvi].
First, analysis of support shows that the new political party had widespread public support as evidenced by the 71% of the voting electorate. In turn, the CM gave his full support to Mohan and his department. This allowed the Department of Administrative Reforms to operate with support from above and below. Additionally, by connecting a labor employment element to the program public support increased. Second, analysis of public value is clear that Delhi citizens valued the services the government provided and more so when delivered without corruption. Citizens were tired of the expensive and unregulated proliferation of touts. Third, analysis of capacity reveals at the service conception, capacity was lacking. It would take time to develop the technology to coordinate door to door delivery services. Wisely, the Department of Administrative Reforms made a strategic decision to start with a small subset of city services. They began with a single telephone number that provided easy, equitable access. Prudently, the administrators used technology to build out the back office but kept the public access simple. With capacity in place, the At Your Doorstep program had all three elements in place for sustainable public value.
The doorstep deliver innovation is a notable example of smart design thinking. Delhi, like all cities, is a city that functions on interconnectedness. At Your Doorstep design thinking recognized interconnectedness as a feature, not a bug. The program administrators looked at why touts were in demand, even though universally disliked. The touts served as a connector between the government offices and the citizens needing service. At their best, the touts could act as translators, sometimes literally because Delhi is a city of many languages, but more often of byzantine documentation requests into common language. At Your Doorstep recognized this connector but transformed it with Mobile Sahayaks, into a positive, legitimate, and regulated employment. At Your Doorstep is a transformation from bureaucracy to technocracy. New technology introduces welcome efficiencies but often as a consequence of the elimination of jobs. The creation of the new Mobile Sahayak and back end jobs minimized the negative consequence.
No successful innovation in the real world is without room for improvements. At Your Doorstep suffered an early delay as it awaited approval from the Lieutenant Governor from an opposing political party. Mohan and his department could have worked to build in his support earlier on. While the program is popular, the Department of Administrative Reforms could solicit more feedback from Delhi citizens and make the feedback more transparent. Furthermore, a common complaint is that the Mobile Sahayaks do not know the documentation requirements. Increased training of Mobile Sahayaks could assist in customer service and also improve job skills of these delivery persons. No reform is a silver bullet and some corruption at some level continues to persist as the offline mode is still operational. [xvii]
In retrospect, one of the biggest changes was shifting perspective to put the citizen, not the agency staff, at the center of the service. The language used, Government to Citizen (G2C) emphasized the government as the provider of the service and the citizen as a user, to be kept at the forefront of the design process.
The At Your Doorstep program is in its fourth year of operation and continuing to expand and serve the citizens of Delhi. The service is also expanding to take the Public Distribution System to deliver ration (rice and grains) to low income families at their doorstep.[xviii] A new era of governance transformation is seen in India with the G2C (Government to Citizen) platform. The platform offers common services that are accessible easily, where the government is the service provider, and the citizen the user.
Taekyeong You is a Masters of Public Affairs ’22 student at UC Berkeley. He has worked in the steel industry with expertise in international trade affairs. Taekyeong intends to be more engaged with the policy-making process from the private sector’s end.
Shaloo Jeswani is a Masters of Public Affairs ’22 student at UCBerkeley. She has experience in Data management, Strategy Planning and Technical leadership. Shaloo intends to work in the social sector with education and women employment focussed organizations.
Vrashabh Kapate is a student of the Masters in Public Affairs program at GSPP. Born and raised in India, he has experience in various sectors like Finance, Agriculture, Government Consulting and Nonprofit management. At UC Berkeley, he is building expertise in the area of Climate Change with a focus on Agriculture, Energy, and Urban Infrastructure.
Claudia Eyzaguirre is a Masters of Public Affairs ’22 student at UCBerkeley. Prior to Goldman, she co-founded and grew a solar engineering start-up. Claudia intends to continue working to find and implement solutions to climate change
The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent those of the Berkeley Public Policy Journal, the Goldman School of Public Policy, or UC Berkeley.
[i] Wikipedia contributors. (2022, April 13). Delhi. Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Delhi
[ii]Anuja, P. K. (2019, December 13). Anti-corruption Movement A Watershed Moment In India | Mint. Mint. https://www.livemint.com/news/india/anti-corruption-movement-a-watershed-moment-in-india-11576199569995.html
[iii]P. (2015, February 10). Delhi election results 2015: Kejriwal’s AAP ends Modi’s winning spree, decimates Congress. The Times of India. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/delhi-elections-2015/top-stories/delhi-election-results-2015-kejriwals-aap-ends-modis-winning-spree-decimates-congress/articleshow/46185763.cms
[iv]Bedi, A. (2021, March 16). Kejriwal’s 9: The key people who work with the Delhi CM & his govt behind the scenes. ThePrint. https://theprint.in/india/kejriwals-9-the-key-people-who-work-with-the-delhi-cm-his-govt-behind-the-scenes/620688/
[v] Doorstep delivery of 40 government services in Delhi | District Shahdara, Government of Delhi | India. (n.d.). Https://Dmshahdara.Delhi.Gov.In. Retrieved June 20, 2022, from https://dmshahdara.delhi.gov.in/service/doorstep-delivery-delhi/
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[vii]]Reporter, S. (2018, September 11). AAP government launches doorstep delivery of public services in Delhi. The Hindu. https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Delhi/delhi-launches-doorstep-delivery-of-govt-services/article24922068.ece
[viii] The Logical Indian. (2018, September 27). Meet the man who made AAP’s doorstep delivery system a reality. The Logical Indian. Retrieved April 20, 2022, from https://thelogicalindian.com/exclusive/gopal-mohan-delhi-schemes/
[x] Department of Administrative Reforms, Request for Proposal for Doorstep Delivery of Public Services (2018). Delhi.
[xi] Home | e-District Delhi | Delhi e-Governance Society, Information Technology Department, Govt. of NCT of Delhi. (n.d.). E-District Delhi. https://edistrict.delhigovt.nic.in/in/en/Public/Services.html
[xii] Anand, J. (2018, September 11). Former touts ask government for a second chance. The Hindu. https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Delhi/former-touts-ask-government-for-a-second-chance/article24930232.ece
[xiii]CitizenMatters.In, V. P. (2020, February 8). Delhi Report Card: Doorstep delivery of services may prove winner for AAP as UT readies to vote. Firstpost. https://www.firstpost.com/politics/delhi-report-card-doorstep-delivery-of-services-may-prove-winner-for-aap-as-ut-readies-to-vote-8017201.html
[xiv]Jain, P. (2022, February 4). Delhi: Doorstep delivery of services is wider now. India Today. https://www.indiatoday.in/mail-today/story/delhi-doorstep-delivery-of-services-is-wider-now-1597790-2019-09-11
[xvi] Leonard, Herman B. “A Short Note on Public Sector Strategy-Building.” Working Paper, Fall 2001.
[xvii]Kumar, A. (2018, November 18). Delhi government’s home delivery of 40 services is to get bigger. India Today. Retrieved April 20, 2022, from https://www.indiatoday.in/mail-today/story/delhi-government-s-home-delivery-of-40-services-is-to-get-bigger-1390891-2018-11-18
[xviiTimes of India. (2021, June 6). Doorstep ration delivery scheme should be implemented across India in view of covid-19: Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal: Delhi News – Times of India. The Times of India. Retrieved April 20, 2022, from https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/delhi/doorstep-ration-delivery-scheme-should-be-implemented-across-india-in-view-of-covid-19-delhi-cm-arvind-kejriwal/articleshow/83278461.cms