Wednesday, July 30, 2014
Thursday, July 17, 2014
Wednesday, July 9, 2014
Strategic thinking often boils down to choosing what not to do. Yet three myths continue to plague it:
- Myth 1: Productivity is the goal. Productivity is about getting things done. Strategic thinking is about getting the right things done well. And that means leaving some things undone.
- Myth 2: Strategy is about what's “important.” Every project is important to someone, and every organization has more important projects than it can complete. Strategic thinkers must decide where to focus their efforts.
- Myth 3: It’s only about thinking. Strategic thought has to yield actionable decisions. Leaders must step up and make the call about what the team will and will not do — and then stick to it.
Thursday, April 24, 2014
E-governance in India took baby steps in the late 1990s. Among the foremost such experiments were the Plan Monitoring System of Kerala Government and the Local government experiments in Karnataka, both of which I was part of, and in the latter case, as the sponsor and initiator.
The PMS of Kerala Government was an ambitious project to connect 1100 Grama Panchayaths through Block Development offices to the State Planning Board for the purposes of Planning, Approval, Disbursement and Physical and Financial Tracking, a humongous task in 1998, made easy by the support of Microsoft in communist Kerala! The concept was ahead of its time, well-meaning and would definitely democratize planning in the true spirit of Panchayath Raj system. The only limitation was that technology options in 1998 were limited and political patronage was fickle.
The Karnataka experiment started with the computerization of the Bellandur Grama Panchayath in 1999. We ended implementing an entire “ERP” for Grama Panchayaths. The main modules were Accounts, Inventory, General Administration, Staff, Land Records, Projects (Planning and Tracking), GP meetings minutes and Petitions. We further went on to computerize Udupi Taluka Panchayath and a surrounding Grama Panchyaths under the then MLA, UR Sabhapathi between 2000 and 2002. We had eventually computerized over 10 Grama Panchyaths.
The learnings from the above experiences were intense and thought provoking. We had out challenges too, chief among them being Political will at the government end and adequate bank balance to sustain the long gestation period, at our end. We subsequently had to move to other geographies as we did not get adequate support from local dispensations and ended up implementing more E-governance projects outside India.
Fast forward to 2014, we need to align E-governance at the local administration level to support contemporary environment and expectations of its consumers, the citizenry, or now the famous Mango Man. Let’s discuss the features of urban and Rural Local Body governance solution for the time being.
General Administration is the primary operations module of the local administrations and covers Office administration setup, configurable Accounting heads. Payroll computation and office ledger are other important components that will cover basic administration aspects. Office ledger will cover petty cash and operational expenses. Payroll computation will need to be computed as per local body rules applicable, along with statutory aspects.
Inventory and stores, maintenance works and expenses are used to track and execute Minor Works and projects in the local body. It needs to be integrated with an inventory and stores modules to track inward and outward stock of spares and consumables. Vendor management and Procurement are two other components for the same. Procurement can be integrated with an Online Tendering system to ensure transparency.
Accounts Payable/Receivables modules is required to track inward and outward movement of funds. It should have configurable accounting heads and be able to produce Trial balance, Schedules and Balance Sheets. Transactions may be secured to protect against tampering.
Land Records is the most important modules in local governments as it is the primary source of revenue with the local body being the custodian of land records, tax records and alienation. Reconciliation, mutation and alienation of Land Records are important components that have weighted legal bearing and hence should be robustly designed with adequate checks and balances. Citizens should have the option of verifying records as well as paying their taxes online or through mobile. Tax Assessment and Verification may thus be moved online using a rule-based engine to deliver uniform tax computation. Overtime, this will help reduce leakages and thereby bring down rates while increasing yield. Mapping integration is mandatory for Land Records.
Additional Tax Heads, computation and records are needed to address ever changing Tax regimes in force. Provision for Tax amendments and introduction of new tax heads and computation needs to be included. Tax Heads may include Taxes for amenities, surcharges and secondary taxes. In some cases, central and state taxes may be applicable. Secure Online/Mobile Tax payment will be a de facto.
Citizen Services will need to involve citizen records and related data to help identify and deliver beneficiary schemes while taking census in real-time. Programs such as Aadhar and MGNREGA should employ the same information infrastructure to provide Aadhar, Voter ID and PAN cards as much as they may be used to determine genuine beneficiaries under Central and State beneficiary schemes to delivery development programs. The same system can be updated to help track the effectiveness of the schemes and the benefits to the allottees. Over time, a trackable and verifiable system of delivery to beneficiaries will help stabilize the system while eliminating leakages and reducing administrative costs.
Local bodies have elected representatives, office bearers and employees, among other public servants, a directory of which is to be included. Public servants may interact with citizens for services, feedback and petitions. All public servants and government employees will have a public profile with their roles and responsibilities, tenure, past activities and records, along with all the relevant information as per statutory and transparency acts for public servants. Legal and statutory issues such as declaration of assets, legal cases, may be published to the same, thus placing relevant records in the public domain. An option for moderated publishing may be provided to citizenry to provide feedback and information on public servants.
Local bodies employ Gram Sabhas, Governing Council meetings and other public interfaces to publish announcements and circulars, collect petitions and surveys, and respond to Queries. These proceedings can be minuted or recorded and presented publicly to help disseminate information. Citizens should be able to make petitions to raise their demands and get response. These petitions need to be aggregated and considered as inputs to determine development work locally and their beneficiaries when budgeting and planning, thus greatly increasing transparency and acceptance.
Citizens may create their personal profiles on the portal to share their relevant data such as demographic data, land records, Tax Assessment, Tax Payment and Records, Petitions and Petition tracking, Circulars, notifications and announcements, Surveys and Feedbacks, RTI Requisitions, among others. Payment gateway integration will greatly help users to pay their due Taxes in a timely and convenient manner.
Development Projects planned based on popular demand through a public petitioning system will ensure responsive governance. It also ensures that citizenry’s demands are met and elected representatives are responsive to the needs of their constituents. Development projects can be planned and published on the same system such that it is transparent and traceable to petitions, thus justifying expenditure of public funds. Financial and Physical targets can be published and help in effective tracking. In cases where public works need to be contracted, an online tendering and bidding system incorporated. In case of projects that require Grants, state and central governmental sanctions, inter-departmental approvals and external funding, the online system, with role-based access, can provide secure access to respective bodies to interact with the system for planning, approval and tracking to ensure that funds are reaching the intended purpose as per plan and schedule. Local bodies and vendors use the same system to report project status and physical progress. Financing bodies can track progress online against milestones and release funds accordingly to ensure timely and transparent execution of projects. Public may access projects and corroborate the progress, as well.
Further, the system should be flexible enough to cater to the needs of Urban and Rural local bodies and integrate with their respective departments for approval and tracking. Other departments, such as Social welfare, PWD, Women and Child Welfare, Irrigation, Education, Agriculture, Revenue and Finance, among others, can log into the same system and address issues pertaining to their departments in a timely and transparent system.
Besides internet access, the system should also provide a mobile interface in local language, either through a mobile application or SMS, thus lowering the entry barriers for citizens to interact with the governing bodies. SMS Alerts can be integrated to ensure citizens can get instant configurable alerts. These will especially come handy when faced with Natural disasters and calamities to ensure speedy dissemination of information and alerts.
In summary, a comprehensive local body governance system going online will greatly democratize India and ensure timely, transparent delivery of governance while reducing the Cost of Administration, thus effectively raising the “Return on investment” for the common man!
About Subramanya R Jois
Subramanya has been developing Internet based products for over 18 years in his previous roles in Compusol and 360Buzz, ranging across E-governance, Enterprise and Web 2.0. His pioneering work in E-governance in Karnataka gave the first fully computerized Grama Panchayath in 1999 which was followed up with a string of implementations. He further led E-governance implementation in Local Bodies in India, Sri Lanka and Middle East.
For the last few years, he has been developing user-centric Internet of Things to enhance the digital lifestyle in the years to come! He has published papers on various subjects and implemented Quality Systems. As a member of IEEE, Subbu has actively contributed towards development of various Software Engineering standards as well. He has actively contributed to furthering delivery of education for the underprivileged through an international award e-Learning initiative called FTE+ for Round Table India. He is currently architecting an Omnichannel User Centric Retail Platform for CloudTags, among other initiatives.
Wednesday, March 19, 2014
The present double digit inflation is due to Futures trading in Commodities, thanks to the biggest jobber in business, our not so humble Agriculture minister. Despite World Bank warnings, UPA and Pawar went ahead with it. With Commodities Futures, the supply side has been monopolised by those who can control Agriculture, namely Pawar and his goons, numerous politicians, Relaince and ITC. These people have gained control over the supply of food grains and edible commodities over the last 8-9 years. Now, it doesnot surprise me when Pawar says that Onion prices will come down in 3-4 weeks, as he knows that his boys are playing the market till stocks last. As the supply is controlled, the prices are controlled by the same cartel, leading to inflated prices even when we had bumper and surplus harvests, against basic tenets of economics. Hope this explains the double digit food inflation seen under UPA. so in effect all of us are paying more for food due to the greed and selfish business desires of Pawar and his cartel.
So after having driven double digit food inflation for almost a decade, UPA wakes up to elections and decides to remedy it - The FSB! "Subsidize grain to 65% of the country" - Mummy's new mantra! Pappu sings in chorus as do the league of rogues. And who pays for this - Again all of us as the subsidy is funded out of our tax money.
In effect, we pay more for food to satisfy the lust of UPA and its cronies, and then we pay even more to help them claim fake credit for subsidizing it. So UPA creates an inflation problem and then announces a populist scheme to remedy it, which in effect is saying two negatives makes a positive!
Spare a thought - we had a PDS for almost 40 years which despite its inefficiencies worked. Why did we need FSB now?
To REMEDY the whole problem, Modi should abolish F&O in Commodities completely and offer Crop insurance to farmers, another brilliant scheme from ABV's time! Decontrol Fertilizer and eliminate fertilizer subsidies in fertilizer and bring in competition to offer farmers the best fertilizers and techniques to improve their crop production and maximize returns. Fertilizer subsidies have not benefited farmers but only the manufacturers who have continued to churn out poor quality goods in pre-historic contraptions called factories and gobbled up the subsidy. Ultimately, the net benefit of the subsidy to the farmer has been under 10 paise per KG, which can be easily bettered by competitive environment.