Digital Uttar Pradesh: Embracing Digital Technologies to Transform Citizen Services

UP Government’s digital transformation strategy revolves on the aim of delivering digital to every person no matter how remote they are and the impact can be seen already through the various digital initiatives that they have launched

COVID-19 has been a wakeup call for the world, countries, organisations, and individuals. We now understand that crises happen, and they will occur in the future. It has triggered previously unimaginable uses of technology in all walks of life. And along with public and private organisations, state governments too have stepped up in their digitalisation journeys.

According to Neha Prakash, Special Secretary – IT, Uttar Pradesh, the recent pandemic has accelerated the adoption of digital technologies, and people have been propelled to start using technologies that were earlier there as well but weren’t used as such. “For any change to happen, there has to be either an external or internal factor to drive people to adapt to that change because it is tough for people to change their habits in the existing reality. So, there had to be some change to trigger digital adoption, and the COVID-19 pandemic turned out to be the one. It has made people stay within the confines of their own homes and access all the digital service deliveries and all the government services being offered to them via the digital mode. Citizens can access all the facilities provided by the government and get information about new schemes, incentives and programs from their homes itself,” she shares.

Ensuring last mile digital delivery

When it comes to digital delivery of services, one thing that one needs to ensure is how are we addressing the digital divide. Many people do not have access to the Internet or smartphones, and they have phones with basic features; so, how do we make this digital technology available to everyone? It was the aim with which the UP Government set out on its digital transformation journey. “So, the key point around which our digital transformation strategy revolves is on delivering digital to every person no matter how remote they are. Some of these digital technology initiatives need not be very complex. They must address the problems of the people and cater to their wants and needs. In UP, we have the CM helpline, which is an effortless IVR based technology. It is a call centre from where we make outbound calls and also get inbound calls, and by using this simple technology, we have been able to reach out to all the people regarding the recent COVID-19 pandemic,” shares Prakash.

Prakash further sheds some light on some of the key solutions adopted by the UP Government to become more digitised. “Recently, we have seen that many apps have been developed apart from all the various government websites which deliver their services digitally. If we talk about the pandemic, we already have the Aarogya Setu app at the national level. UP also has its apps like the Ayush Kavach app and other apps like the Chikitsa Setu app. And there is also a website which has the home delivery portal. All groceries and necessities can be ordered online from the local shops through this website. So, these are some of the recent app developments catering to the needs of COVID-19 pandemic, and apart from this, we also have websites of different departments from where their best schemes get delivered electronically. We also have the e-District portal where all these basic certificates like birth certificates, caste certificates, etc., are being issued, and they handle about four crore transactions per year. The government is interacting with the citizens daily, and these are the touchpoints of interaction that we have introduced. The most important thing is that citizen satisfaction is at the core of this delivery.

Exponential technologies paving the way

Exponential technologies like hybrid cloud, digital workspaces, data centre modernisation, cybersecurity, etc. are undoubtedly playing a significant role in the success of the digital initiatives that the UP Government has introduced and have helped them build a comprehensive services framework. “We have recently seen a growth in emerging technologies, and we have been adopting them to solve the problems of the public and the citizens. In the UP prisons, we have installed an artificial intelligence-based CCTV surveillance system. Earlier, when all these CCTV systems had been installed, there was a lot of human intervention required as many people had to sit and monitor the live feed. It has been made redundant now by using Artificial Intelligence, and the software can detect if a fight is about to break out in prison just by recognising their hand movements and face movements. In another use case, we have this integrated Mine Surveillance System using Artificial Intelligence technology, and we also have these drones that monitor the mining areas. They can know whether the mining is being carried out within the permitted limits and whether the mining is done outside that zone,” shares Prakash.

However, when talking about these emerging technologies, one thing that needs to be kept in mind is the need to have regulatory policies in place. Artificial Intelligence and machine learning tools, if given in the wrong hands, have the capability to self-destruct. So, a regulatory system or a regulatory platform is very much the need of today, and data privacy laws also have to be made even before we adopt these emerging technologies on a widespread basis, asserts Prakash.

Taking the next digital steps

The UP Government has made some robust plans for technology adoption to improve its digital initiatives in the future. Talking about some of them, Prakash says, “We have a state data centre that we have plans to upgrade. We are doing that continuously, and we are procuring some new technologies for it. We are also thinking about hybrid computing and hyper conversion of structure. So, on a need basis, we see if the technology is addressing our concerns, and if it has the potential to solve our problems, we adopt that technology. We have had some presentations with our industry partners also regarding all these new technologies, and we are looking forward to ways in which we can adopt them.”

One of the significant success metrics for the UP Government in terms of measuring the impact of these digital initiatives is customer satisfaction, asserts Prakash. “Customer feedback tells us how our digital initiatives are performing. So, the CM helpline is our biggest feedback mechanism. We have people who call the citizens and get their feedback and check whether their complaints and grievances have been resolved and if they can avail all the government facilities smoothly. It is one of the measures through which we know whether our initiatives are successful or not. Everything is being done digitally, and by analysing that data, we can gauge the impact of our digital initiatives,” she concludes.