Conceptualised and introduced by the then District Magistrate of Sitapur, Amod Kumar, in September 2004, Lokvani (meaning voice of the people) is a single-window, self-sustainable e-governance solution. An interesting revelation as to how ICT can be streamlined at the grassroots level for a vibrant and dynamic government to citizen (G2C) interface, the unique public private partnership programme has unleashed a new lease of life for the common man in Sitapur by providing an online service delivery mechanism to redress their day to day grievances. Since its inception from November 9, 2004, the initiative has not only given a practical shape to the Right to Information Act, but is also creating job opportunities for the educated but unemployed youth of the district.
community based self sustaining system; Lokvani is driven by a profitable business model for private entrepreneurs. An internet kiosk based G2C interface for providing various information and public grievance redressal in a transparent, accountable and time bound manner by forging effective public private partnership (PPP). It ensures easy and convenient access to information for the citizens through a hassle free citizen government interface; and ensuring fairness in decision making, accountability of public offices and transparency in administration.
A society by the name Lokvani was constituted to implement the project autonomously and to reduce the bureaucratic hassles. The National Informatics Centre (NIC) provided the necessary technical know-how for the project. Instead of opening new kiosks, existing cyber cafes/computer training institutes were granted licenses to become Lokvani Centres. A kiosk has an internet-enabled PC, printer, a webcam and is run by an IT entrepreneur. The kiosks have been given login/passwords to log on to Lokvani website.
By December 2004, 13 Lokvani Centres were set up. As on June 2009, the number has gone up to 125. To ensure transparency, details of developmental works, ration allotment to fair-price shop dealers, money sent to Gaon Sabhas, etc., are made available to people. The most popular service till date has been Online Public Grievance Redressal, which has received more than 1,37,000 complaints by June 30, 2008, of which 1, 34,800 (98 per cent) has been disposed off. Ramakant Awasthi, a villager says, ‘Some people from the village had occupied my land, cut down and sold the trees. Earlier nobody cared for the complaints that I repeatedly made, but after I lodged a complaint in Lokvani, my problem was solved and my land was handed over to me within 15 days.’
The Lokvani system not only gives citizens an avenue to track the progress on their grievance, but also provides the DM an effective tool to monitor the performance of various departments. Lokvani also provides details of various government schemes, government prescribed forms, details of developmental work in the district, lists of old age pensioners, lists of scholarship beneficiaries, funds allotted in various government schemes, allotment of food grains to kotedars, allotments of funds to gram panchayats, etc.
The uniqueness of the model lies in the fact that it is the first successful zero support based PPP model for kiosks in the country with 90,000 rural people using it in just one district. The Lokvani Kendras or kiosks receive around 100-150 complaints each day citing the fact that people have trust in the system.
There is effective monitoring of all complaints and grievances. Lokvani Kendras (kiosks) have been setup all over the district where citizens can file their complaints. Harsh Mishra, a benefactor of the scheme says, ‘In order to know the details of my GPF I had to make many trips to the GSAoffice but now I can come to the Lokvani centre and get all the details about my GPF.’ The Kendra managers help them to log on to the Lokvani website and post their complaints. Citizens have to pay a nominal fee of Rs 15 to the Kendra manager. The tender service has information about the tenders and their terms and conditions. The tender forms are also available for download. Results and comparative charts of all bids are displayed on the internet within 24 hours of allotment.
The programme has led to creation of jobs in rural areas and also helped in bridging the digital divide. The achievements of the first successful e-governance project in UP has also been praiseworthy. Uttar Pradesh is the first state in the country to provide online land records on the internet in Hindi.
As of now, there are 45 Lokvani centres in the district serving six tehsils and 19 blocks. Anumber of services are on offer online through the centres. Basically two services are fitting more into the demand-supply matrix of Lokvani as of now. One is registering and monitoring complaints by complainants as per their problems and the second is getting a copy of their land records from the Lokvani centres.
The land records have been computerised and available online at Lokvani website. Soon copies of Land Records will be made available at one’s doorstep via courier service. In future more services like Online Registration of Death/Births, Certificates for SC/STs, Domicile etc will be offered. In UP, 59 other districts have already started implementing Lokvani based citizen services. Hardoi and Unnao have also replicated the scheme. Going forward, the kiosks will be opened at the Nyay Panchayat Level to increase the reach of the service.
The target of the model is to bring down the number of complaints to the minimum. Recently, a decision has been taken to set up kiosks in 200 Nyay Panchayat offices. Already, around 70 such kiosks are almost ready to be operational.
The success and the popularity of Lokvani can be gauged by the quick adoption of the model in other districts of UP. Within three months of its launch in Sitapur, five districts (Aligarh, Ghaziabad, Ferozabad, Hardoi and Lucknow) had already taken the software from Sitapur and were customising it to their needs. Since then many districts (including Unnao and Meerut) have adopted Lokvani to provide various citizen services. Among all these adaptations, the implementation at Hardoi has been very successful.
The challenges for Lokvani are however not few. The G2C interface has so far given out mixed outcomes because many are not pleased with its functioning especially in dealing with their complaints. The financial viability of the kiosks at the village level is a hurdle, which can be overcome by creative ways to distribute services and commercial products. Also there have been problems of illiteracy as computerisation is seen more as a publicity tool than for any real purpose and hence less people support it.
This model of Lokvani has worked quite effectively up to the tehsil, block and town level as there were negligible set up costs involved. To spread the growth of the Lokvani network to the village level, some initial investment in hardware (computers, power support — UPS or solar panels and internet connectivity) is required and the government will be required to share a proportion of it.
Another critical factor in ensuring sustainability in the Lokvani initiative would be to add sufficient information and services in Lokvani and make the kiosks viable. Services like birth and death certificates, driving licenses, caste certificates, income certificates and domicile certificates under the single window scheme were expected to increase the footfalls at the kiosks and significantly enhance their revenues.