Transforming Bangalore's Road Transport Digital Services
Based on David's in-class feedback about the assignments last week, I decided to change the nature of my blog post. This week I focus on the Theory of Change based on several user interviews I conducted with people in India. I wasn't able to speak to anyone in the transport department and hope to explore that in more detail over the next few weeks.
I interviewed three users. One has tried to use the digital services offered, one had no interest in using any services and one relied only on using the traditional offline form-filling to avail services.
Three central themes emerged from all three interviews:
Trust: There is no trust in the government's ability to deliver high quality digital services in the transport department.
Hope: There was however a faint glimmer of hope in the services becoming effective somewhere in the not so near future. And they mentioned other services like the property tax system, utility payment systems that were working well online to say it's possible.
Apathy: All three users at some level said that they were apathetic about using any services from the transport department in general unless things got really serious. In which case they would just go to the office and sort things out in person.
From the interviews I felt that there are two main issues. One, there is general disregard for road transport regulations and traffic enforcement. This is not something that I wish to address in the ambit of this class. Two, the digital services offered are fragmented, unreliable and not user centric. This is something that is measurable and fixable.
Theory of Change
Theory of Change:
Securing greater political support, Increasing institutional capacity and codifying user-centricity will put pressure on the Bangalore Road Transport Organisation and the National Informatics centre(The digital service unit) which will in turn provide a better experience of digital services to the end user.
Unify all digital road transport services and make it reliable and delightful for citizens to use.
Single user profile sign-on that gives access to and helps track all transport and traffic services.
Service is reliable with high availability up to five nines.
I conducted the same exercise that we did in class with David and Ben's maturity model.
In the political environment section currently the digital services are handled by the National Informatics Centre(NIC) which is India's equivalent to the federal digital service. What is missing is that on the state's political front, no one understands the importance of delivering these services effectively. The NIC has strict frameworks and regulations that it adheres to with policies around data sharing but is not accountable to the state department authorities. It operates by ticking boxes and ensuring minimal compliance. There is some level of codification but not at the state department level.
I propose working with the Transport minister, heads of local corporation units, and apex leadership of the transport department to educate them about the importance of the transformation and the immense impact that it will have in citizen satisfaction levels. I further propose re-assessing the needs and expectations between the NIC and the transport department. Finally, I believe that creating measurable indicators and codifying them at the state department level could ensure a legislative adherence to high quality.
Based on my prior experience working with the education department of the state, the budgetary allocations were existent but it was small and highly restricted thus tying the hands of the vendor.
I propose changing it to a multi-year budget with some degree of flexibility with the state department in negotiating with the NIC to ensure stronger digital services.
User Centered Design
There currently exist no guidelines around user experience in official guidelines for Indian government websites. In fact, user experience is mentioned just 2 times in the document both are passing statements that are vague and about either visual identity or the help section.
I propose that strong user experience guidelines and user experience testing requirements are laid out in guidelines and the NIC and state department should be held equally accountable for it.
Strategy to roll out:
In the Indian context, I am of the opinion that we must start a conversation using a combination of press media, highly visible technocrats, younger politicians and high functioning bureaucrats to get the ball rolling. Advocacy and implementation can be handled by seasoned government consulting firms that have already established project management units. In Karnataka, the eGovernments Foundation is a great example of a potential partner to oversee the roll out of the strategy. If done right, since traffic is such a personal issue for so many people in the city, tangible outcomes can be achieved in 18-24 months. I have seen this approach work at the federal level with the National Teacher Platform.
As I had highlighted in my previous blog posts, a corrupt system actually benefits large numbers of street-level officials and citizens. Many citizens benefit from giving and taking bribes. All these individuals will be inconvenienced and may secretly protest against changes.
Having said that, I feel that the best way to deal with this is to make it a public issue since neither the dishonest citizen nor the dishonest official will publicly admit that the system should remain corrupt. While this can be tricky, putting the senior political class and department leadership on the spot may increase the pressure on them to change how the Bangalore transport department and the NIC operate.
In conclusion, I'm keen on speaking with people within the transport department to understand what efforts and changes are underway internally.