Digital Uttarakand, a state-level consultation, on ‘Strengthening Access & Delivery of Government Schemes Information & Entitlements in Uttarakhand: Role of Digital Connectivity, Content, Platforms & Solutions’ was organised by DEF in Dehradun on August 26, 2016, in collaboration with the European Union and Mission for Anath Development & Welfare Society. The consultation, a first of its kind in Uttarakhand, sought to invite different stakeholders from the government, civil society organisations and others — that are working towards strengthening access and delivery of government schemes and citizen entitlement — to discuss and deliberate on issues and challenges in the area.
Further, the consultation sought to invite good practices that are taking place in the state in an effort towards creating models of examples in information and entitlements access and delivery for the citizens at their door steps. The purpose of the consultation was to highlight, document, encourage and populate such practices in Uttarakhand and other states. The scope and issues around digital connectivity, content, platforms and solutions to strengthen information and entitlement delivery will be a major focus area.
Access to information and government entitlements at village and community level have always been a real-time challenge for the common man in India, resulting in the failure of many developmental schemes. This has left out majority of genuine citizens out of such social and public welfare programmes.
Often, intended beneficiaries of public schemes and programmes are unable to access benefits due to:
- Limited resources and capacities of government departments and staff at the panchayat, block and district levels to reach out to last mile locations and beneficiaries;
- Limited capacities of village and community level organisations like SHGs, NGOs, CSOs, local associations to have timely access and delivery of government schemes information and entitlement benefits;
- Weaknesses or gaps in processes and systems including lack of provisions for access to government scheme benefits at block or panchayat level locally;
- Role of negative elements like role of middlemen, bad practices, role of money power that challenges government and other efforts to deliver information and entitlements to citizens;
- Limited training and skills in staff and workers to deliver information and entitlements to citizens;
- Limited connectivity and digital penetration, besides lack of community level access points (including at the panchayat level), for access and delivery of information and entitlement services;
- Widespread lack of awareness among the people and citizens about government schemes and benefits;
- Lack of timely review, evaluation and audit of institutional capacities and resources to deliver government schemes benefits to people to the last mile;
- Limitations in real-time engagement between the community and the government and service providers to strengthen the provisions and mechanisms to deliver government schemes information and entitlements;
- Limited experiments at government level to bring out a formal legal model of ensuring last mile government schemes information and entitlement benefits. Lack of good practices also challenging the access and delivery of schemes information and benefits to people.
Therefore, real time information at the right time and the right point is a great empowering tool that can help eradicate poverty and backwardness.
The consultation was, thus, organised with the goal of building a deep conceptual understanding about Strengthening Information, Access & Delivery of Government Entitlements in Uttarakhand’ to reach out to underserved and unreached regions of the state with information, entitlements and rights. It shall also help address gaps in the process of scheme deliveries at various levels such as panchayat, block, district and state through ideation and consultation on appropriate solutions.
The day started with an inaugural plenary session with N. Ravi Shankar, Former Chief Secretary of Uttarakhand; Dharmendra Singh, Additional Secretary IT & Director ITDA; Avdhash Kaushal, Rural Litigation & Entitlement Kendra.
To achieve the objectives, the workshop was divided in to three sessions: Understanding the access and delivery of public schemes information and entitlement services in education and health sector in Uttarakhand; Understanding the access and delivery of public schemes information and entitlement services in social security and financial inclusion in Uttarakhand; and Strengthening access and delivery mechanisms in public schemes information and entitlement benefits in Uttrakhand.
Other panellists during the day included SM Bijilwan, Information Officer, Tehri Gharwal District; Vijaya Jardhari, ‘Beej Bachao Andolan’; CM Sharma, Dean, Uttarakhand University of Horticulture and Forestry; Deepak Kumar, Secretary IT, Government of Uttarakhand; Rajkumari Singh, Gharwal Community Development and Welfare Society; RS Goyal Senior Adviser and Regional Director, Ramana Group, Dehradun; and Shri. Rajender Singh Negi, Samudayik Radio Henvalvani, Tehri Gharwal District.
The efforts at the consultation were fruitful as the participants unravelled the grave issues that were hidden under the rubble of ignorance and suppression. Limitations of information dissemination and lack of citizen entitlement were broadly discussed. There were recommendations about redefining the delivery and access of relevant information so that it could effectively reach the last mile beneficiary. Additionally, shortcomings of the government delivery framework were shared by the participants, based on which recommendations were made to improve partnership and collaborations between government agencies, NGOs and civil societies so that they acknowledge information dissemination as their collective responsibility.