Access to information at the village level has always been a challenge. Often intended beneficiaries of public schemes and measures are unable to access the benefits due to severe lack of capabilities, social structures, economic marginalization, exploitation, social values, cultural norms and discrimination, among other reasons. Absence of appropriate mechanisms and limited resources at the government level to disseminate important citizen-related information is another hurdle. With this in mind, DEF and the European Union organised a state-level consultation in Jaipur, Rajasthan, on ‘Information, Access & Delivery of Entitlements’ on September 16, 2015.
Rajasthan State Consultation workshop was held on 16th September 2016 at the Institute of Development Studies, Jaipur. The one-day workshop was jointly organised by DEF, Wireless Reach Partner and Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan. In addition to Government officials, DEF invited faculty from Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai, and also citizens from Barmer to attend the workshop. About 120 people participated in the workshop.
Information is a tool that can help eradicate poverty and backwardness; and improve the living condition of women, Schedule Castes, Schedule Tribes, minorities and other marginalised groups. However, this situation can be improved through creating a systematic approach to deliver public schemes information to citizens and communities using both traditional and new methods supported by Information Communication Technology (ICT) tools and platforms. Further, this can be improved through capacity building of the stakeholders in a systematic manner over a period of time. These capacity building initiatives will also play a key role in promoting accountable and responsive panchayats and other government bodies to provision timely and relevant service delivery.
All relevant stakeholders, including the state government administration, the government agencies and departments, the NGOs and civil society organisations, CSR and other partners, should thus step ahead and come forward to work in close coordination for improving accessibility of information about public schemes and successfully delivering their benefits to those who are most deserving. The bigger advantage of timely delivery and access of information services helps to stabilise our societies and communities and helps to address their various social, economic and educational needs. In the longer run, this promotes and strengthens our democracy through active citizen and communication participation and engagement.
The consultation workshop goal is to build deep conceptual understanding of the Soochna Seva Model and its effectiveness at the ground in order to reach out the unreached and get them with the edge of information, their entitlements, rights and services. It will also address the gaps in process of scheme deliveries at various levels such as Panchayat, Block, District and State and will facilitate the appropriate solutions to the participants.
Moreover, it would create opportunities to explore significant areas for information dissemination and citizen entitlements in more depth and share ideas in a way that will advance the thinking’s and actions of stakeholders to strengthen and develop capacities of local agencies to deliver citizen services better. Also would open windows for government (at block, district and state level) and Corporate Social Responsibilities (CSR) for collaboration in delivering services to the entitlement holders to the people sitting at back seats.
- To discuss the challenges/issues exist in the information flow and its accessibility & feasibility at citizen level.
- To understand the status and scope for working together between the administration, government agencies, NGOs and civil societies to improve the information dissemination environment.
- To expand the reach of Mera app and liaison for regular updates for its better implementation and results.
- To collaborate with government and CSR in order to expand Soochna Seva Model in all the districts of the state.
- To explore new methods, ways and means to deliver public schemes information and provide entitlements through example sharing and exchange.
- To understand the gaps and find out the solutions of the public schemes
- To visualise the mobile application and seek more scheme information, validation and regular updates.
- To find out the way of expected collaborations with government and CSR in disseminating the information to the extended beneficiaries.
- To explore new ways and means to improve the delivery and access of information and entitlements in time.
- To explore models of partnership and collaboration between the local administration, departments and agencies and the NGO and civil society organisation and other partners.
- To work towards a better information democracy in the state and make the state a foremost state in best information dissemination and citizen entitlements in India.
As eGovernance unfolds in Rajasthan, it will indeed connect public to government programs, but not until full information disclosure policy is in place. The digital technologies have boosted growth, expanded opportunities, and improved service delivery in state. Yet, the development is unevenly distributed and not truly inclusive. The Rajasthan government must commit itself to making information completely censor free to gain full public participation.
The impetus behind this consultation workshop was to understand the digital process used by Rajasthan government to share information and check its level of transparency and openness to public access.
The workshop opened with an introduction session by Nikhil Dey and Osama Manzar. They both explained the rationale for conducting the workshop and its objectives to the invited speakers and guests. The workshop was dedicated to figuring out how to best use ICT tools and maximize the development impact. Later, officials from Rajasthan health, labour, education and IT departments showcased their respective digital interface employed to meet public needs. The departments gave presentations and were evaluated on accountability, open data and transparency initiatives.
To encourage further in-depth dialogue among audience, a Q & A session was conducted after every presentation. Everyone pitched in their ideas and recommendations to improve the existing government service platforms in state. The key recommendations were to promote data literacy and allow communities and individuals to generate data by making information system easy to access.
The event, overall, was a complete success.