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EDITORIAL ANALYSIS

Digital nation: On delivery of citizen services


The Editorial covers GS paper 2 [Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability.]

Shaping the digital world - The Hindu

Context

  • Digital platforms providing goods and services, including online education and telemedicine, have grown vigorously during the COVID-19 pandemic, while many professionals have maintained productivity by working from home.

  • Yet, it would be premature to declare digital as a way of life in India, as Prime Minister Narendra Modi put it at the Bengaluru Tech Summit.

What is the Background?

  • The true measure of digital nations is the readiness of governments to use technology to create open, participatory public systems that citizens consider trustworthy.

  • A beginning has, no doubt, been made through government-to-citizen services using Common Service Centres, advice to agriculturists, digital payments of welfare benefits through bank accounts and, even legal advice online to four lakh people under the Tele-Law scheme.

  • These represent a welcome advance, but if digital methods were applied to other sectors, such as road safety, the results could be dramatic — potentially reducing the accident mortality(death) rate of about 1,50,000 deaths a year.

How is it transforming the internal process?

  • In the ongoing pandemic, Mr. Modi’s forecast for enhanced adoption of technology in health and education will have resonance (impact), although this was always a priority.

  • In fact, successive governments failed to grasp the promise of achieving universal health coverage (UHC) by 2022, for which the erstwhile Planning Commission presented a road map a decade ago.

  • Now, the nucleus plan is Ayushman Bharat, with a digital health identity for all.

  • With the emphasis on digitalization, it should be possible to achieve measurable progress early on at least on one UHC component — access to free, essential prescription drugs.

  • A digital health ID would help prescribe and dispense essential medicines free.

  • The Planning Commission estimated that the public procurement cost for this, in 2011, would be 0.1% to 0.5% of GDP.

  • If this is a medium-term goal, the more immediate task of distributing COVID-19 vaccines looms as a test for the government.

Conclusion

  • At a broader level, efficient digital government depends on transforming internal processes, and fixing deadlines for service delivery.

  • If digital has to become a way of life, redefining the labyrinthine (complicated) functioning of citizen-centric services would be a good place to start, with deadlines for government departments.

  • The true measure of digitalization would be the seamless delivery of all citizen services.

Source: The Hindu.