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Ignoring Automation Is A Mistake Governments Can’t Afford To Make

Monday, December 04, 2017
By Virender Jeet

Virender Jeet, Sr. VP Technology at Newgen Software

With Digital India spearheading the country's cyber and business space at the moment, it barely makes any sense for governing bodies and their offices to not be on the same page.  If there was one thing that kept government bodies and offices comfortably stuck to their reputation for moving at a snail's pace, it was the lack of automation.

Not to say that the lack of automation was an excuse government bodies made up. Before the advent of automation, all government bodies in fact had to deal with physical copies of a mammoth number of documents on a regular basis. Thereby, making it impossible for any of them to get anything done on time and ensuring efficient utilization of manpower remains a distant dream.

The Push Behind Making Governance Tech-Savvy
As time went by and population went up, there was a massive surge in the volume of documents government offices received. Ensuring the information stored in these documents were given their due importance and that this was done on time, became a massive challenge. Before they knew it, governments across the world were catering to citizens who were used to getting things done fast and efficiently. To all of these drawbacks, there was one solution: Automation. And, government offices opened up their doors and minds to the idea.

Adding An 'E' To Governance
With government bodies and key leaders addressing the urgent need for automation, technologically empowered e-governance initiatives were put into place. With the help of right kind of BPM and ECM platforms, most citizen-centric as well as internal processes became a lot less cluttered. Services were taken to the citizens' doorstep, in sharp contrast to citizens having to walk up to fairly laid-back service officials.

Issuing birth or death certificates had been fairly cumbersome for citizens before automation came into the picture. A birth or death in someone's house automatically meant stationing a member of the family at the respective department official's table and the procedure could take months to complete.
Now, one does not need rocket science to understand that a death or birth within a family brings along with it enough to keep everyone's hands full.
Adding to this the tedious process of getting government certificates issued, is a sure shot way to ensure citizens steer clear of such processes altogether.

A major reason why deaths and births don't get recorded in rural and remote areas where governance is still pretty old-school, is the kind of delay these processes exhibit. Absence of such records brings along with it a multitude of problems in context to keeping a track of such populations. Bringing the whole process to a single-window portal has already solved this issue for a major part of the population, and will do so for a lot more number of people as it progresses.

Making Life Easy, For Citizens And Governments Alike
As citizens we all know how taxing it can be to file for taxes, don't we? Fortunately, not so much anymore, thanks to taxes being collected and filed for online along with real-time status updates keeping us in the loop.  The receipt for our returns is also generated online and sent to us via e-mail or SMS. Taxes are not the only thing automation and e-governance has made smoother though.

For governance to be paperless, government offices need to follow suit: Happier citizens are a direct result of efficient governance, and for efficient governance simply automating citizen-centric processes isn't enough. Internal processes deserve equal, if not more, attention. Archiving documents or CDs in their physical form comes with massive storage costs and security concerns. Ensuring documents are given a digital, centralised repository where they are archived and can be easily retrieved from when needed, is crucial to making processes silos-free. The only way this can be achieved is by employing an efficient ECM and BPM based platform.

A platform of the sort provides government agencies with flexibility to automate document-intensive processes, and ensures efficient, transparent and good governance. By reforming several administrative processes such as correspondence management, RTI management, and committee and meeting management, it ensures end-to-end automation of internal processes.

In moving request files from one department to another, a lot of valuable time is lost. Better collaboration among departments can save this time and can also ensure government bodies and agencies comply better with norms made by the Parliament. With RTIs being managed within thirty days of them being filed, the case for automation in government offices has gotten a lot stronger.

It takes tech-driven governance to satisfy tech-driven citizens: Automation in government offices has now moved a lot ahead of just e-governance, and is fast incorporating m-governance, aka, mobile governance. For most citizens smartphones are a way of life, and it would not be a very smart move for governments to stay out of the mobility space. With citizens tweeting their issues to government departments and most agencies being available on SMS services, mobile governance is here and now.

Mobility allows government officials to log into their office portals from anywhere and at any time, making them a lot more accessible and available. Field agents can enter data into the repository irrespective of their time and location, thereby causing a sharp reduction in the turnaround time.

Government offices deal with workflows that are starkly different from transactional workflows that need to be automated in most organizations. Most of the decision-making in government offices are highly collaborative and depend on communication between different departments. Compliance is also a major concern, and any compromise in that department can end with fingers being pointed at the officials by Parliamentarians. The need for an efficient and adaptive platform hence cannot be overlooked.

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