A message from the hilltop

A message from the hilltop

After driving on the tar road for 28 kms from the block headquarter M.Rampur, we took a turn inside the deep jungle and drove further for about a kilometre. When we reached Urladani, we were welcomed by the villagers who were eager to meet us. They told us about their various day-to-day challenges that they had to face. One of their major challenges, was access to clean water for their daily needs. 

The Magic of Working Together

How donors, NGOs, Governments, and Citizens together accelerate participatory governance

A chain is as strong as its weakest link, a society is as progressive as an individual. Hence, what a society does as a collective for an individual is what determines how it grows. The Samaadhaan initiative is a beautiful example of how NGOs, Governments, and Citizens together can accelerate participatory governance, enabling an individual to participate in governance. Participatory governance is the long-term solution, specially for developing nations, so that development is self-monitored and course-corrected. Samaadhaan provides a technology medium towards participatory governance by connecting the local Government and citizen's together where citizen can give feedback on the quality of services rendered by Govt through simple means.

 

United Nations Millennium Campaign (UNMC)

The UNMC has spearheaded the initiative sensitizing Governments internationally towards eliminating poverty from the planet by 2015. The challenge needed a multi-pronged strategy and UNMC realised the need for using ICT as an effective tool for implementation. Hence they backed this initiative, and the outcome was a very successful pilot programme run in Kalahandi, Koraput, and Sehore.

 

Government

There cannot be a governance initiative without the full support of the government. The district collectorates have proved to be a strong driving force. All the District officials are periodically trained on using Samaadhaan to manage citizen feedback. Regular monitoring is done by the Collector in their weekly meetings and action is taken on departments that are lagging. Departments have used the Samaadhaan portal as their go-to interface to check on the speed of issue redressal and resolution. It also enables them to interact with other departments that might be needed to solve a specific complaint raised by a citizen. The district Collector can pull reports based on various parameters for each of the departments or regions

Personalised communication by the government to individual citizens notifying them about their reporting reinforces the trust of the citizens in participatory governance.

 

NGOs

NGOs play a critical role by managing the day-to-day operations of the initiative. Educating citizens about their power, helping them out with the reporting process, helping out the government officials in tracking and resolution, are the few things among others that they take care of. Samarthan in Sehore, SOVA in Koraput, and Sebajagat in Kalahandi are the links to all the stakeholders and drive the initiative forward.Both Koraput and Kalahandi are supported by VSO

 

Citizens

The common men and women at the grassroots of the state now have direct access to their government. With the high penetration of mobile in rural India, rural citizens now report their problems/issues to the government via SMS. In Urban areas social media is being used. This ensures that the development programs run by the government are measured to be effective and implemented to the last detail, and actually benefit the end receivers.

 

Technology Platform

The technology platform lies at the base, enabling the government, NGOs, and citizens to connect on a single platform, generate reports, send updated information to all stakeholders. It supports problem reporting via social media viz. Facebook and Twitter, leveraging the better proliferation of data/ mobile internet in the rural areas.

 

Samaadhaan is a chain of humble efforts made by all stakeholders, which has the power to transform the rural and remote strata of the society into a progressive one, that can sustain and grow on its own.

Feedback- Challenges at the Grassroots

 

Samaadhaan citizen feedback initiative was launched to raise citizen’s voices so that their feedback is heard by the Government and action is taken to address their  concerns. After 4 years of operation in multiple districts, the process has led to interesting and diverse learning from these exercises.

A Tool for the District Collector

In the Indian governance system, a District Collector (DC) is the final authority at the district level and is responsible for planning and execution for government sponsored programs. The government on its part carries out regular studies to gauge the effectiveness of programs and its implementation. However, due to the lack of empirical data based on citizen’s feedback, many crucial bottlenecks are not effectively captured. One of the big reason for a gap between government and citizen feedback was the lack of a collaborative tool which could bridge this divide. Hence, most of the Samadhaan deployments are at the district level. The deployment at the district level has enabled citizens at the block and village level to voice their concerns and play their part in accountable governance.

At the higher level, citizen grievance redressal mechanisms are available at the state level. The citizens can register their complaint through a call center. However, the distance between the state capital and the place of origin of complaint plays a major hindrance in effective resolution of complaints. This is supported by studies done in the state of Madhya Pradesh as part of this program.

A tool which can provide transparent feedback  at the district level under  District Collector’s control can become a great asset for the purpose of district planning mainly because of three reasons:   

  1. The tool helps in providing an independent statistical validation for the impact of various government schemes.

  2. It can bring in data continuity in case of an official’s transfer.

  3. A tool for managing feedback at the district level can bring  genuine usage as compared to a feedback system placed at the state level which  mostly deals with escalations.

A District Collector’s own  openness in acknowledging  the value of the tool has been critical to the success of Samaadhaan. In its four years of deployment across three districts in India, the process has seen six different District Collectors. There was a direct correlation between how the platform was used and the interest and trust the District Collectors showed in the value of the  tool, associated processes and the involved stakeholders.

Difficulty of Collecting Citizen Feedback on Government Services

Feedback is an activity that demands effort. It is generally observed that  an effort is put only when the issue gets personal or life-threatening. In one of the districts, Samaadhaan was being used as a data collation tool for Jan Sunwai (Monday Grievances). In Jan Sunwai, citizens are physically present at the  District Headquarters to raise issues. Here, the issues raised are mostly related to police complaints, revenue and land whereas the percentage of issues related to various welfare schemes was quite low. There was no other reason for  someone to lose a day’s wage, travel 70 kms in a rickety bus and come to the district office to give a feedback. On the other hand, many  of the Government’s priority-spending on welfare schemes are intended to improve the villager’s life. The problems related to such welfare schemes are hence not captured. For instance, the government wants to build toilets in every house. However, rural India is  not even used to having toilets. It is  difficult  to get feedback on a missing service, which in first place, is not even felt important. But if the process for feedback is made easier, the chances of it getting  reported are much higher. SMS based feedback to the Collectorate on similar issues has been quite eye opening. A large percentage of issues (more than 85%) reported through this channel are related to entitlement realization.

SMS as an Effective Tool for Gathering Feedback

Samaadhaan empowers citizens at the grass root level to  lodge complaints to the Collectorate through  SMS to the district mobile helpline. This helpline is managed by partner NGOs, who first curate and validate the problem and create an actionable item. . The complaint is then logged in the to the tracking system. All such complaints are then reviewed on weekly basis by the District Collector. Progress on the complaint is intimated back to the Citizen through SMS.

Ease of providing  feedback and receiving the current status  through SMS builds  trust with the local government. The trust hence built between citizens and government is one of the key parameters in effective governance.


About Samaadhaan: Samaadhaan started it’s journey as a citizen feedback initiative led by United Nations Millenium campaign with support of UNDP. Civil society partners namely Samarthan Centre for Development Support, Sehore and Bhopal and South Orissa Voluntary Organization (SOVA), Koraput and Seba Jagat, Kalahandi with program support from Voluntary Service Organization (VSO) India fronted the program in collaboration with respective District administrations. The program was technically supported by Tangere Infotech. Tangere is now leading the Samaadhaan initiative through partnerships with various interested bodies.

 

A step closer to school

Kalahandi, located in the western part of Orissa, had a glorious past and a great civilization during the ancient times. Yet today, the district is listed among the most drought-prone areas of India.

Samaadhaan portal is active in Kalahandi and people living in far-flung areas of the district are reporting their problems through SMS to Samaadhaan mobile. The portal in Kalahandi is manned by Seba Jagat and they pool issues that come to the portal, segregate them and assign them to respective owners in District and Block administrations. The people put forward all kinds of issues in the portal- be it related to health, education, natural resources, education or livelihoods. Hence we are being able to touch upon literally everything in the lives of the community.

The schools and children have been a key beneficiary of the Samaadhaan portal. The villagers understand that education and the community are tied in a cyclical relationship and hence are concerned about the quality of their schools. A High school in Urladani Panchayat (in Kalahandi district) was a distant dream for all there. A decade back, the villagers pooled in some money and started a school for their children, the school still runs through local contribution.

Urladani comes under the tribal belts of Orissa and has diverse geographical regions. The school was attended by children coming from distant villages too and they were facing difficulty in travel. An application was given by the school committee to get a hostel building sanctioned for these students. The villagers waited for a response.

People of Urladani were finally connected with the District Administration through Samaadhaan SMS. The school secretary sent SMS through the portal. The District Collector could appreciate the criticality and a sanction letter was soon sent to the school. With Samaadhaan in the forefront, now Kalahandi is witnessing faster and more progressive changes in governance.


About Samaadhaan: Samaadhaan started it’s journey as a citizen feedback initiative led by United Nations Millenium campaign with support of UNDP. Civil society partners namely Samarthan Centre for Development Support, Sehore and Bhopal and South Orissa Voluntary Organization (SOVA), Koraput and Seba Jagat, Kalahandi with program support from Voluntary Service Organization (VSO) India fronted the program in collaboration with respective District administrations. The program was technically supported by Tangere Infotech. Tangere is now leading the Samaadhaan initiative through partnerships with various interested bodies.

 

Welcome to the Samaadhaan Blog

Hello! We are happy to announce that the Samaadhaan Blog is up and running from today. I am Pankaj and I would like to share stories from Samaadhaan, an initiative towards achieving better governance in the world through technology. This will be a journal full of our stories; stories that inspire us, experiences, reflections and learnings written by friends of Samaadhaan. We would love it if you share with us your views and inputs and join us in this journey of hope and passion.

Samaadhaan acts as an interface between the government and citizens through technology. The technology aims for flawless governance through participation. We make use of popular and existing communication methods like SMS, Social Networking sites, so that people belonging to remote locations and limited literacy can effectively voice their concerns through this citizen feedback  system.

Governance - I view it as a set of collaborative efforts from different stakeholders- the government, citizens, civil society and the political system . An engaged participation from all stakeholders  leads to greater accountability,  intelligent  decision making and superior governance. Our work in 3 districts in India and for Education department in  Mozambique confirms the assumption that technology can be a great enabler for making all of them work together. So far, we have positively impacted the education, public health, employment and agriculture sectors.

In our continuous effort to improve Samaadhaan, we welcome your feedback, thoughts and questions. Please leave a message to us on the blog or feel free to write to me at: pankaj@tangere.in.


About Samaadhaan: Samaadhaan started it’s journey as a citizen feedback initiative led by United Nations Millenium campaign with support of UNDP. Civil society partners namely Samarthan Centre for Development Support, Sehore and Bhopal and South Orissa Voluntary Organization (SOVA), Koraput and Seba Jagat, Kalahandi with program support from Voluntary Service Organization (VSO) India fronted the program in collaboration with respective District administrations. The program was technically supported by Tangere Infotech. Tangere is now leading the Samaadhaan initiative through partnerships with various interested bodies.