Platform for Citizen Engagement for Good Governance in India: A Case Study of MyGov.in

Platform for Citizen Engagement for Good Governance in India: A Case Study of MyGov.in

Abhishek Singh (MyGov, Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, India) and Anjali Kaushik (Management Development Institute, Gurgaon, India)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-2372-8.ch003

Abstract

Citizens are important stakeholders and play a critical role in advocating and enabling public institutions to become more transparent, accountable, and effective and suggest innovative solutions to complex development challenges. Citizen engagement is at the core of good governance. Mygov.in is a platform to engage citizens and get their input and suggestions for various government policies and plans in India. MyGov platform provides an opportunity to citizens across the world to engage directly with the government departments, policymakers, and implementers. MyGov is planned as the key platform for all citizen engagement needs of the country across various departments and ministries. The presence of such a digital platform in a democratic country reflects willingness on part of the government to share information and make citizens a partner in decision making. This chapter elaborates on the need, discusses the MyGov initiative, compares it to other such initiatives globally and highlights major issues and concerns in the citizen engagement process.
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Introduction

Governments across the world are using information and communication Technology (ICT) to enhance their internal and external operations and services (Anderson and Henriksen, 2006; Heeks, 1999). In this regard, e-government plays a critical role by transforming government services, improving their efficiency and effectiveness, providing more opportunities for citizen participation and eventually leading to better governance. Governance (UNDP, 1997) has been defined as “the process of decision-making and the process by which decisions are implemented (or not implemented)”. UNDP (1997) defines good governance by eight major characteristics viz. participation, consensus-orientation, accountability, transparency, effectiveness/efficiency, responsiveness, equity/inclusiveness, and rule of law. Citizen participation is at the core of good governance. Citizen participation has long been a subject of active discussions in political and administrative sciences. It is often defined as a citizen action that influences or seeks to influence policy decisions or as an action that incorporates the demands and values of citizens into public administration services (Florin and Wandersman, 1990). Rao (2004) has emphasized on the importance of grass root consultations prior to initiating projects in government. Researchers have elaborated on the importance of citizen engagement for strengthening the democratic processes (Lofstedt, 2017; Michel, 2005). With the advancements in ICT, citizen engagement is seen as an interactive two way process using digital platforms, which empowers exchange of ideas and flow of conversation between citizens (or interest groups) and state institutions. Jones et al., (2007) discuss the importance of citizen perspective as a critical success factor for e-government projects. Navarro et. al (2014) investigate the effect of technology knowledge and governance in empowering citizen engagement and participation and comment on its positive influence. Milakovich (2010), comments on the role of ICT in enhancing citizen participation in government. Research by Warren et. al. (2014) suggests that government institutions need to enhance their presence in social media and increase online civic engagement for building citizen trust.

The governments are seen to evolve through well-defined stages (Lee, 2010). E-Governance has been defined as the last stage of e-government development. In this stage, there is a two way communication between the government and the governed and citizens are able to get more involved in political and administrative decision making. Lee (2010) describes this as the ideal stage where the “processes of administrative and political services can be reconfigured almost real-time based on citizens' actual involvement in decision-makings of the government, actually utilizing the full capability of advanced information and communication technologies.”

Different countries have different models for Citizen Engagement. US (digitalgov.gov), UK (parliament.uk), Australia (my.gov.au), Singapore (reach.gov.sg) are government initiatives for consultation, collaboration and participation of citizens in decision making and policy implementation. Citizens across the world are now empowered with social media tools to make their government to listen to what they care about and to demand respect (Kirkpatrick, 2011). vTaiwan is a platform in Taiwan developed by volunteers. Here, the engagement process is usually started by government on specific questions. In the past the issues included electric vehicle regulation, decision on whether Uber should be allowed in the country and other issues of concern to citizens. The platform is intended to be transparent, inclusive and consensus oriented. Votes on vTaiwan are aggregated to show clusters of consensus which eventually can be acted upon. While there is evidence that governments are adopting social media for civic engagement, there is not enough work on how to promote citizens' online civic engagement and, more importantly, what practices can lead to greater citizen trust in institutions, including the government. It is with this backdrop that this chapter discusses some of the global frameworks and practices for citizen engagement. Specifically, it elaborates on the MyGov initiative which is a comprehensive platform for citizen engagement in India.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Big Data: It is an all-encompassing term for any collection of data sets so large and complex that it becomes difficult to process them using traditional data processing applications.

E-Democracy: It involves “electronic engagement” (“e-engagement”), engaging the public in the policy process via electronic networks; and “electronic consultation” (“e-consultation”). Processes and structures that encompass all forms of electronic communication between government and the citizen, such as information, voting, polling, or discussion, thereby enabling citizens to participate in the government’s policy making.

E-participation: Use of electronic means to encourage public participation in governmental decision making or government rule.

E-Governance: It means ‘electronic governance’ which has evolved as an information-age model of governance that seeks to realize processes and structures for harnessing the potentialities of ICT at various levels of government and the public sector and beyond for the purpose of enhancing good governance.

E-Government: Governments are specialized institutions that contribute to governance. It is the subset of e-governance that acts with authority and creates formal obligations.

Citizen Engagement: It is an interactive two-way process that encourages participation, exchange of ideas and flow of conversation between the citizens and the government. It reflects willingness on part of government to share information and make citizens a partner in decision making.

Governance: It means the processes and institutions, both formal and informal, that guide and restrain the collective activities of a group. Governance may be conducted by private firms, associations of firms, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and associations of NGOs in association with governmental bodies; sometimes without governmental authority.

Platform: It is a group of technologies that are used as a base upon which other applications, processes or technologies are developed. It is the basic hardware (computer) and software (operating system) on which software applications can be run. It is a building block, providing an essential function to a technological system—which acts as a foundation upon which other firms can develop complementary products, technologies or services.

Good Governance: It is defined by characteristics such as Accountability, Transparency, Legitimacy and voice (focus on participation and consensus orientation), strategic vision, Lack of arbitrariness, Ethics and Integrity, Equity (fairness and rule of law), Performance (focus on responsiveness, efficiency and effectiveness).

Social media: In recent times, social media has become synonymous with Social Networking sites such as Facebook or microblogging sites such as Twitter. However, very broadly social media can be defined as any web or mobile based platform that enables an individual or agency to communicate interactively and enables exchange of user generated content.

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