According to Gartner, Government-Tech is $ 400 billion market globally and is slowly getting attention of the governments, new age startups and venture capitalist for bringing efficiency and transparency into the age-old problems. Legacy systems, paper-based processes, and outdated technology are a matter of concern and are disarming for governments and citizens alike. In a connected world the manner in which the citizens want to deal with government and the public sector is changing.
Government-Tech has the potential to disrupt the service delivery system of government and public sector to its citizens, transform how government and public sector organisations deliver the outcome and is an opportunity to provide better and faster services at reduced costs.
Government-Tech in India
In India, Government-Tech is at a very nascent stage and even though it is considered as one of the toughest sectors, there are few risk taking startups envisioning to bring change into Government-Tech space in India for its far-reaching impacts. Government-Tech can be seen as solution to the muti-layered problem existing in the government and public sector like obsolete technology coming from lengthy procurement processes, slow delivery due to bureaucracy in addition to old technology, lack of information about processes, non-transparent systems leading to inadequate or no information about the status of the work.
Government-Tech startups in every space are intervening to solve such problems. For example, Oizom Instruments solution “Polludrone”, a solar powered IoT Air-Quality monitor is a low cost, compact, eco-friendly and scalable solution for the problem of increasing commercialization, industrialization and pollution in every urban space. Easysoft, another start-up, is developing an integrated solution comprising of the Smart Grid functional specifications with an aim to innovate new functionalities using Business Intelligence & Analytics and contribute towards the evolution of Smart Grid space in India.
Challenges Faced by Government-Tech Start-Ups in India
In India, the problems are rooted in the procurement process of the government and bureaucratic mind set. Technology is changing at a very fast pace and government procurement processes take an average of 2-3 years due to bureaucracy and slow decision making resulting in procurement of outdated technology. In some cases, preferance is given to a few companies, RFP or tenders are designed in such way that other companies cannot compete even if they offer better and more efficient solutions. Consultants driven solutions are considered by the government only due to unavailability of in-house expertise, to appear neutral and avoid vigilance.
While technology continues to evolve, untrained and unskilled workforce in the government/public sector result in firstly, sub optimal solutions, as consultants have no practical exposure to the actual problem and secondly consultants colluding with technology companies push for a specific solution and not the best one. Even after technology upgrades, staff remains untrained compromising the expected overall efficiency.
Recommendations and Need for Government Support
Government-Tech start-ups can help improve the way that the public sector operates and delivers to its citizens and meets its demand. Singapore is a very good example of government and Government-Tech working together to bring about improved service delivery to its citizens by leveraging data collected from millions of smart sensors and devices across Singapore for analysis and insights on how to improve a wide range of civil services. Singapore is winning by successfully including all key players and doing away with archaic systems and processes, the results being very impressive. Singaporeans now enjoy access to personalised health records, are able to declare and pay tax on imported goods, build online communities of first responders to medical emergencies, report crime and municipal issues directly to relevant authorities in minutes or pay for city parking – from their mobile devices. Shared initiatives between the two sectors have resulted in digital infrastructure projects getting off the ground faster to delivery of high value services to the end users.
At home, recently Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that government has eased Public procurement norms, however no such guidelines have been issued. In absence of clear policy guidelines the various government department are hesitant to take any initiative to avoid the vigilance trap.
While different state governments have started speaking of involving startups in different areas of problem, actual action has yet to be initiated. To overcome hurdles in the system and achieve better efficiencies, the government needs to team up with Government-Tech startups to develop India focussed and problem specific solutions. Government has to come forward and embrace the startups by easing the norms for them to do business with the government and improve access to funding to exploit the full potential of the Government-Tech start-ups and lead the way for a better future for the country and its citizens.