New Delhi: Pawan Kumar is a happy man. He has just got his passport renewed using the mPassport Seva app. He says that it is easy to use, and has the facility to apply, pay and schedule an appointment. “You needn’t have access to a computer to apply for a passport now,” says Kumar.
The mPassport Seva is just one of the many apps that the government has launched to drive digital transformation and mobile governance in India.
Bharat Interface for Money (BHIM) is one such app that is aimed at making Indians go cashless. BHIM lets users make simple, easy and quick transactions using the Unified Payments Interface platform. It is available in 13 vernacular languages, is live on 111 banks and has clocked 43 million app downloads until April 2019. The number of transactions on the app was at 14.9 million in March 2019, while the total value of the transactions stood at ₹6,417 crore, according to National Payments Corporation of India data.
“BHIM took its cues from Paytm, focusing on ease of use. BHIM saw enormous numbers of downloads initially but usage hasn’t kept up, as bank apps and wallet apps such as Paytm have all incorporated UPI/QR code based payment,” said technology expert Prasanto K. Roy.
Another app aimed at making e-governance “mobile first” is UMANG (unified mobile application for new-age governance), which provides seamless integration with services such as Aadhaar, DigiLocker and PayGov. Any such new service will now automatically be integrated with the platform.
Kumar, who has also used UMANG extensively, says the biggest advantage is that only a single mobile app needs to be installed instead of apps of every department. These services can be availed on mobile phones, desktops, and laptops without visiting the department office. Then there is the MyGov app, which is the government’s citizen engagement platform, for direct participation in governance by providing an avenue for channelizing ideas, comments and creative suggestions to central ministries and associated organizations.
Many of these apps are useful. However, Roy feels that government apps have two issues. Many have a poor user interface and they keep reinventing the wheel. So, rather than using common frameworks, the government keeps creating new apps. Also, instead of adding features to a common app, there are different apps for reporting garbage or for a myriad other services or agencies. Roy suggests an app store for reuse of government apps or software. While there is a common app store, it does not have all the apps.
The government will do well to think through such issues so that using e-governance apps would translate into a more consistent citizen experience.