Arun Mishra (left) speaks at Centre for Policy Research Dialogues 2020 | Photo: Samyak Pandey | ThePrint
Arun Mishra (left) speaks at Centre for Policy Research Dialogues 2020 | Photo: Samyak Pandey | ThePrint
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New Delhi: The increasing concern over the deployment of technology in delivering welfare schemes to the beneficiaries can only be addressed by raising participation from the society, tech experts said at an event Monday.

On the sidelines of Centre for Policy Research Dialogues 2020 in New Delhi, the experts agreed over the need to make usage of technology in welfare schemes more collaborative with minimal government structure.

Arun Sharma, director, direct benefit transfer (DBT) mission, cabinet secretariat, Government of India, said, “There are still a lot of problems with technology intervention in welfare schemes as there is no database of the unique number of beneficiaries across the welfare schemes.”

Varad Pande, investment partner, Omidyar Network, Shrayana Bhattacharya, senior economist for social protection and jobs in World Bank (India), and Saurabh Garg, principal secretary, department of agriculture & farmers empowerment, Odisha were the other panellists.

‘Minimum government structure’

Seeking a minimal system in place, Pande, who has earlier worked with the rural development ministry, said, “(The) government should not build a monolithic structure but a minimal system with pipelines wherein everyone can including beneficiaries contribute.”

He added that this will have multiple advantages as the government will not have to build everything from scratch for every new welfare scheme.

Bhattacharya agreed with this. However, she expressed concern that India has almost 434 centralised DBT schemes as of now, apart from numerous other such welfare schemes at the state and panchayat level. In these schemes, usage of technology can only plug in leakage to an extent, but problems like the exclusion of potential beneficiaries need to be addressed differently.

“Effectiveness of technology can’t be devoid from the socio-politico environment wherein it’s designed, developed and deployed,” said Bhattacharya.

Internet connectivity still an issue

The experts agreed that though the usage of technology for implementation in welfare schemes have addressed many concerns, internet connectivity and its stability remains one of the major hurdles in the efficiency of DBT.

Arun Sharma said, “The only problem with the application of Jan Dhan and Aadhaar is that the mobile network is weak wherein the application of these schemes are focussed.”

Odisha civil servant Saurabh Garg then explained how the state has ushered in changes in the delivery of services and government works by ensuring a seamless network connection.

“At every point where the welfare scheme is implemented we have kept three options ready to ensure connectivity — which are optic fibre, mobile connectivity and dish-satellite internet connection,” he said.

Also read: Link Indian agriculture with global chains, liberalise agro-commodity markets: Experts is the digital partner for CPR Dialogues. Read this series of curtain-raiser articles ahead of the conference.

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