The Government of India (GoI) is a behemoth. ~400,000 employees across 90 Departments serve a country of 1.2 billion people. In addition to legislation, GoI runs some of the world’s largest programs and services. For example, the Public Distribution System is the world’s largest food distribution system serving 180 million families across 29 states . The Indian Railways transports 23 million passengers (equivalent to the population of Australia) every single day .
Given this level of complexity, technology has been a game-changer for all Government-related services, transactions, and interactions, becoming a defining component in how the organization operates and creates value for its customers.
There have been two distinct themes of change in how GoI has begun using technology today.
Leveraging Big Data to make smarter decisions
Digitization of Government services has led to the availability of a vast amount of data to Ministers and officials. Some Ministries use live implementation data of Government programs to make smarter decisions and prioritize reforms. Other Ministries develop detailed data-backed dashboards to share their progress and increase accountability. Three illustrative examples are:
1. The Ministry of Power runs a dashboard that tracks its implementation of rural electrification – a program designed to bring electricity to 20,000 villages across India. The dashboard is now shared publicly to hold the Ministry accountable for its customer promise .
Exhibit 1: Ministry of Power Rural Electrification dashboard
2. Ministries are crunching data from 1 million+ complaints from citizens to understand what customers around the country are thinking about their services . For example, GoI can now automatically see that 45% of Railways customer complaints are about delayed refunds and 90% of these complaints are concentrated in 3 states. This is powerful, specific information that officials can now use to target reforms.
3. The Ministry of Commerce now tracks exports and imports live . Information like annual commodity imports by port and exporting country is now instantly available on the dashboard. Such a data request would typically have taken a few hours in the past.
Exhibit 2: Ministry of Commerce dashboard – Imports from the US in FY16
Using Technology to deliver services effectively and efficiently
In addition to using data, GoI uses technology to deliver better public services . In many ways, GoI is one of the world’s largest services companies – its objective is to create great customer experiences at low cost. There are numerous examples, but two significant ones are:
- Direct Benefit Transfers: The advent of Financial Technology is creating a paradigm shift for Government services. Over the last decade, GoI developed Aadhaar – the world’s largest digital authentication program (like the SSN). Now, GoI is linking Aadhaar to bank accounts, to be able to transfer subsidies directly into the bank accounts of the 800mm citizens who access Government aid (like a Venmo for aid programs), removing leakages in the system. In addition, the move sets up a powerful “India Stack” that allows businesses to use the Aadhaar platform to perform digital transactions. The program (currently being rolled out) is expected to save the Government billions of dollars.
Exhibit 3: Aadhar and India Stack – digital authentication 
2. Mobile One: The Bangalore Government developed a mobile app that integrates 4,000+ services onto a handset-agnostic portal. The services range from utility bill payments, income and property tax payment and healthcare. Since its launch in 2014, the app has been downloaded 200,000 times and has replaced numerous physical Government touch points for the average citizen .
That said, the Government can still do more. Some ideas are:
1. Building strong in-house capability: GoI can leverage technology better by hiring high-quality talent, similar to what the United States is doing. The US has a Chief Technology Officer reporting to the President . The US also has a Presidential Innovation Fellowship, where talented young technologists build technology products for Government .
2. Engage the larger technology community better: GoI needs to review its procurement protocols to make it simpler for officials to work with startups and tech firms operating at the cutting edge. In addition, sharing large data-sets with the larger tech community through Hackathons and better Open Data portals  will also jumpstart public data usage.
3. Ensure availability of data: Most of these solutions are only possible if high quality data is available. GoI must consciously ensure data is being captured at every stage in all new programs to ensure such products can be built.
Over the next decade, Indian citizens will be able to access even more Government services from their phones, with none of the pain that one typically associates with the public sector. A vast network of middlemen profiting from leakages in public programs will lose their role in the economy. Aid programs will become more efficient and cost-effective. And the foundation of all this change will be built on Technology.
 “Functioning of the Public Distribution System”, PRS India, 2013 http://www.prsindia.org/administrator/uploads/general/1388728622~~TPDS%20Thematic%20Note.pdf
 “18 interesting facts about Indian Railways”, Business Standard, 2015 http://www.business-standard.com/article/beyond-business/18-interesting-facts-about-india-railways-business-standard-news-115021600404_1.html
 GARV Dashboard, Govt. of India http://garv.gov.in/dashboard
 “How Ministries are using suggestions from a PMO prompted study to address citizen grievances”, Economic Times, 2016 http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics-and-nation/how-ministries-are-using-suggestions-from-pmo-prompted-study-to-address-citizen-grievances/articleshow/52695909.cms?from=mdr
 Commerce EXIM Dashboard, Govt. of India http://dashboard-commerce.gov.in/
 “The Bedrock of a Digital India”, Sasi Desai, 2016 https://medium.com/wharton-fintech/the-bedrock-of-a-digital-india-3e96240b3718#.djn94hc44
 “Mobile One eliminates hassle of having to endure long wait for services”, Times of India, 2016 http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/bengaluru/From-farmers-to-techies-Mobile-One-eliminates-hassle-of-having-to-endure-long-wait-for-services/articleshow/55299522.cms
 “Unleashing Government’s Innovation Mojo”, McKinsey & Company, 2012 http://www.mckinsey.com/industries/public-sector/our-insights/unleashing-governments-innovation-mojo-an-interview-with-the-us-chief-technology-officer
 Presidential Innovation Fellows, The White House https://www.whitehouse.gov/innovationfellows
 Open Data Portal, Govt. of India https://data.gov.in/