“Last Mile Access Study: Building offline architectures to enable better access to the state” is a report by Aapti Institute, in partnership with Omidyar Network India and eGovernments Foundation. It is the result of a 9-month study to examine barriers faced by underserved urban communities, in accessing municipal services through a digital platform.
The digital urban governance platform allows citizens to raise grievances online, and ward officials can keep track of complaints and address them systematically, collect property tax online, and even automate building plan approvals. But are the benefits of this system reaching everyone? The report digs into the last mile access barriers for underserved urban communities, based on field research across 3 states.
A significant contribution of this study is the surfacing of existing gaps in access owing to what is a clear digital divide, and alternative pathways adopted by marginalised citizens to reach the state. The report also captures the need to engage with community actors in the digital ecosystem, as a starting point for developing and leveraging robust offline architecture to keep humans at the centre of solution design. These findings can be further deployed to ensure that every Indian can reap the benefits of tech-enabled public service delivery.
Upon analysing the findings from the field and data, and observing the key gaps in access across the three states, the report provides a two-pronged approach to enhance adoption of digital solutions in the last mile, i.e., (i) intermediation by partnering with existing networks utilised by last-mile citizens to reach the state; and (ii) proactively driving adoption through data insights which have identified areas with pre-existing dispensation towards digital capacities.
Mr Ajoy Sharma IAS, CEO of the Punjab Municipal Infrastructure Development Company, released the report on 5 February 2021, and was part of an illuminating conversation with Ms Shilpa Kumar, Partner, Investments at Omidyar Network India. This was followed by a panel discussion with Dr Poornima Dore, Head, Data Driven Governance at Tata Trusts; Dr Paromita Sen, Research Manager, SEWA Bharat; and Mr Gautham Ravichander, Head, Policy Initiatives at the eGovernments Foundation. The segment was moderated by Bharath Visweswaraiah, Director, Investments at Omidyar Network India.