| 4. In which ways is the initiative creative and innovative?
In view of the initiative being unique, the key development steps mainly related to the design aspects and can be summed up as under:
• Given the huge number of schools from where data was desired to be captured on daily basis, the first major step was zeroing-in on a suitable and viable technology for the System.
• Secondly and largely attendant to the first was arriving at a solution wherein the sender of data i.e. the teacher in this case need not spend a single penny so that the focus remained on monitoring of the Scheme instead of reimbursing the expenses incurred by the teachers for giving data. This was necessary to ensure meaningful participation of lakhs of teachers in the initiative.
• Also significant in this regard was focus on ‘pull’ rather than ‘push’ method of data capturing so that data is captured from maximum teachers and it was not left to their will to send it on their own.
• Further, this had to be done within the given timeframe after the meals are served and before the school is closed for the day.
• Bridging gaps in traditional monitor system necessitated attention to carefully designing necessary MIS and exception reporting structure and alerts etc.
Key implementation steps were:
• Foremost implementation step was selling the idea to the teachers and making them own it. All the teachers unions were consulted so as to convince the teachers about the benefits of the System by way of demo etc.
• Other such steps were codification of all the schools, trainers-training, preparation, design and printing of about six lac operational manual and its distribution before onsite demo, onsite/ on-line demo/teachers’ training in about 900 blocks and town areas of the State, collection of teachers’ personal phone numbers.
• The feedback given by the teachers was accounted for in the development of the system. Thus, the acceptance and user-friendliness played crucial role in the search for a system that could fit in terms of requirement, design and viable technology.
• Development of the data-base and purging it, devising mechanism of call system and call escalation, on-line verification of the mobile numbers of almost 4.5 lac teachers, devising mechanism of updating of database in case of change of teachers’ place of posting or mobile numbers, establishing call-centre for personalized attention to teachers query etc have been other major landmarks.
• It has also been ensured that at the end of the month, the data keyed-in by the teachers is verified in black and white by them.
The system of submission of data by the teachers and auto generated real-time MIS has transpired a wave of change in implementation of the Scheme at the field level. Real-time online monitoring is now done by about 900 Block Education Officers, 75 District Basic Education Officers/ District Magistrates (DMs) and their Commissioners and State level officers. Improvement in the speed and quality of the service delivery is the resultant outcome since the number of such schools where meal was earlier not served is coming down substantially.
• Vision document prepared and submitted on Jul’07,
• Project launched on Mar 31, 2010,
• System developed and tested within two months of the launch date and stabilized within six months.
• System started capturing real time data since June’10
• Government of U.P. replicated DMS for monitoring nutritional support programme under ICDS (Integrated Child Development Services) since Sep’11.
• In view of Government of India’s decision to replicate this System for monitoring MDM in the whole country, bids invited by GOI in 2013 and evaluation of bids under process as of now.
| 5. Who implemented the initiative and what is the size of the population affected by this initiative?
The vision of the initiative was conceived by Mr Sudhanshu Tripathi, Finance Controller in the MDM Authority, U.P. Mr. Tripathi submitted a concept paper way back in 2007 in which he conceived an SMS based information flow on real-time basis from all the schools wherein SMS of number of children availing MDM would be sent by the school teachers daily on a central server and a web-based MIS for daily reporting would be generated.
The concept so visualized by Mr. Tripathi got an impetus in Dec’09 when Mr Amod Kumar joined MDMA as its Director and the technology of cloud telephony and IVRS was zeroed-in on account of the problems of language, user-friendliness, cost, modifications etc in the SMS based solution. Since toll-free SMS was not possible across all networks; so also the SMS based solution was found to be unable to ensure that it does not cost anything to teachers for giving information. Mr. Kumar led the project from the front and implemented it successfully sine June’10.
The system has been working very efficiently since then and monitoring of the implementation of the MDM scheme has become effective, resulting into substantial reduction in number of schools where meals are not served vis-à-vis the earlier scenario. Mr Tripathi continues to be the nodal officer for the project which has won many accolades from Government of India (National e-Governance Gold Award) and many private forums viz. NASSCOM, UNICEF, Vodafone, ASSOCHAM, IAMAI, DEF and Yahoo.
The other stakeholders of the initiative viz. the divisional/district officers and teachers unions were also consulted before launch of the system. They wholeheartedly supported the initiative sine the system gave the teachers a tool to directly communicate with the higher echelons in the decision-making without any intermediary level and thus be able to give truthful information immediately.
| 6. How was the strategy implemented and what resources were mobilized?
The initiative has been completely outsourced to an IT agency of the Government of Uttar Pradesh. No investment by the client has been made for hardware, software, training etc. Training, mobile no. collection, updation, call center, publicity was also the responsibility of the vendor. The basis of costing is receipt of data irrespective of the numbers of calls made to get that data. For development, implementation and operation of the system for first six months, payment was provisioned at Rs 1.80/ data/ school/ day. The rate of payment after that is Rs 1.20/ data/ school/ day. Thus the value of the contract for first six months was about Rs. 300.00 lac and about Rs 382.00 lac per year after that depending on the actual number of data received.
As MDMS is a Government of India assisted scheme, the financial resources for the initiative were mobilized out of the management and monitoring funds received from the Govt of India. As regards the human resources, the outsourced agency has technology partners associated with it for professional and technical support. As regards the technical resources, SIP model of service delivery (Software as a Service – SaaS, Infrastructure as a Service – IaaS and Platform as a Service – PaaS) has been used by the vendor.
With the help of the DMS, the gaps apparent in the traditional system of information flow have been bridged and monitoring of the mid day meal scheme did not remain an objective-out-there to be attained; it has, rather, become embedded in the process of data received through the system. The initiative has been helpful in stablising the process wherein the speed and transparency of data have been instrumental in efficient and effective governance and improvement in speed and quality of the service delivery is the resultant outcome. The key features of the initiative can be summed up as under:
• Data collection and MIS/ DSS available on real time basis; real time performance evaluation
• Direct & instant info mechanism from grass-root to the State without intermediate levels
• Creation of a media for the apex level to directly reach school functionaries
• Identification of problem areas immediately
• Objective info available for immediate corrective measures/ policy decisions
• Transparency & neatness of data resulting into truthful information
• Data ‘pull’ vis-à-vis data ‘push’ methodology; User of Information controlling the info-flow instead of sender
• Teacher not to spend a single paisa
• Exception report based monitoring vis-à-vis random selection based
• Instant info leading to check on distortion/ fudging of data
• No need for any mobile phones to be given to teachers
• Completely outsourced
• Govt of India can directly monitor without any reports from State Govt.
• ICT based social audit since the plan to call up/ involve School Management Committee with non-official as its head is to be rolled-out soon
• Simple, feasible, scalable, cost-effective
• Easy to replicate for monitoring huge government programmes.
| 7. Who were the stakeholders involved in the design of the initiative and in its implementation?
• Much improved control and implementation of the Mid Day Meal Scheme; Substantial reduction in number of schools not serving meals to about 3 to 4 % in Oct-Nov’13 vis-à-vis about 30 % in Jun-Jul 2010.
• Various analytics/ inferences on efficiency/ efficacy of MDM implementation available on the portal 24x7 for information and remedial action. The district level authorities have a system in place now which is helping them base their decision on realistic data instead of vague reports.
• Instant and direct communication possible with the school teacher for knowing the reasons if meal was not served in his/ her school. District/State authorities responsible for monitoring are able to get the real time data and take corrective measures so that meal is cooked in schools where it was not so. Teachers too are a happy lot since they fulfill their responsibility of informing the higher ups through this system in case meal was not cooked – information which was otherwise likely to be curbed before launch of this system if the number of such schools in a block or district was sufficiently large. The teachers also feel assimilated in the process of governance since their information is directly accessed by the highest levels of the decision makers in the Government
• Transparency & neatness of data resulting into truthful information; Instant info leading to check on distortion/ manipulation of data; Elimination / reduction in Leakages; the System has checked fudging of data and has thus enhanced efficiency and efficacy of implementation of MDMS in the State.
• Sanitised and authentic data for policy inputs. Data on enrolment and total meals served to be used for planning of Mid Day Meal implementation. GOI now approves Annual Work Plan on account of the system generated data.
| 8. What were the most successful outputs and why was the initiative effective?
As regards significant change in process that has led to efficiency improvement in terms of time or cost for citizens or agency, improve agency efficiency, facility for Audit Trails etc, the System has helped the teachers give information instantly to the District and upto the State level. For successfully monitor the implementation of the strategy, the District level authorities responsible for monitoring of the Scheme were instructed by the MDM Authority for regularly using the online system and do inspections based on exception reports generated out of the system. Logins of district and block personnel were monitored at State level in the monthly meetings and those not logging-in regularly were taken to task. Apart from the system itself, letters from the apex level were sent to non-performing districts on daily basis for reminding them of the daily status of their schools and for initiating corrective actions. Also the progress of the scheme through the new system was reviewed by the Principal Secretary of the department on monthly basis and surprise teams were deputed for same day verification of data keyed-in by the teachers. The Chief Secretary of the State also reviewed the progress of the system in the governing body meetings of the MDM Authority.
The initiative has won many accolades after going through the rigorous process of jury evaluation. The evaluation of the implementation of the initiative by such jury and institutions testifies to the success and performance of the initiative. Such awards and recognitions received by the DMS are:
1. The National e-governance Gold Award for innovative use of technology by Government of India in 2012
2. NASSCOM Social Innovation Honours and UNICEF recognition for ‘Innovation for Children’ in 2013
3. ASSOCHAM (Association of Chamber of Commerce and Industries in India) award for Excellence in Education in 2013
4. Manthan Award South Asia and Asia Pacific 2013 for e-governance 2012 by Digital Empowerment Foundation and World Summit Awards under the auspices of Information Technology Department, Government of India
5. India Digital Awards by IAMAI (Internet and Mobile Association of India) in 2012
6. mBillionth Award South Asia for m-governance in 2011 by Digital Empowerment Foundation under the auspices of Information Technology Department, Government of India
7. Vodafone Special Recognition for Mobile for Good in 2011.
8. Yahoo! Gold Standard Award for Internet for Good 2013 shortlisted the initiative.
| 9. What were the main obstacles encountered and how were they overcome?
The major obstacle in developing a fully computersied MIS based on daily data collection from village level was the level of computerization in rural India. The telecom revolution in India and ensuing mobile telecom connectivity available in almost all remote areas, however, brought in an opportunity which could well be used for data collection. Other obstacles can be put as under:
• Dependence of the receiver of the info on the sender - overcome by data 'pull' methodology (vs. data 'push') used in the IVRS based DMS
• Mammoth size of the State of U.P and huge no of schools (1.60 schools) posed a problem of covering all such schools by calls during one day – overcome by design wherein Outbound Dialing Solution (OBD) using PRI (Primary rate interface) lines was devised to send multiple calls simultaneously.
• No previous model available – overcome by various brainstorming sessions with stakeholders, techno groups etc regarding design and implementation aspects.
• Implementation of such a system implied traversing unknown territory due to the risks involved – overcome by completely outsourcing the system.
• How to ensure that teachers would own the system! - overcome by way of consulting all the major teachers unions and incorporating their suggestions in the system. Also, a Government Order was issued by the State Govt. making it mandatory for the teachers to give data through the DMS.
• Initial discomfort of the districts with the information received through the DMS was an obstacle since the number of schools not serving meals was relatively high. Sheer prowess of the DMS in giving different useful exception reports and its utility in taking pin-pointed corrective measures in problem areas gradually convinced the stakeholders about the beauty and utility of the DMS for effectively monitoring any such programme on daily/ real time basis.