SMC-Mobile App
Surat Municipal Corporation

A. Problem Analysis

 1. What was the problem before the implementation of the initiative?
Surat is a city with about 4.46 million population (census 2011) spread across 326 square kms. As per the estimates the current population might be over 5 million. It is the second largest city of Gujarat and eighth largest city of India in terms of population. The city is one of the fastest growing cities globally (4th fastest growing city as per City Mayor’s Foundation report). SMC has set up 18 city civic centers for providing various citizen centric services. The city civic centers set up by SMC have a high level of usage. There has been steady rise in the number of transactions carried out through these centers. The number of transactions increases substantially during the rebate period and billing period. During this period, citizens need to stand in queue to pay their dues. As a practice, the number of collection counters are increased during this period so as to handle the rush and reduce the transaction processing time. Despite of opening additional counters, the city civic center staff faced difficulty in handling this rush and they faced problems in meeting the expectations of the people. Moreover, the working hours of Municipal Corporation and that of business and working employee overlaps. At times this makes it difficult for citizen to visit city civic centers. To overcome above problem, it was required to offer an alternate service delivery channel which enable accessing services from any place at any time. Apart from above, citizens often look for various facilities like auditorium, community halls & party plots, fire & emergency service, libraries & reading rooms, swimming pools, Urban Health Centers & Maternity Homes, etc. At times, citizen may not be aware of one or more of such facilities. Moreover, they also need to have access to the contact details of nearest zone office, ward office and other officials (admin wing) and elected members. Citizen also need to register their complaints / grievances to the municipal corporation. It was necessary to equip citizens with means of easy availability of such information. Surat is situated on the banks of river Tapi. The city is prone to floods and had witnessed floods in 1998, 2002 and 2006. The flood takes place due to the high discharge from Ukai Dam and heavy inflow in the catchment area in between. Due to historic floods, the citizens used to get panicky during peak monsoon and hence it was required to communicate directly with the citizens regarding the actual information so as to prevent rumours and unnecessary anxiety.

B. Strategic Approach

 2. What was the solution?
SMC is keen to use IT tools for better service delivery. The number of people having smart phones has surpassed the number of people with desktops and laptops. Looking at this, SMC decided to leverage this emerging technology as an alternate channel of service delivery. Citizen’s Connect - SMC Mobile App was planned and launched to achieve the following objectives: • To take the existing m-governance initiative to the next level. • To offer the services of SMC on the go in a very easy and convenient manner. • To adapt and keep pace with emerging technology. • To reach to the maximum number of people by using various service delivery channels. • To offer the services at no extra charge. SMC Mobile App provides informative, interactive and transactional services on the go to the citizens. Following is offered through Citizen’s Connect – SMC Mobile App. 1) Property Tax o Check property details o Pay regular and advance tax o Register Mobile for alerts o Check Transaction Status 2) Profession Tax o Check registration details o Pay outstanding tax o Check Transaction Status 3) Water Meter o Check Water Connection Details o Pay outstanding bill o Check Transaction Status 4) Birth & Death Certificate o Check registration details o Gujarati & English o Get Certificate o Check Transaction Status 5) Shops & Establishment o Check registration details o License status 6) Complaint o Register a complaint o Check Complaint Status 7) Feedback o Share feedback related to various services 8) Online Forms o Download forms related to various municipal services 9) Citizen Facilities o Get details of facilities like Civic Center, Fire Station, Health Centers, Library, Reading Room, etc. 10) Elected Wing o Details Elected Wing members and various committees o Ward wise councillors 11) Admin Wing o Details of key officials of SMC o Name & Designation o Contact no. & email 12) Active Tenders o Get complete details of active tenders at SMC 13) Where Can I? o Find SMC facility o Nearest facility based on GPS/manual location o Direction on Google Map 14) Job Opportunity o Check active recruitment advertisements o Download detailed advertisement 15) Rainfall Details o Periodic info. on Ukai level, inflow, outflow, etc. o Cause status (open/close) o Critical alerts 16) Emergency Toolkit o Flash Light, Strobe Light o Emergency Alarm o “I am safe” button 17) About SMC App o Brief information about app and its features SMC Mobile App is another channel for service delivery. Earlier the citizens were required to visit the physical City Civic Center or Virtual City Civic Center for accessing information or services. Using Citizen’s Connect – SMC Mobile App, citizens now can access various useful and critical information services on the go from their smart devices. Host of services are now accessible through smart phone.

 3. How did the initiative solve the problem and improve people’s lives?
Mobile Communication has witnessed yet another revolution in past few years. The conventional handsets are rapidly being replaced with the smart phones with internet access. This has provided an opportunity to not only the private entities but also to the public entities to use this media as an alternate service delivery channel. Citizen’s Connect – SMC Mobile App enables the information and service delivery through smart phone. The service delivery is completely automated and electronic in nature and removes manual interventions of SMC employees. SMC is the first ULB in India to have its mobile app offering not only informative service but also interactive and transactional services. The services are offered free of cost. To cover maximum citizens under payment options, over 55 banks and 60 debit cards along with master & visa credit card are covered. Necessary technology interventions carried out to make sure the data in local language (Gujarati) is also visible across devices of different make and model. The services are integrated with SMS gateway for intimation to the user. The initiative / lead taken by Surat Municipal Corporation in offering comprehensive information and services through mobile app combined with various measures makes the initiative creative and innovative.

C. Execution and Implementation

 4. In which ways is the initiative creative and innovative?
SMC already has computerised systems in place for rendering various citizen centric services through city civic centers and online through Virtual Civic Center from its website. The architecture of Mobile app was designed in such a way that it is easy to integrate with SMC’s existing in-house applications. It uses the same database and business logic that physical city civic center uses. The Mobile App utilizes a specialized Service Oriented Object Protocol (SOAP) web service client library for constrained Java environments such as Mobile Devices, Applets or J2ME applications along with JavaScript Object Notation (JSON), an open standard format that uses human-readable text to transmit data objects consisting of attribute–value pairs. The Mobile App utilizes a specialized Service Oriented Object Protocol (SOAP) web service client library for constrained Java environments such as Mobile Devices, Applets or J2ME applications along with JavaScript Object Notation (JSON), an open standard format that uses human-readable text to transmit data objects consisting of attribute–value pairs. Other important factor identified was that of larger inclusion. This can be achieved only if the facility is available to all, irrespective of the bank or card they possess. To ensure maximum inclusion, SMC tied up with leading payment integrator offering maximum number of banks under net-banking facility, debit cards and master and visa credit cards. To make the service offering attractive, the mobile app is made available free of cost. Also no additional charges are levied for utilising mobile app. On the contrary, SMC took a policy decision wherein if the forms for various services are downloaded from SMC’s mobile app or website, the same are accepted at free of cost (form fee waved off). To increase user acceptability and faith in system, it is important to make sure that the user knows exact status of his/her transaction and does not remain in the dark. To achieve this, as soon as the transaction is completed through Mobile App, the status details from which citizens can view the pdf file of the payment receipt and certificate are displayed. An email along with pdf of receipt and/or certificate is sent for future reference. User is also notified by an SMS regarding failed or successful transaction status. For all section “Check Status” page is provided which enables checking the transaction status along with printing of receipt and/or certificate. Users can view the receipts/certificates online by providing Tenement No. along with either email ID or unique Transaction ID or unique Reference No. The Mobile Application was widely appreciated and downloaded by the citizens. It also helped provide accurate information to citizens during recent flood situations by providing water level details for river passing through the city and the nearby dam to the city. Necessary accounts were created to make the mobile app available from Google Play Store and Apple App Store.

 5. Who implemented the initiative and what is the size of the population affected by this initiative?
SMC is having various applications in place for the purpose of catering services through physical Civic Center, Virtual Civic Center and Information Kiosks. The Mobile App was designed in such a way that it seamlessly integrate with existing backend infrastructure. In-house development team is deployed with a view to carry out necessary development. Necessary inputs were obtained from the parent department for the respective services. The initiative was implemented under the leadership of the Municipal Commissioner of Surat Municipal Corporation and the Deputy Commissioner of SMC. The Corporation has a dedicated IT department which manages and implements all ICT based initiative and this is headed by an IT manager who is responsible for day to day monitoring of ICT initiatives. The mobile app was developed by an inhouse team of 3-4 members.
 6. How was the strategy implemented and what resources were mobilized?
The cost to manage and maintain the Mobile App is very minimal as the same is developed and managed in-house. The cost attached with making the mobile apple available in market place through Google Play Store and Apple App Store is also nominal. In the backend, the mobile application utilizes the same resources (like power, internet bandwidth, etc.) which are required and already available for running the corporation’s website. The IT department at the Surat Municipal Corporation has a dedicated team of 20-25 members who are responsible for technology implementation. The total expenditure on this team stands roughly at 15 lacs per month. While this is the monthly expenditure, the cost required to develop this app was much lesser than this as the IT team works on multiple projects simultaneously and the SMC app was one of them. The Entire project right from conception to final rollout was funded through SMC’s own budget without any external aid.

 7. Who were the stakeholders involved in the design of the initiative and in its implementation?
SMC Mobile App got a very good response from the citizen. So far over 60,000 download have taken place through Google Play Store and Apple App Store. Over 15 lakh hits are registered through Mobile App. Infact, even people who are not a resident of India have downloaded this app from across 15 countries. During the flood like situation in the month of September 2013 for three days, the mobile application was downloaded and accessed by number of citizens to receive the authentic and timely information regarding the rainfall and discharge from Ukai Dam. During this very short period, over 3 lakh hits were registered through Mobile App and the same was instrumental in preventing rumours and anxiety amongst the citizens. The SMC app has developed a sense of positivity about the administration of Surat Municipal Corporation and this has been widely publicized by the media thus increasing the acceptance of the app. With the help of mobile app, citizen can now register any complaints as soon as they get to know about it. Complaints from Mobile App now contribute around 20-25% of overall complaints to SMC from different sources. This indicates that Mobile App has been a handy tool to citizens. The availability of SMC Mobile App has empowered the citizens to access of critical information and services on the go – anywhere and anytime. Citizens are no longer depended on SMC staff or machinery to obtain information or services.

 8. What were the most successful outputs and why was the initiative effective?
The idea for the launch of the mobile app was conceptualized in May 2013 and it was decided to roll-out the same within shortest possible time. The team responsible for the development was identified and assigned the relevant responsibility. Activities like creating the account in the Google Play Store and Apple App Store were carried out in parallel. SMC app, being one of the most crucial and citizen centric initiatives, deserved attention of the highest authority and hence this was led effectively by the Civic Chief and his Deputy Commissioner. The IT department is quite efficient in its functioning and more than capable of rolling out such a solution by itself. The idea for this project came up in May 2013 and by August 2013, the mobile had already been rolled out. The project activities and progress were evaluated on a regular basis by the commissioner and necessary course corrections were incorporated. The mobile app was subjected to thorough testing to ensure that the user interface is friendly and delivers as expected. Additionally, an initiative such as this requires constant additions and enhancements which is performed continuously with inputs from the leaderships and suggestions from the IT department.

 9. What were the main obstacles encountered and how were they overcome?
Since the idea of development of Mobile App was new and not implemented by any government organisation, the first challenge was to finalize the operational framework for the mobile application. Maintaining the security of SMC’s existing applications while integrating the mobile app with it was essential. It was crucial to maintain the uniformity and sanctity of the data by avoiding duplication. A Web Service based architecture was developed to integrate Mobile App with SMC’s existing MS SQL based backend. The architecture preserves the existing systems by not writing directly. The backend mechanism is developed to sync the Mobile App data in near real time. Another challenge was to implement payment facility to enable payment of various taxes and generate certificates. At the time of implementation of SMC Mobile App, there were very few Apps in market place with mobile payment facility. It was a big challenge for the development team to provide the secure payment option to citizens. A WebView based architecture was adopted for the mobile payment facility to ensure the security using SSL and session-less use of pages. Challenge of updating application data: The comprehensive features provided in the mobile application would also require master data for each feature. In many cases, it was required to update the master data on periodic basis. It would not make sense to give updates through App stores for updating master data every time. Considering this, it was decided that a minimal framework at mobile app level would be developed and necessary data which requires frequent changes would be fetched from server at run time. Necessary care was taken to ensure that this data fetching does not incur additional load. Further, in case of major changes, necessary version control mechanism is developed at SMC level to prompt users to compulsorily update the mobile app for further usage.

D. Impact and Sustainability

 10. What were the key benefits resulting from this initiative?
Considering the high penetration of Smart Phones among the citizens, it makes sense to make SMC’s information accessible through mechanisms which are very popular among citizens. This initiative gave citizens freedom to access information and services on the go. The major benefits are highlighted as under: - Citizen empowerment. - Availability / access to information and service from anywhere at any time. - Reduced footprint to SMC service centers, helps in imparting quality service and also helpful in reallocating manpower for other activity. - Zero cost involved in obtaining services. Saving of travel cost involved in visiting SMC offices and saving of economically productive time. - On the spot registration of complaints enables early identification of problem and timely resolution. - Reduced paper work and reconciliation time due to electronic payment and automated payment realisation. - Critical information related to monsoon/flood helps prevent rumours and anxiety amongst citizens. The Mobile application services 44.61 lacs citizens of Surat city. Providing details regarding their property tax, user charges, water meter details using Mobile App helps citizens get information easily. By providing timely and authentic information about the Ukai Dam water level through the Mobile App, citizens are protected from rumors. The Citizens can also register complaints regarding various services of Municipal Corporation. There are more than 15 lacs properties in Surat City, the Mobile App can be helpful to these property owners to know details of the properties as well as they can make payment of advance or outstanding amount for property tax and user charges. There are more than 2 lacs Professional Tax registrations and 2 lacs Shops & Establishments in Surat city. The Mobile App can be useful to them for payment of their Professional Tax and to check the status of their Shop Licenses. Every year more than 75,000 birth registrations and 20,000 death registrations takes places in Surat and more than 2.8 lacs Birth and Death Certificates are issued every year. The Mobile App is useful to check the details of birth/death registrations and citizens can also get the copy of certificate through mobile app. Details of various active tenders and active recruitment advertisements is useful to people not only from Surat but from any part of the country/world.

 11. Did the initiative improve integrity and/or accountability in public service? (If applicable)
FINANCIAL SUSTAINABILITY The cost to manage and maintain the Mobile App is very minimal as the same is developed and managed in-house. The cost attached with making available in mobile apple available in market place through Google Play Store and Apple App Store is also nominal. In the backend, the mobile application utilizes the same resources (like power, internet bandwidth, etc.) which are required and already available for running the corporation’s website. Considering all these aspects operations and maintenance of the mobile app is cost effective and the initiative is financially sustainable. TECHNICAL SUSTAINABILITY The development platforms for mobile application are well defined and robust in nature. The future upgrades of SMC app will be available at free of cost from the google and apple mobile app market place. In the backend, there is a common architecture for supporting different mobile application platforms like android and iOS which makes them easier to manage and it is also scalable in nature so that additional services can be easily incorporated. ENVIRONMENTAL SUSTAINABILITY Due to Mobile App, people can access the services regardless of their location. They need not travel to SMC offices. In a larger context, the reduced footprints leads to reduced fuel consumption and reduced pollution. SOCIAL AND CULTURAL SUSTAINABILITY The easy user interface and local language support ensures that any person can use the mobile application easily. The mobile app is available for download at free of cost. The reduced price of smart phone and internet services makes the mobile app accessible to a large section of society. Also the use of smart phone is not limited to youth but it is now being used by people of other age groups as well. REPLICABILITY The initiative taken by Surat Municipal Corporation relies on the strong backend infrastructure and application. It has been very useful and handy tool for the citizens. The initiative has been widely appreciated by citizens and media. SMC Mobile App has been taken note of at Gujarat State level and directions were issued to other municipal corporations to develop similar application. Based on SMC’s Mobile App, other municipal corporation of the Gujarat State i.e. Rajkot Municipal Corporation and Vadodara Municipal Corporation has launched their apps on similar lines.

 12. Were special measures put in place to ensure that the initiative benefits women and girls and improves the situation of the poorest and most vulnerable? (If applicable)
The goals defined for the mobile application under its first phase have been achieved. The mobile application got a very good response. As per the priority defined, the application was first launched for only Android based smart phones and later for iOS based devices. But immediately after the launch of android based app, lot of feedbacks were received to make it available for iOS. SMC took a quick call and expedited the development process for iOS as well. In the second update of the Mobile App, the features to make payment for property tax, profession tax, water meter bill and obtaining birth certificate and death certificate were incorporated apart from other features. SMC is geared up to enrich and enhance the existing mobile app with a view to take it to the next level. The following features are planned to be incorporated in the future: • Complaint Registration o Facility to upload geotagged image for citizen • Citizen Dashboard o Registration of various Properties, Profession Tax No., Shops & Est. Reg., complaints, etc. o Summarized view of above on dashboard. o Enable citizen to review status / outstanding for above. • Heritage Walk o Walk through the heritage precincts of the city o Integration with IVRS based audio guide • Employee Corner o Check & manage complaints o My Leaves o SMC Calendar o MIS reports All these successful initiatives are simple in concept, based on tested technology, have high penetration and popularity among citizens, are of immediate and lasting individual and public benefit, are low cost, easy to access and replicable. The implementation of these initiatives offers satisfaction both to organization and citizens far greater than the effort and cost expended.

Contact Information

Institution Name:   Surat Municipal Corporation
Institution Type:   Government Agency  
Contact Person:   Devang Patel
Title:   IT Manager  
Telephone/ Fax:   +91-0261-2423751
Institution's / Project's Website:  
E-mail:   itman@suratmunicipal.org  
Address:   Surat Municipal Corporation, Muglisara, Main Road
Postal Code:   395003
City:   Surat
State/Province:   Gujarat
Country:  

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