Creating Public Services 4.0: Sustainable Digital Architecture for Public Services in India

Published date01 September 2020
Date01 September 2020
Subject MatterArticles
Creating Public
Services 4.0: Sustainable
Digital Architecture for
Public Services in India
Charru Malhotra1, Rashmi Anand1
and Vivek Soni2
Public Service Delivery (PSD), a basic responsibility of any democratic nation,
is understood as the equitable, transparent and efficient deliverance of various
public goods and services to its citizens. Prudent application of digital technolo-
gies, particularly Emerging Technologies (ETs) and associated software applica-
tions, can serve as a valuable tool to catalyse governance towards Sustainable
Development Goals (SDGs). While adhering to the principles of good govern-
ance. In view of this, the present study is an attempt to first elucidate some global
best practices of ETs such as Artificial Intelligence, blockchain, robotic process
automation, Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality to articulate the objectives of
similar technology application in inspirational terms for PSD in India. Second, it
summarises the challenges about the utilisation and exploitation of such techno-
logy implementations in the context of developing countries such as India. Based
on learnings emanating from these two objectives, the study establishes that a
refurbished approach towards digital governance is the need of the hour. This
new approach must be citizen-centric, innovative and citizen-inclusive, as the
literature affirms that civic participation is a prerequisite while deploying digital
technologies. This inspires the authors to propose a model that is co-created
with citizens to address the contextual needs and aspirations of citizenry. The
successful implementation of the proposed model insists on the presence of a
flexible and responsive legal and regulatory system too. The present study may
be useful for public administrators and policy makers in understanding the Indian
character of using and creating a sustainable digital architecture for PSD that
Indian Journal of Public
66(3) 327–342, 2020
© 2020 IIPA
Reprints and permissions:
DOI: 10.1177/0019556120957421
1 Indian Institute of Public Administration, New Delhi, Delhi, India.
2 Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan’s Usha and Lakshmi Mittal Institute of Management, New Delhi, Delhi, India.
Corresponding author:
Charru Malhotra, Indian Institute of Public Administration, Indraprastha Estate, Ring Road, Mahatma
Gandhi Marg, New Delhi, Delhi 110002, India.
328 Indian Journal of Public Administration 66(3)
would go a long way in revamping Public Services 4.0 under the ambit of newer
Government 4.0 to achieve SDGs by 2030.
Public Service Delivery, Digital Technologies, Emerging Technologies, Sustainable
Development Goals (SDGs)
India has been using the traditional service delivery approach since the pre-
Independence days. Citizens as the ultimate beneficiaries of services play a central
role and have always beseeched quality and social equity from the Public Service
Delivery (PSD) ecosystem. PSD as a concept also has an insistence about measuring
its performance through recurring accountability (Almqvist et al., 2013). However,
this has not been always easy, especially since developing and diversified countries
such as India face many forms of deviations that might weaken accountability
processes or even demean it to be redundant. To overcome it, digital technologies
have been utilised as tools by several democratic countries to achieve accountability
in PSD. In India, too, there is an urgent need to replace the traditional arrangement
for newer and more appropriate digital paradigm that might ensure accountability
and equitability. The present article is an academic endeavour in this direction.
Select Literature and Existing Models
Governments have started encouraging reforms and innovations by liberally adopt-
ing digital technologies in the governance realm (Magno & Serafica, 2001).
Several attempts have been made to relook at the PSD ecosystem. For instance, the
ETVX model (ATIWB, n.d.) provides ‘E’ntry criteria, which must be satisfied
before a set of PSD tasks can be performed, insists on the set of ‘T’asks to be per-
formed, followed by the ‘V’erification and validation process to ensure that the
tasks have been performed correctly, followed by the e’X’it criteria or the outputs
of the tasks. The ETVX model also maps various PSD actors as ‘prime’ and ‘sup-
porting’ actors and clearly delineates their respective functions, viz. delegation,
finance, performance, information about performance and enforceability in the
PSD ecosystem. It further insists that the expectations of the prime actor (citizens/
clients) should ideally set the threshold accountability values for the successful
execution of the public service. Such an approach is called the ‘citizen-centric’
approach. This approach asserts that it is not the services, products, service provid-
ers or technology, but the ‘citizens’ who must be at the centre stage of the ecosys-
tem and its strategies (Fors & Moreno, 2002). Malhotra (2015) builds on it to put
forth that citizen-centricity is ideally possible only through active involvement of
the citizens. The collective heading for these theories is the ‘bottom-up approach’.
This increasing collaborative engagement of all its stakeholders, especially citi-
zens, on public issues of concern has ushered in a new non-hierarchal model of
governance, being generally referred to, in the literature, as ‘governance network’

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