Seeking information under the Right to Information (RTI) Act is all set to get easier. Adding a “smart” layer to the process of applying for information, the Karnataka Government has decided to set up a business process outsourcing centre to handle all applications, enquiries, and even billing.
Streamlining the entire process through a website and a call centre, this project, which is pending Cabinet approval, will simplify the current application process where people are required to visit individual departments to procure information. The contract for the project, which will be executed through a public-private partnership, has been awarded to CMC Ltd., an IT solutions firm, which is a subsidiary of Tata Consultancy Services.
“The details of the project have been worked out. Once it is approved by the Cabinet, we hope to roll out the service in a few months,” said M.N. Vidyashankar, Principal Secretary, Department of e-Governance.
Karnataka will be the second State to implement such an initiative, following Bihar which introduced ‘Jankaari' in 2007. The project, which, in 2008-09, won the national e-governance award for “outstanding performance in citizen service delivery”, has been moderately successful and has managed to simplify the process of applying, experts say.
When Bihar implemented the project, activists hailed this as a significant step towards strengthening the RTI Act by making it accessible in rural areas. As Mr. Vidyashankar explains, for a person living in rural Karnataka, the cumbersome commute to the district headquarters or to the public information officer will replaced by a simple phone call once the project is implemented.
How it works
The process is simple. The company that handles the call centre will take calls, which include both applications and general enquiries on how to file an RTI application, or the status of your application. The call will be a premium one, where the cost of the RTI application will be charged on your phone bill. The Government will collect the bill, which can even include the cost of providing information depending on the materials requested, from the service provider.
Currently, top sources in CMC said, partnerships had been established with two telecom service providers, and more deals were in the pipeline.
Those who apply online could use credit cards to make payments, a CMC official said.
After the application is entered into the database, a token number is issued to the applicant for future reference. The application is then sent to the department concerned. All the other rules that apply to seeking information under the RTI Act remain unchanged. Follow-ups on application status and grievance redressal would also be done through this call centre, an official said.
Currently, the company plans to employ around 15 people to attend to calls for around 12 hours a day. “As a project that has tremendous social benefits, we are interested in also establishing a model that is replicable and scalable so it can be emulated across the country,” the official added.