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Chennai Corporation becomes the first in India to adopt a dashboard to manage civic issues. Nidhi Adlakha finds out more

March 06, 2015 03:20 pm | Updated March 07, 2015 01:39 am IST

Wish to highlight civic issues or track the progress of maintenance work in your neighbourhood? In a few months’ time, all you will need to do is go online or use a mobile app. The city is going to get a digital dashboard, which uses technology similar to what’s used in the U.K., the U.S. and Europe with portals that are proactive in disclosure of public data.

Vikram Kapur, Commissioner, Corporation of Chennai (CoC), says the Chennai Data Portal and Dashboard project (CDP) is part of the e-governance project that’s been in use for the last three years. “The dashboard utilises ERP data to project real-time information. Currently, it is being used to monitor civic work, property tax payments and waste collection. In the next stage, it will be open to the public and will start functioning as a grievance redress system too.”

Nat Malupillai, CEO, E-governments Foundation, which works closely with the CoC, says ERP covers five areas — financial accounting, revenue, expenses, administrative efficiency and citizen services.

He says a solution that integrates data from different systems in real time, provides status of different activities, enables effective review of performance and takes corrective action, is necessary to help officials provide faster and better service to citizens. He says, “The CDP project is aimed at leveraging e-governance. The dashboard will give users a bird’s eye view of how the city is performing.

It will source data from the existing ERP, analyse it, and present highlights and concern areas to CoC executives in a concise and transparent manner. It is in the initial phase and once all the modules are completed, it will be made available to the public in a phased manner in the next 2-3 months.”

Satyarupa Sekar, Project Director, CDP, and Director, Government Outreach and Advisory Services, CAG, says the team has helped the CoC collect and analyse data on issues such as water stagnation, building violations in George Town, dog immunisation, bus shelters, footpaths, trees, medians and traffic islands on select roads. She says, “The portal will contain data sets compiled by different departments, zones and wards, covering a wide range of topics, from municipal infrastructure and services to health. It will be interactive and user-friendly, and contain geographic features that can be combined with other data.”

So what’s in it for residents? The data portal will be a central repository of data and information that can be accessed by all residents of the city as well as various agencies operating in Chennai.

Sekar adds, “Through the data portal decision makers will have data available at their fingertips, and will have easy access to data that previously required months to collect and format. The dashboard will allow them to view the data in ways that can reveal insights on critical issues and enable them to take decisions on a department and city-wide level.”

Residents will be able to log in to the dashboard and track issues in their locality. The dashboard will map the city’s wards on various parameters.

For instance, in the property tax segment, each ward’s map will reflect the number of properties; overall tax collected and will highlight tax defaulters as well. “The dashboard will bring in transparency and accountability to the entire system. Feedback is important and the suggestions section of the dashboard will take into account responses from the public,” says Kapur.

An official working with the project, says, “The dashboard should be part of a long-term strategy to make the CoC and residents tech savvy. We have all kinds of data available but analysing the information and making it available to the public in an easy, visual format is important. Citizens can track issues such as scheduled power cuts, road diversions and ongoing maintenance work. Based on these issues, mobile applications can be developed to target specific problem areas and will assist in policy making. For instance, a mobile app to map public toilets is being developed and users can rate them.”

As Sekar of CDP, adds, “The possibilities of applications are innumerable. However, it is important to remember that technology is not a solution and should always be firmly rooted in the needs of the end user."

The dashboard, when functional, can help residents track and give feedback to city officials. This should, in turn, improve planning and monitoring of public infrastructure.

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