Abhishek Singh, the CEO of MyGov, speaks to NewsX’s Managing Editor on how the organisation and the app have brought tech start-ups together to innovate and collaborate.
Q. Many of you will already be aware of MyGov, its one of the portals put together by the government of India a few years ago that actually invites participation from all of you.Thanks for sparing some time, can you help us understand the successes of MyGov?
A. MyGov as you rightly said is a citizen engagement platform that was launched by our honourable PM in July of 2014. In the last 6 years, what MyGov has done is that it had played the role of enabling participating governance by connecting the citizens with the government. What it does is – it enables two way communication between the government and citizens. On one hand, it involves the citizens to contribute to policy making, to give their suggestions, to give their inputs with regard to what the government is doing in various sectors of the government and then MyGov takes those suggestions and shares it with the concerned department for due consideration and implementation. The concerned departments take these inputs into their policy formulation strategy. Secondly MyGov disseminates the information about the schemes and policies of the government to the citizens in a language which is easily comprehensible. We do it through our various channels – we do it through our portal MyGov.in, MyGov app, various social media platforms whether it is Facebook, Instagram, YouTube or Twitter.
We use all channels of social media where citizens are there today. We communicate Governments messages with interesting infographics and images so that people are able to understand it better. MyGov is like a bridge between the government and the citizens.
Q. I am showing the page live as we speak there is a Aarogya Setu app, Mann Ki Baat coming up on the 26th, it says you have 10,00,000 registered members, 7.12lakh submissions, 43lakh comments, votes on polls that had taken place, you guys are organising a webinar on the development of video conferencing solution. If I take that as an example a platform like this getting stakeholders together in a webinar to actually find an indigenous video conferencing solution. How would this work?
A. The video conferencing solution that we have launched as an innovation challenge is a unique concept. Due to COVID-19, when various departments of the government started working from home, one of the challenges was as to how to conduct remote meetings. The platforms that were available which were very commonly used across industries, the private sector and the government, there were certain issues raised when it came to privacy and security. It was felt that why can’t we as India – the IT solution provider to the world build up a solution of its own which can be hosted in our servers and to make sure that government takes services from the solution provided. We have launched a solution challenge towards this objective. Within just 5 days of launching the challenge we got almost more than 125 entries coming in. I am sure we will be able to incubate one of the tech startups from India for developing a solution which will not only provide service to the Government of India but will go on to provide services to other enterprises from around the world with the potential of being a unicorn.
Q. This concept of not waiting, but also soliciting an idea. We are not waiting for a tender to come out, or some complicated procedure. This is actually share your ideas through a web portal. If you have a good idea share it with us, good innovation, good solutions come to us and we will assist you.
A. We are doing this with a partnership with MeitY Startup Hub, whose job is to incubate startups. The way this works is we take all the entries till the 30th of this month, out of which 10 best will be shortlisted for development of a prototype and those 10 shortlisted in the first round will be given financial support of 5 lakh rupees each to develop the prototype. Out of the prototypes developed on a smaller scale, 3 best solutions will be chosen for building a full fledged solution with a grant support of Rupees 20 lakhs each for the development of their solution. Once they develop the final solution the best one will get a government contract for deploying the solution for use by the government of India for the next 4 years and they will receive a sum of 1 Cr rupees.
Q. One challenge is without getting people to actually know this exists and to join in and come up with ideas. Now we face the same challenges as well in broadcast people have been showcased on our shows and through that we have seen phenomenal response from within the government. One of the boys from IIT Delhi had come up with a machine using UV rays to sanitise gloves and surgical masks, he just informed us that after our telecast last weeks he’s got the ICMR clearance to make the product. How do we encourage more people and communicate this concept better?
A. As you rightly said the real advantage for such an innovation challenge system will be if we can expand the outreach and ensure more people from across the country can participate in such innovation forums and contribute to nation building. What we have done so far is that we have 10 million active users on MyGov, we also have a huge following on the social media platforms plus we communicate through all other channels whether it’s emails or newsletters. The idea is to expand the message to each and every phone user in our country. Especially to carry out campaigns for COVID19, we are also leveraging podcasts that we share with community radio operators, so that the message or the podcast that we are posting on the MyGov platform is shared with them, the community radio operators also translate the message into regional languages to take it to people not having a smartphone or access to a device to see the content that is available on the portal.
Q. The other challenge is the internal challenge, feedback and suggestions coming in. You have been almost 5 and a half years into this, how successful have you been in overcoming the internal challenge to new ways of doing things.
A. Whenever we have reached out to any department for a campaign we have got very good support and feedback from the concerned departments. For example- we set up ideas and suggestions box for the Union budget with help of the finance ministry. Within the period of 2 to 3 weeks we got almost more than 20,000 suggestions for the budget. Later on the Union Finance Minister wrote a thank you letter to all those who contributed suggestions. Similarly in partnership with Tourism Department we are organising and running campaigns like ‘Dekho Mera Desh’ and ‘Ek Bharat shreshtha Bharat’ campaign. We get a lot of support from the concerned departments and positive feedback and suggestions. With the HRD ministry, we did ‘Pariksha pe Charcha’ where the PM addressed the students on how to manage stress. For, the monthly programme of ‘Mann Ki Baat’ we collect inputs from people through our ideas box which will be there till the 23rd as the broadcast is on the 26th. There are a lot of people who connect with us through our IVRS lines where people can call and record their suggestions, so the channels of communication with the government have been opened like it was never before. Today people can call and record what they want to say, they do not need to type it and enter it on a website. We have provided toll free numbers to communicate with the people. It has opened an outlet and I am sure with the support of the media and such programmes the message has been conveyed far and wide.
Q. Is this a format which we can then replicate for a teleconferencing and for many other solutions?
A. This is a different form of procurement which the government will be doing and depending on the success, this can be replicated for a variety of products. If you look at popular video streaming services like YouTube, you find that the most popular channels on it are T Series, Sony and Zee. The entire content provided is being given by top content producers from the Indian entertainment industry. If there can be an Indian streaming service run by a startup or Indian IT major there is no reason it can’t be as successful as Google and YouTube.
Q. Technologically this should not be very difficult, I am sure we are going to crack it very easily. Its about branding and popularisation, So getting it on the uptake of Team India and really looking at it as our own. How do we get into that mindset?
A. That would require effort and giving some time for the solution to be built and scaled up. When the best Indian minds are building solutions for the whole world, there is no reason why we can’t build it for ourselves and ensure that they are sustained. This experiment we are doing with video conference solution is just a beginning and depending on its success, we will further see what kind of modifications might be needed to fine tune such a model. We can think of creating an ecosystem to promote Indian software products. That is where the next wave of IT Indian companies will come from.
If you are an entrepreneur out there, and if you have a solution and you haven’t already jumped in you should, because as soon as you are the winner or one of the top three you will get a lot of publicity you would get. The publicity will help the brand to take off publicly. Using that technological solutions and the amount of reach it will get throughout the country. If you have not got in here is your chance. 25 people have already jumped in, lets make a success out of this model. Everything that we have been asking the government to do is being exemplified in this model. Lets all jump in.
Q. For the efforts you are making, and it’s such a relief to see this website and go through it. I an promising you anybody who goes through this website will not see this as a government website. The way its been put together and the idea that are being put into place through this. What do you need sir in actually pushing this? How can we help, how can the people watching help?
A. MyGov has been doing this for a long time, we would request you to share the kind of things the government does, with more people. Sometimes the perception people may have of the government might not always be true. This is not the only such initiative the government has done. You should also look into the kind of projects that the government has brought into action over the last few years. Whether it’s the UID project, the UPI – these kind of identity and payment solutions built by the Government of India does not exist anywhere else in the world. The Digital locker, is a safe repository for academic records and all kinds of records. There will also be a time where one can store electronic health records in the Digilocker securely with a consent framework built in there. And then we will have a situation, wherein a doctor from Gangaram Hospital will be able to access the medical records with the consent of the patient even if it’s from Apollo or any other hospital. We have all seen the potential of the Aarogya Setu app, we have already had more than 70 million downloads which created a record across the world. We broke the record of Pokemon go also which was a gaming app. With the support of media, resident societies, community, NGOs the government can achieve a lot. We should have trust in what the Govt is doing and with the support of our technological partners there is nothing we cannot do.
Q. In doing this for over more than 6 years, what have the lessons that you have picked up and the problems you have come across and solving them. How has the journey been?
A. Over the period of time this portal has evolved and there have been a lot of people involved, and with efforts of my team members – it has become what it is today. The latest content we are seeing on COVID19, it is all being done by a team of young executives who are working remotely from home. Some are in Faridabad, some in Palwal, some in Greater Noida. They all collaborate together without having any access to resources which they would generally get in Govt offices. Mantra for doing what has been done and for the future is Innovation and Collaboration. A constant endeavour to innovate and to work in a collaborative mode. We take all feedback and suggestions positively and try to see where we can use what to improve our work because eventually the content on the portal is for the citizens. If the citizens don’t approve it, the portal will not work and when we do that we look into customising the content for various sections of people and various age groups. You will find the audience on Instagram and audience for Facebook and Twitter are completely different. When we launched COVID19 campaigns on TikTok, we realised that the audience is totally different here. We have to customise our messaging for each platform and that is where we experiment and learn. Endeavour from my team has always been to improve constantly.
Q. Once you are through with the process, we would like to amplify the process as much as we can. The three winners you select or the top 10 you select let’s put together a telecast. Give them a chance to tell their story and their models, how you guys interacted with them and the solution they came up with. It will help advertise the platform once it goes from stage 1 to 2
A. Of course we could do that , it will be a big boost for them as well because the idea here is not only to get a solution for the Government but to incubate startups so that they can create businesses that can contribute to creating enterprises, which can offer services not only to businesses in India but across the world.
Open offer sir, whatever we can do to help. We can profile as many people as we can, we will reach out to you regularly. Good things that we are doing, let’s all do it together. Wishing you all the very best to you and your team sir.
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STERLING’S STRIKE HELPS ENGLAND DEFEAT CROATIA
Raheem Sterling, center, celebrates after scoring goal during the Euro 2020 soccer championship match between England and Croatia at Wembley stadium in London.
A thunderous goal from Raheem Sterling helped England defeat Croatia 1-0 in the Group D encounter of the ongoing European Championships here at the Wembley Stadium on Sunday. England managed to gain full three points from the match against Croatia and now the Three Lions will lock horns against Scotland on June 18 while Croatia will square off against Czech Republic on the same day.
The first half between England and Croatia saw no goals and as a result, the scoreline remained 0-0 at halftime. In the first half, England held on to the ball for 58 per cent of the match, while Croatia held on to it for 42 per cent. The deadlock was finally broken in the 57th minute as Raheem Sterling registered the goal for England. This was Sterling’s first goal at a major tournament. Kalvin Phillips made a stunning run as he beat two players and then he went on to pass the ball to Sterling, and he did not disappoint and successfully netted the ball into the goalpost.No more goals were possible in the match, and in the end, England went away with a 1-0 victory. Austria will lock horns against North Macedonia while in another match, Netherlands and Ukraine will be squaring off against each other.
Mizoram man who headed world’s largest family dies
Ziona Chana, the man from Mizoram believed to head the world’s largest family with at least 39 wives and 94 children and 33 grandchildren, died on Sunday at the age 76.
Taking to Twitter, Mizoram Chief Minister Zoramthanga on Sunday bid farewell to him. “With heavy heart, Mizoram bid farewell to Mr. Zion-a (76), believed to head the world’s largest family, with 38 wives and 89 children. Mizoram and his village at Baktawng Tlangnuam has become a major tourist attraction in the state because of the family. Rest in Peace Sir!” he tweeted along with a group picture of the huge family.
Zion-a featured in Ripley’s Believe It or Not in 2011 and 2013 for having the world’s largest family.
He reportedly lived with his family in a large 100-room, four-story building.
We will be part of the next Union cabinet expansion: JD-U chief
Amid the speculations of the Union Cabinet expansion, R.C.P. Singh, National president of the NDA-ally Janata Dal (United) on Sunday said that JDU is part of the alliance of the ruling NDA coalition at the Centre and the party will be part of the Cabinet whenever there is an expansion.
“There is no confusion. We are a part of NDA. Whenever there will be an expansion in the cabinet in Centre, JD (U) will be part of it,” he said.
At present, the JD(U) has no representation in the Union Cabinet. the JD(U) contested the 2019 Lok Sabha polls in alliance with the BJP.
However, RCP Singh chose not to comment on the inclusion of the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) in the ‘cabinet expansion’.
Singh also mentioned that everything is good in the alliance in Bihar and there are no clashes in the NDA-led government in the state. “Everyone is together in the NDA in Bihar. The NDA government will complete its present term in Bihar. Everyone is working towards the development of the state,” the JD(U) chief said.
“The RJD is spreading rumours that nothing is good in the NDA to keep its MLA together. There is everything good in NDA but there are clashes in the RJD,” he added.
First three desi nuclear attack submarines to be 95% made in India
In what would be a major boost for the submarine building capability within the country, the first three nuclear attack submarines to be built indigenously would be having 95 per cent Made in India content in them and it would further go up in the next three. The Cabinet Committee on Security is considering a proposal worth around Rs 50,000 crore for indigenously building three nuclear attack submarines which would be built by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) in Visakhapatnam. This project is separate from the Arihant class project under which six nuclear-powered submarines are being built with the capability of launching ballistic missiles.
“The nuclear attack submarine project would be a big boost for the indigenous submarine capability as 95 per cent of it would be made in India. This would provide a big boost to the domestic defence sector including both private and public sector,” government sources told ANI.
For the six nuclear attack submarines, the planners are confident that they would be able to complete the project without any external help but if required, they may take help of one of its strategic partner countries, they said.
The project would also be very helpful for the economy as it is expected to generate a large number of jobs in the defence sector, the sources said.
The Navy and DRDO would first get a clearance for three of these boats and will have the option of building three more after the completion of this project. The Indian Navy proposal to have six indigenous nuclear attack submarines was one of the first few major defence modernisation proposals to have been cleared by the Narendra Modi government soon after it came to power in 2014.
Even though marred by some delays, India has been making big headways in the field of indigenous submarine building capability. The first Arihant class boat was commissioned a few years ago and the second one INS Arighat is also undergoing sea trials and is expected to be commissioned in near future.
India has plans of building 24 submarines including six nuclear attack ones which would give it long legs to operate in the Indian Ocean Region and will help it to keep its adversaries in check at long distances.
The first six conventional boats are already under construction in Mumbai under the Kalavati class project while the tender for the next six with greater capability would be issued soon after recent clearance by the Defence Ministry. There is a plan to build six more conventional submarines under the Project 76 but it will take a long time to be initiated.
SECOND WAVE WASHES AWAY DABBAWALAS’ HOPES, FORCES THEM TO TAKE OTHER JOBS
Currently, many dabbawalas are jobless, some of them have returned to their villages while others had to find new ways to earn their livelihood. According to the members of the Mumbai Dabbawala Association, many bicycles can be seen outside railway stations in this lockdown but there are not as many dabbawalas.
The pandemic has brought a halt to their lives. Only some of them are working and delivering dabbas in hotels and hospitals while the rest are earning their livelihood through other means. Some dabbawalas have become auto drivers or are selling vegetables to earn money.
Mumbai’s 130-year-old dabba delivery system has over 5,000 dabbawalas like Kailash Shinde who now operates and provides dabbas for hotels and travels from Andheri to Malad to Borivali and Bandra.
Since trains are being used only for essential services, dabbawalas face a lot of problems in travelling. Due to the lockdown, the places have been shut where they used to deliver dabbas.
Subhash Talekar, President, Mumbai Dabbawala Association says “we demanded the state government to allow us to travel in local trains as essential workers are being allowed. We should also get a nod to commute in trains as it gets difficult to go by any other vehicle to far off places. Lockdown has affected our economy drastically”
A dabbawala told us how this lockdown has impacted his life. Kailash lives in a chawl system in Andheri with his wife and two children. The pandemic and the lockdown have caused a lot of damage to dabbawalas. Kailash showed us his house and opened up about the difficulties he is facing due to the lockdown.
He says, “Before the lockdown, I had a team of 18 people and used to earn from Rs 12,000 to Rs 15,000 from one house and had over 400 orders. But after the lockdown, I have a team of only three people and fewer orders. Now we get only Rs 5000 to Rs 6000 in which we have to survive as the money is divided among three people.”
Kailash and his wife earn to manage somehow and give good education to their children. His wife also works to support her husband and family, yet this is not enough.
Due to the pandemic, Kailash had to face commuting hurdles as half of the money earned goes into travelling. In an emotional appeal to the government, he says, “I request the government to look into the matter and allow us to travel in trains as the lockdown has greatly affected our economy. If trains are opened for dabbawalas, then it will be a ray of sunshine for them from the dark clouds of lockdown.”
Experts find no proof of 3rd wave hitting kids hard, but states in no mood to take chance
With 80,834 Covid-19 reported cases in the last 24 hours, India continued its declining trend of new infections and reported the lowest single-day count in 71 days, the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare said on Sunday.
The new cases pushed the Covid case tally in the country to 2,94,39,989. India has been witnessing a continuous fall in the active caseload and the current active number of Covid cases stands at 10,26,159 with a net decrease of 54,531 cases in the last 24 hours.
The weekly positivity rate further dropped to less than 5 per cent and currently stands at 4.74 per cent while the daily positivity rate stands at 4.25 per cent today. It has remained less than 10 per cent for 20 consecutive days now.
Despite the downward trend, most states seem to be gearing up for the anticipated third wave, especially on creating infrastructure for paediatric wards, given the buzz that the coming wave might hit kids particularly hard. In view of the pandemic, the states have kept the health budget of 8-14 % for the current year. The Delhi government allocated Rs 9,934 crore or 14% of the total budget to health. CM Arvind Kejriwal on 12 June cautioned that the chances of the third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic were quite real, while he asserted that his government was preparing on a “war-footing” to combat it.
The Kerala government allocated Rs 2,800 crore to deal with the health emergency. The third wave of Covid-19 is expected to arrive in October, necessitating a larger budget for Covid mitigation.
Bihar has kept Rs 13,264 crore on health this year. The health department has focused its attention on arranging beds with medical facilities for children who, experts fear, could be mostly affected in the third wave. Currently, there are 816 beds for children in the nine medical college hospitals in the state. Of these, only 225 have oxygen facilities.
Uttar Pradesh allocated 5.5 per cent of its total expenditure for health. CM Yogi Adityanath said that the state is now preparing for a probable third wave. Paediatric ICUs in district hospitals and mini-PICU in community health centres were being operationalised. A new 20-bed PICU has been planned for Deoria and a mini-PICU in Laar.
Incidentally, as the states gear up to ramp up their paediatric wards, a new report says that there’s no substantial evidence to suggest that children will be more affected or have greater illness severity in the anticipated third wave.
The Lancet Covid-19 Commission India Task Force prepared the report after convening an experts group comprising leading paediatricians from the country to examine the issue of ‘paediatric Covid-19’ in India. It said that the infection’s symptomatology in children in India appears to be globally comparable.
“Most children with Covid-19 are asymptomatic, and amongst those symptomatic mild infections are predominant. Most children have fever with respiratory symptoms, and often present with gastrointestinal symptoms and a typical manifestation compared to adults. The proportion of symptomatic children increases as age increases as does the severity in such age groups,” the report started.
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