Good Governance, Technology, Sustainable and Inclusive Development and Decentralisation Panel Discussion
13 January 2022
Madhya Pradesh have an important stake in the SDG journey. And the rest of India, as well as the world as a whole can learn from Madhya Pradesh’s own efforts.
Mr Sahasrabuddhe, President of ICCR,
Mr Srinivas, Additional Secretary, Department of Administrative Reforms, Government of India,
Mr Sabarwal, Vice Chairman of Teamlease,
And Professor Sachin Chaturvedi, Vice Chairman of the MP State Policy and Planning Commission,
Opening remarks – can precede any of the indicated questions
Good evening and Namaste!
§ It is such an honour for me to be here in Bhopal for my first state visit as the United Nations Resident Coordinator in India. I have only been in this wonderful country for a few months, but I am already inspired by the models of governance and the scaled up efforts to Leave No One Behind demonstrated by governments like Madhya Pradesh.
§ When we talk about India shouldering the biggest opportunities for the Sustainable Development Goals for 2030, and indeed, realizing a better future on the other side of this pandemic, we are not just talking about the nation as a whole.
§ If it were a country, Madhya Pradesh would be the twentieth largest population in the world, just slightly larger than France, slightly smaller than Germany. The people of Madhya Pradesh have just as important a stake in the SDG journey as any nation in the world. And the rest of India, as well as the world as a whole can learn from Madhya Pradesh’s own efforts.
§ The MP Online e-governance portal, the Public Service Guarantee Act, and real time performance monitoring through the Chief Minister’s dashboard demonstrate the 21st century solutions we need everywhere to accelerate transparency, efficiency, and inclusion in service delivery for everyone.
§ In “Our Common Agenda”, the UN Secretary-General cites two important ways by which improved governance can enable the development progress envisioned in the SDGs with important relevance to
the SDG journey in India. The first is putting a “focus on the future” and the second is “putting women and girls at the centre”.
§ And we see the impact in MP’s results. First, MP is doing slightly better than India as whole on progress towards achieving SDG 5 on gender equality. We can see this evidence in the latest NFHS-5 data. The child sex ratio in Madhya Pradesh has improved to 956 in the year 2020-21, as compared to 927 in the year 2015-16, meaning that there are fewer “missing women” and the welfare of the girl child is more valued than years ago. We see this also in the reductions in child marriage. The rate of child marriage has declined by 13.1 percent in the country, while Madhya Pradesh has registered a decline of 28.7 percent.
§ We also see encouraging signs in terms of improvement in nutrition outcomes, which are likely linked to the strong governance advances made in access to food security and feeding programmes.
§ And the strong improvement in social outcomes that we have seen through MP’s investment in its own institutions tells us that such improvements are indeed possible. I am confident that the focus on strong transparent and accountable institutions – enabled by cutting edge technology – that the Government of Madhya Pradesh is putting into practice can help not only the state, but India at all undertake the successful demographic transition that will be needed over the rest of the decade – and indeed over the next twenty five years, to turn India into the vibrant upper middle income global economic power that it aspires to become.
Panel Discussion Questions
1. How to define ‘Good Governance’ from the perspective of localization, inclusion, and sustainability?
2. How technology can be leveraged for bringing in whole-of-government and whole-of society approaches in Good Governance?
§ Good governance is the bedrock of the SDGs. It is not just balanced and efficient public policy, but sensitive public policy, that entails the use of democratic processes to achieve development in a transparent and accountable manner.
§ As the world’s largest democracy, India has a long history of democratic governance, nurturing transparent and accountable public institutions down to the level of villages in the form of Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs). Home to the world’s largest no of elected women representatives in the world, India’s good governance agenda has been inclusive and representative.
§ Good governance is governance exercised by stakeholders. Indeed, for the tens of millions of young people in Madhya Pradesh, the future looks brighter, thanks to the improvements in governance that the state has embarked upon, and because young people are in charge of their futures here.
§ But more can certainly be done – indeed the tens of millions of young people in Madhya Pradesh need more than healthy lives, they aspire for meaningful livelihoods as where Madhya Pradesh can play a key role in India’s – indeed in the world’s – sustainable transformation.
§ Good governance is also that which expands inclusion – I am happy to learn that MP’s State Rural Livelihood Mission and banks have considerably extended financial inclusion through self-help groups, and that MP has been a leading state in providing employment to unskilled labour through MGNREGA.
§ It is governance that turns development into a bottom-up exercise, rather than top down – that begins with the rights of the most vulnerable.
§ In the past decades, technology has revealed its potential for transforming the world and accelerating the pace of sustainable development. The COVID-19 pandemic made the role of technology in reducing inequities most stark - artificial intelligence and data analytics have improved the ways in which healthcare is delivered, by increasing the accuracy of diagnosis and treatment, quality of patients’ experience, and access to healthcare services.
§ Technology and good governance can be the foundations on which attainments under the 4 central pillars of Atma Nirbhar MP: Physical Infrastructure, Governance, Health and Education, and Economy and Employment can be fast tracked.
§ Frontier technologies have vast potential for sustainable development, by transforming agriculture, education, energy, health and public services, identifying, reversing and mitigating the effects of climate change, ensuring food security, reducing disaster risks, preventing humanitarian crises, monitoring natural resources and reducing poverty.
§ I was fascinated to learn that MP is in the initial stages of planning a blockchain technology based land registry. MP is one of the top 5 producers of spices, minor forest produce, agri and horticulture products. It might even consider promoting adoption of blockchain technologies by producers, food processing companies for traceability, quality assurance to enable its producers and food processing companies to enhance their exports and also enhance their competitiveness in the global value chain.
§ But there are even simpler technological innovations that can unlock better life outcomes for millions. For instance, FinTech is emerging as the next frontier to bridge the gap in financial inclusion. MP has done remarkable work in Financial inclusion as part of its Samruddhi model, and that can form the basis of expanding the scope of financial inclusion for the benefit of lakhs of micro-enterprises and individual enterprises.
§ These micro enterprises constitute around 99% of the MSME sector in the country as well as the State. Access to credit from formal financial and banking institutions is one of their biggest challenges (because of lack of documented credit history and credit worthiness). FinTech can bridge this requirement of access to credit for these microenterprises which are largely informal. In fact, UNDP has pro bono developed a Draft Fintech Policy for the State government with the larger goal of leveraging FinTech for financial inclusion.
§ There are specific steps we need to take to leverage tech for the SDGs: (i) Sustained investments in technological capacity/capabilities and digital infrastructure; (ii) Technology education and digital literacy, advocacy efforts and raising public awareness of the use of digital technologies; and (iii) Building trust in digital systems, in terms of public confidence, increasing transparency and accountability.
· These critical elements hold important lessons for new technologies, such as AI, blockchain and big data analytics, whose development, practical applications and regulatory mechanisms are still largely unrealized.
3. Challenges to development and sustainability are cross-cutting and multidimensional. How can technology bring in convergence for monitoring and implementation?
4. How to make institutions of good governance more accessible?
· India has nurtured inclusive innovation through advances in healthcare, education, digital finances, and ease of business. As the UN Secretary-General’s Roadmap for Digital Cooperation acknowledges, digital public goods are key to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.
· India has also long recognised the importance of technology as an integrator. Its use of the ‘JAM trinity’ (Jan Dhan Accounts, Adhaar and Mobile phones) to ensure financial inclusion across the country is an important success story.
· Technological convergence also played a defining role in the government’s response to the pandemic, whether it was the use of the CoWIN to deliver over a billion doses as part of the world’s largest vaccine programme or using Adhaar linked payment systems to provide wages directly to MGNREGA beneficiaries (India’s flagship public works program) - the largest such exercise in the world.
· It has drawn our attention to the important ways in which technology becomes a critical tool to enable better monitoring and implementation – using big data, community based monitoring, and other participatory governance methods.
· The government has also taken a positive step with the One Nation One Ration Card Scheme (ONORC) to enable access to subsidised food grains for internal migrant workers irrespective of their location, and this can be strengthened with better data integration using technology
· In the development sector, we often talk about monitoring of schemes, and I firmly believe the best governed schemes are those monitored directly by people. In this context, I want to once again acknowledge three of MP’s initiatives:
· MP Online, the e-governance portal which allows access to government services at all levels.
· The CM helpline: where citizens can register their grievances on any matter using a as a toll-free number.
· And the Chief Minister’s Dashboard which serves as a Real-Time Performance Monitoring System.
· We need efficient monitoring systems that use up-to-data to inform decision making and resource allocation at all levels of government. Some good examples: include (1) Niti Aayog’s Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) (supported by UNDP) that provides district level poverty estimates. (2) The Aspirational Districts Indicator Framework that is monitored by NITI Aayog, shown by UNDP’s evaluation as a credible model for good governance.
5. How good governance and technology can work hand in hand in strengthening grassroots institutions beyond the Government viz. SHGs, Cooperatives, FPOs?
6. How can technology accelerate administrative reforms process? What kind of local level preparedness or infrastructure is required?
§ We are at a moment in history when India is stepping into an important global leadership role. Madhya Pradesh’s laser focus on “good governance” illustrates how this global leadership begins with local ownership.
§ The use of technology must be backed by Good Governance to ensure that no one is left behind. This entails a sound understanding of constraints faced by the marginalised with technology – need to include the ‘whole of society’ e.g. Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in design and delivery of government schemes
§ Inequalities in the form of the ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’ in reaping the benefits of digital transformation undermine the central promise of the 2030 Agenda to ‘Leave No One Behind’ and threaten to widen the digital divide.
§ Even with cheap internet and a high penetration of mobile phones, India’s students from disadvantaged groups faced challenges with a shift to online learning during the pandemic.
§ The adoption and application of new technologies have posed new challenges for policymakers, including issues related to ethics, trust, human rights, data privacy, and data protection.
§ It is critical that we nurture an innovation ecosystem that builds local infrastructure for technological progress and allows for stakeholders – grassroots institutions, cooperatives, self-help groups – to becomes owners of not only technology but rules by which technology will be governed.
§ There is a need to strengthen data collection in terms of regularity, and reliability of data being collected from lower levels of administration. Further, officers at district and State levels need capacity building to analyse, interpret the data and accordingly take timely decisions for course correction. This is important from the point of view of improving capacities of local administration and units of local self-governance to deliver basic services efficiently and effectively.