Aditya MadanapalleNov 24, 2017 13:49:35 IST
Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the UMANG application at the Global Conference on Cyberspace on 23 November in New Delhi. UMANG stands for Unified Mobile Application for New-age Governance and actually has been available on application stores for over four months now. The app uses a minimalist UI similar to the BHIM app.
The signup process is pretty simple, users have to first verify their mobile numbers through an OTP, and then set a pin. Two security questions have to be set up so the user can recover their account in case the PIN is forgotten. There used to be a requirement of having to link the app to your Aadhaar number to use it, but this is no longer the case. Instead of registering, users can also login to the service through their Aadhaar number, or accounts on Facebook, Google and Twitter. If users register first, there is an option to link social media accounts after logging in.
The idea of the application is to allow users to install one single application to use all the services offered by the government, instead of having to navigate to multiple websites or install multiple applications. Through this single interface, users may come to be aware of handy services that they might have otherwise not explored or have been aware of.
The process of accessing government services has been simplified and made "mobile first", which is the most common platform available for most users in India to access the internet. Any new digital services by government departments and states will automatically be integrated with the application, and the plan is to eventually enable citizens to access over 1oo government services through this single UMANG app.
While the user gets a single interface in their hands, there is a lot of work going on behind the scenes. The backend plugs into the different departments under various ministries as well as state governments. According to Modi, the approach will encourage competition between the various departments to provide a better service to the end user. During the launch of the application, he said, "This integrated approach will add an automatic layer of 'peer performance pressure', in the working of these departments."
The application is available in eleven Indian languages apart from English. The languages supported are Hindi, Assamese, Bengali, Gujarati, Kannada, Tamil, Malayalam, Marathi, Odiya, Telugu and Urdu. Initially, users have to pick a language even before signing in or registering in the application, but users can switch languages later, through the settings any time they want.
After signing on, a persistent banner along the bottom of the application encourages completion of your user profile. Users can change the default profile image, feed in additional details, and link their accounts to Aadhaar if they registered for the application first, without choosing the option of logging in through social media accounts or their Aadhaar number. Users can also link their profiles on UMANG to their DigiLockers. A profile completion bar along the bottom of the app indicates the extent to which the details have been entered. A banner on top indicates the latest services available. The banner can be removed in the settings, to use a cleaner interface with more space and fewer distractions. The profile completion bar cannot be removed unless the profile is completed 100 percent. There are absolutely no advertisements in UMANG.
In terms of the services available, there is a staggering amount of options. It may seem daunting at first to even go through all the options available and pick the most relevant services for a particular user. Fortunately, UMANG makes this easier through a bunch of approaches. There are categories of services that include new and updated, trending, top rated and suggested. A dedicated tab lists all available services in alphabetical order. Users can also directly search for the services they want to access, and the application helps by prompting the useful services as you type. Finally, there is the favorites tab, that allows users to identify the services that they are likely to use the most, and bunch them all together in one handy screen.
The application has been designed to serve a wide variety of users. There are services for the young, the old, and for urban or rural residents. Traders can access the GST network, university students can check which institutions are accredited by the AICTE, young children can access educational material and pensioners can calculate their gratuity or lodge a grievance. Support for the application is available through chat, phone and email. There is an expansive user manual and FAQ available within the app as well.
All the services and applications on ePathshala, which has its own dedicated application on mobile platforms, is available through UMANG itself. The application has been designed for children, parents, teachers and educators. The teachers can look up the curriculum to prepare for lessons, the children can track the progress of the learning of their children, and there are educational resources available for children. The material covers what students learn in school till the 10th standard, and there are textbooks available, as well as audio and video resources. Both the audio and video sections provide content from YouTube. The educational material on ePathshala is available in English, Hindi and Urdu.
Students going for technical studies beyond higher secondary can look up AICTE certified institutions and courses. The service also allows users to narrow down institutions available by checking for minority quotas or Women's colleges. Graduate, post graduate and diploma courses can be checked for AICTE certifcation.
The services for pensioners available through the UMANG app is another example of how good user experience design can drive adoption of digital technologies. The web portal is cluttered and scary, and even advanced computer users can have a problem finding their way around the web site to access the services they need. There is no way to know what is a service, what is an advertisement, what is an announcement banner. The can be particularly difficult for pensioners unfamiliar with technology.
Instead of a cluttered interface with walls of text, the Pensioner's Portal service on the mobile application distills down the options available to five most critical services. The Pension Process Road Map allows individuals to feed in their details to get an idea of when and how much they will start receiving their pensions. A calculator allows users to calculate their pensions and gratuity payments. The OpenGrams service allows pensioners to register grievances, send reminders or clarifications, view grievance statuses, and provide feedback. Pensioners can have Users registered with the Bhavishya portal to track pension sanctions and payment can now do so through the app itself.
For working professionals, the most used services are likely to be Aadhaar, Bharat BillPay, EPFO, My Pan, Passport Seva and Pay Income Tax. Users can view or download their Aadhaar card from the DigiLocker account, or add documents that have not yet been added to Aadhaar. Bharat BillPay is a really useful service that allows you to make payments towards utilities through a single application. Water, gas and electricity can be paid for through one single application. Additionally, users can also pay for communication services, including postpaid broadband, DTH services and mobile postpaid subscriptions. A number of service providers are supported in each category. Users can track all the payments made through the app using the payments tab.
The EPFO service allows users to access employee oriented services as well as employer oriented services. Employees can view their passbooks, raise claims, and track claims. Employers can get remmittance details or the Temporary Return Reference Number (TRRN) status. The other services section allows users to search for organisations, find out the status of previously filed claims, and search for EPFO offices. The My Pan service allows users to ask for a new Pan Card, clear doubts, and locate the a center nearby. The Pay Income tax service allows users to fill out the Challan 280 for e-payment of income tax and corporation tax. There is also the facility to track the status of a challan. Other e-payment services in the e-Tax system are not yet available on the UMANG app.
The Passport Seva service allows users to locate passport offices, district level passport cells, police stations and passport seva kendras. A fee calculater can allow users to find out the application fees for various services, including for when the citizen runs out of pages for Visas. A tracker allows users to find out the status of their Passport application, and even an RTI filing. The service also allows users to find out which documents they should keep ready for getting a fresh passport, a re-issue passport, and official or diplomatic passports. Users can also check for the availability of appointments through the app.
The data fed into the application is protected by secure authentication mechanisms, and is stored in a secured environment. It is not possible for any one except the user to access this information. Users have the freedom to completely delete their accounts, and scrub all their personal information from the application. The option to permanently delete your UMANG account is available in the settings menu. If the application is deleted without deleting the account, users can login using their PIN or OTP after reinstalling the application.
The application gets a number of things right. It clarifies the capabilities of a number of separate government portals and services, through a single mobile interface. To the end user, all the government services now have a uniform user interface, which makes navigation faster and simpler. Instead of having to navigate to a number of portals, verify the information through Google search, and wonder if they are feeding in their sensitive information in a legitimate site, users can now access governance services through a single mobile application without the need to worry. Additionally, users are very likely to be exposed to Government services that they didn't know where available, saving a lot of time and trouble.
Despite how simple it appears, the application is quite capable and feature rich already. There are plans to add more services to the app, and keep on adding them as and when they become available. UMANG is egovernance done right.
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