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Transforming government services delivery: Kerala deliberations

There was a small but high profile Government Transformation Forum organized in Kovalam, Kerala, Feb 5-6, 2012. The Kerala Chief Minister and the Minister in charge of IT made appearances and the high-profile MP of the area, Dr Shashi Tharoor, delivered the keynote address and showed deep engagement.

I chaired the session on international and Indian best practices and made a presentation based primarily on the experiences of designing e Sri Lanka back in 2002-03 and LIRNEasia research.

My key message was that there were no best practices that could be imported to Kerala. What were best were what fit the specific circumstances. These included a majority of the population owning feature phones and most people not having credit/debit cards.

So my suggestions for the Government of Kerala included making government data public in computer-readable form with minimal restrictions so that app developers could make them into usable applications for Kerala citizens, and working on setting in place the institutional arrangements for location-based services by focusing first on cell broadcasting.

The last time I was in Kovalam (in the very same hotel, Vivanta by Taj, then Taj Green Cove), it was for a similar small high-powered session on Indian telecom policy pulled together by Aspen in early 2008. Its recommendations gained significant traction.

I have a feeling that something good will come of this meeting too.

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