SAP looks to transform Indian villages

Software vendor takes e-governance to India's Soda village and unveils plans to improve efficiencies in country's government agencies, say company execs.

NEW DELHI--SAP is looking to improve efficiency and transparency in the delivery of India's citizen services to villages and has launched a mobile application to provide critical alerts during emergencies.

The German software vendor unveiled its first "e-enabling gram panchayat" initiative at Soda village, Rajasthan, which is headed by Chhavi Rajawat, India's only sarpanch with an MBA. A sarpanch is a democratically elected head of a village-level statutory institution to ensure local self-governance, or what is called gram panchayat.

SAP is in the process of understanding and reengineering sarpanch functions in order to better know the scope of delivering citizen services such as birth, marriage and death certificates, and automation of records for better visibility on budgets and revenues.

India has over 600,000 gram panchayats that face challenges that include poor or no Internet connectivity, bad roads, poor water and sanitation facilities.

"We are focused on getting rural India access to citizen services and an administration that is transparent and accountable," Peter Gartenberg, managing director of SAP India, said at a press conference held here Friday at SAP World Tour 2011. "We have brought the same focus to Soda [as] part of our overall efforts to reach out to 1 billion people with SAP solutions."

The software vendor will also set up a computer lab at Soda to foster basic computer literacy among the villagers. This is part of Project Lakshya, a programme designed to impart basic computer literacy to 100,000 underprivileged youth across India by end-2011.

Rajawat said: "There are a lot of government schemes such as those for the handicapped, widows and the old. The benefits of these schemes don't reach the people because there is no proper data available at the village level."

SAP will first focus on improving efficiency and transparency in delivering birth, marriage and death certificates at Soda, before progressing to the next phase where it will focus on development projects.

Mobile a safety tool
SAP also developed a helpline mobile application aimed at helping Indians with critical, immediate alerts during emergencies. The app provides real-time instructions and a resource guide for emergency care.

With real-time intelligence capabilities and location-based information, the application will help public safety and security agencies as well as both state and local governments provide better preparedness and prevention, enhance service delivery and responsiveness, and improve safety and security outcomes for citizens, said SAP.

The vendor will work with local and state authorities and state-level police departments willing to provide emergency services to its citizens.

In an emergency, a citizen's details can be sent out to a helpline by pressing a designated "hot button" which is routed to the police control room, or to a nearby hospital and citizen activist closest to them for rapid assistance. The application can also send out time-critical information on the victim's location as well as personal data including name, address and contact details, which can be pre-loaded in the application.

Additionally, it can offer care instructions and information through step-by-step video narrations and follow-along demonstration in the event of a fatal health crisis, SAP said.

Swati Prasad is a freelance IT writer based in India.