Designing Better Services for Urban Poor: Brief overview of CKS-LIRNEasia Workshop

Last weekend could not have been better for the LIRNEasia team at CKS. No, no, no… I know what you must be wondering. But, we were not holidaying or on a trip to the Himalayas, or enjoying a gravity 3D show at the nearest Saket theatre, or enjoying the outdoors. Instead, we were hustling and preparing for one of the biggest events of the LIRNEasia project. The CKS-LIRNEasia collaborative workshop held on the 26th and 27th of October, 2013 was one of the last milestones in the project, a culmination of about six months of hard work by our team. Heated discussions stimulated by our presentations and provocative info-graphics, feedback from a range of external experts and dinner with wine overlooking the Qutub Minar were just some of the best things from the workshop.

Part of a larger project, ‘Achieving e-inclusion by improving government service delivery & exploring the potential of “big data” for answering development questions’, by Sri Lanka based policy think tank, LIRNEasia, the project we were working on aims to encourage the use of ICT in the provision of government and other public utility services to impact the uptake of internet and more-than-voice services. Of particular importance is the benefit that such an intervention will make to urban BoP customer segments, who have till now had limited use of internet and more-than- voice services.

The Project kicked-off in the month of May, 2013. Since then our team had been studying the customer-relation management (CRM) in the telecom, electricity and governance sectors (mainly for the processes of business registration and trade licensing done by the MEs) in three countries of South Asia, i.e. India (Delhi and Patna), Bangladesh (Dhaka) and Sri Lanka (Colombo). On-field ethnography was undertaken focusing both on the demand and the supply side of the service provision. Qualitative research methodologies like in-depth interview, focused group discussion, and observation based research were incorporated in studying CRM in all the three sectors. After the field work was over, for data analysis, we created experience maps of the MEs, which maps the overall process of getting a new connection/registration, the usage of a particular service and the ways of billing adopted in the three sectors, use cases, which tracks the current scenario of use of a service and the process which goes on in the service and failure cases, the scenarios of processes in the telecom, electricity or government sector that do not work in favor of the ME or SP. This includes gaps in the service provided because of which the consumers tend to either exit a service or voice their issues but they are not entertained, in all the sectors and finally developed service design solutions for all the sectors in all the locations.

The workshop brought together a diverse group of experts and a mix of both qualitative and quantitative researchers to provide their knowledge and feedback on the concepts developed by the CKS team through an internal concept building workshop. The workshop thus served as a platform for debate, ultimately aimed at improving service designs which will benefit the urban poor, more specifically the urban BoP micro-entrepreneurs. As speculated, the workshop succeeded in channeling all our thoughts and resources for the same purpose.

We began early on day one with a brief self-introduction from all participants including Prof. Subhash Bhatnagar, from the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad (IIMA), Payal Malik, Associate Professor of Economics at the Delhi University, K. C. Mishra, a socially focused innovator, Asif Saleh, senior director of strategy, communications and capacity division for BRAC and BRAC International, Usha Ramachandran and Rajkiran Bilolikar from the Administrative Staff College of India, Vignesh Illawarasan, Associate Professor at the Department of Management Studies, IIT Delhi, Kavita Wankhade, senior consultant at Indian Institute of Human Settlement, Khaled Fourati, Senior Program Officer, Development Bank of Southern Africa,  ,The LIRNEasia team- Rohan Samarajiva, Helani Galpaya, Nilusha Kapugama, Ranjula Senaratna Perera, Ranmalee Gamage and Roshanthi Lucas Gunaratne, and the CKS team Namrata Mehta, Charanya Sivakumar, Anusmita Banerjee, Adithya Prakash and Farid J. Bhuyan.

After an energizing warm up session in the CKS lawns, we started the first session with a presentation by the CKS team on the telecom sector focusing on an introduction to the service delivery mechanisms in the sector as well as a mapping of customer experiences through the visualizations that brought out the main pain-points which MEs face in different stages of service delivery. This was followed by a presentation of use and failure cases identified across locations to bring out the success and failure points in the telecom sector. The CKS team also provided an overview of the concepts which were developed during the internal workshops. This was followed by debates among the experts, which really helped in refining the existing concepts and developing entirely new concepts for better telecom service delivery to the urban poor.

The first session was followed by a good continental cuisine, where the participants got the chance to have some informal conversations with each other and thus, know each other better. The second session aimed at developing new concepts for better electricity service delivery to the urban poor. The session followed the same structure as the previous one. We started with an introduction to the electricity sector in all the locations. We then took the workshop participants through the experience maps as well as the use and failure cases. Immediately after, the experts reviewed and evaluated the concepts developed by the CKS team. For dinner we all got into a bus and headed to Thai High, a roof-top restaurant in the middle of Mehrauli Village, perhaps Delhi’s answer to Cuckoo’s Nest in Lahore. An awesome view, great conversation, lip-smacking snacks and wine followed by dinner occupied our evening’s schedule.

The first session on the second day was dedicated to the governance service delivery section. The designing service delivery in the governance sector was more interesting but tougher at the same time than telecom and electricity. The post-lunch session focused on a cross-country, cross-sector comparative discussion on telecom and electricity. In this, we looked over the concepts from telecom and electricity, reviewed them, and identified overlaps and commonalities. We decided to do a comparative study of telecom and electricity, and not governance, because these two sectors are easily comparable than governance. It was also decided to categorize MEs and do ME profiling. To conclude the second day of the workshop, Rohan Samarajiva from LIRNEasia took us through a presentation on the next steps to be followed for the completion of the project. He also emphasized on the need to collaborate with the telecom and electricity service providers in all the locations for better service designs in these sectors.

The workshop turned out to be a great success in bringing together solutions from different perspectives for better service delivery mechanisms in telecom, electricity and governance. The data collected by the quantitative team from LIRNEasia helped us a lot in validating the data and concepts which we had developed. The expert’s knowledge about the subject turned out to be really helpful in giving the existing concepts new directions. For example, through our field research we found out that many times MEs do not register for a new service because of the extra work they need to do to collect documents. In order to solve this problem, one of our experts suggested that there is a need to first find out what all documents do the MEs possess and then only will it be possible to suggest changes in the list of documents which will needed for new registration. One of the biggest outcomes from the workshop was the need to promote MEs as an addressable market across the three countries, for public utility and other service providers. At the end of two day, we came up with some effective and easily implementable service delivery solutions from both the macro and the micro level. Now, we all are eagerly looking forward to our next step, that is, the final report submission to LIRNEasia.

 

 

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