India’s rapidly expanding middle-class population has led to a growing demand for passport services. But limited reach, a surge of daily citizen requests, and a need to comply with international travel standards had put a strain on resources of India’s external affairs ministry, which oversees the passport issuance process. There was limited infrastructure, obsolete systems, and the process weighed down on human resources. Citizens had to deal with ambiguous requirements, a lack of standardization, no certainty of service, and cumbersome processes. And even after managing to submit documentation, there was no telling of when this most significant identity document would arrive.
TCS offered a path-breaking solution that went live in 2010 and, since then, has revolutionized the issuance process with an end-to-end citizen service delivery program that has paved the way for better accessibility, transparency, timeliness, and user experience. A scalable technology platform was created; scalable to the extent that it now services 130,000 citizens per day, enabling passport services online and strengthening a global passport seva (service) program.
The technology saw a revamp of three broad-based lines of engagement – an automated, re-engineered, workflow-based process; application development; and an online portal. TCS also set up 77 Passport Seva Kendras and deployed over 2,500 staff across India to manage day-to-day operations, delivering services to passport applicants. The transformation aligned with India’s national e-governance plan and eliminated the middleman, putting citizens directly in touch with government machinery. The loop was completed by incorporating a grievance management system and allowing for continual citizen feedback. The passport issuance process is now at one’s fingertips with the mPassport Seva Mobile App, the mPassport Police Mobile App (for police verification and background checks), and the Proactive Engagement SMS Service.
Enhanced technology-led security features include biometric capture, digital signatures, and a strengthened de-duplication algorithm – all of which have set new benchmarks in citizen service.
The strong proof of efficacy is seen in turnaround times for passport issuance processes: The new delivery process for normal passports is now down to a mere 6-8 days excluding police verification time; urgent or tatkal passports are issues on the same day or within 3 days. One must remember that government-driven processes in India are always seen as protracted with several glitches along the way, but the passport process is a sparkling example of how tasks that involve state machinery need not be long drawn out with the right vision and technological intervention. Technology makes transformation possible.
While the External Affairs Ministry handles all sovereign functions, TCS-powered technology manages the application system, IT and non-IT infrastructure, data center, disaster recovery operations, and front-end business operations at PSKs in addition to a toll-free call center with support in 17 regional languages. As a further testimony to its inclusivity, the process also accounts for requests from citizens with special needs. There are now 93 Passport Seva Kendras(passport service centers) across 79 Indian cities and 424 Post Office Passport Seva Kendras, covering some of the relatively more distanced locations like Aizawl in north-east India’s Mizoram, Leh (Ladakh) in the north, and Lakshadweep in the south.
Multiple stakeholders are integrated into one cohesive arrangement, transforming an old and decrepit process from opacity to transparency, and from uncertainty to accountability.