Online services leave people scratching their heads

There are a host of online services available under G2C or Government to Citizen Services covering around 17 broad areas from getting passports to paying land taxes.

However, while the services on a whole are working especially ones like the online Security Clearance Certificate and others which has made life easier for many Bhutanese there are many issues being noticed.

This problem was especially noticed in recent times when many people were told to apply online to get Passports.

Citizens complained for not being able to log on, not being authenticated and of making payments, but the system was still showing as being unpaid.

Dhendup Tshering said that the majority of Bhutanese people prefer to visit service centers physically as they do not avail online services due to many issues.

He said some of these are online process being complicated, agency oriented rather than public focused, unreliable with it most of the time being offline, error, malfunction etc and even though the services are provided online, one way or other, the public availing service has to visit service center once for some reason.

He said when there is clarification required, there is no one at the end of telephone to answer. Even if there is, people are not competent enough to explain the process and sometime unwilling to help.

Further, the worst thing noted in most of the service centers is lack of the management’s initiative to deploy additional manpower when the number of service seeker increase. They rather limit the intake through issue of token.

“What they are missing here is a knowledge of how difficult it is for most of the service seeker to visit them time and again. For some, they have to travel from far flung places availing taxi services and renting hotel.” Dhendup added.

Chundu Tshering said there is server problem from time to time while Norbu Jamtsho said the website does not work sometimes.

Pelden said the trade license processing or renewal process is not user friendly too. The password once lost cannot be changed or retrieved through emails or sms.

Janita from Sarpang said she is not able to log in and she does not know why though she tried many times but it is working. Echoing Janita, Som Zee said the she faces “invalid request” and “authentication error” while trying to log on.

Dik Raj Pulami from Tsirang said the site shows ‘Pending for Payment’ even after payment is done for the passport or you will never receive the SMS and the system will never update the status.

Pradhan Sapna from Samtse said, “You need to make it user friendly. Even a layman should be able to use it. Sometimes the website itself doesn’t open. As for the applications submitted via this portal, it is always getting rejected and no proper explanation is provided regarding the rejection of the application.”

Khandu Wangmo from Punakha said that the Security clearance service is the only online service which needs no follow up, and agreeing with her was Rinchen Namgay from Bumthang who said for the rest of the online services they need to follow up by call or go in person.

Roshan Chhetri from Tsirang said he hasn’t received an SMS so far for CPMS registration while the other services are okay.

Thinley Wangdi from Mongar said there’s an issue with the online forestry services under DoFPS which is Integrated as they have to make repeated payments for the same application.

Karma Lam from Thimphu complained of the online appointment system for the biometric collection and how he had to call for two hours.

The reporter took up the above complaints with the Director of the Department of Information Technology and Telecom (DITT), Jigme Tenzing.

In terms of not being able to log on the Director said it could be due to caches in the browsers which need to be flushed out. He said caches are old data stored by the computer or phone where internet is slow to enhance speed or access to the site.

However, when the reporter asked why there are no similar cache problems while logging onto facebook, Gmail etc he said these international problems do not have the difficulty of Know Your Customer checks to verify that it is that individual who is availing the service. He, however, said there are looking to address these cache issues.

On the issue of payments not reflected in the system the DITT Director said this is a very valid issue as this was one of the big problems that cropped up while doing an assessment.

He said the problems seem to crop up when the bank account of the agency is in one bank but payment is being made from another account.

The online system as a result does not get the message from the bank and so reflects it as unpaid.

DITT is in talks with RMA and the Banks to resolve this.

He said that on the server being down it normally is not, but sometimes when they have to switch to new machines it may be down for a short while.

On the complaint of sites being agency centric and not citizen centric, he said this is a fair assessment and efforts are on to address this including cutting down the processes.

On people in call centers not being helpful or competent the Director said that each agency has its own call center and the challenge going forward is to migrate these into one and improve the quality of service.

One online services not being people friendly he said that they are looking at using even people who can take calls and help fill up the online forms for people who are not literate or online literate.

Explaining why some people are not getting SMS updates the Director said that they did and assessment in one agency and they found that the SMS gateway had not done its priority setting properly and so not all SMS alerts were going out.

On the biometric appointment in Thimphu the Director said there are challenges in getting an appointment due to the large numbers involved but they are trying to improve services.

The Director said a major challenge is in losing technically competent people and getting new ones who have to be trained all over again which takes a very long time.

He said they are looking at getting consultancy support either domestically  or internationally to address issues.

He said with the new organization Gov Tech, it will bring together the IT professionals of different agencies together so that these resources can be pooled together.

He said in some agencies they were found to not be archiving information as it was all present on one system which can slow down systems. He said going forward the effort is to separate the production system that gives services and the data system that will generate data analytics report.

An issue in some agencies is also certain officials still wanting to have a say before authorizing online services when such a barrier is not really required.

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