How do you use technology to improve citizens’ lives? Tell us about your role or organisation.
Rarely in government service, there comes an opportunity knocking so loudly on your door as a bureaucrat. In 2016, I was assigned a challenging project – to develop a proof of concept using technology for procuring general goods and services by Government Agencies. The clear mandate was to explore creation of an Amazon or Flipkart-like portal, exclusively for the Government to procure its goods and services on an open market-place. We called it the Government eMarketplace (GeM).
What has been the most exciting thing that you worked on in 2017?
We started the journey of Government e-Marketplace in India in 2016 in a small office with barely a team of 15 people that I led. We explored all available IT tools including powerful search engines (for price comparability), imaging tools and most importantly option for using powerful analytics to create a dynamic and vibrant Business Intelligence (BI).
This year, bringing in BI and combine it with machine learning leading to embedded Artificial Intelligence (AI) for use by multiple Government Agencies across levels has been an exciting learning and huge ‘value’ unleashed. While this aspect is in its nascent stage, the value and opportunities by way of market prognostics, price predictability etc. has already indicated to the significant savings and enormous efficiency that can be brought into Government procurements.
Another aspect has been the openness that an open platform makes possible. Small and micro enterprises in far-flung areas of the country are now enabled to register offer and transact directly with National and State Governments. GeM being a paper-less, cashless and contactless platform ensures all activities and milestones are achieved online and completed in real-time.
What tool or technique particularly interests you for 2018?
For 2018, I believe the Government e-Marketplace scaling up to multi-lingual mode (13 languages, at least) will offer another exciting avenue to explore: localisation of the marketplace and how it impacts the national ecosystem. It is bound to impact the machine learning and its contribution to AI and analytics also, very uniquely. Use of IT forensic tools to prevent fraudulent offers on marketplace is something that we are going to initiate in 2018.
If you were to share one piece of advice that you learned in 2017, what would it be?
I learnt in this whole journey of more than a year that it is better to take risks (we are totally averse to risks in Government as a matter of discipline) while innovating and once taken it is imperative that the vision and objectives are fully communicated and frequently redirected with all the stakeholders. This communication ensuring that it is reiterated appropriately, I feel is the most critical factor of a successful transformative initiative.
What was the greatest challenge that you overcame in 2017?
The challenge in developing the Government eMarketplace was the rule bound, highly conservative, close-end procurement processes that typically form the ecosystem for procurement by Government Agencies.
Completely disrupting these deep-rooted beliefs and processes, and transforming the inner Government wheels to an open, market-driven, dynamic procurement system was filled with unexplored and unimaginable potential.
What book did you read in 2017 that most interested or inspired you?
I am impressed with the book In the Plex by Steven Levy that I recently read on how Google came into being and its journey.
Who inspired you in 2017, and why?
Political leadership and its clear vision has inspired me in 2017, especially GeM. The objectives and goals set by leadership, pushes me to raise the bar, continuously.