Over 3 million citizens annually visited government offices in Delhi for various transport services. To reduce interference of middleman, application pendency and physical exposure in view of ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, faceless services have been launched to offer transport services to citizens at the comfort of their home. Using AI, e-sign, biometric-based authentication and institutional restructuring, faceless services provide hassle-free contactless services to citizens.
Transport related public services in India have been traditionally delivered through RTOs (regional transport offices), a network of offices set up by state governments that citizens visit to avail various services such as vehicle registration, issue of driving license, road transport permits etc. The archaic nature of institutional set up, excessive manual intervention have caused huge pendency in applications and loss of time for citizens. RTOs also became the centre-point of retail corruption due to the network of brokers and middlemen present within the system. The scale of challenge has been massive given that each year about 3 million service requests are received by these offices. In 2020, the scenario further aggravated due to the onset of COVID-19 pandemic which necessitated adherence to social distancing norms.
In August 2021, leveraging technology, the Delhi Government took efforts to RTOs in Delhi were transformed into faceless mode to provide public services of Transport Department. This meant that for the services a citizen would have to earlier physically visit an RTO could now be accessed from the comfort of their home. Most importantly, faceless services have minimised interactions of the citizen – middlemen – bureaucracy, thereby leveraging technology to reduce barriers to access, minimise the hassle and time spent on accessing public services and stopping retail corruption at government institutions.
With the introduction of the ‘faceless services’ project, 33 services which account to 95% of the total demand were made completely faceless including driving license and related services, vehicle registration, and related services, permit related services. Now, citizens need to visit the offices only for those services where it is essential to make physical visit such as driving skill test and fitness test of vehicles.
The faceless revolution has been achieved in a phased manner by gradual introduction of technology with parallel restructuring of concerned institutions and organizations. In 2015, Delhi introduced digital payments for public services in Transport Department. In 2017, all services were made available online, as a result of which applications could be made on a web portal. In another significant step, the innovative ‘doorstep delivery of public services’ project was also launched in 2018 equipping each citizen applying for various transport services with a ‘Mobile Assistant (mobile sahayak)’ who could visit an applicant’s household on request and assisted with the application process. In 2018, a completely automated driving test system was also adopted to establish a fully objective driving test to reduce any manual intervention. Finally, in August 2021, Delhi launched faceless services, equipped with e-sign and biometrics-based authentication and instituting an e-Learners License test through AI Based facial recognition (feature mapping) to move the citizen to a complete self-reliant mode.
Apart from first order goals such as elimination of pendency and interference of middlemen, faceless services have paved way for establishing a system of ‘minimum government and maximum governance’ by ensuring the delivery of public services at the comfort of their homes, making the whole process hassle-free and less time-taking. Eventually, ensures higher accountability and transparency in public service delivery and enhances the trust between government and citizens.
Since its inauguration in August 2021, approximately 2.2 million applications have been received by citizens for various category of services and overall pendency has consistently remained below 2%. Citizens and transport officials have both provided positive feedback about the services and recognized the utility of newly established systems in delivering seamless and hassle-free public services to citizens.
Since launch of the faceless services, various steps have been taken to ensure sustainability and longevity of the newly established system. Help desks have been set up for citizens’ support as a new system is being introduced. Institutional restructuring has also been undertaken for efficient field implementation and solving strategic issues in a systemic manner. After declaring 33 transport department services faceless, the mode has expanded to remaining services in the department. Following the success of the initiative within transport sector, public services delivered within other departments are also piloting a similar initiative to ensure that any citizen faces minimum hassle when trying to access government services.
What Makes Your Project Innovative?
Faceless services reimagined public service delivery and offered it in an innovative manner to citizens using 21st century cutting edge-technology. Traditional ways of public service delivery in India involve excessing manual intervention and multiple physical interaction with government officials and citizens. Apart from causing long queues, huge backlog, and loss of precious time to both citizens and government officials, the situation also led to occurrences where public service delivery in states are also infected by interference of middlemen.
Frontier technologies such as artificial intelligence, feature mapping and biometrics-based authentication and identification etc. were optimally used for the first time by any state transport department in India to offer a fully faceless services to citizens eliminating any need of visiting transport offices except services such as driving skill test and vehicle fitness test, where it is essential.
What is the current status of your innovation?
Faceless services were launched in August 2021 when 33 services which account to 95% of total public services provided by transport department of Delhi Government were made completely faceless. These include - driving license and related services, vehicle registration, and related services, permit related services etc. Subsequently, remaining smaller services were decided to be made faceless in a phased manner as well.
Due to success of the initiative and warm reception by citizens, three more services were made faceless over time – Registration Certificate Printing at directly at vehicle dealership, Electric Vehicle Retro-fitment services, and Vehicle Hypothecation services. Troubleshooting of various existing faceless services have parallelly continued and Delhi Government have started deploying third party surveys to collect public feedback to further improve the service quality.
Collaborations & Partnerships
The 1st phase of faceless services was launched on pilot mode in February 2021. A serious of consultations with District Transport Officers (DTOs) were held for 2 months preceding launch of pilot. Next round of consultations was held with all district transport officials and citizens to absorb the feedback received from the pilot held for 5 months. Faceless services were finally devoted to citizens of Delhi in August 2021.
Users, Stakeholders & Beneficiaries
Faceless services have helped citizens save their precious time lost in long queues for availing public services. Due to contactless nature of services, citizens have been able to completely avoid physical interactions during COVID pandemic. The role of middlemen was also eliminated due to faceless services.
It also helped government officials reduce their time and effort required to process public service requests. In turn, pendency of service requests reduced substantially.
Results, Outcomes & Impacts
Nearly 2.2 million applications have been processed by Transport Department within one year of launch of ‘faceless services’. These include approximately 0.75 million applications for registration and permit related services, approx. 0.6 million applications for driving license related services, approx. 0.35 million applications for e-learning license services and approx. 0.46 million registration certifications that have been issued at vehicle dealership.
Most requested services such as renewal of driving license, driving license extract & hypothecation addition have clocked an unprecedented approval rate of over 95% and pendency for total application requests have stayed below 2%, signifying the efficacy of the services.
Daily service requests are monitored through a centralized database platform whereas a third-party survey is being deployed by the Government to collect the citizen feedback to strengthen the already establish infrastructure and processes.
Challenges and Failures
Low level of digital literacy in citizens has turned out to be significant challenge in adoption of the services. For some of the public services such as automated driving skill test, learning curve towards adoption of newer technologies have been slower amongst citizens.
The challenge has been addressed through disseminating information about the service through training modules, interactive audio-visual learning tools, awareness campaigns, and with support of ‘mobile attendants (mobile sahayaks)’ who visit citizens’ households and provide support in accessing public services.
For some services, public officials continued to exercise their own discretion requesting submission of physical documents due to ambiguity in established SoPs. Transport Department has continuously consulted district transport officials to streamline the SoPs for such services to avoid any use of physical documentations and visits.
Conditions for Success
Strengthening and efficient functioning of digital infrastructure is critical for success of the project. The IT infrastructure deployed for faceless services need to be frequently upgraded given the large scale of datasets that is generated through the project.
Hiring and deploying competent human resources by the government to handle such datasets and technologies will also be critical for stability of the project.
Sustainability of the initiative will also depend on policy stability and guidance of progressive political leadership, continuously pushing the bureaucracy to reinvent innovative ways public services could be delivered.
Replication of ‘faceless services’ has been in two folds.
First, following the launch of faceless services, many state governments in India have launched similar services for the Transport Sector. Karnataka Government made 30 of its transport services contactless from 1st November 2021.
India’s Transport Ministry also came out with a notification on 16th September 2022 to offer 58 citizen-centric transport services in faceless manner to help citizens save their critical time and ease down their compliance burden.
Second, Delhi government, itself has been mulling over offering public services of its Revenue Department in a faceless manner. Given the significant benefits offered by faceless services to both citizens and government, it can be replicated in public sector institutions both nationally and internationally for efficient delivery of public delivery and enhanced trust between government and citizens.
By leveraging technological advancements, the delivery of public services can be simplified to bring benefits to citizens as well as the government, in turn engendering systemic transparency and efficiency. Apart from reducing the backlog and efficient utilisation of time for both citizens and government officials, technology can also help with reduction of corruption and bring in second order benefits such as a more constructive engagement between governments and citizens. However, sufficient structural preparation is necessary for successful implementation of initiatives that are predominantly rooted in technology and it can only be achieved through a participative consultative process pervasive across all relevant stakeholders.
Watch how you can avail Faceless services of Delhi Transport Department!— Transport for Delhi (@TransportDelhi) August 11, 2021
Visit https://t.co/I4panqkRi4 and apply for any DL/RC/Permit related service from the comfort of your home. #GharParRTO pic.twitter.com/vnTOSCIqKN
Delhi becomes the first state in the country to launch e-Learner's License test through "AI based Facial recognition technology"!— Transport for Delhi (@TransportDelhi) August 11, 2021
Here's how can you apply and get your Learner's License in just 10 mins!
Visit https://t.co/I4panqkRi4 #GharParRTO pic.twitter.com/dJVTt6l5bs
- Evaluation - understanding whether the innovative initiative has delivered what was needed
25 January 2023