Countries all around the world are leveraging digital technologies to upgrade their public service delivery systems by re-imagining and re-designing them as ‘platforms’. In India, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) introduced the concept of National Open Digital Ecosystems (NODEs), which was further developed by Omidyar Network India (ONI) and Boston Consulting Group (BCG) in their report titled ‘The Potential of Open Digital Ecosystems’.

According to the report, ODEs are “open and secure digital platforms that enable a community of actors to unlock transformative solutions for society, based on a robust governance framework”[1]. Such platforms constitute “whole ecosystems of shared APIs and components, open-standards and canonical datasets, as well as the services built on top of them”[2]. Consequently, ODEs for social protection (SP-ODEs) are digital platforms that are built to deliver social protection benefits to citizens.

In this project, we define a ‘good’ SP-ODE to be one which is citizen-centric, and accordingly possesses the following attributes.

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The following schematic representation of an SP-ODE shows the multiple functional processes, actors, and digital infrastructure used at various stages of social protection delivery chain. The figure is divided into five processes, which are as follows:

  1. Identification & Enrolment: Primarily connecting the citizen with the concerned government department, this process pertains to the enrolment of citizens into social protection schemes as well as the verification of their identities, and eligibility as per scheme rules.
  2. Coordination & Orchestration: The second functional process facilitated by the SP-ODE has to do with the back end, administrative aspects of social protection delivery.
  3. Payments: This function is primarily activated for schemes that involve some element of cash transfer, and permits government departments to update information on eligible, enrolled beneficiaries (possibly powered by the registry, if one exists) whose payments are due.
  4. Delivery of Benefits: To truly understand social protection delivery end-to-end, it is essential to understand how citizens may access benefits after transfers have been made to their bank accounts. The Delivery of Benefits process is a crucial component of access to social protection, and its efficacy may be determined by various factors such as the existing infrastructure of banks/ATMs, or even by the network of agent-led service delivery models (e.g., Common Service Centres, or CSCs) that exist today.
  5. Service Provisioning: The Service Provisioning process plays a key role in allowing the SP-ODE to host the gamut of social protection schemes that have a non-cash element. The key stakeholder in this function (Service Providers) will be private or public actors that provide the unit of social protection directly to the citizen.
  6. Grievance Redressal: Finally, and perhaps the only function that is crucial to any SP-ODE no matter the context, is the presence of robust grievance redressal mechanisms supplemented by the requisite feedback loops. As the flowchart below depicts, grievance redressal modules may be located at various parts of the social protection delivery chain and interact differently with various stakeholders.
Figure 1: Schematic Representation of an SP-ODE

This section applies the schematic representation of SP-ODEs to two social protection digital delivery ecosystems in the Indian context, for ease of the readers understanding. See below to understand that various SP-ODEs may manifest differently, spanning across various processes and utilising different components as the need may be. Tamil Nadu-State Family Database: The Tamil Nadu State Family Database (TN-SFDB) is a data integration and exchange platform that is envisioned to assist in the seamless and efficient delivery of social protection benefits to citizens. Essentially, the TN-SFDB is an interoperable database, which covers the entire population of Tamil Nadu and is expected to be the single source of truth on all details relating to the residents. The TN-SFDB is in its early stages of development. Hence, the processes of TN-SFDB correspond to only processes 1 and 2 from Figure – 1.

Figure 2: Tamil Nadu State Family Database Ecosystem
CoWIN: The CoWIN platform has been conceptualised to provide “end-to-end” support for the Covid-19 vaccination delivery system. It plays multiple roles simultaneously through the vaccination delivery chain. The platform can assist in administrative management (through the Orchestration Module), monitor vaccine supply chains (Vaccine Cold Chain Module), onboard citizens as vaccine recipients (Citizen Module), and update their vaccination status (Vaccinator Module), and issue certificates after inoculation (Certificate, Feedback and AEFI Module). In Figure 3 we observe that processes 3 and 4 are suppressed since they were not useful for CoWIN.
Figure 3: The CoWIN Ecosystem

Table 1: SP-ODE Use-Cases
Implementing Department/Ministry Name of Project Status Key Features & Objectives Nature of Benefit Digital Infrastructures Created/Used
Haryana, Citizen Resource Information Department Parivar Pehchan Patra (Family Database Project) Implemented a)      Create authentic, verified, and reliable data on all families b)      Issue family identity cards to every family (an 8-digit unique ID number) c)      Ensure automatic delivery of various benefits and services Cash, In-kind, Services Created: Family Database Registry
Haryana, State Government Antyodaya Saral Implemented a)      Make all schemes and services available on a single integrated online platform b)      Ensure end-to-end processing of applications in an online and paperless manner c)      Reengineer process flows to make them user-friendly d)      Establish state-of-the-art service delivery centres at District, Sub-division and Tehsil Levels e)      Ensure all schemes and services are delivered within clearly stipulated time limits f)      Provide clear visibility to citizens (and officials) at all stages of the status of applications Cash, In-kind, Services Created: Antyodaya Saral Portal
Madhya Pradesh, Social Justice Department Samagra Samajik Suraksha Mission (SSSM) [Samagra Social Registry & Integrated Social Protection System] Implemented a)      Provide IT support and databases b)      Rationalize rates of scheme and assistance amount c)      Simplify rules and procedures d)     Make computerized information available on the website (Transparency) e)      Provide all facilities to the beneficiary at one place as far as possible f)     Disseminate information about plans and programs Cash, In-kind, Services Created: Samagra Family ID & Individual ID, Samagra Portal State Population Registry. Used: Aadhaar
Odisha, State Government Social Registry & Social Protection Delivery Platform (SPDP) Under Construction a)      Monitor the well-being of beneficiaries of several state and central welfare schemes while weeding out ineligible claimants b)      Super database in which databases of all departments would be integrated Cash, In-kind, Services Created: Social Registry & SPDP Used: KALIA database, Aadhaar, DBT infrastructure
Rajasthan, State Government Jan Aadhaar Yojana Implemented a)      Unify the state’s service-delivery ecosystem on the basis of a single-card, single-number, single-identity philosophy b)      Serve as the sole vehicle for delivery of all kinds of cash and non-cash benefits and services through an intertwined network of e-Mitra kiosks Cash, In-kind, Services Created: Jan Aadhaar ID, Jan Aadhaar Mobile App
Telengana, ITE&C Department Samagra Vedika Implemented a)      Create a 360-degree profile of every citizen to plug all possible loopholes in its welfare programmes b)      Alternative approach without using Aadhar or any other ID c)      All records in all data sources have Name, Address; some records also have DoB, Phone Number, Father’s Name, Photo d)      A combination of the above attributes which are already available in every record will be used to identify an entity, with a hoped-for accuracy nearer to Aadhar-based linkage with no manual intervention Cash, In-kind, Services Created: Samagra Vedika Database, Samagra Platform, Samagra Vedika Search Software
Uttar Pradesh, Social Welfare Department Integrated Pension Portal Implemented a)      Receive applications for pensions under old-age, widows, divyang and leprosy state pension programs b)      Process applications and transfer to the PFMS (Public Fund Management System) after electronic approvals for necessary payments directly to the bank accounts of the beneficiaries Cash Created: Integrated Pension Portal
Centre, Ministry of Labor National Database for Unorganised Workers & eSHRAM Portal Implemented a)      Include all unorganised workers from all over India and help link them to social security schemes (e.g. accidental insurance cover) of the Government of India b)      Boost last mile delivery of the welfare schemes Cash, In-kind Created: eSHRAM portal, eSHRAM card with 12 digit UAN,  National Database of Unorganized Workers (NDUW) Used: Aadhaar, DBT infrastructure

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The Actors and Operations of a Digital Delivery Platform: CoWIN.
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