Satish Kamat Director JamBuster

How Digital Transformation Is Changing Our Lives: Part 1 - Indian Passport Seva

Satish Kamat, MD, 27 May 2016.

We live in a world of cliche and buzzwords, along with technology innovations that is reshaping our lifestyles. So the relevant question -is the Digital Transformation just a current buzz or for real! If it is real, how is it affecting our lives?

Let us take a before and after example: Indian passport application was one of the worst experience, not so long ago. Unhygienic, unventilated office filled with unruly crowds and for-a-fee agents. It was like living through a sequel of Nightmare on the Elm Street, that showed you how bad third world government services are. No one knew for sure which documents you needed, nor was there visibility on when you will get new passport. Costlier agent you used, further away you got to stay from this inhuman process, only going for signature or so.

Last February when my wife, Suneeta, renewed her passport, it was a very different experience. This time around, she filled her application online at government of India passport site( ), sitting at home, on a Sunday evening. She then booked the meeting on-line, for which she had many options to choose from. Then she up-loaded digital images of required document proofs. Turns out, she needed only two. All said and done in 30 minutes. On the Tuesday of the interview, Suneeta went through normal token-based queue with five or so different processing units, taking about 55-60 minutes. No crowd, only short queues, decent furniture, air conditioned offices and polite crew. At the end of which she got all okayed to pay, meaning renewal approved. Same week, Friday morning Suneeta received SMS mentioning that her new passport was dispatched earlier evening. In the afternoon, courier delivered her new passport to our home.

Ten years ago, when I returned to India, it was unimaginable to think that one could renew passport in 5 days as a normal service, by spending no more than 4 hours (travel time included), without an agent.

This massive change or really the transformation of otherwise manual, tedious and stressful human experience into 'warmth of your home online application and a small polite biometrics appointment' is an example of digital transformation.

I am sure, one day this experience will further evolve. A conference call will enable the digital passport to be updated automatically, instantaneously through a biometric marker such as the retina check on your phone- all done in few minutes or even seconds, and ably assisted by a friendly, patient robot through the video call.

But for now, Indian passport is as close to digital transformation as current technology infrastructure in India allows.

One could say that this digitalisation started sometime in early 1990s when Internet revolution came out of scientific laboratories into public domain, with browsing, email and input forms that took your information online. Or may be late 1990s when passport information could be browsed on web. So why was that not transformation?

Well, it can be called a shift, as due to technology gaps, digitalisation was limited to a few specific actions, but not nearly a complete workflow per se. The digital transformation is thus about taking a workflow that may contain tedious manual tasks with stressful experience, but otherwise adding little human expertise, and making it painless and reducing the time duration by order of magnitude.

We will take a different example in next week’s blog.

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