Welcome back to Wednesdays with WebRTC 🙂
Last week I touched upon the potential for delivering in person learning via live video through WebRTC. In fact, we at Miljul are currently in the design phase for a platform that would allow teachers and students to connect via Miljul for online classes. More about that in the coming weeks.
Today, I want to discuss a bit on the opportunities to improve e-Governance using WebRTC. But before doing that, I want to clarify that when I use the term WebRTC, it is not just about live audio/video streaming. WebRTC is much more than video (though at present, service providers are focusing primarily on video).
Major components of WebRTC:
- getUserMedia – helps the browser access your camera and microphone, and capture (record) the media.
- RTCPeerConnection – helps setup audio/video calls
- RTCDataChannel – data sharing between the browsers via peer to peer connection
So, how does all this help e-Governance? Can we improve the delivery of public services by government agencies? A responsive, transparent, cost effective and efficient way of handling the Government’s work would help us all, the tax payers and the consumers of government services, and the government employees as well.
Imagine an app that lets you ‘connect’ instantly or schedule a call with the relevant employee of a specific government department. Using the Right to Information (RTI), we should be able to request the employee to share her screen and show us the data. Or, let us say you are following up about the status of an application. The application has been approved after the final discussion between the applicant (you) and the government employee, in a video call via Miljul (I mean, a WebRTC application 🙂 ). The employee can simply do a file transfer to you online, and you can store the file in your own digital locker.
WebRTC can also be used for anonymous voice calls or receive anonymous video feed. A whistle blower can tip off the government about a possible scam via anonymous voice call or send a link to the live or recorded video stream (also anonymously).
As we all know, the Government is the largest employer in most countries. Especially in a country like India, the multi-layered complexity of the bureaucracy, not to speak of turf wars over jurisdictions, creates a certain level of inefficiency in the way this behemoth goes about its job. I am sure the civil servants in the field across the country and in the regional and national level offices, often find themselves having to deal with colleagues via phone or email or snail mail. I heard that ‘WhatsApp’ has become a favourite among many bureaucrats as a way to keep in touch with their dispersed teams. Think of the benefit a live video chat application, as part of a unified communications stack, would give to these harried officials.
A clerk in the sub-registrar’s office of a small town can now be directly contacted by a section officer in the Land Records Commissioner’s office. A District Collector can have a daily stand-up meeting with her sub-ordinates heading various district level departments (District SP, District Educational Officer, Civil Supplies Officer etc.).
There is a common scene in the corridors of power, i.e, the secretariat of a State Government or the various ‘Bhavans’ housing the staff of union ministries in New Delhi. Whenever there is a video conference with the big man or woman heading the ministry or that department, one can see the IAS officers, section officers, and junior ministers walking to the one or two video conference rooms in that building. Using a WebRTC based solution will allow them the luxury of attending these video calls right from their office or even from home. The infrastructure required (hardware, software, services and support) is substantial and that is why, even in top global companies, you find limited number of tele presence rooms. Many MNCs are using Microsoft Lync now with video. Or the old favourite, Cisco WebEx. Small and medium companies can’t afford the costs. The Government can afford the costs, but it needs the facility to be available to a majority of employees for it to be truly effective. This is where WebRTC steps in. It is very low cost to deploy and maintain, is scalable, can have redundancy built in to ensure 100% up time, customizable, and highly secure (wire-tap proof).
At Miljul, we are quite optimistic that within the next 1-2 years, governments and enterprises will start adopting solutions based on WebRTC for customer care, and internal collaboration. We hope the government departments and agencies in India go for WebRTC implementation along with the Digilocker initiative.
Please post your thoughts and questions. We are looking for inputs and ideas from all of you. Thanks.