Effective governance, sound public administration and inclusive growth are crucial to citizen well being. In India, these aspirations, however, are still a long way from reaching their desired mark despite multiple large-scale and grassroot interventions by governments, nonprofits and corporations over several decades. Governments at all levels — national, state and local — still aim for effective public service delivery and efficient operations. Land and property ownership remains contentious for large sections of society, and maintenance of land records needs disruptive technological interventions. Our legal system is overburdened with thousands of pending cases each day, as citizens often struggle to avail legal services in required time.
Internet and smartphone penetration have increased significantly in the last decade, and so have citizen expectations for better and effective solutions in quick time. Last decade has also seen steep growth in the number of startups solving for multiple diverse sectors in India — fintech, e-commerce, agritech, healthtech to name a few. However, local and large scale issues around governance, land rights and access to justice haven’t seen a lot of scalable tech-driven solutions from entrepreneurs. In the post Covid-19 world, as governments have identified the need for accountability, trustable information and increased pace of operations, the need for such solutions is paramount!
CIIE.CO and Omidyar Network India have partnered to create Citizen Innovation Lab, an year long program with the goal to fuel tech-driven entrepreneurship in the nascent sectors of Civic Tech, Property Rights Tech and Legal Tech. Through the Lab, we aim to build sector knowledge, activate regional ecosystems and incubate early stage startups solving for these sectors.
What can Civic Tech startups solve for?
- Public service delivery — deteriorating air quality, waste management, water and sanitation, mobility, public infrastructure are some of the complex civic issues.
- Govtech — Lack of digitisation and tech-driven processes in Urban Local Bodies and other government organisations / departments at local, state and national levels.
- Gaps in government-citizen engagement which hinder citizens’ active participation in governance.
Civic Tech includes technologies that enable citizens to engage with the government and/or among communities to drive civic participation in governance. It also includes technologies adopted by the governments to improve the efficiency and/or effectiveness of public service delivery. In our report Catalysing Civic Tech in India, released in 2019 in partnership with Village Capital and Omidyar Network India, we defined the sector, identified emerging subsectors and promising revenue models, and explored appropriate funding strategies for investors to consider.
What can Property Rights Tech startups solve for?
- Land records include a variety of documents, and are not uniformly and regularly updated or maintained across different departments.
- Surveying, identification and verification of land parcels using latest technologies, for diverse property types and beneficiaries.
- Tech-driven solutions for property ownership, rental models and title insurance.
Mobile phone penetration, drones, advanced imaging technologies and interventions like blockchain have the capability of making it quicker, cheaper and more effective to map and administer property rights.
What can Legal Tech startups solve for?
- Service providers, regulators, businesses and citizens — they all have unique challenges that need to be addressed.
- Need for alternatives and operational efficiency to reduce the huge burden of pending civil and criminal cases in courts (a whopping 2,81,25,066 during July 1, ’15 — June 30, ’16, with a shortage of 5,000 judicial officers across the country).
- Citizens often struggle to access the legal services they need, owing to long delays in case resolution, spiralling costs of litigation, and complicated procedures. Lawyers lack reliable and efficient online resources on case laws and judgements for legal research.
Startups building disruptive solutions to expedite justice delivery outside of the courtrooms have a crucial role in identifying the issues of physical access to courts, leverage technology to connect stakeholders across the justice delivery system, and discover solutions that are affordable, efficient, and help to bridge the trust deficit of clients wary of courts.
About Citizen Innovation Lab
Solving hard problems needs disruptive technology and determined entrepreneurs. The Citizen Innovation Lab is aimed at catalysing innovation and entrepreneurial interventions to address some of the biggest challenges faced by citizens in India.
The Lab undertakes building knowledge through in-depth research and expert consultations, engaging with schools of higher education, activating regional ecosystems and incubating ideas and early-stage startups. Over the next few months, we hope to evangelize and provide the necessary impetus to entrepreneurs in the growing sectors of Civic Tech, Property Rights Tech and Legal Tech.
About the Authors:
Snehil Basoya is AVP — Insights, Nipen Dutta is Specialist — Sector Intelligence, and Shailaja Shukla is Associate — Insights at CIIE.CO, the Innovation Continuum, India’s foremost entrepreneurship centre housed at IIM Ahmedabad.
About Omidyar Network India:
Omidyar Network India invests in bold entrepreneurs who help create a meaningful life for every Indian. To drive empowerment and social impact at scale, we work with entrepreneurs in the private, nonprofit and public sectors, who are tackling India’s hardest and most chronic problems.
CIIE.CO is The Innovation Continuum for the Changemakers. This continuum spreads across incubation, acceleration, seed and growth funding, and research. All the initiatives on the innovation continuum are aimed at supporting fearless, innovation-driven entrepreneurs.