Savvier Public Services?

On Saturday i went to a sort of mobile National Identity Card (NIC) issuing station that had been set up in a building under construction behind a temple. My ID card had long been reduced to a blank yellow slip of paper with my blurred face on it due to an accidental  encounter with a washing machine.

The whole set up was complete with a makeshift studio together with a photographer, lighting and other paraphernalia. I paid 200 rupees and got the pictures in like 20 minutes.

Mobile NIC issuing station, Borapona Road, Rathmalana

Mobile NIC issuing station, Borapona Road, Rathmalana

While the photos were being developed, i stood in line to obtain a form so that i could fill it up. If the timing was right, i’d get the form done just when the photos were ready.

The crowd wasn’t that big so the wait wasn’t too long. But the Sri Lankan tendency to disrespect the social logic behind forming lines kind of kept me there for longer than i should’v been there i suspect. There were kids running around and mothers trying to control them, there were a bunch of cops by a table to my right and one of them and a friend were eying a girl sitting close by; passing coy looks hoping to catch her attention.

The whole thing seemed to be moving pretty quick. And just as i was thinking that it was almost too good to be true; i discovered that it was. Red tape, bureaucracy and outdated technology managed to make a last vengeful comeback and snatch away my satisfaction of actually going through a government process in Sri Lanka without backbreaking hassle.

The list they were using to verify citizens of the area was from two thousand freakin’ seven. We’d only moved here in February this year so even though i was listed as a resident, the list was old so i ‘could not be accommodated’.

Sure they’ve got a lot of room for improvement. But i think its a good start. Records and databases need to be digitized though; not a single computer was visibly in use.

There was another one of these mobile government stop shops i attended that i think was done by the Labor Department. They were processing employees of my company to issue EPF (employee provident fund) Id cards to reduce the hassle of making claims; a great idea. They were a lot more techy with workstations complete with PCs and fingerscan devices etc.

Also on the topic of public development. There is a flyover coming up in Dehiwala. A fact which you would have been forced to confront if you’ve traveled along that way recently and wondered about the traffic. Currently its in its skeleton stage, the main bridgework is done and as far as i can tell they’ve only got to fill it up with road now.

The dehiwala flyover

Air Dehiwala

Thing is, i don’t really know how effective this is going to be since most of the traffic moving along the Dehiwala junction is going to get caught up at the ‘Williams’ junction further up Galle Road right? So as far as traffic goes, we may simply be back to square one, albeit in a fancier manner. Something similar is taking place in Nugegoda as well, where the flyover isn’t really helping the traffic situ much.

Urban planners may need to get their wires inter-connected. Economic development gives jobs to people etc and injects money into the system alright, but building ineffective public infrastructure is just like paying people to dig holes and fill them back up again. It’s a short term boost, but in the long term there is no real economic benefit.

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3 comments
  1. Dulan said:

    The EPF team came over to our office as well. It was far too high tech for purely government IMHO. Turned out that the EPF had outsourced the process to a third party – I think it was East-West or something like that.

    But at least there seems to be some progress. Given our conservative thinking and the general inertia of the bureaucracy, I think it’s amazing we’ve even managed what we have at the moment.

    Yeah, I gotta agree with you about the traffic. As much as I hope there will be some respite from the flyover, I think more needs to be done about the traffic between Dehiwala junction and the Wellawatte bridge (on the way to Colombo) as well as Ratmalana (some evenings the traffic extends to around Katubedda).

  2. sabbyaz said:

    It doesn’t matter if it’s digitized or not.
    Look at the hassle in Weerahera. They use all these fancy gadgets and computers but you STILL end up spending over 7 hours just to hand in your application and get a date.

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