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Indian state capital’s municipal body adopts GIS

In the first half of the 19th century, the British governor generals of Bengal resorted to public lotteries to fund the creation of Calcutta’s civic amenities and to build structures like the Town Hall.

These days, Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC), after years of spending beyond its means, has turned to IT to help plug revenue losses, modernise payroll accounting, create a digitised map and improve operational efficiency in general.

The computerisation drive is being funded from a $220 million loan from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) for development works, and a grant of $42 million from Britain’s department for international development (DFID).

The task is huge – even if broken down into components. For example, the KMC is creating a GIS based on satellite imagery, that will detail topography and building information. Most of the existing maps and records are decades old, and for vast areas on the southern fringe, that were added to the corporation’s jurisdiction, it does not have any records at all since these are with the state government’s land records department.

Debatosh Dasgupta, additional controller of municipal finance and accounts, says the GIS will lead to increase in transparancy, widening the tax base and provision of superior services to citizens.

The DFID’s grant and the ADB loan will go into the improvement of the service delivery mechanism and bringing operational efficiency to KMC’s administrative functions.

The KMC, which is controlled by the Trinamool Congress, has allocated Rs 10 crore for the IT project and appointed Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) as consultant. The integrated system that TCS is developing will deliver Web-enabled connectivity across 141 wards and 37,000 employees. The hardware budget has not been worked out as yet.

KMC has formed an eight-member core team to work with the ten-member TCS team for the business process re-engineering, that will be the basis of the system architecture. KMC officials are now entering the world of “smart” offices, smart maps and smart interface with citizens. The KMC aims to interact with citizens via computerised kiosks, doing away with rusty steel cupboards, dust-covered files and touts.