DigiVAARTA: Enabling dialogue with the common man

Sep 28, 2018

The inauguration of the NIC Centre of Excellence for Data Analytics in Delhi on September 28, 2018, also saw the launch of the initial phase of the DigiVAARTA programme in Delhi and is focussed on increasing awareness on digital payments. Speaking on the occasion, Shri Ravi Shankar Prasad, the Hon'ble Minister said: ""DigiVAARTA is a welcome addition to the government's drive to promote adoption and awareness on digital payments. An effective multi-channel citizen engagement programme that can run on both feature phone and smart phone users, DigiVAARTA is an easy way to educate citizens on the use of digital tools for banking and payments."

The technology underlying the multi-channel engagement programme is SAMWAD an award-winning platform for intuitive and interactive communication supported by Centre for Digital Financial Inclusion (CDFI). Developed with an objective to increase awareness and familiarity of individuals on various financial products and services and to educate the unbanked and under-banked individuals, SAMWAD provides enabling engagement across multiple channels in the form of stories, images and videos in any chosen language. The learnings and insights from research studies commissioned by CDFI resulted in an idea of a larger engagement tool that could be used by the government to communicate with the citizens of the country. It is this that led to DigiVAARTA, a re-branded form of SAMWAD, that is being deployed for MeiTY by CDFI.

The initial phase of DIGIVAARTA will help and promote learning in digital banking and empower users to draw content available under the digital financial literacy programme as per their choice. DIGIVAARTA will initially be in Hindi and English languages and will engage with users through multiple channels - over Mobile App, SMS and OBD (Outbound Dialler).

To operationalise this programme, besides Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology and CDFI, National Informatics Centre (NIC) has been a key stakeholder and has helped set-up, host and liaise with regulatory and telecom service providers. As per India's telecom regulations a citizen usually cannot respond to such special short-codes, and are sometimes charged a premium amount for responding to such numbers. Speaking on the occasion, Shri Krishnan Dharmarajan, Executive Director, CDFI said, "A major insight we gathered from our research studies to assess the efficacy of SAMWAD as an engagement platform was that common people hesitated to engage in such literacy programmes where they are charged SMS experiences. Keeping this in mind, the CDFI team, with support from MeitY have worked hard to convince TRAI and DoT to allow citizens to participate in this programme such that they are not charged SMS expenses. The cost is instead being borne by MeitY. CDFI, MeitY and NIC have worked very closely with DoT and TRAI to allow 2-way SMS to the DigiVAARTA short-code 14444. This exception has been made because DigiVAARTA is a non-commercial programme that is aimed at public good."

While speaking at the occasion, the Minister also encouraged every citizen to participate in this programme and learn and mentioned that while the first phase will focus on digital payment literacy, DigiVaarta will be used later to enhance awareness about various government schemes.