Paper arrive at possible solutions, as feasible within

Paper Presentation / International Institute of Information Design (IIID) Vision Plus Conference 2015 1. IntroductionThis paper discusses the various issues present in public service forms of India. These are mainly static forms, designed for print but circulated digitally as well. Through the analysis of these problems, this paper aims to arrive at possible solutions, as feasible within the limitations of low digital literacy, a diverse population and extreme economic inequality. What are Public services?A country’s government provides certain services to the citizens in its jurisdiction that it believes should be available to everyone irrespective of their economic background.  These are known as public services. Public services, as the term suggests, are to be availed by the citizens of the country at large, as reinforced by the Right to Public Services legislation in India, which comprises statutory laws which guarantee the time-bound delivery of these services to the citizens. One of the major issues plaguing the system is the delivery of these services. This may be a by-product of a large democracy, which is pluralist, multi-cultural, multi-lingual and multi-religious in nature, with two official languages and eight major religions. Such heterogeneity delays the standardization of laws and their implementation. Thus, the trickle-down results are cumbersome mechanics, leading to non-participation by citizens. Thus, at the beginning of this process of delivery, we see the role of forms. The process of availing these services starts with the filling out of a public service form. Within the vast categories of public service forms, this paper limits itself to the area of Banking. Currently, an average citizen’s trip to the bank is bogged down and infested with long waiting lines and incomprehensible forms. The Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana is a National Mission for Financial Inclusion to ensure access to financial services, namely Banking Savings & Deposit Accounts, Remittance, Credit, Insurance, Pension, etc in an affordable manner. Introduced in the year 2014, along with the new government, this came as a step towards the goal of financial independence.The need for a bank account also arises from previous governmental schemes such as the National Rural Employment Generation Act (NREGA), wherein the payment was made in cash through a number of channels, and, after being subjected to several leakages in the transaction, finally reached the receiving party. Hence, to reduce the possibility of such leakages and ensure a regulated transaction, a bank account for each household as a ‘national priority’. Why do we ‘need’ to design them better?As stated earlier, public services are rights we are entitled to, and the first step towards them would be to improve the design of the forms that kick-start the process, thus encouraging more people to participate willingly.Banking, being a key service, entails several documents that act as important records for the citizens, and any errors occurring due to poor design may lead to registration of errors in the official records of a citizen’s identity. 2. Case studies Two of our case studies are briefly discussed below—the Aadhar card, and Karen Schriver’s redesign of the U.S tax form. Aadhar cardThe Aadhar card is an initiative that provides identification for each resident across India, to primarily be used as an instrument for efficient delivery of welfare services. It might also act as a tool for effective monitoring of various programs and schemes of the Government.Thus the enrollment form for the Aadhar card addresses some key issues identified, such as that of the date of birth, which is unknown to a lot of individuals who lack a birth certificate. Thus, in the case of the Aadhar card, the option to provide a verified or declared age exists. Karen Schriver Tax form redesignOne of the key features of Karen Schriver’s redesign of the US tax form was the change in the tone of writing, from being previously authoritative to now being far less intimidating, along with having to work with the constraint of accommodating all the information within two pages. Issues and Challenges As per the National Sample Survey Organization Level and Pattern of Consumer Expenditure Report 2011, only 3.5 households in every 1000 rural households in India had internet connectivity in 2009-2010 and close to 90,000 rural info kiosks (Common Service Centres, Community Information Resource Centres and others) were recorded.This means that the government needs to ensure that till it improves these numbers, it uses the most accessible medium possible to help all its citizens avail the public services.Along with that there are states with not even one literate member in the family in 17.79% ofthe households as of 2014, in which case thumb impressions as a proof of identification become inevitable. 3. Our Design ApproachesWe began with user studies and compiled the insights coming from different user groups and the consequent design decisions arising from this diversity.Having incorporated such varied concerns, we looked at the design from a sustainable point of view, and came up with a scale-able model to align with future plans. Stage 1The process of form-fillingFrom our user studies, we realized that the process of opening a bank account might vary between two different social groups.From the diverse group of people who apply for bank accounts, we chose Ram, a qualified professional working in the private sector, and Champakbhai, a migrant worker from the state of Rajasthan working in Ahmedabad, Gujarat. While Ram is a privileged banking customer who is normally approached by the bank officials themselves to open a new account, Champakbhai is illiterate and needs assistance to fill out the account opening forms.Sometimes, a bank official provides this assistance, but in most cases, it is a fellow customer helping him out. Ironically, albeit for different reasons, both of them are provided help during this process. Moreover, both forms eventually end up incomplete. As the bank official is the one filling out Ram’s form, he fills in only those details he knows are essential, whereas in the case of Champakbhai the help is needed inevitably and due to the bank official’s paucity of time, only the mandatory details are filled out. So in most cases, the rest of the form goes unfilled. There are also situations like that of Mafabhai, who is educated enough to fill out a Hindi form by himself but is not aware about the availability of such forms. And as for English forms, he believes that his children are educated enough to read these forms but would require assistance in comprehending the information, and thus filling out the form. When the filled account form is submitted to the bank, most of the banks have data entry officials, who feed this data in manually. It is then re-examined by the Inputter and the Authorizer, thus ensuring a ‘4-eye’ authentication system. Stage 2Banking-related servicesThe second stage of the banking process involves availing the other banking-related services such as loans, additional schemes for senior citizens, girl children, etc. These forms are shorter and consist only of the primary level of information such as personal information, and specifications about the documents and declarations required. 4. Identification of context-specific considerations NameIn the case of many Indian names, titles such as Padmashree, Rai Bahadur, and Rai Sahab are included as a part of the name, since they are honorary titles.In the case of South Indian names the format does not consist of a surname and instead adds the individual’s father’s name (in most cases) or village name as an initial before or after the name.For example- R. K. Narayan, where K is the father’s initial.Therefore when the format for filling in the name is First Name, Middle Name and Last Name, it might not be applicable to everyone. GenderMost forms still operate on a system of binary gender markers, not acknowledging the spectrum of genders that are present in the populace. Date of BirthSince the system of birth certificates is not very structured, in some cases, the birth-date may not be known to the individual. In such a scenario, the form-user may just specify year of birth, or declare their ageAddressIn the rural India, there are intermediate levels of hierarchy of administration, such as a Tehsil, also known as Taluka, Mandal or Thana. These divisions in the administrative system do not apply to the urban context, but are still included as a part of the generic form filled by individuals from both backgrounds. W/o H/o D/o S/oIn most forms, the details of the guardian include only the details of the father or husband, thus not providing an option for individuals in the care of any other relation. SignatureWith the literacy level of India standing at 74% as of 2014, it is very difficult to keep signatures as the only proof of verification.In such a situation, thumb impressions are accepted as methods of verification for the individual. In cases when a thumb impression is taken as a proof, two witnesses are required to additionally support the identity of the individual. However, in the effort to shift entirely to digital forms, this could create a gap.Some of the other methods being employed, as in the case of the Aadhar card, are the establishment of enrolment centres, where the individual applying could utilize other verification methods, mainly biometrics. Use of symbolsThere is a lot of inconsistency in the symbols used to inform the user about a particular instruction.This is evident most in the case of the asterisk (*), which is used to mark the mandatory fields in some cases, while the optional fields in some others.Cognitive IssuesCurrently, the forms are plagued by an information overload by attempting to inform the customers about all possible banking services they might avail through a simple account opening form. Since the KYC (Know Your Customer) is being prioritized more than ever, many banks like to know their customers’ choices in travel, music or food.As of 2014 there have been revisions in the forms, which deem certain details as irrelevant to the revised structure. However, unrevised forms are still prevalent, and thus users are still made to provide redundant information. The form may consist of a number of declarations, with unwarrantedly complex phrasing,thus making it difficult to understand for a diverse audience. Single-page vs. multi-pageFrom our user studies, we realized that users prefer single-page forms to a multi-page format consisting of all the services they might want to avail. 5. Insights from the above studies Thus, from the user studies and interactions with the bank officials ascertained that in both in the case of an illiterate user as well as that of the privileged banking customer the process of filling the account-opening forms involves filling out only the mandatory details as dictated by the bank official. In the case of the illiterate user, he or she relies on assistance, either from a bank official or a fellow customer. There are certain redundant details that continue to be included as a part of the form, in spite of revisions in the rules as of 2014, such as in the case of the Introduction section. Banks have not proactively incorporated these deletions yet, because in cases when the customer does fill up these sections, it acts as an additional source of verification of the identity of the new customer. The customer in no way benefits in this scenario. Considering regional differences in the format of names, absence of proof of birth, etc. as elucidated previously, a standardized format for the form would need to be more context-specific. Further, inconsistency in the visual language of these forms creates incomprehensibility across the copious number of forms. Since there are a vast number of services, each specific to different user groups, it would be useful to inform them about the services they could avail. However, this should be available to them on an optional basis, for them to access if they so choose. It should not be present in all forms they interact with.Currently, the design of the forms is not suitable to be directly adapted onto a digital platform. Information ArchitectureIn addressing the process of form-filling, both by a literate as well as an illiterate audience, the first step was to attempt to re-organize the information, to reduce the likelihood of important information being skipped.A small section briefly describes the different modules of the form.The first section of the form begins with the document requirements. These are the additional documents that a customer needs to arrange for before the process of filling, as, in most cases, photocopies of these documents are required attachments with the filled form. Information regarding residence and identity proof is simplified by clearly stating that only in the case of the PAN would the address proof need to be submitted, as in all other identity proofs the address is included. The second section consists of information that the bank would require in order to open a new bank account, including details like the Name, Date of Birth, Address for Correspondence Bank Account Type, and the Initial Deposit Amount. The third section comprises declarations stating that all the information provided is to the best of the individual’s knowledge along with a specimen signature and signature of two witnesses (in the case of a thumb impression). The fourth section is for the additional information that the bank would want to provide its customers, like fixed and recurring deposit schemes, additional schemes for senior citizens, etc.Upon discussions with the officials from several major banks, we identified that appointing a nominee, since not mandatory, was being ignored as a part of the form-filling process. It is seen merely as an additional section of the form, rather than as a beneficial method of transferring deposits in the event of an unexpected death. Additionally, the question of nomination should be handled with subtlety so as to not make the new customer uneasy by addressing such morbid topics. This attempts to make the hierarchy of information clearer and eventually make the flow of information very clear in the case of people like Ram and Champakbhai, since they use/require assistance to fill their forms. Visual design Currently, the forms are designed to be read manually and undergo a two-tier screening process also called the ‘4-eye’process.Hence, as a part of the revised design, we designed for sections of the form to be read by ICR and for others to be scanned. According to the rules of designing a form for ICR readability, the character boxes have been designed with dimensions of 5mm by 6mm to facilitate a more recognizable writing of alphabets, slightly longer than they are wide.The colour of the form has been replaced by dropout ink but it also accommodates a situation where the forms continue to be read manually. The character boxes also attempt to make the process easier from an ergonomic perspective. A navigation marker or ‘breadcrumb trail’ of sorts informs the user about their progress along the form. To address any confusion regarding the format of filling out the form, an example character box is shown right below the unfilled boxes. And for cases such as Mafabhai’s, it would give his children the required assistance to be able to fill the form themselves. 6. Conclusions The current buzzword is ‘digital financial inclusion’. So not only would this be this be an opportune time to look at an increase in the number of financially independent people, but also look at the transition to a completely digitized platform for all banking transactions.The ‘ICICI Digital Village’ is such an attempt at Akodara, in Sabarkantha district of Gujarat, to enable villagers to use technology in various aspects of life including banking, payment education and healthcare. Here, financial transactions are cashless, textbooks are paperless, and Wi-Fi connectivity is available across the village.However, with majority of the transactions still Paper-based, we attempted to utilize our study to improve the current situation, and make the transition to a completely digital future smoother, as opposed to suggesting a drastic, and presently infeasible, jump.We also concluded that the design of this form would benefit greatly from a systemic overhaul, wherein banks are built with infrastructure that supports a customer-oriented, independent approach, nullifying the need for assistance. This would require interventions at the space planning, signage and employee-training levels. 7. 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