Inside India’s plan to train 3.1 million 21st century civil servants

Article by Anirudh Dinesh and Beth Simone Noveck: “Prime Minister Modi established the Government of India’s Capacity Building Commission (CBC) on April 1, 2021 to reimagine how the state can deliver high-quality citizen services. According to the Commission’s chairman, Adil Zainulbhai and its secretary, Hemang Jani, the Commission will work with 93 central government departments and more than 800 training institutions across India to train over three million central government employees.

The competencies that civil servants are trained in should not be defined from the top down

By training employees, especially those who interact with citizens on a daily basis like those in the railways and postal departments, the hope is to impart new ways of working that translate into more effective and trustworthy government and better quality interactions with residents. The Commission has set itself two “north stars” or stretch goals to accomplish, namely to contribute to improving the “ease of living” for citizens and to advance Prime Minister Modi’s vision to make India a $5 trillion economy…

The Capacity Building Commission’s philosophy is that the competencies that civil servants are trained in should not be defined from the top down. Rather, the Commission wants each ministry to answer: What is the single most important thing we need to accomplish and then define the competencies they need to achieve that goal. …

An important first step in creating a capacity building programme is to understand what competencies already exist (or not) in the civil service. We asked both Zainulbhai and Jani about the CBC’s thinking about creating such a baseline of skills. The Commission’s approach, Jani explained to us, is to ask each ministry to look at its training needs from three “lenses:”

  1. Does the ministry have the capacity to deliver on “national priorities”? And are government employees aware of these national priorities?
  2. Does the ministry have the capacity necessary to deliver “citizen-centric” services?
  3. The “technology lens”: Do civil servants not only understand the challenges posed by technology but also appreciate new technologies and the solutions that could come from them?

The Commission also looks at capacity building on three levels:

  1. The individual level: What knowledge, skill and attitude an individual needs.
  2. The organisation level: What rules and procedures might be hindering service delivery.
  3. The institutional level: How to create an enabling environment for employees to upskill themselves resulting in better public services…(More)”