Mission Karmayogi: An ambitious plan to bolster State capacity
One of the many lessons that Covid-19 has brought to fore is the primacy of governments in providing their citizens effective means to deal with the impact of the crisis on lives and livelihoods. As the pandemic adds new complexities to education, income, food, and health systems, it is natural to look to the biggest players in development — the central and state governments — to increase expenditure and the quality of programme implementation.
An important lever for improving public administration during and beyond the crisis is improving the quality of decisions made by officials at each level of government. The Centre recently launched Mission Karmayogi, a new initiative for civil service capacity-building. By providing training opportunities that map the competencies required for different jobs, this initiative has the potential to radically upgrade the management capacity of public officials, and, in turn, strengthen the capacity of the State to deliver.
At the heart of the mission is the recognition that providing training opportunities to senior bureaucrats by sponsoring them to attend elite institutions has not been enough. Instead, India’s 20 million government officials need to be trained and retrained many times over during their career. For these trainings to have the desired effect, they need to be customised into thousands of highly relevant modules.
The initiative aims to harness the potential of digital, face-to-face, and blended learning to create dynamic, highly customised learning systems with world class instructors. Achieving this ambitious vision will require collaboration among a range of institutions, including government training institutes, top universities in India and abroad, and multilateral agencies and development organisations.
The department of personnel and training (DoPT) laid the foundation for Mission Karmayogi in 2018 when it launched the innovative Integrated Government Online Training (iGOT) platform to offer online training courses from leading global institutions to officers. Among the courses available on the iGOT platform is the MITx MicroMasters credential in Data, Economics, and Development Policy, an online course through which faculty from MIT have trained scores of government officers to incorporate cutting-edge economics research into the design, evaluation, and scale-up of social programs. The expanded iGOT-Karmayogi platform will provide officers the opportunity to select courses that best suit the skills required in their current role, and study at their convenience. For example, secretaries can take short custom courses on cutting edge practices in their sector, while section officers in their ministries can hone their management skills.
For Mission Karmayogi to succeed, therefore, its training courses must speak to the needs of each officer’s specific job functions and must be designed with the most innovative pedagogical models available. To achieve this, a new initiative known as Creating Learning Opportunities for Public Officials (C-LOP), a partnership between DoPT, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and J-PAL South Asia, is working with ministries and departments to map the competencies required for specific jobs and match these requirements with new and existing online courses from top faculty in India and abroad. C-LOP will also work with government training institutes to redesign courses.
With the right budget allocation and the active participation of line departments and training institutes in reimagining how our government officers learn, the potential of Mission Karmayogi is nothing short of transformative. Effective governance from a highly skilled bureaucracy is essential not only for recovery from the Covid crisis, but in grappling with the enduring challenges of poverty, inequality, and climate change.
Iqbal Singh Dhaliwal is the global executive director of J-PAL at MIT, Cambridge, US. Shagun Sabarwal is the director of policy, training, and communications at J-PAL South Asia at IFMR, Delhi
The views expressed are personal