The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) is an initiative by the ministry of rural development that entitles at least one member of every rural family to 100 days of manual work a year. It was launched in 2006 and over the years has emerged as a key employment generator in the countryside.

Given the huge scale of operations and the involvement of thousands of village panchayats in implementing the programme, MGNREGA needed a management information system to back it. That led to the development of a website called nrega.nic.in.

The website serves as the central data base of all the activities undertaken as part of the MGNREGA. For example, details of the smallest of public works built in a remote village of Rajasthan, to information on the labour requirement in a village of Kerala, are all available here. 

Many of the website’s sections are meant for officials associated with the projects and can be accessed only after entering the username and password allocated to these users.

Anyone interested in state-wise performance for research purposes or simply to satisfy one’s curiosity can see and even download yearly reports from the website.

The website also carries data and information on all aspects of MGNREGA such as court rulings related to wages, various elements of the scheme itself, press releases on performance, annual reports and reports of social audits carried out by MGNREGA officials in collaboration with Panchayat workers. A social audit involves on-field cross-verification, visiting the work site, interviewing the workers and presentation of the report at panchayat level public hearings. The section on public grievances allows users to report misuse of resources and lodge complaints against officials. 

It is a very modest looking website with hardly any visual highlights. There are a few images but they look over-stretched and a little distorted. But then again, the information and wealth of data available is more important on websites of this genre. The homepage, however, looks cluttered as it has too many sections and categories. There are sections on the navigation bar at the top, as well as on the side panel. A few sections related to workers, panchayats, districts/blocks and states could have been clubbed together. The website can also do with a slightly larger and easier-to-read font. There is a category called SiteMap which shows all the sections of the homepage in a vertical order. It looks a lot cleaner than the website and also opens instantly. A few things such as the MGNREGA websites of every state can be accessed from here instantly.

The mobile version of the MGNREGA website looks like a replica of the desktop website. It has not been modified or optimized for the smaller screens of a smartphone or a tablet. This is surprising considering the fact that its beneficiaries reside in rural areas and are likely to access the information via a web-enabled mobile rather than a desktop. The text on the webpage cannot be read unless you zoom in on your phone. 

The website is currently available only in English. There is no option to access the homepage or its sections in regional languages. 

The website also carries a list of names, office phone numbers and email addresses of officials from the ministry of rural development and state and district level offices of MGNREGA. We tried calling two such contact numbers given on the website, but did not get any response. We also wrote to an official seeking information (about matters like the year the website was launched, can it be used in regional languages, has it got a section for RTI)  on 27 September and have not received any reply yet.

The clutter on the home page needs to be addressed with fewer tabs and more subsections. Given the website’s huge inventory of data, adding a search bar can make things easier for users. Making the website mobile-friendly and launching an app can make it actually handy for users in rural areas.  There is no official mobile MGNREGA app at the central level. However, a few states such as Karnataka have developed their own mobile apps to help MGNREGA officials and workers monitor the various projects regularly. 

In this series, we analyse the useability of some of Government of India websites

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