Indian villages to get rural kiosks
At the 8th National Conference on e-Governance held in the Indian state of Orissa [February 2005], the Union Government set a target of 100 000 village information and communication kiosks to be set up by the end of the current Plan period (2006-07).
Opinion from states such as Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, which have e-Governance applications in rural areas, have already been taken. According to the officials, the kiosks would be set up on a public-private participation basis and will be driven by the district level administration, with help from the State and Central governments.
CM’s mass contact programme
In the Indian state of Kerala, the State government has launched a website www.keralacm.gov.in in order to make the Chief Minister’s mass contact programme more transparent and efficient.
New complaints can be posted on it, and Non-Resident Indians can also send their messages and complaints through the site. Another feature of the site is that the audio recording of the Chief Minister’s cabinet briefing would be made available immediately after the event through the website.
Taskforce for speed
The Department of Administrative Reforms & Pensions and Grievances (DAR&PG) and Department of Information Technology (DIT) have together set-up a taskforce for e-Governance processes in order to redefine government processes and to develop state-wide solution framework options to enhance interoperability among state governments.
Leading IT majors, management institutions and consultancy majors such as the Indian Institute of Management, Calcutta, (IIM-C), Oracle, Hewlett Packard, PriceWaterhouse Coopers, Intel, Red Hat and Liqvid have been selected as members of the taskforce.
Riot bills to be digitised soon
In the Indian capital of New Delhi, the Ministry of Home Affairs will post a legislation that proposes to arm the government with special powers to deal with communal riots in the country, on the Internet, for wider consultations.
The Union Minister for Home Affairs, Shivraj Patil has said that the bill that was promised by the Congress in its manifesto, is a key legislation, and they want to hold wider consultations before placing its final version in the Parliament. The bill would have provisions for conduct of court hearings on a day-to-day basis. The role of the police would be made proactive, and it would be mandatory for law-enforcing agencies to set up special centres in riot-affected areas for lodging of First Information Reports (FIRs).
Election Commission introduces online registration facility
The Election Commission of India has launched an online registration facility for new voters in New Delhi. This will help eligible voters in the capital to add their names to the voters’ list online.
The new online registration ‘Form 6’ is available on the website http://www.ceodelhi.com. This has primarily been made available to improve communication between the electors and the Department of Elections in Delhi. It provides adequate and relevant information about the office of the Chief Electoral Officer and the various activities conducted by the department.
World Bank financial assistance to e-Governance Action Plan
The World Bank is discussing with the Centre for providing financial assistance to the INR 250 billion National e-Governance Action Plan (NEGAP). The plan aims at inter-linking all the states and Union Territories through the Information Technology (IT) network.
The scheme would cover 10 main areas including land records, property registration, transport, and revenue collection, among others. At present the World Bank is discussing the matter with the Union finance ministry for extending loan assistance for implementing e-Governance programmes.
“e-Tout’ in rural India
A professor from the College of Business Administration, University of Rhode Island, Nikhilesh Dholakia, had this to write in his article on his recent visit to India. A colleague narrated this tale of a villager dealing with the district-level government bureaucracy in a particular district of Madhya Pradesh (MP). The enlightened district collector had converted a lot of government records into electronic formats. With such conversion, it had become possible to deliver a variety of government services using the Internet.
As happens often in developing nations such as India, the newly available systems were too complex for most of the rural users. In this district, a few ‘agents’ (essentially go-between shopkeepers) helping the users negotiate the complex field of e-Government services, had sprung up. For a small and reasonable fee, these ‘e-Touts’ helped the villagers fill out web-enabled forms, send e-mail, and receive and print confirmatory documents. The professor’s colleague visited the storefront of one of these ‘e-Touts’. Along with sale of typical sundries and provisions, and operating the long distance pay phone booths, now the store owner had become an ‘e-Tout’ and offered e-Government services!
Delhi government PC ownership scheme
In an attempt to bridge the digital gap and increase computer penetration in the national capital region of New Delhi, especially among the working class, the Delhi government has decided to launch a Personal Computer (PC) ownership scheme for its employees.
Although the final shape is being given to the initiative, under the scheme a permanent employee of the Delhi government would be able to take a loan from the bank on concessional rates for buying a computer for use at home. The government would stand guarantor for the loan and would ensure repayment through equal monthly instalments paid from his salary. This would not only help in making PC penetration a reality but would also provide easy access to computers to the members of the family of the employee.
Bengali language interface pack
Microsoft Corporation India Private Ltd has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the West Bengal government for roll-out of a Bengali language interface pack for Microsoft Windows and Office in State Government offices and establishments.
The project is christened ‘Project Bhasha’ and Microsoft will collaborate with the state government for development of customised local language applications and systems integration; building of a pool of dedicated manpower to help implementation of local language computing, and computerisation of various government departments.
AP ‘Knowledge Corridor’
The Government of Andhra Pradesh has decided to create a ‘Knowledge Corridor’ that would be spread across 20000 acres in 34 revenue villages. The ‘Knowledge Corridor’ would encompass industries and services in the areas of information technology, biotechnology and financial services. The corridor would spread from Khanamet village near Hyderabad to Kollur village.
While speaking at a meeting organised by the Hyderabad Software Exporters Association, Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy said that the unique ‘Knowledge Corridor’ aimed at strengthening and consolidating on the advantages of the technology sector in the State. “While the Government will continue to focus on sectors such as agriculture and irrigation, we will continue to provide the much necessary support and infrastructure for technology sector as well”, he said. The ‘Knowledge Corridor’ will be complemented by an eight-lane 160-kilometre ring road with 12 satellite towns dotting the network.
PPPs to enhance e-Governance
While inaugurating the third e-Governance Summit in New Delhi, Suresh Pachauri, Minister of State (Personnel, Public Grievances and Pension), stressed that public private partnerships (PPPs) are a key factor in taking forward the spirit of e-Governance.
He also reiterated that the ruling UPA government was fully committed towards enhancing PPP environment when it comes to e-Governance initiatives.
Handicraft workers can avail electronic identity cards
The Union Textile Ministry of India has introduced electronic identity cards for artisans across the country to ensure their equal participation and transparency in its various schemes.
The Union Textiles Minister, Shankarsinh Vahgela, has defined this initiative as a major step towards e-Governance and hopes that it would eradicate all devious elements operating in the sector since, according to him, true artisans have not been able to get the benefits of the various schemes because of middlemen or unfair practices adopted by officials.
Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly goes online
The Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, J. Jayalalithaa, has launched the official website www.assembly.tn.gov.in of the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly.
The history of the state legislature, list of members of the current assembly, details of the various house committees can be found on the website.
Indian railways introduces new ‘claims’ website
The Indian Railways have announced opening of the new website www.claims. indianrail.gov.in, wherein one can file claims for losses, destruction, damage, deterioration or non-delivery of goods/parcels from one’s own desk.
This facility will be in addition to the already existing facility of approaching the claims office for filing of claims. The new website would provide online information about the status of claims, and the relevant forms and policy instructions on settlement of claims can be downloaded from the site itself. It is expected to reduce duplication of claims, and also contains contact numbers and address of the Claims Offices at all Zones and Divisions.
Website to lodge complaints
The Chief Minister of New Delhi, Sheila Dikshit has launched the website of the Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) [http://www.dcw.delhigovt.nic.in]
The website was launched on the occasion of a function hosted as a part of the International Women’s Day celebrations. With this the DCW has taken the initiative to help women in distress to lodge their complaints without travelling to the office of the DCW. ICT policy to provide 300 000 jobs in India
The Andhra Pradesh ICT policy for 2005-2010 seeks to create infrastructure that would enable creation of about 300 000 jobs in the technology sector directly by 2010. It is estimated that about 80000 people are employed directly in the ICT sector in the state.
The website was launched on the occasion of a function hosted as a part of the International Women’s Day celebrations. With this the DCW has taken the initiative to help women in distress to lodge their complaints without travelling to the office of the DCW.
ICT policy to provide 300 000 jobs in India
As per the ICT policy statement tabled in the Legislative Assembly and approved by the State Cabinet recently, the Andhra Pradesh government has planned a series of initiatives that would support the realisation of this major initiative of additional job creation, that seeks to capture about INR 690 billion in software exports by 2010.
Prime Minister’s website launched in Sri Lanka
The Prime Minister of Sri Lanka, Mahinda Rajapaksa, has made the services of his office even more accessible by going online. The official website of the Prime Minister is accessible at www.primeminister.gov.lk
The site will ensure easy access to services offered by the Prime Ministers Office to anyone in any part of the world, and steps have been taken to ensure that the site is kept up-to-date with latest information and press releases issued from the PMO.
Grameen software receives e-Governance project award
In Bangladesh, Grameen Software has been awarded a software development, systems integration and maintenance contract worth Tk 11.5 million, the largest e-Governance project thus far under the ‘Support for Information and Communication Technology Task Force’ (SICT) programme.
The SICT programme (a Wing of the Ministry of Planning) aims to ensure access to information by every citizen to facilitate empowerment of people. The programme has also enhanced democratic values and norms for sustainable economic development by using the infrastructure for human resources development, e-Governance, public utility services and all sorts of online ICT-enabled services.
UNDP, Italian government to prop up Jordan
The government of Jordan has signed an agreement with Italy and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to implement and develop e-Accounting and e-Procurement applications for the use of several ministries.
Under the agreement, the Italian government will provide USD 575,000 million to fund the outlining of the two project strategies. Funding would also cover different activities to be undertaken for an in-depth analysis (and requirement study) for full implementation of e-Procurement, and to support the country’s public administrative reform process to set up a modern unified e-Accounting system. The UNDP commented that Jordan had recognised ICT as crucial for the social and economic development of the country. Jordan’s Finance Minister, Mohammad Abu Hammour, the Italian Minister for Innovation and Technology, Lucio Stanca, and UNDP Resident Representative, Christine Mcnab, signed the agreement.
ICT facilities to boost Kenyan parliament
Kenya is among eight African countries to benefit from a USD 3.5 million project aimed at installing ICT facilities in Parliaments.
The Nairobi-based project will see the eight African countries acquire new ICT facilities. The Italian government, through the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, will fund the two-year project. The project’s Chief Technical Advisor, Flavio Zeni has said that it will empower legislators to fulfil their democratic functions by providing them easy access to high quality information.
Mines ministry goes online in Zambia
The Ministry of Mines will implement a computerised system for the management of mine licensing information in 2005.
Bill Feast, the Technical Director of Spatial Dimension, a mineral services company based in South Africa, has said that a computerised workflow approach system would lead to easy availability of all relevant mining information. He maintained that there was a need for the Ministry of Mines to have a reliable database and know the history of all mining applications, and that this system would be the solution to all these issues.
The system works on the Windows network with passwords that define user groups with appropriate rules and responsibilities.
NICTA to develop Australia’s ICT market
A new National ICT Australia (NICTA) facility has been officially opened in Queensland which will be focused on researching and developing solutions to protect Australia’s online environment.
NICTA has been set up by the Federal government to attract, develop, and network talent for Australia’s future prosperity in the ICT market. Its research efforts focus on the technology challenges facing industry, community, and the national interest. At the official opening of the new facility in Brisbane, NICTA also announced that it has signed contribution agreements with the University of Queensland, Griffith University, and Queensland University of Technology, with each university to provide support to NICTA to the value of AUSD 2 million over the next four years.
Women in ICT summit
The Federal government of Australia has announced the members of an advisory group, which will help plan a ‘Women in ICT’ summit to be held later this year.
The Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, Senator Helen Coonan, stated that they needed more women interested in ICT, studying ICT and working in ICT. The government made a commitment in the last elections to organise a summit involving leaders in the ICT industry and education sector to identify and address the impediments that may be keeping women out of the ICT sector.
ICT services to people
In Philippines, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has inaugurated the Multimedia Telecare Centre of Lapu-Lapu City which is one of the 5000 e-Governance terminals that interconnect national and global agencies.
The President remarked that this is important because it would help people to fight against poverty and terrorism. The City Mayor added that the Centre would provide the general public with affordable access to a variety of ICT services such as Internet, e-mail, fax, future voice over IP, distance learning and other online community-based services.
The Oman Establishment for Press, News, Publication and Advertising (OEPNPA) in partnership with Knowledge Oasis Muscat (KOM) and the Information Technology Technical Secretariat (ITTS) at the Ministry of National Economy will launch the largest and ‘most exciting’ ICT magazine christened Digital Oman to hit Oman’s ICT community.
Mohammed Al Ghassani, Director, KOM, has remarked that Digital Oman would be 48 pages of high-performance material; covering only the best the ICT industry has to offer. With over a dozen domestic contributors, authoritative features will provide up-to-date stories and opinions from Oman and around the world and give readers an inside look at the Sultanate’s ICT landscape and the people driving its development. The quarterly, bilingual publication is intended to connect Oman’s technopreneurs, and ICT and government leaders.
Saudi Arabia’s election website
The people of Saudi Arabia are becoming high-tech with a website www.saudielection.com dedicated to the municipal elections.
Women who worried about being left out of the real elections can now practice their balloting skills in an ‘e-Poll.’ Turki Faisal Al-Rasheed, the website’s founder, has said that the website will feature a question and answer session with election officials. The candidates in the municipal elections will also be available to answer questions or clarify on election matters, he added. Further, men, women and young people will be able to participate in a virtual poll along similar lines to one organised during the Riyadh elections.
ICT to bridge the digital divide
The Malaysian government has declared that more than 12 million Malaysians should be having access to computers by 2015. This is the government’s long-term target to bring ICT to the common folk.
Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak has said that presently, only 5.5 million people had access to computers. He added that the government and Multimedia Super Corridor-status companies were also working together to narrow the ‘digital divide’ among people. The Multimedia Development Corporation and the Education Ministry were also working towards providing ICT facilities to marginalised communities. By 2008, the government is hoping to provide 2.8 million people in rural areas with training and access to ICT through the Pusat Internet Desa (or Rural Internet Centre) programme.
ICT market to reach growth of 4 percent in 2005
The European Union (EU) ICT market is expected to reach growth rates of 4 percent in 2005, up from 3.3 per cent in 2004, and 0.9 per cent in 2003.
The growth is significant enough to see Europe overtake even the US, according to the 2005 edition of the European Information Technology Observatory (EITO) presented in Brussels. EITO Chair, Bruno Lamborghini has said that ICT markets have definitely emerged from the tunnel of the deep crisis of 2001-2003.
Rural Bhutan to access ICT
The Royal Government of Bhutan has recognised the role that ICTs can play in achieving its development goals. It is with this challenge in mind that the Department of Information Technology, under the Ministry of Information and Communication, proposes to undertake a research project that would test the viability of appropriate ICT solutions that could lead to sustainable communication in the rural areas of Bhutan.
Wireless Fidelity (WiFi) is one of the most promising technologies that could potentially offer an alternative to the normally expensive, high maintenance and difficult to manage ‘last mile’ connectivity problem. As a result, this project will pilot and demonstrate the viability and robustness of WiFi for offering various information services that are needed for ensuring social and economic development in rural areas of Bhutan.