News Review May 2005
MCD goes for online registration of civic complaints
The Chief Minister of New Delhi, India, Sheila Dikshit, inaugurated the computerized public grievances redressal system of the Municipal Corporation of New Delhi (MCD).
The system has been developed by eGovernment Foundation, set up by Infosys. Srikanth Nadhamuni, Managing Trustee of the eGovernment Foundation, Bangalore, said that a system of this type would have cost USD 2 or USD 3 million if developed for private use. The citizens f Delhi can now lodge complaints by logging on to the MCD website http://www.mcdonline.gov.in or sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Every complainant would be provided with a number through which he can track the status of his complaint. The system would soon be integrated with MCD projects scheduled in different wards.
World Bank offers USD 500 million aid
The World Bank has agreed in-principle to provide USD 500 million financial support for India’s National e-Governance Plan (NEGAP) over a period of four years. The multi-pronged project is expected to empower rural citizens, improve government effectiveness, and promote private sector growth.
The announcement was made at the concluding session of the NEGAP workshop with states and Union Territories held in the Indian national capital, New Delhi, recently. Mark Dutz, Senior Economist, Finance and Private Sector Development – South Asia Region with the World Bank, said that the government had initiated a dialogue with the World Bank for support for the e-Governance plan. In January, the bank’s management gave an in-principle go ahead for USD 500 million financing in the first phase, with a clear understanding that if there is a need and absorptive capacity, it would be willing to upscale the support.NEGAP is aimed at improving the quality,accessibility and effectiveness of governmentservices to citizens and businesseswith the help of ICT. The scheme willcover 10 main areas, including landrecords, property registration, and transportand revenue collection amongstothers.
Indian Railways to launch SMS-based ticket booking service
Railway tickets can soon be booked using short messaging service (SMS) in India. Encouraged by the response to its earlier service of ticket bookings through the Internet, the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC), which manages Railways’ Internet booking service platform plans to launch SMS-based ticket booking service. The mobile-phone user needs to send a message in a particular format to a specified number,after which he would get a reply thatwould carry details regarding the ticketavailability status. Following this, theuser will have to send the debit cardnumber from which the amount will bedebited.
The Railway Minister of India, Lalu Prasad Yadav, also announced the launch of callcentres under public-private partnership to provide faster and updated information on rail services.
e-Gram project to connect over 6000 villages
The Gujarat State Panchayat Minister,Bhupendrasinh Chudasama informed the state assembly that over 6000 villages will be linked through computer by March 2006 under the e-Gram project of the Gujarat government. He also said that as per the December 2004 figures, the government had already connected 567 villages under the project.
The government has issued various documents such as birth and death certificates, Below Poverty Line (BPL) certification, application forms, etc., nd many others would be made available through the computer in each and every village under the project, he added.
e-Governance solution for drug control department
The Chief Minister of Hyderabad, India, Dr YS Rajasekhara R e d d y , r e c e n t l y , released a CD comprising an e-Governance solution for the drug control department. Commenting on the project, the minister remarked that e-Governance ensured transparency, while saving time and energies for stakeholders in getting information and downloading applications. Besides providing comprehensive information on various issues related to the subject, the CD comprised details of 336 court judgments.
Manipur on its way to e-Governance
The National Informatics Centre (NIC) has submitted a project report for computerisation of all government departments in the Indian state of Manipur. The project report is awaiting the approval of the state cabinet for its implementation. Once, it gets the permission of the Cabinet, the departments concerned would be allowed to take up the computerisation work.
Students to get electronic identity cards
The Municipal Corporation of New Delhi (MCD), India, has decided to distribute computerised identity cards to 900 000 students. This is part of MCD’s ambitious programme to make its schools online. MCD has already introduced computeraided education. All 1850 schools would be linked with each other online. Each school will have a unique identity number. This process will be implemented from 1 July 2005, when the new academic session starts. After completing the computerisation of schools, the civic agency will issue electronic identity cards to all 900 000 students.
Maharashtra government cuts costs with Open-Source
The Maharashtra government is increasingly opting for Open-Source software over licensed ones provided by technology giants like Microsoft.
In the past few months, OpenOffice – a free downloadable package of commonlyused applications like spreadsheets, word processing and email – has become the official choice for thousands of desktops across the state, and is expected to save the exchequer approximately INR 900 million in license fees. Recently, the Maharashtra Police headquarters too went in for the free operating system GNU/ Linux with OpenOffice. Similarly, theElection Office is using a bilingual voterlist search system developed by free software activists, while corporate open sources like Red Hat are providing software for the government’s treasury management, citizens facility centres, and land record management.
Bangalore utility payment services go online
The Karnataka government has rolled out its latest e-Governance project, Bangalore One (B1), to provide integrated services to people under one roof including utility payments.
The ambitious project, conceived during Microsoft chairman Bill Gates’ first visit to Bangalore in November 2002, has beendesigned on a build-operate-own-transfer (BOOT) model for computerising government- to-citizen (G2C) services.
Punjab first to adopt online Value Added Tax system
The Indian state of Punjab became the first and only state in the country to implement a working online Value Added Tax (VAT) system to facilitate online processing of VAT accounts and returns.
Disclosing this recently, DP Reddy, Excise and Taxation Commissioner, Punjab, said that the achievement included 100 percent coverage of 11 digit Central VAT complaint TIN (Tax Payer Identification Numbers) to all the 1 53 000 registered dealers in the state who opted for the VAT system, and setting up of the infrastructure, development of the software, periodic reviews of the progress, and an audit tool for all the critical components in the system by experts.
Indian Government’s Twenty-Point Programme on e-Governance
30 years after it was first prepared in 1975, the Government of India is once again restructuring a draft cabinet note on the Twenty-Point Programme (TPP), a long-term vision document to revitalise e-Governance in the country. The TPP-86 is presently in operation. The Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, which is piloting the initiative, has sought comments and views from various ministries in preparing the note, which would be placed before the Cabinet soon. While the basic objective, as defined in 1975, will remain the same the contours of the new roadmap are expected to undergo a major modification in the changed social and economic context of the times.
Bardhaman first in rural e-Governance West Bengal in India is all set to implement the country’s first rural e-Governance pilot project in a southern district of the state. The project to be launched in Bardhaman district will bring every village council there under its network.
The project is being launched by the West Bengal State Wide Area Network (WBSWAN), which was initiated in August 2001 for providing a computer networking backbone carrying voice, video and data over Internet across all 18 districts to facilitate e-Governance. West Bengal is now firmly entrenched on the IT expansion map of India with its capital city Kolkata emerging as one of the fastest growing IT hubs for MNCs.
Local language fonts arriving soon
In an effort to enhance penetration of computers and the Internet in the country and carrying IT to the masses, the Indian Government is planning to make it mandatory for original equipment manufacturers (OEM) to load fonts in 23 Indian languages in computers to facilitate language computing.
The Minister for Communications and IT, Dayanidhi Maran, said after inaugurating the Electronics and Information Technology Exposition (ELITEX) in Delhi that lack of local language computing is a hindrance in the proliferation of computers and the Internet. According to the minister, the Government has to keep in mind that in India less than five percentof the people speak English and therefore they need to make these fonts freely available in their respective mother tongue. He also said that his ministry had released various Tamil language fonts, -mail client in Tamil, OCR, spell checker, dictionary (English-English-Tamil) and Tamil-Tamil-English), Tamil typing tutor, etc. in the public domain for use by the masses on 15 April. It is expected that all Indian languages would be covered in the next one year. The government would be launching the initiative in 22 other languages, and plans to finish the entire process in six months.
Uttar Pradesh set for e-Literacy drive
The Uttar Pradesh Government would be carrying out a major exercise to ensure that all its employees are e-Literate by 2007.
In an attempt to achieve the target, the Government would use a slew of incentives and disincentives. The proposed incentives and disincentives would depend on the level of proficiency achieved by an employee. The endeavour would be part of the Government’s IT literacy enhancement programme. In a bid to help pupils learn the skills of information technology, the government has decided to help set up ‘internet clubs’ in various schools.
Website on urban property for UT Chandigarh
SF Rodrigues, the Governor of Punjab and the Administrator of Chandigarh, recently launched the official website of the UT handigarh Estate Office (http://www.sampada.in) to improve the Government-Citizen-Interface.He called for a major IT initiative, which would become a tool of good governance through participatory, transparent and accountable systems. According to Rodrigues, the Sampada project is unique in many ways compared to other e-Governance projects in the country as it showcases a combination of several objectives such as increasing internal efficiency (e.g. Smartgov project of Andhra Pradesh and Indian Customs), and putting urban property records online (e.g. Bhoomi project of Karnataka for rural properties). Additionally, it would improve the efficiency of the system besides giving people access to all relevant information.
Online facility for registering names in Tamil Nadu Naresh Gupta, the Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) of Tamil Nadu, India announced recently that for the first time all eligible voters whose names do not appear in the draft rolls, can apply online after the rolls are published in the coming months. According to the revised schedule, draft rolls would be published for the 39 Assembly constituencies, covered by house-to-house enumeration on 16 June 2005. This includes Chennai and five other corporations. In the remaining 195 constituencies, where summary revision has taken place, draft rolls would be released on 10 May for non tsunami-hit areas and on 26 May for tsunami-hit areas.
ICTA launches Rural Knowledge Centres
The Information and Communication Technology Agency of Sri Lanka (ICTA) has announced that its Rural Knowledge Centres are up and fully functional. Five locations in the Badulla district, Glananor, Heeloya, Welimada, Bandarawella and Koslanda of Sri Lanka now have fully equipped telecentres with 24hour/128 kbps Internet connectivity via VSAT. The Rural Knowledge Centre project (Formally called Vishva Gnana Kendra project), part of the Global Knowledge Centre (Nanasala) Project, is one of the everal projects implemented under the e-Sri Lanka Initiative through ICTA under the leadership of the Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa.
Trikala becomes e-Trikala
The Greek Vice Minister of Economics, C Folias, a n n o u n c e d Trikala, a Greek city, as the first digital city in Greece. Trikala would finish its first phase of development by the middle of 2006 with funding from the Greek Information Society Framework Programme. The digital city ICT applications aim to improve everyday life by simplifying public transactions, reducing telecommunication osts, and delivering new services related to the local way of life. Those ICT applications also offer new methods to enable citizens to participate in policymaking, and help ensure local government and public authorities as guarantors of the local society’s proper operation.
e-Visas for students
Starting this admiss ions season, students headed to Australia for higher education would be able to get e-Visas (electronic clearance and issue of visas).On the sidelines of an ‘interview programme’ in the Indian city of Bangalore recently, Henry A S Ledlie, Director (India), International Development Programme, stated that e-Visas would significantly reduce the time-span for grant of visas by the Australian government. He further added that the new e-Visas would be available for students seeking admissions, from the next academic year, in July 2005.
‘Digital Tax’ to bridge digital divide
The presidents of Algeria and Senegal have backed a plan asking wealthy nations to tax their cities’ investment in technology to buy mobile phones and computers for poorer nations. The voluntary ‘digital’ tax would contribute to the United Nations-sponsored Digital Solidarity Fund, created to promote democracy and economic development in developing countries by bridging the digital divide between rich and poor nations. The fund, which was launched in Geneva, Switzerland, recently, has already collected USD 5.3-6.6 million to be spent on technologies such as mobile phones and computers. Between them, Algeria, Equatorial Guinea, France, Morocco and Nigeria contributed USD 2.4 million to the fund.
Linux in South Africa
The Southern Cape’s Knysna municipality last year was looking to increase the reach and functionality offered by its collaboration solution, keeping in mind the commitment it had placed on using open source in its future technology roadmap. After considering numerous options, the solution chosen was Novell GroupWise, running on a SUSE Linux server. This decision not only allowed the municipality to keep to its goal of using open source and complimentary closed-source solutions, but also allowed the municipality to meet the budgeted capital it had allocated to this project. Completed in a short two weeks, this migration has astounded the municipality, has proven that Linux is enterprise ready, and has given the municipality the motivation it needed to migrate to Linux and open source software completely in the next two years.
State government of Benue to launch its website soon
In Western Africa, the Benue state government would soon launch its website to make information about the state available at the doorstep of every individual or nation in the world. Disclosing this, the Governor’s Chief Press Secretary, Tahar Agerzua, said that the habit of relying on freelance journalists by some media organisations as a way of getting information would soon be a thing of the past. He also said that the website would have the name ‘www.benuestate.org’, stressing that the state would ensure that the website maintains up-to-date information on critical issues of local and intern t i o n a l importance. He further said that the website would purge the problem of accessing photographs and other information on public office holders in the state.
Italy moves forward on e-Government project
At ‘Euromed ICT’, the conference for European Mediterranean countries on IT, the Innovation and Technology Minister of Italy, Lucio Stanca, placed that Italy was advancing in the e-Government Initiative for Development realised by the Technical Unit of the ministries by partnership with agencies such as UN, the World Bank, the InterAmerican Development Bank and the Development Gateway Foundation of Washington. Held in Ireland on 10 and 11 April 2005 the conference is promoted by the European Commission in Dundalk (Ireland). Currently, the Italian government is funding e-Government projects in various countries, including Jordan and Albania.
The project in Jordan is being implemented in collaboration with UNDP via a trust fund of USD 488 000 set up by the Italian g o v e r n – ment and would be finalised by December 2005. Similarly, the Italian Foreign Affairs Ministry has invested USD 930 000 in the UNDP trust fund in Albania for its e-Government project. With these international initiatives Italy has brought some cohesion to previously disjoint efforts run individually by several international organisms.
e-Government through IP telephony
The city of Longkou in China’s coastal province of Shandong is going to avail e- Government facilities through IP telephony and data solution. The city authorities are looking to securely roll out new content to Longkou’s 620 000 residents using new IP infrastructure from Nortel. The residents of Longkou can have online access to e-Government services such as e-Voting, e-Booking of municipal facilities, and employment support through this new network. Officials say that Longkou is the first smaller level city in China to set up an e-Government solution. The Longkou e-Governmentnetwork will be based on products from the Nortel enterprise data portfolio, including Nortel’s Ethernet Switch, Ethernet Routing Switch, and Backbone Link Node Router. It will also include IP telephony solutions.
Media highlights Jinjiang e-Government project Jinjiang City in Fujian, China has attracted extensive media coverage following the completion of the first phase of its e-Government project. The country’s top news programme, China News, along with popular Chinese news portals http://www.Tom.com and http://www.sina.com/, have given extensive coverage to the city’s efforts to improve administration through the use of technology. China News reported that Jinjiang’s e-Government system combined Internet and networking technologies with administrative reform. A key benefit reported was increased transparency in the public decision making processes.
e-Government to enhance the quality of its e-Services
Dubai e-Government is striding up its endeavour to increase customer adoption and enhance the quality of its e-Services, in its drive to transform Dubai into an ‘e-Society’. Speaking at an e-Government event being held in Dubai recently, Business Process Re-engineering Consultant, Al Bastaki highlighted some of the key achievements of Dubai e-Government. He said that they have achieved the reinvention and simplification of government processes by eliminating red tape and reducing bureaucracy. He further said that over the years they have enhanced the quality of services rendered for the ublic, ensuring transparency, integrity and accountability in their operations. Currently, they offer more than 1600 online services through their user-friendly portal. They are constantly opening new channels of communication with various government departments to maximise their operating efficiency and productivity, Al Bastaki added.
USD 950 million for Bandar Seri Begawan
Roughly USD 950 million have been allocated by the government for the e-Government initiative in Bandar Seri Begawan in Brunei Darussalam, under the 8th National Development Plan forministries and government departments. This figure was revealed by Pehin Dato Paduka Awg Hj Hazair bin Hj Abdullah, Permanent Secretary at the Prime Minister’s Office during the launch of the ‘1st Technology Update Seminar’ held at the Ministry of Finance. He further said that up to March this year,
about 199 e-Government projects had been approved for implementation by the e-Government Executive Committee costing about USD 742 million or 80 percent of the total allocation. The government has identified the need for 1500 skilled workers in ICT to implement and maintain the e-Government systems. Pehin Dato Paduka Awg Hj Hazair maintains that the development of local ICT companies in the past five years from 2001 to 2005 has shown an increase according to statistics. Eighty ICT companies ncluding joint ventures with foreign ICT companies have been registered in the country.
Valuable experience sharing
Coming up in June is a commendable effort by EU-Ipoh Virtual City (EIVC), a project co-funded by the Asia IT&C Programme of the European Commission and jointly promoted by the Ipoh City Council (Malaysia), City of Vienna (Austria), Danish Technological Institute (Denmark) and Dublin Chamber of Commerce (Ireland). The ‘Best Practices of E-Government & E-City: Vision, Innovation and Opportunities conference from 13 to 16 June 2005, in Malaysia aims to showcase the various good practices of e-Government n EU countries. During the conference and technical workshop, the participants would be exposed to proven ICT solutions, working models and best practices of e-Administration service. e-Government experts from EU and Asia will share their knowledge and experience on innovation in e-Administration services, which aims to provide reference/role model for local authorities interested to implement various innovative e-Government programmes.
European Commission goes for its own Internet domain name
The European Commission has said that the new Internet domain name ‘.eu’ will be up and running by the end of 2005.
The commission says the move will allow businesses and individuals to create a EUwide identity on the Internet. It has taken six years for the idea of ‘.eu’ to become a reality – a legal agreement was signed last month. It will join generic addresses such as ‘.com’ and ‘.org’ as well as national ones like the British ‘.uk’ or the German ‘.de’. The commission says the new domain name should be particularly useful for companies that operate across the European single market, giving them a pan-European identity on the Internet.