Interview

Q & A : Vivek Atray, Director IT, Chandigarh Administration

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Chandigarh, with its vibrant character and excellent facilities, is emerging as a major Information Technology Centre. e-Government is a significant aspect of the IT Policy of the Chandigarh Administration. The two most significant e-Government initiatives of the administration in this direction are Sampark and Jan Sampark citizen service centres.  With a very sound IT and e-Government policy, the beautiful city is all set to be a virtual city as well.

 

When did you start planning for the e-Government initiatives and what are the achievements so far?

e-Government services were envisaged during the conceptualisation of Chandigarh’s IT policy itself. The planning of citizen service centres by the name ‘e-Sampark’ was started in 2003. PricewaterhouseCoopers were appointed as the consultants to formulate the concept of e-Sampark centres in 2003. Based upon the recommendation of the consulting agency, and deliberations within the department the plan was executed. The first e-Sampark centre was dedicated to the citizens of Chandigarh in November 2004. Now Chandigarh has five such centres and three more will be operational by June 2005.

 

Did you get support from the government for your initiative? What about the support from within the department i.e. employees?

The support from the government has been excellent. Most of the departments under the Chandigarh administration did take up the initiative in a positive manner and followed the directions. However, there has been some resistance from some departments. This was expected and we were prepared for it. Whenever you try to bring ‘change’ in government, there is bound to be resistance from some quarters. But in the long run, I am sure we will have all the departments under the initiatives – both in terms of online services as well as backend automation.

 

What services are available through the citizen service centers?

The following services have been integrated and offered from Sampark Centres for the people:

• Payment of Taxes
• Payment of Water & Sewerage Bills
• Payment of Electricity Bills
• Payment of Sticker/Postal Challan
• Issue of Bus Passes
• Issue of Senior Citizen Cards
• Issue of Disability Identity Cards
• Issue of Birth & Death Certificates
• Space Bookings
• Tenant Registrations
• Domestic Servants Registrations
• Passport Applications
• Payment of Telephone bills

Do you think you will be able to provide all the services to all sections of the society through these eight service centres?

This is just the beginning. The response so far has been encouraging. In order to include all  sections of the society, the administration is now planning additional citizen service centres  called Jan Sampark centres. The government is planning to put up 50 such centres (at least  one in every sector). These will be small centres, acting as citizen help-desks in addition to providing other administration and government services (for instance, finding the availability of beds in a hospital).

The key services will continue to be provided through e-Sampark centres. Additionally, we are  planning new and innovative services for the weaker sections of the society, including  migrants, through Jan Sampark centres. The citizens will be able to perform transaction-based operations, and avail information and facilitation services through the Jan Sampark centres.  We are hopeful that we would be able to cover most sections of the society through these  initiatives.

Will the citizens be able to avail the government services online through the portal as well?

The transaction-based services cannot be availed online as yet since a mechanism to receive payment is being worked out. We are hopeful that we will soon be able to enable this as well. However, this is the general trend that even where online payment facility is available, citizens prefer the physical service centres. The information and facilitation services are available online and citizens can avail these services through our portal http:// chandigarh.nic.in.

How do you ensure data security and
authentication for your e-Services?

The application is being maintained by SQL whereas the server for the services is hosted and maintained by the National Informatics Centre. They are taking adequate measures for authenticity and security of the data.

As you are providing citizen services relating to many departments, how do you ensure immediate action by different departments?

The Chandigarh e-Government initiative is one of the few projects where compliance by  various departments is ensured through exhaustive Service Level Agreements between the  Sampark centres and the departments. Besides this, we have been able to automate backend  operations at seven out of the 12 departments that are responsible for public dealings. These departments have been integrated with the online portal as well – thus making it possible to  even track the status of transactions performed by the citizens.

Do you have an online grievance redressal
mechanism in place with the facility to track the status of complaints?

The email-based system for lodging complaints is in place at the moment for the Municipal  Corporation. Citizens can also lodge the complaints at all the citizen service centres as well.  The full online grievance redressal mechanism is not in place as yet. We have got the software for complaint registration and monitoring developed, and will soon be implementing the online  grievance redressal and monitoring system.

Besides providing citizen services, how much use of ICT is being made by the administration for their own operation and planning?

Chandigarh administration uses ICT for internal operations as well as planning the development work in the city. We also use GIS for planning and have the digital map of the entire city with datasets relating to various attributes.

Do you charge citizens for the services
provided through these centres?

No, we do not charge any fee for most of the services provided to the citizens.

In that case, how do you ensure the
maintenance of these centres, and what about the long-term sustainability of the centres?

At the moment, around 55 000 transactions are carried out through these centres on a  monthly basis. We pay around eight rupees (INR) per transaction to the vendor who maintains  the centres. This translates to INR 4 00 000 per month and 50 00 000 per annum  approximately. The payment is made by Chandigarh administration. I think the administration  can afford this at the moment to provide services to its citizens. Once the number of  transactions reaches a critical mass, we are planning to have additional services such as  payment of mobile bills and other such services, provided by the private vendors, through the  centres. The revenue collected from the vendors would be used for sustaining the centres in the long run.

Finally, what is the current strategy of the Chandigarh administration in terms of e-Government as well as other plans?

We are committed to make Chandigarh the best-governed city – as the ideal destination of  investment for IT companies. The city has all the ingredients of being the IT hub of India, and  has also been ranked amongst the leaders in e-Readiness in the country. Our current focus for  e-Government is on targeting the areas of inadequacy for upcoming initiatives so that we  can provide world class services to the citizens, and efficient administration and business services to the IT industry, which is now looking up to Chandigarh.

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