July 2005

news review

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India

West Bengal bags country's first rural Internet connectivity project

West Bengal government has been benefited from the panchayat rule and the various rural decentralisation experiments to clinch the country's first pilot project of rural Internet connectivity beyond the district headquarters up to the gram panchayat level of a district.

The central government has sanctioned approx USD 1.1 million for implementing voice, video and data network in the 277 gram panchayats, 31 blocks and six subdivisional towns for Barddhaman district, the largest district of the state.

..and its municipalities will get training on e-Governance

In West Bengal, India, the Minister for Urban Development, Ashok Bhattacharya has said that a Bangalore-based IT company, E-governance Foundation has been appointed by the state government of West Bengal to educate employees of 40 municipalities on the technicalities involved in e-Governance. He further said that they are aiming to computerise all the functions of the municipalities. The state government would provide a guideline to all the municipalities on how to improve the condition of various civic amenities such as drinking water, sewerage or garbage disposal.

Centre shifts to e-Governance mode
The centre has directed all state governments to set up a nodal agency, a programme steering council headed by the Chief Minister and an apex committee headed by the Chief Secretary to pursue state mission mode e-Governance projects. The projects are to be taken up through public-private partnerships.

The mission mode projects relate to land records, road transport, property registration, agriculture, treasuries, municipalities, gram panchayats, commercial taxes, police and employment exchanges. These state mission mode projects are part of the USD 2660 million national e-Governance plan, which is to be completed by 2007. So far, the focus was on central mission mode projects-DCA21, income tax, passport visa, immigration, central excise, pensions and so on. Now the institutional framework and norms are being put in place to launch and synchronise e-Programmes at the state level.

Karnataka plans computer kiosks at village panchayat centres

In an attempt to carry out IT benefits to rural areas, the Karnataka government is planning to set up multi-purpose computerised kiosks at all 5,600 village panchayat centres in the state, under a central scheme.

The Food Minister of the state, H S Mahadevaprasad, by announcing this, has said that it would be possible now to pay electricity bills and property tax at the proposed kiosks, besides acquiring birth and death certificates, land records and proposed food identity cards for ration card holders, among other services. Even the services related to 'Bhoomi' project would be linked to the proposed kiosks. The users of these services would be charged a nominal fee. He further said that the proposal for setting up these kiosks under the Rural Digital Service (RDS) scheme of the centre would be brought up before the state cabinet soon for clearance. Private entrepreneurs who would be selected through tenders would manage the kiosks.

Rural Andhra to experience 'mini e-Seva' centres
The Andhra Pradesh government is going to set up 9,000 'mini e-Seva' centres across 23 districts in the first phase to offer over 35 services in a big way, encouraged by the success of 'e-Seva' services in it's capital city of Hyderabad coupled with its decision to bridge the digital divide across the state. The same will be extended to the remaining 13,000 panchayats once the first phase is completed in the next six months. It will be implemented under the Chief Minister's project named after RajIV (Rajiv Internet Village) and has selected two consortia of implementation partners to take up the first phase project.

R P Sisodia, Director, Department of ICT, government of Andhra Pradesh and head of e-Seva said that the RajIV programme is not just about rural 'e-Seva', Andhra Pradesh portal and kiosks, it is about enabling transformation of the rural economy through the use of ICT. Andhra Pradesh government has also issued a Letter of Intent (LoI) to a consortium led by Bharat Electronics Ltd (BEL) for setting up Rajiv Internet Village (RAJiv) centres. BEL would be the principal partner in the consortium, Radiant Infosytems Pvt Ltd, IBM and BSNL are the other members.

Jharkhand goes for e-Tender system

Jharkhand Information and Technology (IT) department has prepared a software, which will help the state start the e-Tender system, already functional in Delhi government.

The e-Tender has been christened as e-Nivida (tender). The Tender Information System (TIS) can be accessed through the website http://www.jharkhand.gov.in under which the work order of the state government which goes through tender will be available.

The website contains all the information on tenders such as date, amount, last date of tender nature of work and other vital information needed for a contractor who wants to bid for the tender. The government hopes that such initiatives will bring transparency into the system.

Madhya Pradesh government plans to go online

Madhya Pradesh (MP) government joins together with Tata Consultancy Services through its subsidiary MP Electronics Development Corporation to allow citizens to reach out information related to the government.

The plan is to provide information on land records, public works, irrigation and public health, etc. and create payment gateways by making the state's administration online. The joint venture will continue for 10 years and then the state government will get the assets. Tata Consultancy Services will create information kiosks across the state and link them to 'Gyandoot' kiosks (earlier set up by the Digvijay Singh government).

Himachal government offices go online
Himachal Pradesh government offices are set to be connected through information technology (IT) under an e-Governance project that the administration hopes will bring in transparency and speed up decision making.

A report for the approx. USD 16 million project had been sent for approval to the Centre after which work would commence on IT project to link government offices across the state. A government spokesman said that the Himachal State Wide Area Network (HIMSWAN) will connect the state secretariat in Shimla, the capital city of Himachal Pradesh, to all state government departments at the district, sub-division and sub-district levels. In the already completed first phase of the HIMSWAN project, launched earlier 2005, a local area network has been established in the state secretariat with a provision of 600 nodes that will help provide at least one computer per three officials.



Bihar starts the e-Governance process
The Indian state of Bihar will step into e-Governance mode when the state capital is directly connected through video-conferencing with nine divisional headquarters by the end of this month.

State Chief Secretary K.A.H. Subramanian said that the facility, to be formally launched May 25, would be extended to district headquarters of 37 districts of the state from May 31. He also said that video-conferencing would help the top brass of the state administration keep in touch. The facility would also permit regular feedback from the district magistrates about day-to-day developments related to government schemes. The cost of setting up the facility at the state capital and divisional headquarters would be approx. USD 0.3 million and for linking each district with the state headquarters would cost approx. USD 35000. State-owned National Informatics Centre Network (NICNET) will set up the infrastructure for the facility.

Punjab introduces computer education in state-run schools
Punjab government has begun implementation of the Integrated Computer Technology project in 1,299 upper primary schools, which have more than 0.75 million students to impart computer education in state-run schools. While it would spend approx. USD 9 million every year on this project, another 1,000 schools are expected to be added from this academic year.



Quoting the Director General (DG) for school education, Anurag Aggarwal, in an official release said that under this centrally sponsored computer literacy programme, about 1.3 million students from Class VI to Class XII, in 5422 upper primary schools, would be imparted computer education based on guidelines of the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) and the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT).

Kerala government to launch e-Literary centres in Kozhikode district

After the successful implementation of the 'Akshaya' programme in the neighbouring district of Malappuram, the administration of the state government of Kerala has recently decided to launch the e-Literary centres in the Kozhikode district of the state as well, aimed at addressing the socio-economic inequities in the society by bridging the digital divide.

The Collector Rachna Shah has said that as part of the Kerala Government's ambitious plan to introduce the programme in other districts, the administration would set up 176 computer learning centres in various parts of the district. The scheme would be a stepping stone for generating massive economic growth and creating direct employment opportunities in the district, she added.

Kangra to get common e-Governance centre
In India, the Deputy Commissioner of Kangra district in Himachal Pradesh, Bharat Khera, has announced recently that e-Governance centres in all subdivisions of the district will soon be made functional and subdivisional magistrates and tehsil officers working under the same complex will have a common e-Governance centre.

HRD Ministry's new effort to bridge the digital divide
Human Resource Development (HRD) Ministry is hoping that the third attempt to bridge the digital divide between private and government schools succeeds where the earlier two endeavours of Computer Literacy and Studies in Schools (CLASS) in the 1980's and revised-CLASS of 1990's failed.

HRD Ministry is optimistic about the new approach named as Information and Communication Technology@Schools Scheme and hopeful that universalisation of computer literacy would percolate to students in small towns and the subordinate divisions of a district in India. The scheme has four main components such as partnership with state governments and union territories for providing computer-aided education to secondary and higher secondary government schools; establishment of two self-monitoring analysis and reporting technology (SMART) schools in each state which would be technology demonstrators; universalisation of computer literacy through the network of Kendriya Vidyalayas and Navodaya Vidyalaya Samiti to incorporate computer literacy to 10 neighbouring schools; and financial assistance to State Institutes of Educational Technologies under the project mode so that they become self-sufficient. HRD officials feel that the new scheme would enable pupils to acquire necessary skills required for both higher education and employment.



Oracle India sets up a model to implement e-Governance projects
Oracle India has set up a model to successfully implement e-Governance projects. Drawing from its experience in various states, the company has created a model that will replicate its experiences of various e-Governance projects.

Senior Director of Oracle India, S.P.S Grover said that they are now moving to the second tier of enabling inter-department and a government-to-citizen (G2C) interface. Oracle plans to create a force of e-Managers, who will have the working knowledge of government departments as well as the technological knowledge. The idea is to create a single repository of information that can be accessed by all users and hence minimise search time and costs.

The company has created a model for a networked data hub that will serve as a single source of information regarding a person for different government departments.

The citizen data hub will provide all information relating to a person to the different government departments and public utility services. Once operational, this hub will house citizen data from different government bodies like the transport office, water boards, electricity boards, income tax department, police records, land records and public distribution system. The product could also be used by large organisations to create a repository of employee information and help manage its human resources better. Oracle India's Senior Director S. P. S. Grover said that the data hub is a concept developed by the Oracle-HP e-Governance centre of excellence. The hub will create a unified repository of citizen information by integrating and managing information from various departments.

Oracle hopes that this model will be well received by the government as well as many private sector companies.

Bahrain

Bahrain launches e-Gov solution centre

The Bahrain e-Government solution centre was inaugurated by Sheikh Ahmed Ateyatalla Al Khalifa, President of the Central Informatics Organization (CIO), Tom Francese, Vice President, EMEA of IBM Software Group and Abdulla Ishaq, General Manager of Bahrain Business Machines (BBM) recently. The event was also attended by a number of senior officials from the Bahrain government and the Kingdom's business community.

CIO and IBM have worked closely together over the last two years to build an end-to-end e-Government infrastructure for Bahrain on a platform based on open standards. Bahrain is the first government in the Middle East to join a growing number of governments around the world who are adopting open standards for their e-Government initiatives in order to benefit from reduced costs and increased flexibility. The Bahrain e-Government solution centre will be linked to a network of IBM e-Government centres worldwide. The centre will have access to the latest technologies and skills and be able to provide countries in the Middle East with the expertise to deliver real value to citizens as they start to roll out e-Government Services.

United Kingdom

Welsh Assembly introduces website on Work-Life Balance

Welsh Assembly Minister for Education and Lifelong Learning, Jane Davidson, recently, launched the http://www.wlbinwales.org.uk website which aims to provide free information, advice and guidance on Work-Life Balance to employers, employees, unions and the general public.

The launch of the website is said to be one of the key strands to the Welsh Assembly government's policy for more effective work-life balance for employers and employees in Wales promoting the benefits of work-life balance and communicating those benefits across the public, private and voluntary sectors in Wales.

UK promotes open source software for local government
The UK government's National Computing Centre (NCC) has launched an open source test laboratory to encourage take-up of open source solutions among public sector organisations.

The Open Source Laboratory is part of the Open Source Academy, a national project funded by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister's e-Innovations initiative. The lab aims to provide facilities for local authorities that want to trial open source applications without running the risk of disrupting existing services.

A spokesman for the NCC has said that the creation of the Open Source Laboratory will help public sector organisations evaluate alternatives in an independent test environment without compromising current service delivery. Use of the lab is available to all public sector bodies free of charge. The first user of the facility will be Cheshire County Council, which is evaluating a solution for desktop services that uses open source and proprietary technology.

Africa

East African regional states to consolidate e-Government strategy
The East African Community member states of Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania held discussions recently aimed at consolidating the region's e-Government strategy that will streamline communication systems.

The earlier meeting held in Tanzania last year, identified customs and immigration control, e-Parliament, e-Health, e-Banking and procurement as strategic areas to be tackled in the push for an economic community based on information knowledge. The discussions held in this meeting centred around on minutes of the Tanzania meeting.

The Director of the Regional Economic Commission for Africa, Mbaye Diouf, has said that the areas outlined agreements and protocols that should sustain e-Government services, applications and content in a harmonised manner. Kenya's Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology, James Rege inaugurated the meeting.

Mozambique govt. implements e-Gov pilot project
The government of Mozambique has successfully implemented an e-Government pilot project connecting 15 national public administration entities in Maputo. The initiative is funded through the Development Gateway Foundation's e-Government Grants Programme, in partnership with the Government of Italy.



It is named Government Elecronic Network (GovNet)-Pilot, the project is a part of Mozambique's national ICT Policy Implementation Strategy, which aims to improve public services and increase transparency in the public sector. The pilot has established a common communications platform for the Ministry of Public Administration, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Health and Ministry of Science and Technology, among others, giving them a unified e-mail system, Intranet, and document management system, as well as cost-effective shared access to the Internet. The network is now being used by over 500 government employees through nearly 400 work stations. As part of the project, a new government web portal has also been launched at http://www.govnet. gov.mz, intended to increase public access to information.

The site will gradually add content from all government ministries and other information services to encourage public participation in national policy processes.

Namibian government ties up with Microsoft

The Namibian government and Microsoft recently marked the completion of a two-year collaboration to create a new approach to provide Namibian schools and communities with access to technology and computer related training.

The joint initiative is named, African Pathfinder and comprises a broad range of programmes, which together enable ICT to be procured and offered to the public.

Dubai

Dubai Municipality gets Best Middle East e-Government Portal award

Dubai Municipality (DM) has bagged the Best Middle East e-Government Portal award during the 10th Middle East Information and Communication Technology Excellence Awards presented at a ceremony held on the sidelines of the 11th GCC e-Government Forum at Dubai World Trade Centre on 25 May, 2005.

The award recognises an Internet portal that furnishes combined e-Government services provided by different government organisations as a one-stop repository where businesses and citizens can gain access to all government services. The e-Government initiative of Dubai Municipality, started in 1999, has been a pioneer in providing e-Services not only in Dubai but in the region as well.

All its services are provided through one access point, which is the DM portal http:// www.dm.gov.ae. Australia

Australian government supports open source software to facilitate e-Democracy
The government of the Australian State of Victoria recently, issued a call for tenders for the development of open source based electronic voting machines. An inquiry into the potential of e-Democracy in Victoria has recommended the use of open source software regarding the adoption of electronic voting kiosks.

The state expects to facilitate the ballot for people with poor English skills by the use of electronic voting machines. According to the Electronic Democracy Subcommittee chaired by Michael Leighton, the use of open source software prevents abuse and encourages public confidence in the integrity of the system.

Estonia

President halts the e-Voting plan
Estonian President Arnold Ruutel feels that the electronic voting process needs to be more secure before it can be extended to the national elections in 2007 and therefore has halted the e-Voting plan.

A month ago, the Estonian parliament had agreed to the Internet voting for use in local elections coming up this October. The system uses the country's identity card system as the basis for voter identification. Voters would need to have an ID card reader attached to the computer to vote online. Although around 60 percent of the population owns an ID card, the number with card readers is much lower.

The president emphasizes a more thorough debate on the uniformity of elections and the reliability of voter identification. According to him e-voting would violate the principle of uniformity of elections.

Malaysia

Perak to be a 'knowledge state' by 2020
The state government of the Perak in Malaysia has launched a strategy to transform Perak into a 'knowledge state' by 2020.

The plan will be disseminated in two stages and will focus on three areas: knowledge infrastructure, knowledge economy and knowledge society. A total of 25 initiatives will be put in place to support the strategy, whose mission is to make ICT the bedrock of the Perak economy.

One of the targets of the plan is to have a broadband network installed in all government agencies by 2006; other goals are to have 63 per cent Internet penetration throughout the state by 2010 such as Internet kiosks in all town centres and 40 per cent e-mail usage in rural areas. The government said that it wants to establish Perak as an attractive location for outsourcing, shared services centres and call centres.

Ireland

Irish government launches health portal

The Irish government has officially launched the 'Harley Street of cyberspace,' an online communications network aimed at health professionals and the general public.

The website, http://www.healthhub.ie is developed by Odyssey Internet Portals in collaboration with the Irish College of General Practitioners. It is developed in an attempt to facilitate the interaction and communication of health professional organisations with their members and with each other, as well as providing the general public with a point of access to health professionals around the country.

Sri Lanka

PM launches e-Society development initiative
The launch of the e- Society Development Initiative (e-SDI) by the Information Communication Technology Agency (ICTA) under the patronage of Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa will take Sri Lanka into a new era where all sections of the society would reap the benefits of the developments of ICT. The overall goal of the e-SDI, is to facilitate access to ICT amongst the most vulnerable groups in Sri Lanka, and ensure that the benefits of ICT development flow to these groups. By facilitating a more balanced access to information within Sri Lankan society it is envisioned the e-SDI will assist in closing the development divide between urban and rural areas, help to integrate post conflict regions and thereby contribute to the broader national objectives of development, growth and peace.The key feature of the e-SDI will be the e-Society Fund through which two types of grant mechanisms will be operated over the next four years.

Uganda

Uganda shifts toward e-Government
Uganda's Ministry of Finance, Planning and Development (MoFPEP) and Hewlett-Packard (HP) have announced the completion of the first phase of a multimillion-dollar integrated financial management system (IFMS).

The system, which was implemented at six government ministries and four local government bodies, aims to support the improvement of public sector budgeting, financial management and accounting, and allow disparate departments and systems to share information seamlessly.

Delhi launches online registration of birth and death ertificates…
The Municipal Corporation of New Delhi (MCD) re cently opened the scheme of registrations of births and deaths online. The Online Institutional Registration (OLIR) has brought 278 hospitals under the scheme. Now, the birth or death certificates can be accessed through MCD's official website http://www. mcdonline.gov.in

Satbir Singh, Mayor of Delhi, inaugurated the ''storage room'' at MCD zonal office in Civil Lines, from where the scheme will be operated. This facility would go a long way in simplifying the procedures. The hospitals would be provided with passwords to make entry of their respective documents. One could also procure the certificates by ordering them through a payment gateway on the website.

… and makes grievance redressal forum
The Delhi Development Authority (DDA, www.ddadelhi.com) has decided to set up an online grievance redressal forum following Municipal Corporation of Delhi's (MCD's) footsteps.



The DDA's online Public Grievances Redressal Monitoring System, developed by the National Informatics Centre, was set up last week to help officials trace grievances and action taken by the body. DDA officials said that they have been receiving lots of public grievances departmentally but there is no centralised system or data for them to keep track of how many grievance cases they receive in a month or a year. They will now have computerised records of all cases. They said that from next week, when a citizen files a complaint against a DDA department, it will be uploaded for senior officials to see. DDA has trained five officials from each department as 'grievance officers', who will be in charge of monitoring and disposing of cases. DDA will also set up a counter at the reception at Vikas Sadan to look into public grievances.

 

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