Interview

Q & A : N S Kalsi, IT secretary Punjab

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Punjab Government has taken many key initiatives in e-Government.  Would you like to elaborate the e-Governance plans of the State for the benefit of our readers?

Government of Punjab is committed to provide a responsive and effective administration for the welfare of the public. The Government envisages a scenario wherein every citizen shall be able to access the benefits of Information Technology.

 

Currently, Punjab government has been taking several positive initiatives for providing good governance across the State to use the power of Information & Communication Technologies (ICTs) to transform the citizen-government interface in a meaningful manner. On the top of the list are the public dealing and revenue generating departments. Improving the delivery of citizen services at the cutting edge level, especially by establishing a one-stop-shop for providing all Government services in an integrated manner, describes the major strategic initiatives taken by the Government of Punjab under the e-governance plan.

 

Already, more than 15 essential services of the Deputy Commissioner’s office have been made available to citizens under the Suwidha project in all 17 DC offices in an integrated manner. This facility is now being extended to the sub-divisions as well with an aim to provide easy services to the general public right near to his/ her home place. The Government is planning to open more than 250 delivery channels for providing services of most departments in an integrated way.

 

There are two vital factors with a view to reach the grass-root levels. One is rural connectivity and other is the role of the databases i.e. citizen database, business database, property database and department database. As a pre-requisite for the same, the State Government is working out details for the establishment of State Wide Area Network for Voice, Video and Data traffic for covering all district headquarters, sub-divisional headquarters and block headquarters in the whole State.

 

Business Process Re-engineering (BPR) and Administrative Reforms (AR) have taken up simultaneously for ensuring maximum benefit of e-governance.

 

The State Government is also in touch with Department of Information Technology (DIT), Government of India for the implementation of National e-Governance Plan (NeGP) under which Mission Mode Projects (MMPs) in citizen area would be implementation at the State level.

What role Punjab Infotech is playing in implementing of e-Governance in the State? What is the role of e-Governance Society?

Punjab Infotech is acting as an executing arm to the Department of Information Technology for the implementation of small e-Governance projects in the State. In the absence of technical manpower with most departments, services such as feasibility study, acquisition of IT products, development & hosting of web-sites, trainings etc. are being provided by Punjab Infotech.

 

The role of Punjab State E-Governance Society (PSEGS) is to administer the implementation of E-Governance projects of the State Government for the overall benefit of the citizens and public by setting up the necessary administrative, financial, legal and technical framework, implementation mechanism and resources in the State of Punjab. This society would act as a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) for the implementation of e-Governance projects in the State. NeGP would also be implemented at the state level by the State level body PSEGS.

Would you like to elaborate on the Sukhmani service centres? How many of them are in operation and how many are planned for future? Could you mention a few locations of these centres?

Sukhmani service centres called “Sukhmani Centres”, in short, would be set up by PSEGS for the provision of integrated single window access to various citizen services provided by various
departments/ organisations in an efficient and transparent manner. Sukhmani stands for Smart, Unified, Knowledgeable, Humble/ Honest, Moral, Accountable and Novel Initiative.

 

The Government related services of those Departments/ Organisations whose backend operations have been computerised are being offered under this project. The citizens would be able to get the service by paying a nominal ‘facilitation charges’ that has already been worked out by the Government. The delivery of services at Sukhmani Centres would be very fast and around 150+ services have been identified which would be available at these centres. It is planned to cover entire State by opening around 250+ centres spread uniformly throughout the districts. The society is in the process of short listing a system integrator for this project who would set up all the centres and would also be responsible for its operations and management for a period of five years after the contract. He would also integrate the existing Sukhmani application with any new application software that a department is ready with after it’s backend computerisation.

 

At present a pilot Sukhmani centre is working at Ludhiana for the last more than one year where services related to utility bill payments like electricity bills, water/ Sewerage bills, etc are being offered to the public. The application software has been developed by Microsoft.

Has the State conducted or planning to conduct any citizen feedback survey on these centres? 

The State Government is planning to conduct a citizen feedback survey once at-least 25% of the planned centres have been established. However, citizen feedback survey for Suwidha project concerning to provision of DC office services has already been conducted and has been planned again

What are the initiatives taken by the State Government to build capacity of the employees for implementation of the projects?

The State Government is laying stress on trainings of the existing manpower and development of Human Resource/ trained manpower in various components of Information Technology and its related fields. The basic training programs namely DoE-ACC based IT Primer-I, IT Primer II and System Administration for Government employees are going on a regular basis with the help of Government-own training institutes with an aim to make them IT literate, MS office and internet connectivity/ e-mail.

 

Training of IAS officers to act as CIOs and Dy CIO is another initiative with a view to play a leadership role in the planning, implementation and management of Information Technology projects in the governance of the State.

 

In line with NeGP, the State Government has been laying immense focus on Capacity Building to provide for overall direction, standardisation and consistency across initiatives and at the same time, to have the resources and flexibility to drive this plan.

How is the response of a training course recently conducted by CDAC for the deputy CIOs of the State Government? Are you planning similar courses in future?

The response of the Dy CIO’s program conducted by CDAC was 100%. The participants from various departments took deep interest in learning ways and methods for administering the implementation of e-Governance projects. Similar courses are also being planned in co-ordination with other institutes like Mahatma Gandhi State Institute of Public Administration (MGSIPA) and National Institute of Smart Government (NISG), Hyderabad.

Are you getting adequate support from the political leaders for your e-Governance initiatives?

Yes. In Punjab, political leaders fully recognise the power and use of Information & Communication Technology (ICT) in taking it to the masses. I would like to share that both Chief Minister Punjab and Chief Secretary have been our driving force for implementing e-Governance initiatives. We have been getting regular support and interventions from the political leaders for the e-Governance initiatives. Wherever required, projects are reviewed at the level of minister of the concerned department so as to remove bottlenecks, if any, at any stage. Video conferencing facility is a media for tele-meetings with state officials for effective monitoring of various schemes, programmes and projects.

How do you rate e-Governance implementation in Punjab compared to UT and other States?

Punjab is pretty well placed on the e-governance front. All pre-requisites for a strong and self-sustaining e-governance regime are in place. Creating the right governance and institutional mechanisms and setting up core infrastructure and policies are backbone for any e-Governance to succeed. So far, Punjab has made significant progress in both these areas.  Every State Government has been striving hard to put it to maximum use to draw benefits of Information Technology.  States have been learning not only from other State Governments but also from its mistakes. We need to create a conducive and friendly environment for taking along all stakeholders to successfully implement e-Governance projects.

What are the key upcoming projects in the area of e-Government? Would you like to share the future strategy and roadmap with our readers?

Major pilot projects are also nearing completion in the important public interface areas like Land Records, its integration with Property Registration and Transport Services (SARATHI and VAHAN). The successes of these pilots are being rolled out in the entire state on a Public-Private Partnership (PPP) model for the benefit of the citizens. Expression of Interest (EoI) for integrated two projects namely Land Records and Property Registration has already been invited, in which would be rendered through 150+ centres upto tehsil level. Very soon, bids would be floated for the replication of Transport Services in the entire state.

 

The State Government is currently taking necessary steps for extending the Suwidha project in all 72 Sub-divisions level. Multi-purpose Service Card (MSC), being piloted at Fatehgarh Sahib, is about providing IDs to citizens and its integration with departmental databases.  Farmers are being trained on the technology so that they can see the latest rates on the http://www.agmarknet.nic.in  portal.

 

After successfully launching the computer education in 1299 schools covering 7.5 lac students, next batch of 1700+ Government schools are being undertaken this year to impart compulsory computer education for the students from Class VI to XII with the participation of private sector.

 

The State Government would very soon invite bids for the establishment of State Wide Area Network for Voice, Video and Data traffic with 2 mbps bandwidth for covering all district headquarters, sub-divisional headquarters and block headquarters in the whole State. All delivery channels would be connected to this backbone for communication.

 

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