August 2005

Putting the cart before the horse?

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It was only a few years ago that the Indian government decided to have a computer kiosk at the gate of every central ministry having information about all the schemes, key staff and work plans of the ministry. The government hoped that touts, who sold government information for a fee, would disappear from the scene with this innovation. This scheme unfortunately failed. The staff who were supposed to be operating and maintaining the kiosk would be often out of the office and gone for the tea!

 

The above case aptly demonstrated that the potential of computers to deliver governance services could work if there was a business model applied for services. Thus was born a second level of innovation by way of e-Governance. In came the models of Drishtee, n-logue, Jagriti e-seva, Lokvani etc. that are looking at the significant private sector involvement in maintaining and servicing the information kiosks.

 

The Andhra state government has taken this concept to the next level, where the kiosk operators pay the government a ‘license fee’ to provide e-Governance services to the citizens.

 

Mission 2007, e-Panchayat, Rajiv Internet Village, Common Service Centre scheme of the Department of Information Technology and many more! The list of big projects for quick roll out of the CSCs is growing rapidly in India.

 

The government need to respond as quickly to this by providing increased e-Government services to help sustain these growing numbers of CSCs financially. Unfortunately, the ‘content’ for e-Government has to come from the government and this cannot be ‘generated’ by the private sector. Else it would become a case of  putting the cart before the horse.

 

It is good to see that all the right ‘noises’ are being made by the recently launched ‘National Knowledge Commission’, Planning Commission and several other top level departments of the government on e-Governance. The jury is still out on when we will see at least one e-village or e-city in the country!

 

egov is taking a small step in this direction by organising the assessment and reflections meeting called Conflux2005, focusing on e-Government issues in the country, and learning from the lessons of other countries that are ahead of India. We plan this to be a platform where the key stakeholders in the sector are able to share notes and take the egov agenda forward.

 

We look forward to active participation from the governments, civil society, experts and of course the private sector, all of whom are stakeholders in e-Government scenario.

 

Ravi Gupta

Ravi.Gupta@csdms.in

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