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Conference Report

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Introduction
It is a well-established fact that information and communication technologies (ICTs) can play a vital role for governments and public sector organisations to deal with modern challenges of development and contribute towards boosting economic growth and improve overall quality-of-life. In order to achieve this, it is essential to drive good governance through effective e-Government initiatives with appropriate change management strategies, state-of-the-art technology and sustainable public private partnership models.

The Event
In order to address these emerging issues of e-Government and create a level-sharing platform for easy exchange of knowledge and ideas among various stakeholders, the Centre for Science, Development and Media Studies (CSDMS) in collaboration with Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi, Department of Information Technology (Government of India), UNDP and Danish Technological Institute recently organized a three day international conference, titled Conflux 2005: The e-Government Conference, held between 17thto 19th October 2005 in New Delhi, India.

The Program
Spanning over three full days of activities, the conference covered as many as 9 plenary sessions, 19 technical sessions and a well laid-out exhibition running throughout all days. With pre-lunch keynote sessions and post-lunch parallel tracks scheduled for each day, a plethora of issues pertaining to multiple aspects of e-Government were meticulously deliberated, discussed and debated by the speakers as well as the audience.

Participation
The conference witnessed a participation of nearly 500 delegates representing various Indian government departments, multilateral and bilateral agencies, academic institutions, non-governmental organisations and the IT industry. A staggering 64 percent of the participants represented various government departments and public sector organisations, 23 percent were from the IT industry and consulting firms and 13 percent from non-profit organisations and bilateral/multilateral agencies.

 

Keynote Sessions
Marked by eminent speakers from the government, academia and industry, the keynote sessions of the conference had a series of interesting deliberations on multitude of issues, relating to present challenges and opportunities of e-Government in India, as well as abroad. Out of 30 odd keynote speakers of the conference, 14 distinguished speakers from the Indian government, 7 from IT industry, 3 speakers from non-profit/developmental organisations and 6 international speakers from countries of Asia and Europe. The opening keynote session termed – the ‘Vision Session’, had an impressive speaker list comprising senior Indian bureaucrats including – S. Lakshminarayanan, Secretary, Inter-State Council Secretariat, Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India and Wajahat Habibullah, Chief Information Commissioner, Central Information Commission, Government of India, along with key representatives of IT industry like Kiran Karnik, President, NASSCOM and Peter Moore, Managing Director-Public Sector, Microsoft Asia-Pacific & Greater China. The central message that emerged out of this session reinforced the growing realization for a need to develop an information society that encompasses all aspects of human development, particularly in relation to public sector reform. Other keynote sessions that followed over the three days were equally engaging, dotted with distinguished speakers presenting on themes such as – Indian e-Government initiatives, International e-Government perspectives and Emerging e-Government trends. Some of the eminent keynote speakers of these sessions were – R. Chandrashekhar, Joint Secretary, e-Governance, Ministry of Communication & Information Technology, Government of India; Prakash Kumar, Secretary-IT, Government of NCT of Delhi; Dr N Vijayaditya, Director General, NIC, Government of India; J. Satyanarayana, CEO, National Institute of Smart Government, Hyderabad; Jeremy Millard, Head, e-Governance, Danish Technological Institute; Ian Swann, Vice-President, SAP AG; P. I. Suvrathan, Addl. Secretary, DARPG, Government of India; P D Sudhakar, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Panchayati Raj, Government of India; P K Agarwal, Joint Secretary (Marketing), Ministry of Agriculture, Government of India

The emphasis of most of these speakers was on a greater need for focusing on the aspect of governance through technology, rather than on technology itself. This quintessential message that came out was almost unequivocally resounded across all sessions of the conference and largely consented among a large section of the audience.

Parallel Sessions

Each day of the conference had two series of parallel sessions that  emphatically touched upon 14 distinct thematic areas of e-Government. A variety of  perspectives emerging from a wide range of speakers across government, private and the  development sector made for a good hearing and a unique learning experience. The broad  spectrum of topics covered through these sessions were rightfully pertinent and suitably relevant to the present developmental needs of e-Government in India as well as abroad.

Some of the themes covered in these sessions were –
• National e-Governance Plan (NeGP) of India
• State e-Governance Plan of India
• e-Panchayat
• e-Health
• e-Agriculture
• Citizen Service Centres (CSCs)
• Content Management
• Cyber Laws
• Technology & Innovations

Apart from this, some special sessions were conducted by like Government of NCT of Delhi, USAID, UNDP and Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, which showcased select e-Government case studies and initiatives being under undertaken by them. These special sessions were –
• Delhi e-Government Initiatives (Govt. of NCT of Delhi)
• e-Governance in Urban Local Bodies (USAID FIRE-D Project)
• UNDP ICTD projects (UNDP)
• Right to Information (Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative)

IT Secretarys’ Conclave
Probably the biggest draw of the entire event was the IT Secretarys’ Conclave. Being organised as an exclusive evening session of the second day of the conference, the  Conclave, witnessed a thorough brainstorming among 8  state representatives. Accentuated with intriguing discussions, cross cutting issues of e-Government  implementation and planning, along with the challenges and  success stories of each state were openly shared and  analysed. A comparative evaluation of state initiatives  emerged out of these discussions that proved to be highly  informative and intensely enthralling. Questions, criticisms  and appreciations flew thick and hard as the session gave  way for an open floor discussion involving the members of  audience. Ending on a high note, the Conclave laid  foundation for increased cooperation among the member states with the purpose of taking forward their individual e-Government initiative and ushering into a new era of development.

Exhibition
The exhibition of Conflux 2005 brought 11 different exhibitors from the government and industry, who showcased a wide range of products, services and initiatives in the domain of e-Government. The impressive exhibitor list included those of Government of NCT of Delhi, Government of Jharkhand, Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC)-Bangalore, Solutions Exchange (UNDP), along with renowned industry players like HP, Intel, Ernst & Young, Gilat Satellite Networks, WYSE Technologies and Comat Technologies.

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