January 2006

Positioning e-Governance on fast track in India

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Presently, e-Governance has become a widely-debated subject attracting all round attention. As such, two key issues regarding e-Governance in India has arisen – penetration of enterprise-wide ICT solutions from PC penetration and growing awareness among various stakeholders to a greater extent. Lately, e-Governance projects have attracted massive investment but still have a long way to go.

The very purpose of e-Governance in a country like India can be viewed as a process to facilitate change and redefine the lifestyle of people in Government, i.e. a process to break the silos among departments from Citizen perspective, reduce/ kill long queues, and present ‘Government is ONE’.

The foremost objective of e-Governance is to ensure free flow of Information and freedom of Information. The information becoming easily and efficiently available to anyone, anytime from anywhere, using modes of access like paper form, Internet, mobile devices etc.
However, at the same time it must be ensured that it has to be made available in a secure manner to the people concerned with due authentication.

Managing the data and information efficiently and effectively using state-of-the-art technologies shall help streamline and standardise the processes transparently across departments. It would need to create and manage backend common databases across applications/ departments. In fact, the major goal of e-Governance should be to achieve enhanced accountability and responsiveness of Government around the concept of Service Level Agreements (SLA) transparently thus making its services citizen centric.

Current state of e-Governance in India
• Department level IT solutions with manual processes being carried out as a parallel activity
• User mind set to get the quick results, say application software within 3 to 6 months with a very limited perspective
• Some of the Services are being offered to Citizens using ICT, however comprehension and re-visiting the Governance processes still requires institutionalisation
• Some people have emerged as e-Governance Champions; however the challenge is to sustain the change while remained focused on functional domain and keep the pace with technology advancements
• Different departments within the state, different states across the country, various ministries/ departments are busy evolving their respective ICT solutions. Though some National level initiatives have begun
• Definition and evolution of standards, best practices needs serious attention
• Active Industry participation is being accepted as one of the critical success factors, however still people have their resistance and apprehension to embrace industry as a trusted partner

Suggested strategies for effective e-Governance
Each Government department like Police, Sales Tax, Public Healthcare, Transport, usually work the traditional bureaucratic way across States except some local variations in terms of some parameters, volumes, etc. However, each State wants to have its own IT initiative, which however needs massive funding. The transformation into e-Governance must be seen as an opportunity to streamline the Government functioning by removing the non-value adding processes and enhancing the efficiency and effectiveness. It should reduce the cost of running the Government, resulting in self-funding of such projects from long-term perspective and reduce the burden on citizens and businesses. Some of office automation and productivity enhancement tools like File tracking system, e-mail systems, Intranet systems, HR and Administration, and procurement portals would indeed be common for all arms of the Government thus enhancing scope of interoperability and cost-effectiveness.

Corporate Sector has experienced a major change of transforming the organisation from end-customer perspective. It might be a worthy idea for the Government to view anything and everything from Citizen perspective and re-look at the current structure and functioning of Government. Enhanced transparency, accountability, efficiency, effectiveness, responsiveness, flexibility, scalability, anytime delivery of services from anywhere through multiple mechanism/ devices should be among the key focus for e-Governance solutions.

Besides, the Government should make effort to select people as per suitability and not necessarily seniority or availability. Further, the Government should invite active and meaningful Industry participation with a clear objective and intention towards achieving the best. Accordingly, the Industry needs to respond appropriately and responsibly. The Industry players having understanding and experience of ground realities should only participate. Funding has also continuously been a major issue because of the lack of trust and confidence between the Government and the Industry.

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