February 2006

Citizen Centric e-Governance:

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Good governance is being  recognised as an important goal  by many countries across the world. They have taken up specific initiatives for open government. Freedom of information is being redefined and supported by detailed guidelines. The Internet revolution has proved to be a powerful tool for good governance initiatives. An important dimension of the Internet potential is the possibility of providing services any time anywhere. Along with this, there is a conscious effort to put the citizen as the centre of focus of the governance. Citizens are being perceived as customers and clients. Delivery of services to citizens is considered as a primary function of the government. Particularly the democratic nation of the billion people like India, e-Governance should enable seamless access to information and seamless flow of information across the state and central government in the federal set-up.

No country has so far implemented an e-Governance system for one billion people. It is big challenge before us.

Typical scenario
I visualise an election scenario, where a candidate files his nomination from a particular constituency. Immediately the election officer verifies his/her authenticity from the national citizen ID database through multifactor authenti-cation, through a multipurpose Citizen ID card. His/her civic consciousness and citizenship behaviour comes from the police crime record. His property record comes from the registration of land authority across the country. His income and wealth resources come from the income-tax department, and other sources. His education credentials come from the university records. His track record of employment comes from various employers with whom he had worked. His credit history comes form various credit institutions like banks. His legal track records come from the judicial system.

All the details arrive at the computer terminal of the election officer within few minutes automatically by the act of e-Governance software agents which crawls across the various state and central government web services directories through the network and collects the information automatically and presents the facts in real-time without any bias. Artificial intelligence software analyses his credentials and gives a rating on how successful he will be as a politician. Election officer sitting at the remote block of the country decides on the spot and the election process starts. All the voters vote from their home through virtual polling booths. Is it a dream? Is it possible? If possible, when shall we have it? Can we provide good governance to our one billion people? Can the governance speed up the delivery system? Can the governance differentiate between genuine transactions and spurious transaction? Can the governance ensure immediate action for the genuine cases that satisfies the checklist for a particular service and  take action on spurious transactions? Can this be done by e-Governance at a cost affordable by our nation? If we have this system implemented then I call this as a true e-Governance system for the citizen.

Challenges in e-Governance
I am trying to seek an answer for these questions by asking another set of questions? Do we have a required e-Governance framework? Do we have a National Citizen database which will be the primary unit of data for all governance vertical and horizontal applications across the state and central governments? Do we have standards for the exchange of secure information with non-repudiation, across the state and central government departments seamlessly? Do we have a secure delivery framework by means of virtual private network connecting across the state and central government departments? Do we have data centres in centre and states to handle the departmental workflow automation, collaboration, interaction, and exchange of information with authentication? We should have our administrative systems empowered and reformed, which accelerate the decision-making? When will the entire administrative bodies be able to contribute more for the national development rather than being entangled in the files? I have just visualised the scenario. Let us try to find an answer to each of the above questions towards providing good and smart governance to our one billion people.

Concept of e-Governance
In summary, I visualise e-Governance as defined thus: “A transparent smart e-governance with seamless access, secure and authentic flow of information crossing the inter-departmental barrier and providing a fair and unbiased service to the citizen.”

I have always been in my life an advocate of using technology for the betterment of our society. e-Governance is one such opportunity. I want all of you to remember, the technology is a double-edged sword. If we don’t have an implementation plan from concept to completion, in less than one or two years, technology will become expensive and we will not be able to reap the benefits.

Transparency in e-Governance
India is transforming into a transparent society. It is essential that government functions that have interfaces or interactions with public especially where the state and central functionaries have to serve or support even correct the citizens; such functions have to be done through the tools of information technology and communication. This means, software has to be written to codify the rules, procedures and other related government functions and public access should be through IT. Then the government functions can provide equal access to all based on predetermined rules and even with rules to govern exception being done in a transparent manner.

Since India has the core competence
in information technology and communication, the possibility of success to bringing in transparency in administration and management through e-commerce and e-business leading to e-Governance, is definitely possible. Actions have to be initiated in a mission mode. Appropriate legal instrument to provide government power to such mode of interactions should also be done simultaneously.

National ID
The primary data requirement for the effective e-Governance is the National Citizen ID Card. It should be a multipurpose secured and authentic ID card. This card should be akin to the Xerox copy of the individual with the multifactor authentication such as photograph, biometrics – fingerprint, iris-based systems and digital signature. India with a population of one billion people should be concerned about providing this card to the citizens at a cost effective basis. Hence, there is a need to select the right technology for the preparation of the card and online issue of the card also needs to be determined urgently. This challenge must be taken up by the consortium of public and private industries, academic institutions with the Government. Presently, the government is considering the discussion of a bill for introducing multipurpose Citizen ID card.

Conclusion
A comprehensive e-Governance frame-work needs to be evolved. This framework encompasses the following:

• Establishment of e-Governance Commission or empowered Board
• Establishment of e-Governance GRID across the state and centre. Setting up of the Horizontal GRID across
the state governments and interconnecting the Horizontal GRIDS to the Vertical Central GRID.
• Setting up of e-Governance DATA Centre at the Centre and State Level and real time updation of data from various units of the government.
• Setting up a Multipurpose, secure, authentic national citizen-ID database as the primary data for all the e-governance services and online issue of Citizen ID card seamlessly.
• Electronic connectivity through dedicated Broadband, Virtual Private Network (VPN) based connectivity from the Centre to State, State to District and District to Block level and Block to village level through the options like wireless, microwave and VSAT. PURA scheme provides an impetus to electronic and knowledge connectivity.
• Create a language independent operating systems, databases, application servers, mail servers etc., in the Indian languages.
• Ninety percent of work concerning e-governance should be outsourced and government should only manage the Data Centre and maintain it for online application.
These are the challenges that are before us; the conference can discuss and bring out a comprehensive set of recommendations for the effective implementation across the states and central government. There is a new paradigm in the democratised information system “anytime anywhere the infor-mation can be accessed”.

The President of India, APJ Abdul Kalam, on the occasion of the inauguration of the e-Governance portal at Rashtrapati Bhawan on 13th October 2005 delivered this speech.

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