June 2006

News Review

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India among world’s top 10 with Internet users above 15

A survey by America’s comScore Networks has ranked India at the 10th position behind countries like the US, China, Japan and South Korea with the highest population of Internet users above the age of 15. Currently, India has an online population of 16.713 million users. The survey also pointed out that India’s online population is also higher than countries like Russia, Australia, Spain and Brazil. Four Asian nations — China, Japan, India and South Korea — together account for nearly 25% of the worldwide online population, which is about 11% larger than the US having the largest online population of 152 million users. China has been ranked 2nd with a 74.72 million online population. Traffic from Internet cafes and access from mobile phones or PDAs have been excluded in the survey. It may, however, be noted that Internet penetration in India continues to be the lowest in the world particularly when it has a population of 1.1 billion.

In Memoriam
Pramod Mahajan October 30, 1949 – May 3, 2006

Rajya Sabha member and BJP General Secretary Pramod Mahajan’s untimely death on May 3 has quite understandably snatched away a prominent member of GenNext who would have steered his party BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) to great heights and proved to be an asset for India as well. Unfortunately, Mahajan’s life was nipped in his prime after a 12-day long battle for life at Mumbai’s P.D. Hinduja hospital when his assassin-brother Pravin Mahajan pumped in 3 bullets from point blank range from his .32 Belgian pistol at Pramod Mahajan’s 2-bedroom Worli apartment on April 22 morning. Fifty six-year-old Mahajan’s liver, pancreas and intestine were extensively damaged in the ghastly attack.

Known as an articulate and dynamic politician, Mahajan rose to dizzy heights from his humble middle-class background through his gift of gab, resourcefulness, organisational and manipulative skills. Born on 30th October 1949 at Mehboobnagar in Andhra Pradesh, Mahajan’s family migrated to Ambejogai in Maharashtra from where he began his career as a teacher in Kholeshwar College. In BJP, Mahajan donned the mantle of being a master strategist, fundraiser and election manager. He was also known for his suave, media friendly and witty attitude.

Mahajan became a cabinet minister in the NDA government led by Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee. He held important portfolios like Information and Broadcasting, Communications and Information Technology, and Parliamentary Affairs. He remained Union Cabinet Minister for Communications and Information Technology between 2001 and 2003. During his stint as Communications and Information Technology Minister, Mahajan played a major role in India’s cellular revolution. He was also instrumental in tabling the IT Act 2000. Earlier, Communications and Information Technology were being run under two separate ministries but Mahajan succeeded in getting the two ministries merged and retaining the expanded ministry. It was during his ministership that the Convergence Bill regarding Internet telephony was passed. Pramod Mahajan also strongly advocated government spending in e-Governance and tried to push for a three percent budgetary allocation for e-Governance projects. He was very excited about the future of smart cards that would carry complete information of an individual. With so much to the credit of Mahajan, his tragic demise is extremely unfortunate particularly at a time when India has started its march towards e-Governance in earnest.

Students to oversee  e-Government initiatives

In an effort to suitably and effectively address e-Governance glitches by several government departments in Karnataka, Engineering students are being roped in to handle e-Governance initiatives in the state. The Board for IT Education Standards (BITES) in association with the IT department and IBM has launched Project INVITE (Initiative to Nurture a Vibrant Information Technology Ecosystem), which would engage final year engineering students in government projects. The project, the first of its kind in the state, would enable

BE (Bachelor of Engineering) students to help create solutions/prototypes for local e-Governance needs at various levels.

K. V. Prahada Rao, Director and IT adviser of BITES, said, “Over 400 students are already working on 24 project scenarios for 22 government departments. Students can even request for a project of their choice. More than 100 faculty members have been trained to help students with the projects. This initiative is primarily aimed at plugging plagiarism in college projects,” and further commented, “In most colleges, year-end projects are a farce. Anyone can buy them in the open market. There are dubious companies which award projects for a price.

Through INVITE, students and faculty members can work on live projects and not cooked-up ones.”

Maran stresses time-bound adoption of e-Governance

Marking the completion of two years of the UPA Government, Union Minister of Communications and Information Technology Dayanidhi Maran said that for 2007 his ministry’s priority areas would be Rural Telephony, Telecom and IT manufacturing, e-Governance and Postal sector reforms. Dwelling on the issue of e-Governance, Maran said, “The National e-Governance Plan (NeGP) has just been approved by the Union Cabinet. We will provide full support to other central ministries and state governments to facilitate time-bound and systematic adoption of e-Governance. By 2007, the Department of Information Technology will create a ubiquitous platform for such integrated delivery of e-Government services consisting of State Wide Area Networks, State Data Centres and Call Centres in all states, besides 100,000 Community Service Centres spread over all the 6000 blocks in the country.”

Maran also stated that by 250 million connections would be provided by 2007 and further 500 million connections by 2010. Plans are afoot to cover 85% of the geographical area of the country by mobile telephone by 2007. A Village Public Telephone to all the 41,000 uncovered eligible villages would also be provided by March 2007 under Rural Telephony. Further, to ensure rural connectivity all Secondary and Higher Secondary schools, and public health care centres would be provided broadband coverage by 2007. Besides, all Gram Panchayats would get broadband connectivity by 2010.

KMC to retail civic services through e-Seva booths

The Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) has decided to retail civic services through a network of e-Seva booths across Kolkata. This is in line with similar services being currently offered by the municipal corporation in Hyderabad. The host of civic services to be offered by the KMC include renewal of trade licence, collection of property tax, distribution of mutation forms and granting permission for water supply connection. Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharyya, KMC Mayor, said, “Our objective is to offer relief to the citizens from the hassles of coming to the KMC headquarters or borough offices to avail of these services. The scheme will also generate self-employment opportunities.”

VAT Portal for Gujarat

In an effort to effectively implement VAT (Value Added Tax), the Gujarat government recently launched

http://www.commercialtax.gujarat.gov.in/vatwebsite/index.jsp. The portal is a dealer-account software (DAS) tool-based portal to simplify the operations. In order to maintain business records and filing of VAT returns, any registered dealer can download the tool, which is available as a freeware. Through this software the dealers would also be able to prepare sales invoices, stock registers and sales purchase registers by themselves. The portal has been designed by Tata Consultancy Services (TCS). Besides eliminating double taxation and encouraging self-assessment by the dealers themselves, the portal also provides extensive information on various forms of taxes prevailing in Gujarat.

Recently, a INR100 crore (US$2.19mn)

e-Governance program for KMC has been funded by the Department for International Development of the British government. The implementation of the program is underway, and would be finalised by 2008. Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), which is undertaking this project, is also devising an integrated municipal administrative system through a wide-area networking (WAN) and an inter-departmental local area networking (LAN) facilities for the KMC that has over 100 offices spread across Kolkata.

e-Governance gains pace in Manipur

The first phase of the installation work of State-wide Area Network (SWAN) is being undertaken in Manipur as part of the countrywide National e-Governance Plan (NeGP) being implemented by the Department of Information Technology (DIT), Government of India. National Informatics Centre (NIC) would be installing SWAN in the state. Computerisation work in important government departments has also begun. The successful implementation of NeGP would enable people to download information from the official websites of the concerned departments not only from Community Information Centres (CICs) and cyber cafes but also through the help of mobile phones.

Earlier, a sensitisation workshop for the legislators and bureaucrats was held in December 2005, and was conducted by the Manipur’s Science and Technology Department.

Currently, the NIC is undertaking the networking of all the Heads of Departments. Among other e-Governance initiatives, computerisation of land patta (holdings) of some, which are under Imphal East District, has already been completed. Besides, 33 CICs have also been set up in various block headquarters of the State while six more CICs to be set up in block headquarters include Saitu-Gamphajol, Chakpikarong, Thanlon, Parbung, Saikot and Tuiboung.

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