Interview

Committed to Provide Host of Government Services to Citizens : R S Sharma, Principal Secretary, Information Technology Department, Government of Jharkhand

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What is the approach adopted in implementing the state  Mission Mode Project (MMP)?  What is the progress of their implementation?
Over the past few years, the concepts of government and governance have been dramatically transformed.  There is an increased pressure and expectation from the citizens about not only the way the government functions but there is an expectation that government should be more open to democratic accountability. Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) have a valuable potential to help meet good governance goals in the country. The Government of Jharkhand recognises the power and potential of ICT and the effect it can have in transforming the government processes. It was found essential that the State Government adopts a strategic framework for the achievement of its
e-Governance vision for which it was required to focus upon customers, services, delivery channels, e-Governance infrastructure, people (institutional framework), processes and policies.

The State has been pro-actively trying to implement many e-Governance initiatives during three years or so. Jharkhand is a pioneer State in the country to have a backbone network (State Wide Area Network, rechristened as JharNet) for voice, data and video communication. It connects the State headquarters, all 24 Districts headquarters, 35 sub-divisions down to Block level with 2 Mbps connectivity. Further, Jharkhand is again the first State to set up 4,562 Service Centres (CSCs) throughout all the panchayats to provide Government to Citizens (G2C) and Business to Citizens (B2C) services.

We have a single point entry portal for providing government’s information and services to citizens and business. To improve the transparency and information, digitisation of the registered property documents and computerisation and networking of all registration offices along with the index registers is complete.  Further, we have also computerised  all the treasuries in the State and have not only linked them together but also provided their connectivity with banks. This has ensured an extremely efficient system of financial management, thereby eliminating possibility of forged withdrawals.

As far as computerisation and networking of government departments are concerned, commercial taxes department, transport, municipal services, employment exchange, public distribution system, district consumer Forum etc. are already computerised and functioning. We have also made considerable progress in space technology applications with the help of remote sensing and GIS techniques. Solutions have been systematically adopted in various government departments and value aided services are being provided in different sectors like agriculture, environmental conservation, forestry, geology, soil, urban planning, etc.

How would you rate your state’s progress towards making it an e-Ready state?
While Jharkhand is the youngest State in the country, its ICT initiatives like limited computerisation of some departments date back to the period when it was part of Bihar.  However, after creation of a new entity in the form of a full-fledged State, I recognise that Jharkhand’s initiatives in the area of application of ICT in improving service and governance have been scaled up considerably to harness the advantages of ICT applications.  While the State has been pioneer in establishment of SWAN and CSC projects its progress in computerisation of key-applications like treasuries, commercial taxes, etc. has also been noteworthy. 

In addition, we are pro-actively trying to push for computerisation of operations in almost all the state departments so as to have an absolutely integrated service delivery system in near future.

What are the business opportunities for the private sector in implementing the various e-Governance projects running in your state?
The State has developed the IT policy keeping in mind the enhanced opportunity that IT will unleash over the next decade with the help of private sector. Incentives to the IT industries are provided to ensure conducive environment for its establishment and sustained growth in Jharkhand.  Simplification of procedures for compliance with various regulatory Acts and Rules are also undertaken to create an investment friendly environment in the state. 

What are some of the best PPP practices in your state?
The State is committed to provide logistics, infrastructure, investment and fiscal incentives to ensure ample and conducive business opportunity in implementing e-Governance projects.  The relationship between public/private sector organisations with the government in Jharkhand can be summarised as (a) use pre-established services like registration, licenses, etc. (b) use post-established services like payment of taxes, filing of returns, employ welfare, etc.

The government is focusing more on regulatory functions and implementation of welfare schemes. Some of the activities have been outsourced to the private sector so that the technology adoption in the system is faster and this shall promote more employment generation opportunities.  However, in a State like Jharkhand, PPP models, especially in the areas which are not of infrastructure development or other commercial operations and which are traditionally thought as exclusive legal prerogative of the government are not very common. Despite these limitations, we have been able to successfully establish and run the computerisation and networking of registration department which has not only given a transparent system of functioning but also provided a significant process change and tremendously increased facilities to the citizens. People are able to take the delivery of property documents within 30 minutes, encumbrance certificates are issued across the counter and even on the internet with automatic indexing of documents with volume and page number. I think this is a significant achievement of the PPP model and the process changes brought in
the system.

What are the services that are being delivered / planned to be delivered through Common Service Centres (CSCs)?  What are the steps being taken for a better user experience (e.g. localisation, etc.)?  
Jharkhand takes the pride of being the first State in the entire country to implement the scheme of Common Service Centre (CSC). Steps have been taken to set up 4,562 CSCs throughout all the panchayats in the State in first phase and 872 CSCs in second phase to provide e-Governance and other value aided services.  These CSCs, named Pragya Kendras in Jharkhand, seek to transform rural areas through the use of ICT and deliver all hosts of government and private services to the rural people at their doorsteps. 


Most government to citizens (G2C) services can be grouped in 3 broad categories (1) information services, (2) services that require an interaction, (3) services involving transaction.  Issuance of birth certificate, death certificate, caste certificate. Income certificate, etc. from the Block Offices is being facilitated now through the CSCs. The rural citizen now needs to file a request for these and the Kiosk Operator would do the necessary procedures to procure the certificate from the Block Development Officer (BDO) and give it to the citizen after a few days. This a major initiative and a starting point to provide e-Governance services to the rural citizens. I wish to emphasise here that CSCs will be front-end enablement  for a complex and challenging digitisation and e-Governance plan that aims to address these challenges in totality. Using Pragya Kendras as a vehicle to deliver government services is expected to transform the way governance is carried out in rural India.  For better user experience, service delivery platforms are being enabled to simplify process, faster turnaround time and increase awareness of citizens towards developments affecting them.

Please share with us the capacity building programmes being planned / implemented in your state. 
Successful implementation and sustenance of e-Governance programmes for the State will depend on support, guidance and direction from the top staff of various State departments.  The need was felt to train officials occupying decision making levels and managerial posts who will be trained as ‘e-Champions’ and to be equipped with necessary skills to lead the successful implementation of e-Governance projects in the State. Jharkhand has planned to train at least 25 to 30 e-Champions and to make them responsible to implement the e-Governance roadmap of Jharkhand. It goes without saying that implementation of e-Governance projects will create a totally transformed work-environment for employees in all departments and will radically re-define the way services are offered to citizens and businesses. Therefore, employees at all levels in the departments are being equipped with the necessary skills and abilities to perform in accordance with the changing requirements.

What are the evaluation and monitoring techniques you are  adopting to monitor the progress and to assess whether the proposed benefits are being delivered to the citizen?
The State plans to carry out an exercise of assessment and impact of various e-Governance projects using stipulated assessment framework and all measurements on the basis of a sample of client for each major services availed by him.  Measurements would be done for electronic delivery of services as well as for the earlier mode of delivery of same services. In cases where alternate (non-electronic modes) are currently being used by the same set of users in similar context elsewhere, measurement would be done for such usage. It would cater to economic dimensions, accountability and transparency of the government, and the quality service provided. The state has already begun the process of such impact studies to evaluate and monitor its various projects.

What are your state’s key achievements in implementing e-Governance projects?
The State SWAN, nicknamed JharNet is the State Information and Communication Network and also the Data Super Highway for Jharkhand, is one of the largest e-Governance networks in South-East Asia and also has unique distinction of being the first fully IP based SWAN in India which has become operational as the DoIT’s first SWAN Project.  Further, Jharkhand takes the pride of being the first State in the entire country to implement CSC scheme. Apart from these two pioneer efforts, State is also committed to provide a host of government services to its citizens in the field of education, health, and tele-medicine, financial administration, etc.

What are some of the challenges that you are facing in  implementing the e-Governance projects? How are they being overcome?
The government has drawn up an ambitious plan to use the power of Information Technology to effectively deliver information and services to its citizens. However, the task for the government is to build on various e-Governance initiatives and develop them into a comprehensive plan for achieving the benefits more widely on behalf of all the citizens. The primary challenge before the government is to re-engineer the processes, improve decision making systems for better interaction within the government and to reduce bottlenecks.  It is a real challenge for every level of government in the State to connect to our citizens through the use of technology and to respond to their needs in new/innovative ways. Further, improvement of policies and frameworks to strategise and set the ball rolling on the e-Governance initiatives needs special emphasis. Essentially, policies and guidelines would need to be made that are both specific to the department or the process as well as the policies that may be wide ranging in their scope. It is also important to institutionalise certain performance measures to continuously monitor the progress of all e-Governance projects.

What is going to be your main focus for the next few years?
Various e-Governance initiatives and projects which seek to make the district administration more responsive and accessible are very high on our agenda. e-District is one of such projects. Decision Support System for Disaster Assessment and Management is also being conceptualised. It has also planned to devise a Tourism Information System and a web-based cultural Atlas of the State. Tele-medicine is also going to be a milestone in the area of medicine apart from another ambitious project called Tele-education to provide basic education in a mission mode. In a nutshell, information technologies are being envisaged to deliver a variety of information services to the citizens effectively and efficiently in near future.

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