March 2008

11th National Conference on e-Governance, Panchkula, Haryana

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The 11th National Conference on e-Governance, an annual show on e-Government was once again successfully organised by the Department of Administrative Reforms and Public Grievances, and the Department of Information Technology, Government of India from 7th and 8th February 2008 at Panchukla. The Department of Information Technology, Government of Haryana was the host of the conference.

The theme of this year's conference was 'Integrated Citizen Services- Issues and Challenges'. Several interesting activities formed part of the event, including the e-Governance Exhibition- with participants from various government and private organisations; the release of the e-Readiness report, the e-Governance Compendium; and the e-Governance Awards.

The conference began with an introduction to e-Governance and the status of e-Governance projects in the state of Haryana by Promila Isser, Chief Secretary, Government of Haryana. Presiding over the inaugural session, H.E. Dr. A.R. Kidwai, the Governor of Haryana said, “It is an accepted fact that India is the nursery for some of the brightest ICT technologists and scientists in the world”, however the same nursery continues to house the largest number of poor in the world and  ICT revolution bypassing the poor has both economic and social costs.” Delivering the inaugural address, the Union Minister of Communication and Information Technology, Thiru A.Raja said, “The success of National e-Governance initiatives would be judged mainly by the benefits it brings to the common man.” He also distributed the National Awards for  e-Governance to the winners in the categories namely, excellence in government process re-engineering, exemplary horizontal transfer of ICT-based best practice, outstanding performance in citizen-centric service delivery, innovative usage of technology in e-Governance, exemplary usage of ICT by PSUs, best government website, special sectoral focus award-focus sector agriculture during the inaugural session.

Bhupinder Singh Hooda, the Honourable Chief Minister of Haryana and one of the eminent speakers of the conference, expressed his firm belief in ICTs for the achievement of the social developmental objectives. Hooda inaugurated the exhibition on e-Governance at the venue of the National conference and released the special issue of the egov magazine's dated February 2008 (http://www.egovonline.net/current/index.asp) brought out to commemorate this conference. Also present during this session was, Pawan Bansal, Minister of State of Finance, who emphasised on the importance of making government people-centric rather than government-centric.

Rajni Razdan, Secretary (AR&P) gave vote of thanks and concluded the inaugural session. Chairing this session Citizen Centric Governance,  Bhupinder Singh Hooda shared his government's vision on  e-Government for the state of Haryana. Emphasising the need to transform the functioning of the government, he called for the change from governance to e-Governance and further to 'i'-Governance”, where 'i' stands for integrated services to the citizens and will be a government that works as one complex.

Promila Isser spoke about two initiatives of the Haryana government, namely- Pricing and Revenue and as the next step, mapping of land and computerisation of maps.

From the private sector, Dr Shankar Prasad, President of Vakrangee Software emphasised the importance of  empowering the government employees in order to accelerate the process of e-Governance. He said, ” e-Office forms the foundation of government office, otherwise e-Services will have a lot of hurdles. The National e-Governance Plan recognises e-Office as a core Mission Mode Project”. He asserted that, “In a citizen-centric government, citizens will call the shots.”

Highlighting the private sector perspective, Lt Col HS Bedi, VSM, Tulip IT Services, stressed on the need of giving importance to applications and the availability of Internet in each home and each village. He said that “the future is in financial distribution, and financial services should be available till the last village”. 

With the focus on Integrated Citizen Services, the first of the preliminary sessions began with the lead presentation by R. Chandrashekhar, Additional Secretary, Department of Information Technology, Government of India. He gave an overview of the e-Governance status of India.  He emphasised the need for infrastructure. Outlining the present status of e-Government projects, he mentioned that Central Mission Mode Projects like MCA 21, Passports, etc. are at the implementation stage, while various others are in the pipeline. Talking about the State Mission Mode projects, he said that going by the present progress, common infrastructure would be ready and will be operational by March 2009. Year 2009-10 would be the period of implementation and by 2010 NeGP would be in place.

He admitted that presently land records have been made online state-wise, while remaining projects are at various stages of development. The government is also undertaking market research for impact assessment and the major finding was that there is overwhelming response from citizens besides considerable reduction in waiting time for most of the projects among other things.

Vikram Chand from World Bank spoke about strengthening the accountability mechanism. He suggested that there could be a system of  'report cards' as a pressure mechanism in order to improve services.

Giving state perspective on the issues and challenges of Integrated Service Delivery, Raj Kumar, IT secretary, Government of Gujarat spoke about the IT vision of Gujarat, which is to facilitate inclusive growth by providing services at the doorsteps of the citizen. He also spoke about the front-end and back-end services like data availability and connectivity that Common Service Centres (CSCs) and State Data Centres (SDCs) provide to the citizens of Gujarat.
Joan McCalla from CISCO emphasised the importance of strong governance and business and technological architecture as means of driving integrated services. She highlighted the importance of people and practices. Concluding her presentation, McCalla said, “Integrated Service Delivery helps in meeting the end goal -which is improved  client services and increased  efficiency.  This vision can be achieved through people, processes, technology and government”.

Neeraj Prakash, GM-Public Services, SAP expressed similar views, said that processes and technology are important elements for integration. He said that Public Return of Investment (PRoI) which is analysing the social value derived out of such projects, coupled with processes and technology are important factors for developing e-Services. (Integrated Services – Processes x Technology= People's RoI)   

Vinnie Mehta, Director, MAIT, talked about the importance of localisation which was brought out to be an important factor for Integrated Service Delivery.  

Making the concluding remarks, the chairperson of the session Subas Pani, Secretary, Planning Commission, said that the critical dimensions covered were processes and technology, besides tools in Indian languages which are also crucial. He said that the question of standards is also very critical as is last mile connectivity.  An emphasis could be laid on non-online model for integrated citizen services.

Speaking in the session on Enabling Integrated Service Delivery, Dr B K Gairola, Director General, National Informatics Centre, focused on the paradigm shift in the delivery of services through cyber space.  He said that fulfilling citizen's expectations with better standards through  re-engineering of processes and alignment between various stake holders within a legal framework should be given priority.  According to him the challenges in the process would be to elicit cooperation, collaboration and coordination between various players in the delivery of services.

Dr Gulshan Rai, Executive Director, ERNET, spoke about the concerns regarding the security in the cyber space and information security management. He emphasised on the need for collaborative efforts at both, national and global level with an increased user awareness for addressing the above concerns.

Ashwini Chandhok from Oracle presented a value-added data centre framework which has a three pronged approach- namely, increasing the reach of services to citizens; value added data centre; and to ensure that the benefits reach all the stakeholders. The benefits provided are to be continuously monitored, corrected and evaluated.

Arun Verma from IL & FS speaking about the CSCs initiative in India, presented a three pillar model of NeGP for anytime anywhere web-enabled service delivery at the doorsteps of rural citizens. He laid emphasis on full connectivity as a requisite for the success of Common Service Centre for Government-to-Business (G2B), Government-to-Citizen (G2C), Business-to-Business (B2B), Citizen-to-Citizen (C2C) and Citizen-to-Government (C2G) services.   

The second day's deliberations focused on enhanced  development impact through ICT, focusing on education, health and agriculture.
On the subject of enhanced development impact through ICT with focus on spreading education,  SK Sinha, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Human Resource Development, detailed the strengths, challenges, threats and opportunities such as falling cost of bandwidth, availability of infrastructure, abundance of knowledge on the Internet, participation of the private sector, etc. in the use of IT in education. While speaking about the types of intervention strategies required, he mentioned that connectivity for all education purposes should be free; there should be digital literacy and inclusiveness; there should also be testing and certification as well as global opportunities for education. Change in the mindset was also a necessity for enhanced development. He said, “Modules should not be stand alone, they should be fine tuned according to the needs of the learner. With IT, we could have many types of learning modules according to the calibre of the individual.” Sinha also mentioned the use of e-Journals and e-Books at the undergraduate and post- graduate courses and virtual labs which could help in performing experiments in real time. Referring to the portal 'sakshad', he affirmed the use of IT in education.

Prof. Kaushal Sen, Department of Textile Technology, IIT, Delhi, spoke about the 'eklavaya' channel that began to spread knowledge through technology and the challenges faced in its development and  maintenance. Sharing his experience, Rajendra Kumar, former Secretary, Education, Delhi Administration said that through an implementation experiment in 2002, it was observed that through ICT, school dropouts reduced to a great extent. The results of class X and XII also improved drastically.  

Prabhat Aggarwal from NIIT and Managing Director, IBS Infotech Limited, gave the industry perspective. He addressed  the key issue of lack of trainers. He said that “the issue of lack of good trainers could be resolved through ICT for fountain head changes.”

Vikram Desai, Senior Group Director, DECU, ISRO spoke about bridging the digital divide in the urban and rural areas in education. The Ministry of Human Resource Development's vision 2015 is to provide education to all by 2015. In order to meet this challenge ISRO educational satellite EDUSAT supplements the chalk and talk method, by facilitating the teachers. At present, the project is being implemented in 18 states, and in the process of implementation in another six additional states. He said that in villages, where there is no electricity, the terminals are being powered by solar panels.

Karan Bajwah, Director, Public Sector, Microsoft India, said that in order to address the bottom-up pyramid and to provide education to the masses, innovative delivery models need to be created, and ICTs act as important tools in facilitating that. He also spoke about Microsoft's project 'Shiksha' which, rather than reaching students focused on reaching the teachers in 11 states. This resulted in touching 10 million students.

The questions and answer session concluded with a note that more knowledge sharing amongst the states was essential to ensure that the same mistakes were not repeated.

In the session on enhanced development through ICT focusing on e-Health:Improving Access and Delivery began with a lead presentation by Dr S K Misra, SGPGISM, Ministry of Health, who gave a brief on telemedicine and e-Health initiatives undertaken by the Ministry. He said that expansion of e-Health initiatives in the states over the Eleventh Five Year National Plan period would be taken up in a comprehensive manner, which includes a wide range of interventions and evaluation. He mentioned various projects such as National Rural Telemedicine Project, National Opthalmology Network, Integrated Disease Surveillance Project, among others. He also said that the Terms of Reference included work on interoperability, defining the National telemedicine needs, identifying players, preparing curriculum and projects defining standards and structures.

Dr K K Talwar, Director, PGI, Chandigarh spoke about the practical aspects of telemedicine while Dr K K Ghosh, Medical Electronics and Media Division talked about the benefits of telemedicine. From CMC, Dr Ninan Chacko emphasised on the imporatnce of trained medical people for telemedicine.

Ranjan Dwivedi, NPO, eHealth, World Health Organisation (WHO), spoke about their partnership with the Rajiv Gandhi University on making journals accessible. He also emphasised on the need for evaluation. 

A M Sheshaigiri, General Manager, Sales, Government, Education and Healthcare, Oracle India Private Limited, spoke about the problem of data management for Public Health Information Systems and speaking about the solutions to this challenge,  he said that integration of all systems needs to be done. He stated that governments should go to vendors who have made functionally rich systems instead of reinventing the wheel and data entry too should be outsourced in order to make it more effective and efficient. He emphasised on the need for capacity building.

The fifth and the final session at the conference was chaired by N.K. Das, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture. The lead presentation on the theme for the session Enhanced Developmental Impact through ICT: Empowering the Farmer was given by Madaswamy Moni, DDG, NIC on behalf of the Ministry of Agriculture. He spoke about the new links, networks, partnerships required to make agriculture a C2G service. Highlighting the focus 'Regaining Agricultural Dynamism' of the 11th Five Year Plan (FYP), he talked about growth versus development paradigm. He emphasised the need for greater research in agriculture, synergy between agricultural science and computer science, digital inclusion of farmers and fusion of various technical frameworks. He also presented a road map for agri informatics policy.

Professor Jayantha Chatterjee from IIT, Kanpur speaking on Agropedia:The Vision and the Project  said “there is a need for Agricultural Knowledge Repository of universal meta models and localised content for a variety of users with appropriate interfaces built in collaborative mode in multiple languages.” He further emphasised on the use of vernaculars in web material, integrated approach for small projects across the country and active participation of the people through effective use of ICTs. 

Shrinivas Rao from ITC e-Choupal speaking on Empowering Farmers through ICT:Lessons from ITC  e-Choupal, presented a business model. He said that “market is the best solution for raising farmers income and higher incomes will lead to competitive marketing.” Drawing from the effective working of the e-Choupals he said that ICT kiosks with internet access will help in minimising the influence of the middlemen and thereby increases the farmers entitlements.

Subroto Mitra of Oracle India spoke about “Empowering the Farmer.”  He outlined the challenges like low growth rate in agriculture, import of essential food grains etc., and called for a complete integrated solution by strengthening information flow for empowering farmers. Arvind Chandrasekhar General Manager-Business Development, AMD speaking on “Empowering the Farmer:ICT as a Medium,” said that ICT is an enabler which can take the farm economy to the next level. He also said that globalising agri-trade which will get the farmer best deals across the globe could be a possible solution for existing challenges. 



(L-R) Smt. Rajni Razdan, Secretary, Dept. AR&PG, GOI, Thiru A. Raja, Union Minister for Communications & IT, H.E. A.R. Kidwai, Governor of Haryana, Shri Bhupinder Singh Hooda, Chief Minister of Haryana, Shri Pawan  Bansal, Minister of State, Finance, GOI.

Rajni Razdan, Additional Secretary, AR&PG, Government of India summarised the two days deliberations at the Valedictory Session. The award for the best stall of the exhibition went for e-Disha Haryana. Joan McCalla from Cisco bagged the award for best paper of the compendium for her paper on Integrated Delivery of e-Services: Lessons Learned from International Experiences. VS Kundu, Managing Director, Haryana State Electronics Development Corporation Ltd., delivered the vote of thanks on behalf of the Government of Haryana.

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