Interview

Capacity Building for Good Governance : S R Das, Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, India

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“We want that within the government, the competence and the capacity is built for taking up e-   Governance by themselves”, says S R Das, e-Governance Group, Department of Information Technology, Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, Government of India

The National e-Governance Plan (NeGP) started in different states at different levels of readiness and aspirations. How did you address the gaps in capacity and synchronise aspirations?

The conceptualisation of the National e-Governance Plan (NeGP) started some time in 2004. In early 2005, while formulating NeGP, we found that states are at different levels of readiness and e-Governance initiatives and computerisation of government systems were mainly champion driven. Therefore, for all states to assume the ownership and participate in the National Programme, Capacity Building was considered to be vital at various levels within the government across the country. In March 2005, we provided financial assistance to all the states, so that they can hire professional services for preparing e-Governance road map, detailed requirement of  Capacity Building and blueprint report of State Specific Programme within the broader framework of NeGP, which was formally approved in May 2006. Broadly, the report includes vision, mission, present scenario, gap analysis and fund requirement etc. This gave us an overall picture of readiness and aspiration levels of various states. Based on these reports, we formulated a Capacity Building Scheme for all states and union territories (UTs) following a uniform approach. More importantly, we suggested an institutional framework for states and UTs. However, depending on the readiness, population, area and a few other parameters, there are some variations in terms of the magnitude of the implementation. We have been interacting with higher level officials who are involved in the policy and decision making process like Chief Secretary, secretaries and ministers of states. The response has been quite encouraging. We were especially happy to note that political will, both at the Centre and at the state level was very positive. The NeGP has been accepted for improving governance and citizen services.

What kind of response did you experience from government employees when the project was initiated? How did you deal with the issues like change of mind sets and attitude in the process of building their capacities?

At the operational and working level, we do agree that there are change management issues which need to be seen more carefully. But, I am sure you have not heard of any resentment anywhere against e-Governance as such. Generally, it has been accepted at all levels. There has been a clear signal that e-Governance will not result in harming existing employees. The workforce will continue with the government and they would be suitably trained and adjusted in the setup. More of interactions, empowerment, training to handle new environment etc. are some of the steps that are useful for their inclusive participation and building confidence in the changed environment.

Please tell us about the recently approved Capacity Building Scheme under NeGP.?

We received the government approval for the Capacity Building Scheme in January 2008, which will be implemented in all states and UTs. The scheme suggests establishment of institutional framework for state level strategic decision making, including setting-up of State e-Governance Mission Team. This will provide professional manpower support to the policy and decision making process and will help  in overall management of the programme and its effective implementation. The scheme also has provisions for orientation courses and specialised training to key public functionaries and senior government officials involved in the programme. Further, we will be strengthening training institutions in states and UTs, so that operator level training can be given on continuous basis. The scheme has an outlay of INR 313 crores to be implemented over a period of three years. The Government of India will be setting up a central Capacity Building Management Cell for coordination and implementation of the scheme, which will be working under the Empowered Committee for CB, under the chairmanship of the Secretary (IT).

Give us a brief picture of various stages involved and approach followed in the process of capacity building. ?

For taking up such a programme which has  wider implications like transforming the government processes and citizen service delivery system, we believe that vision and policy direction should come from the respective governments at state and UTs. Therefore, the first and foremost task would be to set up e-Governance Programme Steering Council, ideally under the chairmanship of the Chief Minister. For  achieving the state policy goals and objectives, an Apex Committee is to be set up to provide strategy direction and oversee the state e-Governance programme and ensure inter departmental coordination.

For operationalising the CB Scheme, we suggested that the state governments designate a State Nodal Organisation, which would provide services like selections, contracting for external resources and administrative support to State e-Governance Mission Teams (SeMTs). I was referring to these SeMTs, as the institutional framework is needed for systematic approach to the e-Governance Programme. It is very encouraging to note that most of the states and UTs have already setup the frame work. Next major steps include, establishing SeMTs at the state level, initiating various training programmes and knowledge sharing process and strengthening of the training institutions in states.

The most challenging job is to get suitable professionals  on board in SeMTs. Sourcing of SeMT is envisaged in the following three ways: First, to look for suitable people from within the government organisations and the rest can be recruited from the open market on contract basis. As a fallback arrangement, we may have to consider hiring the services of reputed organisations as a stopgap arrangement. To attract the right kind of professionals we are prepared to give them the market driven compensation. In the present competitive scenario, attrition rate is quite high. Hence, there should be human resource (HR) policy as well as HR management for these professionals. Mere size of SeMTs does not warrant individual states to have their own policy. Therefore, we are arranging recruitment as well as managing suitable HR policy at the central level. We are also taking similar collective initiatives for arranging specialised training, conferences, workshops, knowledge management etc.

What is the present state of e-Readiness in terms of capacities nation wide?

States which have been aggressive in implementation of  e-Governance, even before the formulation of NeGP  are the front runners. They have capabilities and capacities within. They often harness external resources efficiently. Some of these states also have organisations like e-Governance societies under their administrative control. Under this Capacity Building Scheme, they would be augmenting themselves. For other states, especially the hilly states, states of North Eastern regions, remotely located Andaman and Nicobar and Lakshadweep etc., capacity gaps do exist. With the implementation of this scheme, I am sure these gaps would be reduced.

NeGP cuts across various departments and therefore the need for coordination of various activities arises. Is capacity building process being oriented for these tasks?

It is true that e-Governance is not a subject of any specific department. It cuts across all the departments. Therefore, we have an apex body headed by the Cabinet Secretary comprising of secretaries from various ministries and departments as the members. This committee is quite active and meets almost every month to discuss the status, problems and coordinate issues related to multiple ministries. Similarly, we have also advised all the states to have a State Apex Committee, under the chairmanship of respective chief secretaries. One of the main tasks of SeMT is to provide technical support to this Apex Committee.

With fast changing technology how is the Change Management effected to upgrade skills?

Change Management is an important aspect for taking NeGP forward. There are two issues of change management that are important: one is human resource (HR) related and the other is technology related, in the implementation process. While the technology part is adequately addressed by implementing agencies, the HR related part would be seen by SeMTs, since every state would have their own way of solving problems. That is why change management is one of the skill sets recommended for SeMT professionals. For this reason, as I have mentioned earlier, State Training Institutes would be upgraded for providing training to the existing staff members.

Operation and Maintenance (O&M) is an important aspect of implementation. NeGP has introduced the Public Private Partnership (PPP) concept quite aggressively for O&M support as well as to ensure adequate service level to citizens backed by designing Service Level Agreements (SLAs) and mechanism to monitor SLAs.

How is the issue of language resolved for capacity building?                                                                        

In the e-Governance implementation local language is used to the maximum extent possible. When you go down to the basic level, you will find that not just the implementation but also all interactions are in the local language. The citizen awareness programmes are run in local languages. Therefore, at the delivery end like Common Service Centres (CSCs) local workforce is being utilised.  

Website Quality Certification Scheme in India
Internet acts as an interface between the government and the citizen. The main front-ends of e-Governance are the public websites that provide administrative information and services. The number of users using these sites are increasing day by day. The effectiveness of this direct link to the citizens is highly dependent on the security and quality of the web page. This is true for the public sector in the same way as it is for businesses. Consumers and citizens equally expect easy and secure access to information and services. Globally, a vast number of countries have evolved relevant website quality standards and certification schemes for the benefit of the citizens, website designers and developers.

Keeping in view such trends, the Standardisation, Testing and Quality Certification (STQC) Directorate, under the Ministry of Information and Technology, has developed a ‘Website Quality Certification Scheme’ (WQCS) that ensures comprehensive, reliable and easily navigable websites It is aimed at reducing legal liabilities, security risks as well as help in increasing the accessibility and usability of websites. The sites that participate in the scheme will be benchmarked against the certification scheme requirements. When certified, a website should fulfill broad quality objectives, such as security and data privacy, appropriate accessibility of content and a certain commitment to services and overall performance.

Through regular testing, the scheme ensures that quality and security standards are met. Thus, it serves the needs of the citizens and supports the government in fulfilling its social responsibility. Furthermore, it will positively affect the customer orientation of Indian websites in general. The scheme is thereby promoting eBusiness, while supporting the National eGovernance Program (NeGP).              
www.stqc.nic.in

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