Interview

Target: 100% e-Literacy : Dr Ajay Kumar, Secretary, Information Technology, Government of Kerala

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http://www.kerala.gov.in/dept_it/index.htm


“100 percent household e-Literacy has been attained in Malappuram, Kannur, Kollam, Kazarkode, Kozhikode and Thrissur districts and post-literacy services like e-Pay, e-Krishi, e-Learning are being introduced here”


Kerala was the first state to have achieved 100 percent literacy in the country. When can we expect the same for e-Governance?

We are confident that our state is going to add another ‘first’ to its credit within a short span of time by achieving a full hundred percent e-Literacy. The state government has rightly understood that the digital gap includes the imbalances in physical access to technology as well as the imbalances in resources and skills needed to effectively participate as a digital citizen. So in order to address all these issues related to the digital divide in a holistic manner, the government has introduced many a e-Governance project like Akshaya, Friends.  By setting up around 2,500 Akshaya centres all across the state, the government tries to ensure the presence of at least two Akshaya centres in a village, it became easy for even the rural people to have access to the information and communication tools. Akshaya not only provides physical access to the new technology for the people, but also it trains them in using the computers. 100 percent household e-Literacy has been attained in Malappuram, Kannur, Kollam, Kazarkode, Kozhikode and Thrissur districts and post-literacy services like e-Pay, e-Krishi, e-Learning are being introduced here. Malappuram and Kannur districts have been officially declared as 100 percent household e-literate districts. The government is slowly changing the mode of service delivery (through computers and the internet), and is simultaneously taking steps to enable the public to avail these facilities. In short, the holistic approach of the state government towards the e-governance projects helps them reach the public effectively and you can expect Kerala to be a 100 percent e-governed state within a few years.

e-District has been rolled out in two districts of Kerala – Kannur and Palakkad. What is the ground reality in terms of roll out in other districts?

The e-District project started in Kannur and Palakkad in July 25, 2008. Presently, the system  requirement study is going on for the pilot district, based on which selection of  solution provider and implementing agency would be made. After the completion of the  project (which is expected to take 18 months ), an impact study will be conducted. The state-wide roll out of the project will take place only after this.

How do you plan to utilised funds for State Data Centres (SDCs)?

The State Data Centre has been identifi ed as one of the core infrastructure components to  consolidate services, applications and infrastructure to provide effi cient electronic delivery of  G2G, G2C and G2B services. We already have a tier III 5,000 sq. ft State Data Centre which  has been operational for over 5 years. We have over 100 servers and 150 applications of  different Departments running in the existing State Data Centre. The existing State Data  Centre is near saturation. Recently, we had to augment its UPS capacity to meet demand from  Departments. The new State Data Centre sanctioned by the Government of India is  being set up in Technopark, Trivandrum. This is another 6,000 sq. ft facility being developed and will cater to increasing demand for Data Centre from several Departments. It will be  linked to the existing State Data Centre and augment the existing facility. Wipro has been  selected as the consultants and RFP is near fi nalization. We expect to fl oat the RFP next month. A total of Rs 55.68 crores has been sanctioned by the Department of Information  Technology, which will be utilised for setting up a new State Data Centre for Kerala. Of this  INR 15.5 crores will be spent as the capital expenditure and the rest will be used to meet the  operational expenditure.

IT and technology parks is the next big thing in Kerala. Can you give us an update on its progress so far?

Aiming the new horizons in the industry, the government has set up a new company, Kerala State IT Infrastructure Ltd (KSITI), which will play a crucial role in identifying locations, partners for investment and resources required for implementation of all IT infrastructure projects. This company will also channelise private investments into the sector through the PPP route.

Technopark in Thiruvananthapuram and Infopark in Kochi have become the most sought  after destinations by the IT investors in India. But the government takes care that the IT  development in Kerala does not centre around these two cities only. The benefi ts are  disseminated to all parts of Kerala through a hub and spoke model of development envisaged  by the State Government. In this model, Thiruvananthapuram, Kochi and Kozhikode will act  as hubs and surrounding locations as spokes.

Each of these parks is less than an hour drive from an airport and connected by National  Highway. The land is already with the government. Most of these facilities are being  developed as SEZs with both IT space as well as related social infrastructure.

What is the status of the common e-Procurement platform
which was said to be set up during 2008 – 09?

e-Procurement is one of the Integrated Mission Mode Projects, which is going to be  implemented in the state soon. Department of Commerce, Government of India has identifi ed  Kerala as one of the three states to implement the e-procurement programme in the next  phase. Data collection in this regard is completed and the Detailed Project Report preparation  is underway. National Institute of Smart Government (NISG) and Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PWC) are the project consultants. Kerala has identifi ed eight Departments/ organisations to  implement the pilot run for the project. We expect that the RFP for the service provider can be fl oated within next three months.

Your department has emphasised upon the localisation of content and celebrated 2008 as the year of promoting linguistic diversity in cyberspace. How far has the campaign been successful in its mission? Also, is the content generation being outsourced?

Malayalam Computing and Entegramam projects are two major projects by the government  which focus on the strengthening of local language content in the cyber sphere. Malayalam  Computing, is a Kerala Government attempt to hinder the gradual erosion and disappearance  of our local language, Malayalam. Started in February 2008, the campaign is active at  present in fi ve districts of Kerala – Kannur, Malappuram, Kollam, Pathanamthitta and  Kozhikode. It is expected to cover all the other nine districts of Kerala soon. The campaign is  being carried out through the network of 2500 Akshaya Centres around the state. Each  Akshaya centre reaches approximately 1200-1500 families. The campaign will address about  40-50 lakh households in Kerala over the next three years. The campaign is being carried out  in participation with local self governance bodies and other social organisations. The website  www.malayalam.kerala. gov.in, which was hosted as part of Malayalam computing campaign helps the public download necessary software and training manual on Malayalam Computing.

In order to increase the local language content in the websphere, it was decided to host a portal  for each panchayat in the state, documenting all details of the village – be it on agriculture, geographical area, culture or artforms. The project named ‘Entegramam’ (which  translated in English means My Village) is one of its kind as this is a project where the  portals have been created by the local people, about local content in the local language. On  demand from local community, a marriage portal is under development as part of the entegramam project. This would meet the local requirements of online match-making in the community.

You had told us earlier that you envision a move
towards m-Governance. What kind of government to citizen services would be available on a mobile device? Are you in talks with any of the telecom service provides regarding this?

m-Governance involves the utilisation of all kinds of wireless and mobile technology, services,  applications and devices for improving the service delivery. Several initiatives are underway. For one of the projects (Dr. SMS), the pilot district implementation has been completed.

Dr. SMS is a unique attempt to deliver healthcare information through mobile phones. It  enables citizens to use their mobile phones to get information on health resources. It provides  the user with a comprehensive list of medical facilities available in their locality, like doctors  or hospitals having expertise in various medical disciplines (cardiology, nephrology etc). In  the pilot phase, the project is implemented in Kozhikode, where it is fully functional and it  helps the users avail the facility by sending an SMS to a pre-designated number  (9446460600). The content of the SMS should include the pin code of the locality where the person concerned is looking for the medical facilities/ doctors. We are in the process of rolling it  out to other districts. The data entry is complete in four more districts and we may expect the roll-out in these districts in next few months. Meanwhile we are also in the process of  identifying an SMS aggregator through which the Dr. SMS service can be provided. An RFP  for the same shall be brought out in a couple of months.

Another project which is part of m-Governance is the Enforcement Automation project in the Motors Vehicle (MV) department. This project envisages the use of wireless technology to facilitate enforcement by the offi cials of the department. One of the benefi ts of the project is  the ready availability of online real time data of vehicles and license holders, which in turn  will strengthen the enforcement, bring in effi cient penalty collection system and thereby  ensure strict enforcement and improvement of road safety measures in the state.

The main m-Governance project that is in the pipeline is development of an overall  m-Governance platform for the State. This would enable provision of e-Governance services through mobile telephones. As part of this development of mobile infrastructure, twenty  services across eight Departments shall be provided on a mobile platform. The consultant has  been identifi ed and kick-off of the project is expected shortly.

What are the other e-Governance
projects in the pipeline for the year 2009?

Apart from stabilising the ongoing projects and expanding their scope geographically and in  terms of processes being covered, we are planning several new initiatives which we expect will  take shape during the next year. As part of stabilising the activities, third-party software  testing and security management of our e-Governance applications will become an  important part of our efforts. Among new initiatives being planned, some of the main ones  include: e-Filing of Value-Added Tax; Setting up Centre for Advanced Training in Free and  Open Source Software (CATFOSS) in Kochi; e-Inventory Management Implementation; Use of  email for work policy; Kerala State Service Delivery Gateway; Strategy for use of IT by Small Scale Business and Industrial Enterprises; and e-gov initiatives in PSUs.

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