N K Pradhan
Minister, IT, Government of Sikkim
In spite of the rapid strides that we are making in Information Technology, there are many issues and challenges that continue to undermine the initiatives being taken.
Please tell us about your State’s IT vision and plan
The Government of Sikkim has placed Information Technology (IT) high on its agenda and it was with this in mind that a separate department was created in 2000. We have set for ourselves the following objectives:
To empower citizens and make life easier for them through e-Governance
To facilitate income and employment generation in the private sector
To improve governance through the use of information tools in administration.
To reduce the digital divide
To make Sikkim a totally computer literate state
To facilitate the disabled by using Information Technology
To map the resources of the state using Information Technology tools
What have been some of the major e-Governance (G2C, G2B, G2G) initiatives of your state?
To meet the above objectives the Department of Information Technology (DIT) has taken many initiatives, especially in the e-Governance field. Land records, electoral rolls, registration etc. are all computerised. Citizen centric websites have been created by the DIT. 45 Common Service Centers (CSCs) have been established in the state with an aim to provide citizen centric services to the public at their door-steps. State Wide Area Network (SWAN) has been set up to provide Internet connectivity at the block levels. Detailed project report (DPR) preparation for line department computerisation under National e-Governance Plan (NeGP) is being undertaken. State Data Centre (SDC) is in the process of being established to host all departmental applications and databases. The treasury has been computerised.
Geographical Information System (GIS) for mapping of the resources and integrated land management and administrative planning is underway. IT tools and software have been developed for the disabled at Namchi Blind School, Special School for the Hearing Impaired and Spastic Society School at Gangtok.
DIT regularly conducts a wide spectrum of computer training programmes. We have even organised workshops on e-Governance for the state legislators.
What are the expected IT investments in the next three years? What is your USP to project your State as an investment destination for IT?
Sikkim is at the threshold of establishing an IT Park for which the process of acquiring land has begun. This IT park will house centres of excellence in which specialised training in animation, networking etc will be provided. There will also be space for setting up of Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) and a state of art conference and exhibition facility in which national and international events can be organised.
Sikkim has a high literacy rate of 82% and English is widely spoken here. The state is not mired with labour and social problems, very common in other states. Power situation and Internet connectivity is good and the climate is salubrious. All these are our USPs and the right ingredients for setting up of call centres and BPO industry in the State.
What is your plan to bridge the digital divide in your state? What are some of the challenges in achieving this and how would they be overcome?
In spite of the rapid strides that we are making in Information Technology, there are many issues and challenges that continue to undermine the initiatives being taken. But we are hopeful of overcoming these in the foreseeable future. Computers are considered as a panacea to all administrative ills and no government process re-engineering is being done. In many areas, computers are being used as word processors and not for management information system (MIS). There is much more work to be done on back-end computerisation so that on line services can be offered. Computerisation has no meaning if it does not touch the lives of the citizens.
Unless a concerted effort is made to develop back-end computerisation, the State Wide Area Network will become a highway without cars. The 45 Common Service Centers established in the state are under utilised. We are exploring more avenues to make the CSCs viable like asking to departments to send their employees to CSCs for undergoing training, data entry work, disseminating of IEC material. IT initiatives in departments are champion driven and not institutionalised or documented. Computerisation is in islands; databases exist in silos and do not talk to each other.
What kind of support do you expect from the Centre for these activities?
All the IT initiatives happening in the state like SWAN, SDC, computerisation of Treasuries etc are due to the financial support from the Ministry of IT, Government of India. We look forward to continued support from the centre for funding the various Mission Mode Projects for which the DPR has been already sent.
Where do you see your State in 10 years from now?
We have formulated an ambitious road map for ourselves. Sikkim will become a completely knowledge based society and a favoured IT destination. Every citizen will be computer literate. Each citizen will have a smart card in which all details regarding the individual will be available right from Birth to Death. The entire gamut will be covered in the smart card and will include educational details, income, and so on. A mechanism of updating the smart card will be in place in all the departments.
Like electricity, bandwidth will be ubiquitous. All households will be connected on the Internet through CORDECT, WiFi and normal telephone line. Sikkim will therefore, be a totally wired State.
Distance Education will be provided through satellite/CORDECT/Optical fiber/ WiFi to each and every household. There will be a cashless society. Transactions will be made through a system of credit cards and online banking. Each government official will be equipped with a computer with 24×7 Internet connectivity.
A total paperless environment would prevail in the administration. CSCs should evolve into integrated citizen centric centers in which citizens can pay their utility bills, register births and deaths and even obtain trade and driving licenses.
All on-line transactions would be secured by a fool-proof mechanism of digital signature and biometrics, like fingerprint and iris recognition.
All departments will have powerful servers for back office computerisation. A working MIS will be in place. Telemedicine facility will be available till the Public Health Sub-Centre(PHC)Procedures in the Government would be re-engineered to make them amenable to computerisation and e-Governance. IT enabled service institutes would be established in a big way.
All natural (viz forest, rivers etc) and manmade (viz. roads, PHC, power transmission lines, sewerage pipes etc) resources are being mapped through GIS. The topography of the entire state will be mapped using 3D terrain software. Using satellite imagery, all disaster prone areas (viz landslide, glacial outburst) will be identified and monitored. All vehicles will have Global Positioning systems (GPS) so that their location will be available online on real time basis.
All old heritage records in monasteries, libraries, state archives will be digitised. Also gazettes and notifications will also be digitised. A mechanism for archiving all current documents will be in place. The rich biodiversity of Sikkim, which includes its flora and fauna, would be inventoried through bioinformatics. Also, stringent laws will be in place to prevent cyber crimes and software piracy.
Pratap Vikram Singh