March 2010

13th National Conference on e-Governance

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Ms Prabha Rau, State Governor, inaugurating the 13th National Convention on e-Governance


On a bright, sunny day in Jaipur, the 13th National Convention on  e-Governance  was inaugurated by the state Governor Ms Prabha Rau, flogged by the state Chief Minister Ashok Gahlot, union ministers Sachin Pilot,  Minister of State for Communications and Information Technology, and Prithviraj Chavan, Minister of State, Prime Minister Office. The conference was organised  by the Department of Administrative Reforms, Pensions and Grievances, Government of India, in collaboration with Department of Information Technology (DIT), Government of India and Department of  IT, Government  of Rajasthan.

Delivering the keynote address, Ashok Gahlot drew home the point that the development in science and technology and the economy would not be worth till it reaches to the common man. Recalling Rajiv Gandhi’s vision of India entering in 21st century as a developed country, Gahlot assured that the state is moving in the right direction. He stated that Rajasthan, being spread in a vast geographical terrain, would utilise e-Governance for eliminating the limitations of long distances that citizens cover to access the government services.

Apprising about the circular issued on resource allocation  on e-Governance  to each of the government departments in the state, Gahlot said the state government has made mandatory for each department to allocate 3% of the budget of a plan on e-Governance. Conceding the capacity building in government as a big challenge, Gahlot said the administrators have to take the pain of getting friendly with new technologies, so as to provide services in time to the citizens, in full cognisance of their convenience.

Comparing the penetration of Internet  and mobile phones across India, Prabha Rau said that given the mobile phones penetration in the country, with users numbering more than 500 million, it offers platform for reaching out to the citizens. She noted that access and affordability are two critical factors for the greater acceptance of technology. She also underlined the usage of mobile phones in promoting Financial Inclusion. Rau said that while Information and Communication Technology (ICT) could be used for educating and training the young population, it could connect the senior citizens of the country to government services and to their near and dear ones.
Taking note of the inconvenience caused to the citizens due to delay in delivery of several government   to citizen services, Sachin Pilot said the prime reason is the inability of the government departments to  completely digitise and automate the processes. IT must not be limited to the use by the government departments in metros but also by the person residing in the country side. ICT can bring in transparency and accountability in the administration, working and day to day lives.

The minister said that even in the time of global economic slowdown, the Indian IT export market grew to $ 60 billion and the domestic market grew to $13 billion.  In the coming years, the IT sector will open employment opportunities for one lakh people. While e-Governance drive goes deeper into the country, there is also need for having focus upon cyber security, he pointed. Pilot also ensured the states governments of complete support from the Centre in implementing e-Governance.

Prithviraj Chavan put forth the relevance of the annual conference on e-Governance organised by the Department of Administrative Reforms and Public Grievances. Speaking about the e-Office project, he said that it enables government process re-engineering in Government to Government (G-2-G) interface.

Jitendar Singh stated that the popularity of state of Rajasthan was no longer limited to the sand dunes, instead it is increasingly being recognised as the silicon valley of the country. He spoke about the state’s initiative of allocating 3% budget of each department on e-Governance and said that it has got no precedence in the country. He talked about setting up of Bharat Nirman Rajiv Gandhi e-Seva Kendras in rural Rajasthan, which aims to educate as well as act as service providers for the rural areas. Under this project, each of the 249 blocks in Rajasthan would have one kendra which would facilitate rural citizens in payment of various types of bills, in making rail reservations and in procuring copies of birth/death/caste certificates without usual harassment and delay.

Sachin Pilot-Minister of State for Communications and Information Technology, delivering the key note address


Session: e-Governance from the Citizen’s Perspective

Moderator: Mr. R. C. Mishra, Secretary, Department of Administrative Reforms and Public Grievances and Pensions, Government of India

Explaining the underlying principle for the session theme selection, Navin Agarwal, Executive Director, e-Governance Advisory, KPMG mentioned that there is an imperative need to capture the experiences and perspectives of the common man, who is often considered as the last-man-in-queue to derive benefits from e-Governance initiatives. “ICT is merely an enabler and for e-Governance initiatives to be successful, it is important to take in to account the perspectives of the citizens,” he said.

Agarwal emphasised that e-Governance has helped reduce the rural vs. urban disconnect considerably. The ultimate objective of such initiatives would be to see whether they can bring some improvements as well in the lives of both rural and urban citizens.

R. C. Mishra, Secretary, Department of Administrative Reforms and Public Grievances and Pensions, Government of India highlighted that one should not look at e-Governance as mere computerisation, rather it should be looked at as a means to review existing processes, change them appropriately to make the job/task easier, thereby simplifying the overall work-flow with the fundamental aim of improving service delivery to the citizens. He noted that there is a lack of focus on developing mechanisms to track the success of many of the e-Governance initiatives that have been implemented in the country.

Prithviraj Chavan, Minister of State in the Prime Minister Office (PMO) and Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions and Parliamentary Affairs stressed on the need to develop suitable mechanisms to solicit and monitor feedback from the citizens– the end benefi ciaries of the projects.

He emphasized on the need to develop a robust and sustainable revenue model for e-Governance projects based on Public-Private-Partnership (PPP) model.

Ensuring transparency and fairness in the charges collected by the Service Providers is critical which can be achieved by appointment of a Regulator. Having a stable revenue model would ensure that the citizens pay the minimum appropriate charges for availing the services.

Highlighting the fact that most government websites do not adhere to the standard guidelines issued by National Informatics Centre (NIC), Chavan enlisted the following activities that need to be undertaken:

Firstly , the websites should be user friendly for differently-abled citizens. Secondly, the user interfaces need to be standardised and lastly the website needs to be made technology neutral. Jitendra Singh, Minister of Energy and Non-Conventional Energy Resource, Information Technology and Communication, Government of Rajasthan urged the private sector for their contribution and investment in the state and in its initiatives owing to the availability of infrastructure and all round socio-economic progress. He mentioned some key developments in the space of mobile communications including tele-medicine and Video Conferencing which have resulted in the benefi ts of e-Governance reach the benefi ciaries faster.

He felt that most of the e-Governance initiatives could be looked at as unaccomplished missions and there is an immense need to work together as a team and make sure that at the grassroots level, one makes a common man also understand the working of IT systems.

Russel Craig, Vice-President, CISCO underlined the need to adopt a  citizencentric approach in the design of services- an ‘outside-in’ approach incorporating the needs and concerns of the citizens at every stage in the process and service delivery work- fl ow. He illustrated the success of an e-Governance project in Philippines for Pensions in which the senior citizens did not have to go to the government offi ce to prove that they are alive and eligible for pensions. The government deployed a voice– biometric mechanism, through which the pensioners just have to call the concerned authorities and the system would authenticate his or her voice and accordingly it is processed further.

He pointed that the citizens generally do not prefer to interact with the government offi cials unless in case of transactional interactions. It is therefore necessary to listen to their concerns and address them suitably. Ascertaining the service delivery process at the ground level in an effective way to handle this.

He stressed on the need to defi ne measures to ascertain fairness, timeliness and quality of the service delivery process by soliciting user feedback and making changes, wherever deemed fi t.

Siddharth Shankar, President, Drishti remarked that in the design of the service delivery process, it is important to make a note of the time taken for processing the transactions and the same has to be reduced for increased effi ciency. He articulated: “Since in rural areas, citizens are still not aware of the concept of e-
Governance, hence, there is a greater need to bring about awareness about e-Governance among the masses through promotional activities and public campaigns.”

He also touched upon the need to augment capacity building activities at the grassroot level. The Village Level Entrepreneurs need to be imparted the right kind of training to execute their responsibilities. BPOs could be set up in the rural areas to generate employment for local citizens. Jobs like digitization of data could be outsourced to such Rural- BPOs.

S R Rao, Additional Secretary, Department of Information Technology, Government of India emphasised on the role of the citizen in creating a pullforce in the service delivery mechanism. He noted that an ‘AS-IS’ study of the existing processes cannot be done in a central offi ce. It is to be undertaken at the fi eld level. Extensive interaction with the citizens is of prime importance in the design of the bouquets of G2C services.

On the aspect of devising feedback mechanism and measures, he mentioned about a stratifi ed study conducted by IIMA.The study aimed to statistically  bring out the waiting period for the transaction, quality and level of corruption in the service delivery mechanism. The study was conducted for three state government initiatives namely – Driving Licence, Land Records and Land Registration across eight states in the country. An important inference from the study was that the level of corruption was low where citizens were involved in the conceptualization of the service.

Rao also said that all e-Governance initiatives need to be supported by adequate capacity building activities, targeted at stakeholders at all three levels – leadership [elected members], managerial [higher departmental offi cers] and operational [the department’s team members involved in the day to day activities].

SESSION: LEVERAGING MOBILE TECHNOLOGY FOR BETTER SERVICE DELIVERY AND FINANCIAL INCLUSION

The panelists include: Sambamurthy, IDRBT, S.R. Rao, Additional Secretary, Department of IT, C. K. Mathew – Principal Secretary, Finance and Policy Planning, Government of Rajasthan, Sachin Khandelwal, ICICI Bank and Rajiv Sehgal, Airtel The panel extensively discussed the scope for fi nancial inclusion in India, technological and regulatory aspects, security aspects for leveraging mobile and ICT technologies for fi nancial inclusion.

Panelists also discussed about the mobile ecosystem – that would encompass not only the banker, service provider and customer but also the community at large, involving governments, regulatory authorities and other parties.

Highlighting the fact that the banking in India is currently concentrated in the urban areas, Sambamurthy said that fi nancial inclusion is a part of corporate social responsibility and must be thought of as a part of public service delivery. He pointed that fi nancial inclusion has been incorporated as a policy by RBI. Yet, the no frills account aiming to proliferate the fi nancial inclusion did not yield expected results in India because of lack of last mile connectivity.

He proposed that mobile technology could bring innovation and is a unique channel for service delivery where it not only serves the high tech youngsters  but also the poor people in rural areas. In his opinion, there is a lack of collaboration between the banks and the telecom operators. Together, these industries can create a common platform which will transform the rural banking scenario in the shortest possible time.

S. R. Rao commented that in spite of recession, India’s economic growth has remained high (7.4% in 2009). Yet, sustained economic growth will require inclusive socio-economic growth as well. Government of India has given a high priority to the goal of achieving inclusive society as could be seen from President’s address to Parliament on 4th June 2009. He presented a SWOT analysis on fi nancial inclusion adopting mobile technology.

Sachin Khandelwal remarked that 50% of the cost comes from salary and infrastructure cost for a bank, which can be eliminated through branchless banking. He indicated that prepaid markets provide a great opportunity for scaling up the mobile channel for banking usage. In terms of security features for such alternative channels, biometrics can play a key role. ‘Fingerprints at fi ngertips’ applications can provide secure accessible banking services to both the urban poor and rural rich.

He informed that Reserve Bank of India has recently permitted withdrawal of  cash up to Rs.1 000 per day through debit cards issued in India from point of sale (PoS) terminals. While banks welcome this step, one has to understand that
the country has only around 45000 ATMs and around 0.5 million PoS, where number of merchants is 12 million. Hence the scope of inclusion still remains large in India.

Demonstrating the key trends in mobile telephony, Rajiv Sehgal said the affordability is increasing and the usability is going up. “People don’t know how to read or write but know how to operate a mobile phone,” he said. Providing example on m-Governance, he described how Blackberry has automated and greatly improved the process effi ciency for Bangalore Traffi c Police and Chennai Tax collectors.

He noted that in microfi nance, a working prototype is being developed where mobile device is going to be integrated with core banking applications. Answering to Sambamurthy’s question on where and how the collaboration between telecom and banking sector is happening, he said that banks and telecom operators have already made some progress in collaboration. Services like mCheque through which one can pay bills and send money to others would cost nothing to the consumer. Regulatory challenges are primary concerns for the collaborative growth. Yet technologies allow such collaborations and either parties are very receptive. There will be a sea change in 12-18 months.

Discussing about security issues, he commented that telecom operators attempt to ensure end to end security perspective: data from mobile to server is ensured with highest level of encryption. Data fl ow or transactions can be encrypted even over the air. SMS / USSD services also have encryption standards.

Speaking about the opportunity that is being offered through NREG programme for linking banking with e-Governance for rural masses, C K Mathew said that the 25 lakh working people under NREGA need bank accounts, but half the accounts are with post offi ces, and not under any electronic system

He highlighted the diffi culties with biometric details and aid that although biometric details are taken for the card holders, these details do not conform to UID specifi cations. He also noted the fund fl ow from NREGA require a common platform – Cascading of fund fl ow from large accounts to end customers involve multiple bankers and fi nancial institutions. Currently there are no common standards existing for the whole gamut of bankers, neither are there any standards for interoperability.

SESSION: PUBLIC DISTRIBUTION  SYSTEM

The session was moderated by Ashank Desai from Nasscom. The panelists include: O P Meena, Principle Secretary, Food & Civil supply, Government of Rajasthan; Pradip Pant, Secretary, Department of Food & Civil Supply, Government of Chattisgarh; Dr Ranjana from NIC & Anand Swaroop from HCL.

Ashank Desai emphasized on the reengineering of the processes [involved in Public Distribution System] rather than sheer focus on technology.

Pradip Pant discussed a working model in the state of Chhattisgarh, in which the private parties have been removed from the distribution channel. He stressed that the distribution through Co-operative society and government shops are critical to the success of public distribution system (PDS). He proposed for incentivising the model through a month’s credit allocation to all the fair price shops (FPS), and discussed signifi cance of a web-based reporting system.

O P Meena highlighted the practical issues faced by the state government and discussed the status of ICT in PDS in the state of Rajasthan. Dr Ranjana touched on the need for standardization for electronic PDS system. She also spoke about a uniform and core system in place at the level of Food Corporation of India (FCI) and said that there is a need for the states to adopt similar uniform systems. Besides, she also advocated the introduction of smart cards in PDS.

SESSION: ICT IN EDUCATION

The session was moderated by Shankar Agarwal, Joint Secretary, Department of IT, Government of India. The panelists include: Siddharth, Principal Secretary IT, Government of West Bengal; HNS Rao, Educomp; Sitanshu Jena, National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS); Dhiraj Prasad, Microsoft and Prof Arun Mehta, NUEPA.

Shankar Agarwal highlighted the need to provide quality education for all in order to realise the potential of the large young population. He stressed that while access has been addressed to a large extent through schemes like the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, quality of education has remained a concern as the learning levels of children are found to be very low. Further at the higher education level too, the quality of training provided is found to be inadequate. In this context there is a need to explore how ICTs can be utilised to improve both quality and reach of education in our country, he said.

Siddharth highlighted initiatives taken in West Bengal for improving quality of education through the use of ICT tools like IL&FS’s KYAN. The Kyan is a device combining a PC and a projector with over a thousand lessons of multimedia content for school going students, tackling hard to understand concepts. The initial response from students and schools was extremely positive and the initiative is being scaled up to cover most districts in West Bengal. In terms of reach, the West Bengal government has looked beyond just geographical reach, to focus on providing quality education for those who are differently abled.

Sitanshu Jena highlighted the potential offered by ICTs in distance education in the country. He stressed that use of ICTs can be successful if it provides contextual and scenario based learning. While infrastructure is a signifi cant constraint at present, including poor connectivity, poor infrastructure as well as low levels of electrifi cation, this challenge will perhaps be addressed in the near future; however designing good quality, relevant content that is freely accessible to all is going to be the more enduring challenge.

He said: “Thus questions that need to be addressed are those concerning the pedagogy of ICT usage, namely how to promote student engagement, how to support communication and collaboration between learners, how to assess and provide feedback and fi nally how to introduce remedial support.” Further, he also underlined the need to create a platform for sharing open educational resources that can be made available to all.

Mr Dhiraj Mathur outlined some of Microsoft’s initiatives in the Education space including innovative projects like Project Shiksha for training teachers, Project Jyoti- a community technical skills programme, Project Bhasha for digitizing content in different languages as well as initiatives for the differently abled. While Microsoft has been a front runner in providing IT education it is also increasingly channelizing the potential of using ICTs more generally for all types of education. He noted that providing quality and reach are two ends of a large spectrum in education delivery, and thus pose an enormous challenge.  ICTs if used effectively have the potential to address both ends of this spectrum.

Mr Rao highlighted that improving the quality of education in the fi rst place requires that a strong awareness of quality must be inculcated in all those involved in the education space including teachers, administrators and parents.
ICT can provide tools that can improve quality but what is urgently required is that all processes with regard to the use of ICTs in education are streamlined and clearly defi ned. In such a case all aspectsinfrastructure, training and monitoring will become very important, in order to ensure that quality of education is improved.

Prof Arun Mehta stressed on the need to focus on basic issues such as quality of  teaching/teachers, lack of basic infrastructure etc. While only 14% of schools have a computer, of these 14% only 86% schools have electricity. Therefore only providing hardware will not be enough and several critical aspects need to be addressed fi rst. The basic minimum infrastructure that has a bearing on the quality of education must be provided. \\

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