May 2011

At the cusp of e-Transition

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Maharashtra is now counted among the leaders in e-Governance readiness in India and is poised to be the only state with single front-end delivery of 100 G2C services by next year

By Rachita Jha, egov Bureau

According to the latest e-Readiness Assessment Report for state and UTs brought out by the Ministry of Information and Technology, Maharashtra has taken a giant leap from its 2006 assessment survey to emerge as a leader state in ICT environment and readiness landscape. The state government has worked extremely hard in laying out the ICT infrastructure across the state and as the next step has now vowed to spin-off close to 100 online services to effectively leverage this enabling environment and high readiness for on-ground ICT usage within the state especially in remote areas and villages. With a series of initiatives launched in collaboration with various state departments, results are already evident with many urban and rural services now becoming available online.

Maharashtra is the first state to have its own e-Governance policy; the draft was opened for comments in January this year. Taking the initiative further, DIT, Government of Maharashtra has already got its e-Governance policy team and advisory committee to draft the detailed implementation plan to accompany the e-Governance policy guidelines.

State e-Gov policy

DIT, Government of Maharashtra has drafted e-Governance policy for the Government of Maharashtra that aims to create a standardised and seamless implementation framework of all e-Governance projects by various departments in the state.

The document illustrates the creation of a State Service Delivery Gateway (SSDG) in line with the national delivery gateway being designed by Government of India to act as a middleware between the state portal and the departmental e-Governance applications. SSDG shall act as a hub for all the interactions between service seekers and various service providers. The policy also finds mention of much talked about cloud computing as a state-of-the-art service oriented architecture for various e-Governance projects and mandates interoperability and use of open standards in all e-Governance projects in the state. Overall the policy aims to weave the various components in any e-Governance project under one document for the department to follow and implement easily. With sections on capacity building, PPP models, audits, budgetary allocations and implementation guidelines, it is a step forward to have an enabling environment that assists any department to go ahead on projects successfully.

As a landmark initiative, the policy clearly states to work out a time bound approach to incorporate and encourage the use of UID for various e-Governance projects to facilitate the delivery of services to the right beneficiary. This makes it the first state to include UID in its state policy for service delivery. As the nodal agency for implementation of the UIDAI project in the state, DIT had the national launch of UIDAI project in Tembli Village of Nandurbar District in Maharashtra on 29th September, 2010. Since then, it has successfully achieved 14,73,236 enrolments, with establishment of 599 enrolment centres and 2059 enrolment stations. The state has approximately 4 lakh Aadhaar numbers generated until now.

The policy also paves way for creating a legislation framework for e-Governance. Maharashtra is the first state to draft a Mandatory Electronic Delivery of Public Services Act that empowers citizen with the right to e-Services.

Right to e-Services

Another path-breaking initiative taken by the state is the adoption of Maharashtra Mandatory Electronic Delivery of Public Services Act (MMEDPS Act) that will give every citizen in the state the right to have option of online services available —a right to e-Governance. The draft is ready and has been  opened for public comments. This legislation will make it mandatory for all government officers/departments to offer online services to the citizens in the  state. In the next five years the Act will enable introduction of 100 online G2C  services from 44 state departments. There is also a provision for appointment  of an Electronic Service Delivery Commissioner for resolution between citizens  and departments and also for constraints faced by the state departments in implementation of online services. Through this Act, Maharashtra aims to step  further from single window to no window for citizen services whereby citizens  get digitally signed certificates without coming to the government offices. They  will fill the forms online, track the status of their application and get their digital certificates, without meeting any government official. This is also mooted as  one of the key steps to curb corruption in government departments by  eliminating the stages of middlemen  in the entire process. Taking cognizance of the initiative, the Central Government has now taken up the proceedings and  will pass it as a Central Act for all the states to follow.

Tech-driven state economy

The state known for its financial capital Mumbai and growing industrial  contribution is also largely dependent on agriculture for its overall state gross  domestic product (SGDP). The economic survey of Maharashtra aims for an  optimist 10.5 percent during the year 2010- 11, as against 8.7 percent during  the previous year. And the key driver for this growth rate is said to come from  the increased agricultural production that will help ‘agriculture and allied activities’ sector to grow by 12.5 percent, as against a growth of 3.1 percent in  the earlier year. The state government believes that the accelerated growth rate  in this sector will not only push the growth in the overall SGDP, but will  also bring around 50 percent of the population under the ‘growth umbrella’ that will make the growth more inclusive. The rural kiosks have a mandate to serve  as information and service delivery centres for villagers and have access to  information on government schemes, agriculture market and other relevant data. Many projects have been initiated by various state departments to bring  the farmer as an active participant in the growth story of Maharashtra and  accelerate the state economy.

A reflection of the faith in technology tools for  growth overdrive was evident in the address of H. E. Shri K Sankaranarayanan,  Governor of Maharashtra at the Joint Session of Maharashtra State Legislature  at Vidhan Bhavan, Mumbai early March this year. He announced the launch of  Commissionerate of Agriculture sponsored under Rashtriya Krishi Vikas  Yojana, which is implementing an innovative ‘Crop Pest Surveillance and Advisory Project’ (CROPSAP) during the  ear 2010-11. The online monitoring system for major pests in Soybean and  Cotton throughout Maharashtra will assist farmers for early detection of attack of pests on the crops and suggest measures to be adopted to protect such crops  through SMS. He also mentioned the issue of 75,558 smart cards to the  fishermen community in the state. Fisheries have been a significant contributor  of the state economy but the fishing community has largely been  ignored in the earlier state development plans.

INTERVIEW

Tell us more about the novel initiative of introducing an   e-Governance policy in the state by Dit, Government of Maharashtra?

The e-Governance policy is headed by a committee of experts headed by Prof  Vijay Bhaktar, a well-known technocrat and pioneering work in IT. We have  taken inputs also from various stakeholders, this includes all the people  working in the government and also from industry including hardware and  software, and finally from the general public. The draft policy is now presented  in the cabinet. The policy is now due for inauguration. It is very comprehensive  as it addresses a lot of common issues such as standardisation,  IPR, sharing resources, emphasis on usage of Marathi language using  standardised language software. We also have more focus on open source  technology. The policy also paves way for a landmark Act that we have  formulated called the Maharashtra Mandatory Electronic Delivery of Public Services Act (MMEDPS Act).

Maharashtra Mandatory electronic Delivery of Public services Act  will be a landmark bill when introduced, what are your views?

Maharashtra Mandatory Electronic Delivery of Public Services Act (MMEDPS  Act) 2011 is probably the first state in the country to have initiated the Act in the country wherein citizens have the right to demand for online services from a particular department in the government. He can also have the right to know  that in what time-frame the department will deliver the services. He can then  appeal to a commissioner who will look into the matter and settle the issue. The Electronic Service Delivery Commissioner will decide on a suitable time-frame  for conflict resolution. The legislation also lays down a minimum time-period  under which all the departments will have their own website updated with latest  information to access them online. Following the website creation, they will try to make all the applications online and also include online payments in  due course of time. And within three years, we look forward to an integrated  environment wherein first year will have all the information available online,  followed by second year in which we aim to make all transactions to be made  online and in the third year we would move towards integrated environment  wherein the various departments would be linked to each other to resolve all  the decisions that require the citizen to interact with multiple agencies in the government. They can talk to each other and offer a single interface for the  citizen on the front-end and the back-end has all the departments integrated.  We would like to prioritise our services for G2C based on the scale of impact it  will have on the population and affect at least one lakh citizens. 

Mahaonline portal is poised to be the front-end interface of the state   government. tell us more about the project and its deliverables?

We have performed well in our CSCs completion targets and as one tenth of the   total roll-out numbers of CSCs, it is a major contribution to the NeGP plan. We have envisaged the portal to be a single front-end for the entire state. Here we will have all the 8500 CSCs or Maha e-Seva Kendra in the state for citizens through a single portal. They will be able to upload applications and  transactions across all G2C services. The portal will deliver 96 service, operate payments through the e-Payments gateway. This is taken up from the Nanded  model that has successfully done these services. No other state has so many  applications available through a front-end portal. In a years time we aim to deliver 100 services online for the citizens. We are ready to launch the five  e-Districts where we have completed the pilot run.

How do you plan to ensure that these cscs areviable for the villages?

All our 8500 CSCs are completely manned by entrepreneurs and are offering up  to 70-90 online services. Recently we had a CSC operator who brought a    nano from his earnings. So our efforts have been to make these centers viable and reliable. We have not yet reached every house but have definitely reached  every village. The panchayat system is very strong in Maharashtra and we aim  to integrate them with our CSCs. The next level of integration will include the availability of gram panchayat services online which lie mainly in the collectorate and tehsil offices.

DigiGov has made the Dit in Maharashtra paperless. what are your future plans on the system?

The document management system or DMS has taken a step forward from DIT  and we have now taken up DMS to the entire state, wherein all the important  documents will now be available on the portal. This will provide easy access to  the documents and also enable a trouble-free search system for any relevant  files for the officials apart from saving a lot of space. The judiciary department  has come forward with the proposal to digitise all the decisions of the lower  courts so that people do not have problems in accessing their orders anytime  for any references. Once the history and legacy  of any department in entirely digitalised only then can any department can  effectively become paperless and digital office in the true sense. This coincides  with our digital journey management system (DJMS) tracking system in which  we can track the journey of the document as it travels across the officials in the  government and we plan to take it to all the districts.

DigiGOV is already  operational in the IT department and through this software all our files are now  moved digitally. So our approach has been to start with the older documents so that the past has been digitised and then we integrate them into the current IT  platform so that at any time for any reference the documents are all available to  us. This will enable us to have a seamless integration of the system.

How  have you used the biometric attendance system in the governance systems?

The biometric attendance system is being executed in all government office  above 25 employees and these have now being extended to all the ashramshala  and gram panchayat schools and CSCs in the state. This is announced to ensure that those who are appointed in the villages  such as teachers, doctors and personnel in CSCs are available there. This technology with GPRS integration  has the power to monitor the number of doctors, teachers etc. who are  appointed and their regularity in these institutions.

UID project has highest  number of enrollments in Maharashtra, how do you  envisage the project to be used by various state departments?

We currently have the highest number of enrollments in the country and in UID  numbers distribution we are currently in third position. We aim to  leverage the use of UID in the food and supplies system, education systems,  health and all the other departments to ensure that the right beneficiary gets  the right benefit. We have also included the UID project in our e-Governance policy to ensure a department-wise integration of the same. We have  announced awards and rewards for our collectors and district commissioners  to increase enrollments. At the state level we have initiated a reward system  with all the secretaries of departments to create UID-based applications who  take the initiative to leverage the use of UID within their beneficiaries. The  project will direct by benefit  the government in terms of cost savings. In terms
of GDP percentage, even if we introduce UID in the food and supplies  departments, health, education and pension departments we could save 4000 –  10,000 crore of money.

What are your views on the inclusion of mobile  technology in the governance systems delivery models?

We surely believe in the many benefits of mobile technology and its ability to  reach to remote areas much before broadband connectivity and PC penetration  reached the villages. The services can be across many urban as  well as rural schemes and programmes. We are using SMSs for internal  communications chanels. We have an MTNL and broadcast communication to our district level offices, state ministers etc. This tool can be extended across all  departments in the state. The department of education has completed their  pilot on using SMSs for monitoring of the mid-day meal scheme in Pune. We aim  to use mobile technology to leapfrog over the phase of PC and broadband  in the villages for delivery of services in rural areas. They can access the Internet on their mobile phones it will do away with the need for PC in the  villages. 

Infra check

The state had been  aggressive in the installation of the core infrastructure deliverables under the  NeGP and this has been made possible by the motivated team of empanelled  consultants  under the State e-Governance Mission Team
(SeMT) that constantly pursue the key result areas for the department. A  round-up of the status on the infrastructure deliverables are mentioned below.

CSCs

The target is to set up 11,818 Common Service Centers (CSCs) or Maha e-Seva  Kendra as they are called on a Build-Own-Operate Model in Maharashtra. This is  one of the largest spread of IT-enabled delivery systems among other states.  In its vision to take IT services to the masses, Maharashtra Government in  2008 signed agreements with four companies to set up common service centres  (CSC) in all six revenue divisions of the state. However, Nasik region  now has a new SCA for the project following termination of the previous agency.  The current status stands at an impressive 78 percent  of the target achieved as 9,213 CSCs are rolled out in six revenue divisions across the state.  Of the 11,818 Maha-e-Seva kendras that will be set up through this model,  10,483 will be in rural areas and 1,335 in urban areas. Nanded district has taken  the lead in setting up a success model for other districts in delivery of 96  G2C services in a semi-automated way via CSCs. Similar model is already  operational in five districts and now following evaluation from SDA has shown keenness to standardise the delivery model and be replicated across the state.

Mswan & sDcs

The Maharashtra State-wide Area Network (MSWAN) shall connect State Head  Quarters with all 35 Districts, 324 Talukas and 6 Divisional Head Quarters. The  status of Maharashtra State-wide Area Network (MSWAN) stands completely  supported by bandwidth  service providers – BSNL & Tulip. Currently the
network is established between 314 PoPs out of 359 and a Third Party Audit  (TPA) is on-going. MSWAN shall be the backbone for data, voice and video  communication throughout the state and would act as vehicle for effective  implementation of e-Governance across the state. The network provides a  secure network for data, voice and video interactions for the Maha e-Seva  Kendra for information delivery. The government is now creating awareness at  the district level officials to ensure that the technology is utilised for vertical  integration within the government administration between state and taluka and  also between departments through horizontal connectivity, such as  departments of agriculture, education, land and revenue, food supplies, etc.

DIT, Government of Maharashtra is building the State Data Center for the entire  state of Maharashtra for all G2C, G2B and G2G services. The Data Center shall  provide facilities for various departments of Government of Maharashtra to locate their server infrastructure, obtain hosting services for the software application, manage the data center operations and disaster recovery and  backup.

e-District

DIT, Government of Maharashtra is implementing the e-District project for  e-Enablement of services at the Collector and Zilla Parishad offices in  accordance with the guidelines of Government of India. Currently, the state is preparing for the launch of five e-District pilots in Pune, Nagpur, Latur, Nanded  and Sindhudurg. In terms of G2C services, over 35 services are being delivered  in a semi-automated way through the CSCs across the state. These include  pdating and mutation of land records, birth and death certificate, various caste certificates, income and domicile certificates, marriage certificates, ration card  services, various services under national schemes (such as National Old Age  Scheme, Sanjay Gandhi Yojna, Indira Gandhi Yojna), water connection,   senior citizen ID card, etc. Again, Nanded, by offering over 92 G2C services has been exemplary for the other districts.

During the e-District pilot, the delivery of 10 G2C services— income certificate; temporary residence/residence certificate;  age, nationality and domicile certificate; solvency certificate; senior citizen  certificate; birth registration; death registration; election related services –  addition and deletion of name from voter list; and RTI information services will  be looked into.

Ranking of cscs

The state has brought in a unique initiative of  ranking all the districts that have rolled out CSCs in the state. To enable and promote healthy competition among  districts, every month the State Designated Agency (SDA) issues rankings based  on the performance of the CSC scheme in Maharashtra. The evaluation is  based on the percentage rollout of Maha e-Sevakendras, number of G2C  services activated and the number of

G2C service transactions completed at the Maha e-Sevakendras. Three Service  Centre Agencies (SCA)—CMS Computers, Spanco Ltd. and Reliance  Communications—together have rolled out 8,939 centres so far. In January 2011, Basix (Bhartiya Samruddhi Finance Ltd) too was appointed as the state’s  fourth SCA, responsible for rolling out in Nashik Division. In the ranking

To enable and promote Healthy competition among districts, every month  the state designated agency (sdA) issues rankings based on the  performance of  the csc scheme in MAHARASHTRA

system  followed every month, 50 percent weightage has been allotted for the percentage rollout of Maha e-Sevakendras, 25 percent weightage for the  number of G2C services activated and the rest 25 percent for the number of G2C  service transactions completed through the Maha e-Sevakendras last  month. From March onwards, the Department of IT in Maharashtra has started  using registered numbers on the Online Monitoring Tool (OMT) for rollout of  Maha e-Sevakendras in each district. This helps to validate rollout numbers,  enforcing registration and uptime as metrics for considering CSC as functional. This initiative has proved to be driver for performance amongst the districts  and has led to pro-active approach in not only installing ICT infrastructure in  the CSCs but also  ensuring that the roll-out of more G2C services take place to  bring-in more benefit for the rural communities. It has led district collectors to work on improving their performance further.

Challenges

The most common cause of delay in e-Governance projects remains to be the  absence of skilled manpower in IT-project implementation departments that  can help them to plan, execute and monitor the projects in the state. Most of  the departments demand experienced and qualified personnel in executing  such projects from time-to-time based on the requirements. Taking heed to this  ubiquitous need, Maharashtra DIT has found out a very novel solution – by  suggesting creation of an IT cadre for assisting the state departments in their  respective IT projects. This will provide support to all the departments with  skilled manpower with experience in working on government projects based on  their respective needs and requirements.

Another key initiative of the  department is the creation of an empanelment of consultants and software  engineers. This allows all the departments to use all the consultancy services and reasonable rates to help in hand-holding of  departments to use their  services for various projects. This ensures that they  do not fall short of any  professional expertise. Similarly, based on man-month  basis any department  can hire a software company that is empanelled with the  state government and  execute their software creation requirements without  going through the  lengthy tendering process. These initiatives are sure to allow  the various  departments, irrespective of their progress in IT readiness,  to hire software  skills and consultancy manpower at competitive prices and  ensure that any point that have readily available professional expertise and  technical help  available to curb delays in project planning and execution. 

Way forward

The allocation of 0.5 percent of the state budget has been already committed to  e-Governance projects for all the state departments, that amounts to nearly  `200 crore. In addition, in the proposed e-governance policy, the state aims to  hike the share to 3 percent. This is surely a reasonable amount for state  departments to begin on the delivery models for G2C services. With the  mandate of e-Governance now part of the deliverables for the entire state  department through the mechanism of e-Vision as a commitment of all state  departments. This vision statement will guide the IT roadmap for the  department and have identi- fied 6-7 services that they would aim to deliver in  next three to five years. The state has created an enabling environment for  e-Governance with most of the required infrastructure in place. The next target  to deliver 100 online services in a year’s time will bring the citizens much  closer to the government.

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