Interview

e-Governance has to be citizen-centric : Shankar Aggarwal, Additional Secretary, DITT, Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, India

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Shankar Aggarwal  
Additional Secretary, Department of Information Technology,
Ministry of Communications and Information Technology

Shankar Aggarwal,  one of the prominent e-Governancet practitioners, is responsible for realising the government’s vision to make services accessible to the common man through the use of information and communications technology. The Additional Secretary, Department of Information Technology, Ministry of Communications and Information Technology,  shares his mission and vision with Dr Ravi Gupta and Rajeshree Dutta Kumar.

What has changed in the last six years in e-Governance in India? Where do you see e-Governance moving in the coming six to ten years?

In the last six years, e-Governance has shown a lot of transformation. Earlier e-Governance was solely a computerisation exercise. But today, it is all about business process reengineering. Today, the focus of e-Governance’s process is on business transformation. It is only possible with technology to transform business processes. Today, technology is used for the benefit of citizen. The focus is to automate the backend. Even though, it was to automate the government process, it did not give enough results. Unless the benefits are accrued to citizens, it is not going to help. So, the focus should primarily be for the benefit of citizen only and not for the benefit of a particular department. The government has to ensure that the e-Governance has to be citizen-centric. ICT is a very powerful tool. We have been discharging our responsibilities and duties and delivering services in a particular fashion. Now suddenly if you ask, us to change that it is a very tall order, but unless we do that we will not able to achieve the project, so the focus has to be business process re-engineering, that is one part. And secondly, to make use of this ICT, it is necessary that we follow certain discipline, and that discipline would come with standards. So we got to evolve certain standards so that everybody is adhering to those standards, only then we can make advantage of the technology. Thirdly, capacity building is an important aspect. Unless we create capacities, this goes along with that change management and the business process re-engineering, that you got to change the mind of people. You’ve got to train them properly which is  a huge challenge, because it requires lot of effort, lot of time and you’ve got to build this capacity across the government, and across the country. This means it includes right from the top most level to the lowest level, within the government and even outside the government. So to create capacity among the public, we go in for the communication and awareness kind of a programme and to create the capacity within the government we go in for training and capacity building programme. So our focus is basically on three areas: capacity building, communication awareness, standard.

How successful has the journey of NeGP been so far?  Is there a roadmap to change e-Governance in the coming years?

e-Governance is required for public transparency, accountability, efficiency and making life simpler. There is a need to use mobile technology. Today mobile has reached every nook and corner of the country. Mobile governance is going to be the key component of our endeavours to take the NeGP to the next level. We have to create a policy environment so that we can achieve what we want. Mobile phones have a far deeper reach than the internet as nearly 70 crore people have got a mobile connection. That means mobile technology has reached very remote villages also. This means a mechanism is available to communicate information, transfer information, seek information, and once you have a communication channel you can seek services, you can deliver services. People are unable to make use of the internet primarily because only two percent of people speak English and  most of the content on the internet is in English. We have to have a greater focus on the local language and  regional languages. We are trying to convert information in the local languages and we have already notified a certain standard so that people are able to share information in different languages.


“DIT will act as a facilitator and catalyst for the implementation of NeGP by various Ministries”

Out of 27 MMPs, 24 have been approved. In addition to these, what is important is that to ensure whether it is citizen-centric. The NeGP has primarily two parts. The first was delivery of services under which we had identified 27 Mission Mode Projects (MMPs). Of these, 24 projects have been approved by the competent authority and most of these have gone live. However, as far as replication and national roll out is concerned, there may be some issues which may have to be addressed, but things are moving at a very fast pace. We have created State Wide Area Networks (SWAN), the secure network for government operation; State Data Centres (SDC), which are the repository of all information and applications; and the third is Common Service Centres (CSCs), also known as tele-centres. These are the centres at the front end where a citizen can go to seek services.

DIT has been the main driver of NeGP for the past so many years, what is on DIT’s agenda as far as technology applications are concerned?

Content for applications needs to be developed at this point of time. We are at a stage where the the basic infrastructure is getting ready, now we have to fill it up with applications and content.  Though it is not a part of DIT, we still have to and will make efforts on this, because we have to improve connectivity. Inspite of lot of efforts, we have not been able to do so in the past years. Another key focus on DIT’s agenda is m-Governance. We all realise the potential of mobile phone as a technology but now we need to tap its potential. It is the biggest asset now as it is accessible by everyone and thus can be used to provide various services. Mobile technology will definitely be a key area of focus in the coming years. 

Which according to you is more significant

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