June 2011

IT Convergence is the Answer

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Sudhir Krishna
Special Secretary
Ministry of Panchayati Raj
Government of India

The bigger challenges are inter-departmental coordination for convergence of resources and programs

The public expenditure on regional and local development programmes has gone up 6 folds, reaching the level of INR 300000 crore (USD $ 50 Billion) annually. Almost 20 percent of this goes through the local government (LGs), whereas for yet another 20 percent, the LGs are associated in planning and monitoring, though not in execution.

The LGs number 240,000 and need to be provided ICT facilities to undertake the responsibility of planning, execution and monitoring of the welfare and local development programmes. At the same time, their performance needs to be watched by the people’s assemblies (the gram sabhas), which number over 600,000. This large network of local institutions can handle their tasks effectively only through ICT. As of now, we have been able to provide the ICT infrastructure and connectivity for only about 20 percent of the LGs. However, plans are underway to extend the coverage to over 90 percent in the next 2 years.

e-Governance has already set its foot in almost all activities relating to public services as also in management of personnel/HRD matters in the Governments at the national and State levels. The focus now is to extend the reach of e-Governance to the local levels.

The measures that need to be taken for proper and uniform e-governance are many. Firstly, the artificial distinction between the rural and urban areas needs to be addressed as it puts the rural areas at a disadvantage in respect of certain infrastructure. For instance, power supply is less stable and less assured in the rural regions, as compared to the urban. The next issue would be to enforce the Right to Information more vigorously, and chanelise its implementation through the mode of e-Governance. Third would be to make the access to information easy for the common man, through information kiosks at public places and in local government offices.

The bigger challenges are inter-departmental coordination for convergence of resources and programs, availability of suitable buildings for installing the hardware, stable power supply and qualified manpower at the remote places.

“In healthcare what we are trying to do is digitise medical records and for example, in the US, Obama’s administration’s
key initiative is how to have simplified medical records through digitising with appropriate privacy and
appropriate access”– Joe Kremer, MD & Vice President, Australia and New Zealand, DELL

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