Last mile connectivity is important in e-Gov : Dhirendra Pratap Singh

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One of the giants of the Indian telecom industry, Tata Teleservices has been actively involved in a number of projects being executed under the National eGovernance Plan (NeGP). The company is also working on e-governance projects with a number of state governments outside of the NeGP as well.

In this freewheeling interview with Dr Ravi Gupta and Dhirendra Pratap Singh, the Vice President and Business Head of Tata Teleservices shares his perspectives on issues such as the importance of last mile connectivity, Public Private Partnerships, mGovernance and Panchyati Raj

Please share your insights on the National e-Governance plan. How is Tata Teleservices involved in the e-governance agenda of the country?
We are aggressively participating in the selected e-Governance projects with a clear focus on urban and rural strategy. We are also planning to provide mobile services and customised solutions in the areas of agriculture, health care and education. We would also offer mobile based solutions on Government to Citizen (G2C) basis under the Mission Mode Projects (MMPs).

NeGP is on the right track as far as the MMPs are concerned. The State Governments are pro-active in rolling out departmental applications. However, the end result or the success of the plan can only be measured with the timely implementation of State Wide Area Networks (SWANs) in providing rural connectivity (last mile solutions).

How important, in your opinion, is the Public Private Partnership (PPP) for implementation of NeGP?
deals, as of today, are being structured in a way that it is only the capital expenditure being put in by the private party, with the little mentioning of how the operating expenditure will be accounted. I support the PPP model because it gives more flexibility to offer appropriate and workable solutions in meeting the customer needs. The most important factor under the PPP is the involvement and commitment of government (significant in implementing the projects at a faster speed). The bidding process is so structured that one can see the software companies bidding for executing hardware projects.

What is your take on the last mile connectivity? As a service provider, what are the challenges faced in its implementation?
Last mile connectivity is an important part of e-Governance initiatives. We need to have a cost effective but reliable connectivity for last mile solution, in order to bring the services at the doorstep of the rural citizens. In terms of challenges, we face some kind of roadblocks during the roll out of networks.

How do you see the role of mGovernance in Panchayti Raj institutions?
mGovernance solutions
highlight the usage of the mobile/handheld device for two ways communication between the government and the PRI functionaries. The solutions would also disseminate the information to the PRI functionaries & Citizens through SMS and voice based solutions. Using SMS, information about government services delivery can be monitored by different levels in government and Panchayati Raj.  The PRIs and citizens can obtain financial information pertaining to PRIs on a local basis. The Department can inform the various tiers and the levels of government about the financial status and alert fund transfers.

 Using SMS , the information on Government service delivery that includes utilities, infrastructure, education and health can be sent to various levels and made available to citizens. Information on government services can be sent by the various governments and same can also be pulled by stakeholders. The services include: lifting status of the food grains under PDS; irrigation related information; new schemes of Government; health camps and education resources and schemes.

How mGovernance is playing a critical role in rural development?
According to Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, the enrollment of beneficiaries can be done on both SMS and mobile based applications.

 “PPP models help  produce workable solutions to meet increasing demand”

Daily transaction (muster rolls) can be developed on handheld devices and uploaded as a real time on the central server for monitoring purpose. It can also be linked with banking gateway for wages disbursement. Its advantages are – SMS alerts to beneficiary as well once the funds disbursed; daily reports from supervisors of MGNREGS in respect of fund utilisation; workers attendance; for authentication, either finger print of the beneficiary or the smart card based solution can also be integrated with the handheld device.

Voice Based Messages to beneficiaries from department’s end can be sent as: confirmation on their enrolment as a voice message; starting of work; number of days worked by a beneficiary and total wages to be paid.

What is the role of mGovernance in public distribution system?
Voice Messages can be very well utilised in the PDS to inform the beneficiaries about the arrival of ration at the nearest FPS; new schemes or subsidy for the beneficiaries. Any information, to be delivered by the department to consumers, can be communicated by recording the message and then sending to the registered mobile numbers.

Now-a-days, there is another buzzword of GPRS Based Solution in healthcare. How it is changing the scenario?
The solution, on a handheld device, aims to provide an integrated framework for streamlining the day to day activity in National Health Rural Mission (NRHM).

Online data capturing, on a handheld device, is done by ASHA/ANM workers in a localize language. This data is collected at the block and district level again and sent to state headquarters where the complete data is collected and appropriate reports are prepared.

This application would automate the process of consolidation and save a lot of effort that was required in consolidation at every level. State governments can monitor the performance on real time report on various parameters such as: early pregnancy is registered within first 14 weeks of pregnancy or not; ANC record for missing ANCs and institutional deliveries.

Please share your views on governance in Disaster Management.
We can utilize the concept of mSecurity in disaster management. SMS Alerts can be sent to citizens in a local language through a web interface from departments end.

Using SMS to send disasters alerts to various levels from the grassroots and also inter & intra governments. SMS alerts could be sent to the government officials and members of the gram panchayats on the impending disasters such as on a Bird Flu  outbreak.

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