Posted on: January 10, 2012
Posted in: Interview
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Principal Secretary, Social Justice & Empowerment Department, Government of Gujarat
The Social Justice and Empowerment Department (SJED) is entrusted with empowering people belonging to the backward and underprivileged sections of society. The Department has been following a pro-active approach for effective implementation of various schemes for the welfare of people belonging to vulnerable sections. Through its various Directorates and District Offices, it runs around 240 schemes and provides welfare services to nearly 70 percent of the population of Gujarat. Sanjay Prasad, Principal Secretary, Social Justice & Empowerment Department, Government of Gujarat, talks to Rachita Jha and discusses the many benefits that technology brings to his department and its aspirations for the future
The Social Justice Department is a fairly large department with a huge impact on society. What are the key challenges that need to be addressed for effective governance?
SJED has put in place an effective monitoring and evaluation mechanism at all levels to accomplish the basic objectives of the department. However, since a large number of schemes target individual beneficiaries, the department faces challenges such as: identification of the right beneficiary; reaching out to the people and making them aware about the schemes; making people apply for the schemes; managing huge volumes of applications and schemes and timely mobilization of the funds. In order to address these challenges, the department prepared a comprehensive IT Road map and decided to use IT as a primary tool for effective governance.
What are the ICT initiatives taken by SJED to meet its goals and objectives of effective governance?
SJED took a comprehensive approach to implement e-Governance by developing a department portal with information about all its Directorates, Boards and Corporations. The website enables the beneficiary to download application forms of all the schemes. SJED became one of the first departments to digitize more than 12 million records. Under the one day governance program, SJED in association with NIC launched 12 schemes including e-Caste certificates across the districts of Gujarat. SJED has taken a holistic view and conceptualised an ambitious project of making online all the 240 schemes catered by its various offices with an integrated Management Information System (MIS). The project “eKalyan” is one of the biggest social sector eGovernance projects in India. SJED is aiming to create a comprehensive integrated database for all its directorates and corporations.
Please elaborate upon key aspects of the eKalyan Project.
SJED wanted to use ICT to provide timely, economical and door step services to the citizens through the network of various Citizen Service Centers (CSCs) and Panchayat offices. The department has envisaged a scenario where the person wanting any service would visit the CSC/e-Gram or the Panchayat office which would be within walking distance from their home and apply for the service online. The complete process of verifi- cation would be done with the help of information available in the departmental databases and the service would be provided online. The goals and objectives of the SJED eKalyan project can be measured against five main parameters namely: accessibility; economy; timeliness; transparency and efficiency.
When was eKalyan started?
Gujarat Informatics Limited (GIL), the state nodal agency, was nominated as the consultants for the eKalyan project. A detailed study was carried out by GIL to prepare the Request for Proposal (RFP) and a tender was floated online in the month of August, 2010. After a fair and complete transparent tendering process, Mastek Ltd. was selected as the Total Solution Provider. A comprehensive study of all the 242 schemes was carried out in a timely manner along with a thorough Government Process Reengineering exercise. Several workshops were also conducted to build capacity and spread awareness among the officers of the department.
“SJED BECAME ONE OF THE FIRST DEPARTMENTS TO DIGITIZE MORE THAN 12 MILLION RECORDS”
How will the department deliver schemes using ICT when most of its beneficiaries belong to backward classes and rural areas of the state?
eKalyan will be one of the biggest “Government to Citizen (G2C)” internet applications in the state of Gujarat. Launching a G2C system wherein most of the beneficiaries belong to underprivileged sections is a big challenge. Fortunately, in Gujarat, due to the presence of more than 13,000 e-Gram centers with good IT infrastructure, GSWAN (Gujarat State Wide Area Network) availability in district offices and the State Data Center (SDC), it will be possible to launch eKalyan on such a big scale.
Which are the important schemes being implemented through eKalyan?
The eKalyan project covers approximately 240 schemes which currently are being handled manually. The project in its first phase will target the high volume schemes such as Caste Certificates, pensions for old age people, National Family Benefit Scheme etc. In later stages, the project will cover other important schemes such as scholarships, Cards for physically disabled persons, Saraswati Sadhana Yojana, Manav Garima Yojana etc.
Is eKalyan targeting instit utions such as NGOs, Colleges and schools?
There are a number of Residential Schools and hostels run by SJED across the state of Gujarat. Also the Social Defence branch of SJED works with Orphanage Homes, Children Guidance Centers, Old age homes, disability centers etc. The department aims at integrating all the NGOs for effective management. The department also provides scholarships to thousands of students every year through its pre-matric and post-matric schemes. eKalyan aims to receive applications for all these scholarships and also to disburse the scholarships in an online manner.
Which other departments are involved in this project?
eKalyan will be hosted at the State Data Center (SDC) owned by the Department of Science and Technology, Gujarat. The department is planning to use the eGram infrastructure for providing services at the village level. eKalyan will use the databases the Rural and Urban Development Departments. Thus the eKalyan project will have horizontal interdepartmental co-ordination for seamless governance. eKalyan will help SJED to fulfill its vision of truly empowering people belonging to the backward and underprivileged sections of society by providing them timely, economical and doorstep services.