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e-Governance Means Government at Your Service

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Ponnala Lakshmaiah
Hon’ble Minister for Information Technology & Communications,
Government of Andhra Pradesh

Ponnala Lakshmaiaha is a veteran politician hailing from Telangana with strong technical and academic background. He is currently a cabinet rank minister in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh.

He has held key portfolios in the Andhra Pradesh cabinet including Information Technology & Communications, Endowments, Major & Medium Irrigation, Aqua Culture and Fisheries. He has been in politics since the late 70’s and has contributed his share as a cabinet member to the growth of AP state. He has helped pave way for irrigating hundreds of thousands of acres of under-cultivated lands into today’s bountiful crop-yielding arable lands as Minister for Major Irrigation. He has contributed in the areas of policy formulation for hardware,  animal husbandry, dairy development, poultry, and allied industries in the state of Andhra Pradesh.

Ponnala Lakshmaiah’s political career that spans over three decades is focused on service to the socially and economically challenged sections in the state of Andhra Pradesh

There is no doubt that a great progress has been made in the e-Governance space in the state of Andhra Pradesh. Please share with us your vision for further improving the governance structure through ICT in Andhra Pradesh?

As far as government is concerned, we are committed to good governance. This good governance has two components, one is human element and the second is the infrastructure or the technological element. To reach out to maximum number of people we need the help of technology, but this technology must be handled by sensitive and competent people, only then it will lead to best possible results. The e-Governance systems are a result of both, the human element and the technology. It always results in better systems of governance. We are going all out to create more efficient e-Governance systems, as we are motivated by the desire of serving people in better ways. That is our vision; whatever we do should bring maximum possible advantage to the people. The research and the technological implementation that is happening in name of e-Governance should benefit the common man and raise his standards of living.

The IT industry in the state has been growing at a healthy rate. What kind of contributions, in terms of enacting new policies, has the government in the state made for the development of the IT industry?

The ICT industry has always been the main driver behind the jobs creation and fostering of regional development in the country. The Government of Andhra Pradesh is committed to the development of a more competitive industrial environment. There are large numbers of initiatives that we have taken to develop the IT industry. In order to promote sustained growth of ICT sector, not only to enhance the balanced regional socio-economic development but also to spread the usage of IT to the last mile of the State, for the benefit of common man,  Government has announced the ICT Policy 2010-2015. If I may say so, the IT Policy in the state is far more effective as compared to that in any other state in the country. As a matter of fact, it is well known that in the world one out of every three IT professionals is from India, and one out of every three Indian IT professionals is from Andhra Pradesh. This by itself is a proof of the fact that the state is blessed with abundant talent in the field of IT. There are more than 700 institutions in the state that are engaged in churning out highly competent IT professionals. These talented professionals coming out of our institutions serve the manpower needs of not just the Andhra based IT industry, but the entire world. It is a result of work done by the government on the policy and infrastructure front that we have so many institutes capable of providing world class training in IT related subjects.

A decision to set up Information Technology Investment Region (ITIR) around the city of Hyderabad has also been taken. Will this also lead to improvement in the size and scope of IT industry?

I was about to come to ITIR. The Centre has finally gave “in principle” approval to the Andhra Pradesh government’s proposal for setting up an Information Technology Investment Region (ITIR) around the city. This will give a muchneeded boost to the state’s efforts to attract fresh investments into the industry. The ITIR will be developed in an area of 202 sq km (50,000 acres)  in two phases over a period of 25 years. The ITIR is aimed at attracting an investment of Rs 2.19 lakh crore in the ITITES sectors and create direct employment for 15 lakh youths. ITIR is a combination of production units, public utilities, logistic, environment protection mechanism, residential areas and administrative services.  ITIRs will include Special Economic Zones, Industrial Parks, Free Trade Zones, Warehousing zones, Export-Oriented Units, growth centres, existing settlements and estates.

The most important e-Governance programme in Andhra Pradesh is the Mee Seva. Tell us about Mee Seva. What are the ways by which Mee Seva is benefitting the people in the state?

Government of Andhra Pradesh has always been at the forefront of leveraging IT for development and governance. The Mee Seva means “At Your Service.” It is an all-inclusive programme, and has vastly benefitted all sections of the society, and especially the poor section, who rely heavily on welfare schemes for their well-being. Mee Seva leveraged creation of Centralised Land Records database, its purification, digital signing and a web-based application that allows functionaries to take up necessary updation etc. The unique feature of this application and database is that it is in Telugu. Through this system lakhs of citizens in the state are able to access crucial documents and certificates through common kiosks. Crucial documents get issued to the citizens across the counter.

When we talk about G2C services in the e-Governance space, we are basically talking about putting governance in the online pace. But this kind of process also leads to a lot of crucial information pertaining to the citizen being put in online mediums. So what kind of security measures are we taking to protect the  privacy of the individual?

The intention behind our e-Governance initiatives is very clear; we want to reach out to the people. The manual systems do not reach to the people in the ways in which we would want to. So we are using technology to improve the system of interaction between the government and the people. As far as the security systems are concerned, they are in place. There is latest technology being used to provide most convenient and secure gateways for conducting transactions. We also have laws to give strict punishments to people who target government websites.

It is an accepted belief that IT industry is concentrated mainly in the urban areas, so what steps you are taking to develop IT industry in smaller towns?

The government is taking many new initiatives to ensure that IT industry can also move into our tier 2 towns. Many new institutions have been allowed to come up in the towns. In fact 5 years ago, hardly any IT industry was located in the town of Vizag, but now the same place generates revenues of more than `1,000 crore. Similarly things are going to pick up at other towns also.

You have been associated with many rural development projects. In your opinion what kind of impact ICT can have on rural industries and on agriculture?

Modern technology has a role to play in every sector, including agriculture. For instance, in agriculture you need to know the nature of the soil, you need to know what kind of fertilizers will be most suitable. You will need information on transplantation of the produce post harvesting. The thing is that such information can be more easily accessed through the use of technology Nowadays we have computer systems that can be accessed in Telgu language. This has brought computing and Internet close to many farmers. In fact, I would like to tell you that we are one of the first Unicode members along with IBM, Honeywell and Microsoft. Only 9 entities are the permanent members, Andhra Pradesh is 10th member. We are taking active measures to ensure that Telgu becomes one of the premier languages for conducting business on the web.

Mee Seva initiative has become  very popular among the people and many other states in the country are planning to launch their own versions of Mee Seva.
At a ground level, what kind of impact is the Mee Seva initiative having on the people?

In the past, for issue of Caste, Residence, Income certificates of students, the applications were physically submitted at Tahsildar Office. This was followed by field verification by concerned VRA/VRO and after receiving the report, Tahsildar used to issue physically ink signed certificates. During the high demand months of June-August / admission closing dates, Tahsildar office used to receive more than 1,000 applications in a day, which resulted in inordinate delays or issue of certificates without verification. Mee Seva has really made service delivery very convenient for the citizen. Prior to the launch of Mee Seva project, applicants used to visit the respective departments to avail services, many a times applicants were forced to visit these offices to get their certificates. Under the revised process, Mee Seva is able to issue certificates across the counter within 15 minutes in 90 percent of the cases.

Given the fact that the technology keeps evolving at a very rapid pace, where do you see the governance in the next 10 years?

I see paperless, cashless, transparent, hassle free, instantaneous governance becoming a reality. One thing I believe certainly, with the talent we have in Andhra Pradesh, a major revolution in governance is bound to happen. The state has been on the forefront when it comes to the implementation of Aadhaar. In times to come the Aadhaar system will start playing a central role in the management of government benefits and subsidies.

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