Transparency, efficiency and accountability are the three key objectives achieved through utilisation of IT-enabled platforms, feels R D Shinde in conversation with Veena Kurup of ENN
How does IT help in refining the operational pace of administrative system in the country?
IT plays a key role in refining the process of governance initiatives and facilitating transparency in operational practices. Availability of information in public domain leads to transparency and empowerment of citizens. Efficiency in operation is the other prime element being achieved through active utilisation of IT. Migration of schemes to an online platform has dramatically impacted reduction in overall time required to process an application. Time reduced at each touch point helps in streamlining the entire process. The digital trail of actions undertaken further leads toward achieving overall accountability.
How far ICT has helped in transforming the overall performance of your department?
The department has implemented several IT-powered initiatives like eOffice, eMails, SMS facility, Payment Gateway, Video Conferencing and IT Training. The eOffice solution enables electronic file movement and enables faster processing of files. The department also is focused towards achieving a complete paper-free desk operation. Through the eMails services, the department has migrated completely to email system in ‘maharashtra.gov.in’ domain. This has enabled the department officials to exchange important information conveniently. The users also get the required support to resolve the technical issues through State Data Center (SDC). Also, SMS facility is being rolled out across multiple schemes (e.g. eScholarship and Aam Aadmi Bima Yojana).
Furthermore, the Central Plan Scheme Monitoring System (CPSMS) is being used to transfer pension benefits to beneficiaries. We are also checking the feasibility of using CPSMS in the eScholarship system. Video conferencing facility has enabled us to conduct meetings and resolve issues without making the officials travel from distinct districts. We also encourage the department officials to attend training workshops and sessions that are conducted in Mantralaya, so that they are up-to-date regarding the latest trends in technology. As a result of these initiatives our officers have become more efficient and decision making has become faster.
Can you spell out the success of e-initiatives implemented by the Social Justice Department, Government of Maharashtra?
Our ‘e-Scholarship’ initiative was implemented with the objective to bring the socially and economically backward students to the mainstream development track. Earlier the process was completely devoid of automation and the entire process of scholarship application by students, approval by colleges/welfare officer and disbursal was executed through manual process. The eScholarship solution has enabled in automating the process of application, approval and disbursal.
2013-14, we received 17 lakh applications for the Government of India (GoI) Post Matric Scholarship & Freeship Scheme, and Rs 1,700 crore of funds have been disbursed in this academic year. The system also provides the department with MIS to monitor and analyse the scholarship distribution and disbursement. This is first-of-its-kind initiative to be implemented in the state.
The Department of Social Justice and Special Assistance also introduced ‘Aam Aadmi Bima Yojana’ (AABY) solution in Maharashtra and enabled transformation in providing insurance to landless labourers across the state. The scheme provides insurance for the head of the family or an earning member of the family of rural landless household between the age of 18 and 59 years against natural death as well as accidental death and partial/permanent disability. The initiative also offers an add-on benefit of scholarships for two children of the beneficiaries studying in 9th to 12th standard. Through the AABY portal, the process of application by beneficiaries and approval by district authorities has been automated.
Our ‘eOffice’ solution is also being used extensively by the department officials. At present, we have 86 total users, 1,885 eFiles are already created, 16,467 eReceipts are diarised, 85 eLeave applications created and in Knowledge Management System (KMS) seven documents are uploaded till now.
How successful has been the department in establishing effective operational networks, particularly in the rural areas?
Communication is a vital element to reach out to citizens and streamline operations in rural Maharashtra. With the active support of Department of Information Technology, we have succeeded in establishing connectivity up to the Tahsildar level through MS-WAN. Gaining reports and guiding the field level officers have become very easy through the video conferencing facility. For schemes like Aam Aadmi Bima Yojana (AABY), the department utilises services of CSC centers established by the Government of Maharashtra to increase its reach to the citizens. We have also created respective email IDs of each Tahsildar so that department can communicate with them easily. In addition, IT assistants have been provided by the department in every district to assist the officials in IT-related work.
How has the department tackled hurdles in the implementation of e-initiatives?
The scope of any initiative of Social Justice Department has a direct impact on the socially and economically weaker sections of the society. Since initiatives span across all the 35 districts of Maharashtra, the key challenge is to establish and maintain effective co-ordination with multiple stakeholders. All affected parties have to be first sensitised about the initiative and its benefits, and outlined the solutions, which can be rolled out to improve efficiency in day-to-day working activities.
Other challenge being faced is the low literacy rate and awareness amongst the section of the society whom the department caters to. A very basic IT solution developed by a vendor may be complex for them to understand. Also, the tech-savvy nature and readiness amongst the departmental staff is also a challenge which the department is facing.
To tackle these challenges, the department through distinct initiatives focuses in streamlining and developing a healthy trained employee force.
“Communication is a vital element to reach out to citizens and streamline operations in rural Maharashtra. With the active support of Department of Information Technology, we have succeeded in establishing connectivity…“
Please share with us the department’s future initiatives.
Key initiatives pipelined for the future are Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Regional & Training Institute (BARTI), a scanning and digitisation programme, and National Social Assistance Programme (NASP). Under the BARTI initiative, scanning and digitisation of caste certificates sent to committees for verifications is underway. There are 36 lakh cases and eight crore pages to be scanned and digitised. This project is targeted to be completed in the next 8-10 months. Under the NASP programme, we are planning to make the process of application by beneficiary to issuance of sanction order online through eDistrict. The development of software is underway and we are targeting to select a pilot district and roll it out in the next three months.
As a result of e-initiatives our officers have become more efficient and decision-making has become faster.