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God’s Own Country Charts the IT Course

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Own-CountryKerala has made several strides towards ensuring efficient delivery of citizen services and bringing about transparent and accountable governance in the state. Sunil Kumar of Elets News Network (ENN) takes a closer look

As the traditional way of administration becomes a bane in the process of development due to its bureaucratic hierarchies and associated problems, e-Governance has become a buzzword in new-age public administration. There is an increasing expectation that ICT will be utilised in national and local governments both for providing more efficient governance and better public services. Even states are vying to harness e-Governance for better delivery of citizen services. And, Kerala is not an exception to it.
Over the years, Kerala IT Mission, the apex agency for implementing e-Governance at the local level, has executed several programmes to serve citizens in a speedy and transparent manner. Kerala State Information Technology Mission (KSITM) was formed as a nodal agency under the state IT Department for implementation of various e-Governance initiatives.
The Mission has been piloting various ITenabled services/ projects in the state since its inception in 1999. It has successfully undertaken the e-Governance initiatives in the state and has kept the state at par with other states in India. The most prominent of the project undertaken by KSITM over the years are the State Data Centre, Kerala State Wide Area Network (KSWAN), e-Krishi, e-Procurement, State Service Delivery Gateway (SSDG), Mobile Service Delivery Platform, Sutharya Keralam, Digital Workflow System, Entegramam – My Village, Fast Reliable Instant Effective Network for Disbursement of Services (FRIENDS), Service and Payroll Administrative Repository for Kerala (SPARK), etc. Though the efforts made in e-enabling the government departments have resulted in the creation of standalone back-ends, digital work flows and service delivery channels, the expectations of the citizens, connected with e-Government ask for more.
The state today focusses on consolidating and integrating the various applications and systems across the government to ensure a seamless delivery of services to the citizen. The ultimate target is to create an integrated e-Gov platform wherein the services provided by various government departments and agencies will get integrated into a unified system. The aim is to make all government interactions, information and transaction services available electronically through a single access point, for all the users, including citizens, CSC operators, government employees, residents and non resident Keralites, visitors and businesses). This in turn will lead to increased availability, accessibility, productivity and effectiveness of electronic delivery of public services, increase the efficiency of the government and also trustworthiness transparency, traceability, security and privacy of data.
Joining the global move to adopt ICT, the State Government announced its first IT Policy in 1998. It was followed up by fresh ones in 2001 and 2007. As per the guidelines, the basic ICT infrastructure—including State Data Center, Kerala State Wide Area Network, Mobile Service Delivery Platform and Common Services Centres (CSCs)—has already been raised to help bridge the digital divide. The overall ICT adoption in the state across sectors is being brought around by government agencies and private sector alike.

Information infrastructure

The Kerala State IT mission has tried to cover all aspects of IT Infrastructure required for seamless rollout of e-Governance initiatives, viz. connectivity, data centres and citizen service centres. To host various e-Gov applications of the government safely and securely, two state data centers (SDCs) have been established. It provides the e-Infrastructure backbone for various e-Governance initiatives for the Kerala Government. The SDCs with the state-of-theart technology and having 1 Gbps NKN connectivity house multiple software applications. The Kerala State Wide Area Network (KSWAN) is one of the top SWANs in the country reaching out to the remotest field offices. This gov comprehenernment network acts as the backbone for the state’s e-Governance applications.

Service delivery framework

Once the infrastructure is in place, the next critical factor for successful rollout of e-Governance is the service delivery frameworks. The ongoing e-District project is fast turning to be a window for all G2C services. State Service Delivery Gateway (SSDG) project, formulated under the National e-Governance Plan (NeGP), is to fulfill the vision of providing easy and convenient services to the citizens through CSCs. One of the earliest attempts in citizen service delivery is FRIENDS – a single-window facility where citizens can deposit their bills and taxes without any hassle. This was later followed up with an entrepreneur- driven model called Akshaya, which is one of its kinds, and is considered a model worth emulating nationally and internationally.

Common applications for government

Various initiatives like the e-Procurement, SPARK, IDEAS – a file tracking system, Secretariat Workflow Automation System, etc. which are common applications created for usage by all departments under the government. e-Procurement enhances transparency and efficiency in public procurement activities and helps monitor the same on a real-time basis. KSITM is the implementing agency for e-Procurement System across the state, while NIC is the service provider.
SPARK is an integrated personnel, payroll and accounts information system. This webbased application has been implemented for all the employees in Kerala. The system has been developed with a view of catering to the administration, payroll and other accounts activities of the government establishments. Every employee is allotted with a unique Permanent Employee Number (PEN) through the system.

Mobile governance

Going a step ahead, the state has pioneered the m-Gov initiatives in the country, and today textand voice-based messages are supplementing the various e-Governance initiatives by the state government. An encapsulated and comprehenSecsive integrated Service Delivery Platform was created and integrated with the e-Governance infrastructure, for enabling m-Services of various departments in a ‘Plug and Play’ fashion.

Aadhaar-enabled services

KSITM is the nodal agency in Kerala for UID enrolment. KSITM, in turn, appointed Akshaya centres and Keltron as the two enrolment agencies for accomplishing the field work. The government is planning to utilise the Aadhaar authentication for the Rajiv Avas Yojana (RAY) schemes, PDS, NREGS, LPG subsidy, etc.

Citizen’s Call Centre

The Citizen’s Call Centre (CCC) is a single window, IT-enabled, facility of the government that enables citizens and government to interact effectively. Envisaged as a Government to Citizen (G2C) interface, the call centre enables quick delivery of critical information, which is otherwise either inaccessible or difficult for the citizens to trace. The relevance of a government/ public call centre is more important in the context of increased focus on e-Governance.

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