It is not just about promoting adoption of IT practices in Bihar, but also about creating an IT ecosystem by giving a boost to Digital Literacy in the State, says Tripurari Sharan, Principal Secretary, Department of Information Technology and Agriculture, Government of Bihar, in an interview with Dr Ravi Gupta, Editor-in-Chief of eGov magazine and CEO of Elets Technomedia
What is your outlook for Information Technology in Bihar?
There are two aspects of Information Technology, especially in Bihar. One is promoting the use of Information Technology for providing Government to Government (G2G) as well as Government to Citizen (G2C) Services, and the Department has a major role to play there, as we are responsible for carrying out the Mission Mode Projects (MMPs). It is also chartered with the responsibility of increasing citizens’ accessibility to the G2C services. The projects under the MMPs are already going on in the State.
The other aspect is development of an IT ecosystem, i.e. to create an environment for increasing investment in the sector, setting up of more industries and literacy in the field. And, all these are of paramount importance in a state like Bihar. We are focusing on having Digital Literacy. This also is one of the important pillars of the Digital India programme. So, in the domain of literacy and the related domain of skill development, we are creating an entire landscape of institutions, which can impart this type of training. We have already taken a lead in that direction and have signed an MoU with NIELIT. We will also ink an MoU with the National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC), so that their training partners can get involved with digital literacy and skill training. This is the foundation stone or basic pillar for what we look at the future of IT in Bihar.
Southern states are far ahead in IT implementation. How is Bihar geared up for implementation to create more conducive environment, so as to attract investments and provide better opportunities to its citizens?
We can create better opportunities in Bihar, when we have significant IT industry presence here. Of course, we are late starters, but we have taken major steps in the direction…we are going to set up a Software Technology Park soon and the land is allocated for the same. The land is also allocated for creating an Electronic Manufacturing Cluster (EMC). The space is already identified and allocated to major institutions like NIELIT and C-DAC. We have also initiated a proposal for developing an incubating centre on the Bihar Institute of Technology (BIT) campus in Patna. We are aware of the fact that major steps have been taken by southern states in all these areas, but we have already started and look forward to taking more initiatives for development. For example, now in Patna we have a full-fledged Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) and many such institutions are coming up. Entire ecosystem is getting created and our policy is focussing on the elements of creating this ecosystem.
Are you taking any steps for setting up Rural BPOs or for having BPOs in Tier II and Tier III cities?
Again, there are two aspects here: first, we have to identify the location and the space for the companies that want to set up these facilities, and the other, of course, is to provide other types of concessions to the interested players. We are working on the same and will be incorporating it in our IT Policy, which will be announced soon.
One must understand that we are facilitators and are implementation partners to the National Optical Fibre Network (NOFN).
As far as creating the physical infrastructure for connectivity to happen is concerned, it has to be done by organisations associated with the NOFN. So, whenever NOFN implementation partner wants any support or assistance from our side, they can approach us, and we will be more than happy to help. There are several challenges and issues in implementation of this ambitious programme, like clearance of right of way, different clearances from several departments, coordination with local administration, etc.
How are we placed for having a City Wi-Fi network?
We have already taken a lead in City Wi-Fi network and creating the required hotspots in Patna. We are in the process of implementing free Wi-Fi network in several parts of the city. We are also expanding the scope of this project and the work is in progress.
We can create better opportunities in Bihar, when we have significant IT industry presence here. Of course, we are late starters, but we have taken major steps in the direction…we are going to set up a Software Technology Park soon and the land is allocated for the same
What are the steps being taken for Aadhaarlinked services and Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT)-like schemes?
The responsibility of providing benefits of Aadhaar-linked services basically lies with the line departments and they are responsible for proper implementation of the same. Our role is to integrate the Aadhaar beneficiaries with the services that these departments want to provide, and we are working on that. Our eventual aim is to create a Service Delivery Gateway, so that citizens can access all the services, through one portal that Government provides.
Right now, there are online and offline services that are being provided and are on standalone systems. Eventually, we want to integrate them and integrate the delivery gateway with NICNET and want to bring it on a national platform. That is a big target and one should remember that integration is not a major task, rather proper completion of all the backend work is what actually matters. Lot of work still needs to be done at the backend for having all the required information readily available. The data does exist, but it has to be organised in an intelligent format, so that we are able to minimise human intervention for delivery of the desired services. And, that is where Aadhaar will become very important, as with one single Aadhaar number, one can avail all the services by logging into a single portal.
What is the status of implementation of the Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana (PMJDY) in Bihar?
The implementation of PMJDY is primarily with the Public Sector Banks (PSBs) and they have still not reached us for our support for providing them the required platform for integrating the services. We will provide whatever is required for doing that integration. Other aspects related to Financial Inclusion like payments are being handled by the concerned line departments. We will be providing the delivery platform facility in the State.
The other aspect is development of an IT ecosystem, i.e. to create an environment for increasing investment in the sector, setting up of more industries and literacy in the field. And, all these are of paramount importance in a state like Bihar
Have you taken any initiatives in the area of ‘m-governance’?
We have already implemented a Mobile Services Delivery Gateway (MSDG) in our State and since it is a Mission Mode Project (MMP), we are working on that. Much of the work has already been done by different departments like Transport and Commercial Taxes. We are working on many other applications to be rolled out for providing better services to the citizens. But I am not sure that MSDG will encompass all the services and will be able to provide the benefits to all sections of the society, as availability, use and affordability of smart phones, especially in remote areas, is still a challenge. There are limitations to the use of this gateway to non-smart phones. Once the penetration of smart phones become deeper and higher, the delivery of services through MSDG will become effective.
How are you looking at Big Data, Virtualisation and creating a Cloud-based platform?
Yes, we are looking forward to it. As of now, not much work has been done on Big Data, but once our services and delivery become more intent, we will look into it.
Are you doing something for better exploiting the ‘Social Media’?
The Department of Information Technology is the facilitator and not the implementer. Very soon we are going to have a state level meeting with all the departments, where we will be making a presentation on what all other avenues are open before us, and how everyone can come on board and use social media effectively.
Are you planning to an IT Cell in every department?
We do have IT Managers in all the departments. But, unfortunately, we are still working on inculcating better competencies, so that every department can work on their projects on their own and implement it more effectively. We are, in fact, working on creating partnerships with facilitators to make it more efficient.