Digitising Villages, empowering Startups, facilitating mGovernance and galvanising Smart Cities constitute the key quartet of Devendra Fadnavis Government’s execution focus. In an exclusive interaction with Elets News Network (ENN), the Chief Minister explains in greater detail
Please define the concept of ¡Digital Village© and the idea behind developing it. What other IT-driven initiatives have been undertaken and MoUs signed by the government?
Digital Village as a concept entails using technology to solve critical problems that plague our villages, namely health, education, skill development and employment. Rural areas oft en do not have the requisite infrastructure or human resources to deal with these problems. However, with the intelligent use of technology, these issues can be tackled. For example, baby warmers in ambulances, mobile-connectivity for ambulances and tele-medicine are some of the ways through which the maternal mortality rate will drop. Village students can be taught by the best quality teachers via video conferencing. Similarly, digitisation can take ‘aanganwadi’ reports online and hence help track the progress of each child. There is already a strong trickledown effect while the pilot is being conducted in Harisal; it’ll benefit 51 smaller villages within a 15 km radius.
The idea behind the initiative is to bring villages to the mainstream. The lack of nutrition, coupled with genetic health problems and the lifestyle of people, has to be changed to make them healthy and connected with the mainstream. Digitisation will go a long way in creating a self-sufficient economy — an environment in which PDS, PHC, education and other benefits can be enjoyed, increasing penetration of the banking system and allowing for regular monitoring of important metrics.
Startups have been growing in large numbers in Maharashtra over the last couple of years. How do the government policies help them set up their establishments?
We understand fully well the importance of the role played by startups in the economy, and therefore, fully support them. In May this year, we tied up with NASSCOM to set up two startup warehouses, in Navi Mumbai and Pune. These warehouses will be a co-working facility that can be leased by startups for six months at a nominal cost with high-speed internet and basic utilities like electricity and water.
My government has a special focus on execution: CM
We will facilitate the establishment of a common platform for exchange and dissemination of knowledge resources between academic, research institutions and the IT industry, and the setting up of incubation centers particularly for small enterprises. A committee under the chairmanship of the Development Commissioner (Industries) will define a model and framework for setting up such a platform and for incubation centres across the state in ICT field such as embedded software, chip, telecom technology etc.
Our young engineers are full of innovative ideas and we are working on creating a startup policy to promote a culture of entrepreneurship and innovation in the manufacturing and IT & IT-enabled services sector. This is aimed at attracting these incubation units to Maharashtra by making the state an attractive destination. We have a world class institution in IIT- Bombay and we intend to create a startup hub around it.
What all eGovernance and mGovernance initiatives have been introduced by the government in the larger interest of public?
We are proud of the fact that Maharashtra has always led the way in adopting new technologies to improve efficiency and transparency in governance. There are numerous mGovernance and eGovernance initiatives we have introduced in the past year to make citizens lives easier. However, two initiatives I would like to highlight are ‘Aaple Sarkar’ and ‘RTS’. To ensure that a citizen doesn’t have to walk into a government office to file a complaint, we launched Aaple Sarkar – the state’s first ever-integrated online grievance redressal infrastructure. The system is now operational across most of the state and has satisfactorily resolved 15,000 grievances.
A committee under the chairmanship of the Development Commissioner (Industries) will define a model and framework for setting up such a platform and for incubation centres across the state in ICT field such as embedded software, chip, telecom technology etc
In today’s technology driven world, running from pillar to post to avail of basic services seems archaic. Out of this belief was born the Right to Services Act, wherein 224 services across various departments are being made available online in a time- bound manner. These services include birth certificate, caste certificate, domicile certificate, etc. It is also going a long way in bringing in greater transparency and accountability.
What are your future plans in view of Smart Cities and Digital India? Where do you see Maharashtra in next five years and what are the major challenges in implementing the schemes?
The Smart Cities programme, being monitored by the Centre, will enter implementation stage in the coming months. For each of the 10 cities in Maharashtra that will be developed as a Smart City, I have appointed a senior bureaucrat as a mentor.
We have also decided to introduce our own Smart Cities scheme. The details are presently being worked out and will cater to urban sprawls and smaller towns and cities in Maharashtra that did not make the final cut in the Centre’s scheme.
In our first year itself, we have successfully launched major initiatives that promote utilisation of technology to improve the standard of everyday living and governance. Programmes like Digital Village, RTS, etc., will mature and expand and have a long lasting impact on the entire State. The PDS modernisation project is underway and will soon be implemented. There is a clear plan to ensure that we can comply with the principles of ‘minimum government, maximum governance.’
Execution will be the key to all of these initiatives, as adoption of technology always involves doing away with long-standing practices.
For initiatives like the Smart City project, funding too will play a key role. However, I do not anticipate either of these to be major bottlenecks. My government has a special focus on execution – I have set up a war room that closely tracks and de-bottlenecks all critical projects of the state. With regard to funding, Maharashtra is a highly-favoured investment destination as can be seen from the Foxconn and other large investments that have been made here in the past 12 months.