Digital India, as a program, when launched three years ago aimed to achieve a structured unification of direction of efforts related to diverse components of infrastructure, e-governance services and IT for all.
Working together, the key stakeholder groups have been able to make a remarkable progress. The impact is gradually getting visible on the ground.
Bharatnet is connecting gram panchayats; Mygov (www.mygov.in) has seen an exponential increase in citizen participation; the network of common service centers is widening and adding new services on a regular basis; Adhaar integration has become the default requirement in all G2C or even B2C applications; Digilocker is now being used extensively by departments and citizens; the efforts to expand electronic manufacturing have started to yield the surge in investments and facilities; UMANG – the repository of mobile government application has come to life in addition to www.mgov.gov.in and a number of policy and related strategic initiatives have been taken such as Model RFP, empanelment of cloud service providers, capacity building and GeM (Government e-Market).
One refreshing change that all stakeholder groups tend to agree on is the enthusiasm and collaboration among varied stakeholder groups such as industry, academia, government and citizens.
In fact, holistically, Digital India can be viewed as the core of flagship schemes of the current government having an inter-dependent linkage to each of the other schemes such as smart cities, make in India etc.
One can argue that we are in a very interesting phase of programme implementation wherein the stage is set to propel the program management in a manner that the objective of creating the desired ground level impact is achieved faster.
Based on learnings in the last three years and from the erstwhile National e-Governance Plan (NeGP), there seems to be a need to create a new wave of program implementation.Going forward, few areas may require focused attention with a view to enhance effectiveness of program implementation.
With the above as the context and background, the following section is an attempt to highlight some of the areas and action points which can potentially help expedite the effective implementation of Digital India program and the consequent achievement of the desired impact.
1. Focus on Mission Mode Projects and e-Kranti
• While the two pillars of infrastructure and IT for all have seen the required attention and speed, the pillar on ‘Governance and Services on Demand’ and in particular the e-Kranti may now need to be prioritised for implementation.
The 13 new Mission Mode Projects under the e-Kranti offers a true potential for the Government-Industry collaboration and ensures improved government service delivery. Projects like Common IT Roadmap for Paramilitary Forces (CAPF), Roads and Highway Information (RAHI), social benefits, rural development, women and child development, when implemented, can lead to huge improvement in government service delivery.
Going forward, the implementation of these MMPs with industry participation may require focus and prioritisation.
• In the next wave of programme management, there may be a need to shift from capacity building to culture building. The G2G and G2E applications can be great means of achieving the required ICT culture within the government departments.
State governments have actually taken the initial steps in this direction. Projects like SAATHI by the government of Gujarat can be a good reference for the same. It may now be important to focus on backend G2E applications to achieve the integration of employee systems and hence the development of a culture of ICT adoption.
• An initiative to come out with an integrated/enterprise architecture for statewide/Ministry-wide applications may help in achieving the required holistic coverage of the ICT efforts. With many siloed applications already in place, this can help in achieving the next-gen ‘One Government’ vision.
• Development of mobile governance roadmaps for the Central Ministries and States could lead to identification and prioritisation of sectors for the Mobile First strategy under Digital India. We may recall, the NeGP started with the development of e-governance roadmaps for states.
2. Government – Industry Collaboration
• The experience of implementation of MMPs has clearly led to the realisation of the need for an early involvement of industry in the project cycle. The involvement of industry at the project conceptualisation or Detailed Project Report (DPR) stage can definitely help in innovative solutions besides ensuring industry readiness.
Most of the large projects like GSTN, Passport Sewa, Department of Posts have already used this to accomplish success and going forward, it is important to adopt this as a practice.
• Despite all the achievements across the Digital India programme, we have so far still not been able to realise the dream of horizontal transfer of knowledge, experiences and solutions from one government organisation to another.
As a result, the divide among States exists due to the varied speed of implementation and sometimes even as a result of reinventing the wheel. Going forward, it is important to create a repository of products, solutions, project and programme management and making it mandatory for the government organisations and/or industry to share on the platform. In fact, it may be worthwhile to have a separate unit on Horizontal Transfer in the National e-governance Division (NeGD). Enough references are available for States to adopt from others. For example, SAP partnered with Mumbai is providing over 200 citizen services across 34 departments besides digitising the municipal operations on SAP platform.
• Industry-Government collaboration for capacity building: It is important to view the capacity building as a two-way requirement.
While there is a huge focus on capacity building of government officials on e-governance programme and project management, the industry can play a role in sharing innovations in technology and global best practices.
The recent MoU signed between SAP and the Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME), the government of India towards digital enablement of SMEs is a very good example of this.
3. ICT Policies:
• While there have been some excellent policy initiatives taken during the last three years of Digital India programme, some of the policy areas that may require immediate attention include:
IoT or Internet of Things: A policy on IoT can help provide direction not only to the ICT initiatives but also to the related initiatives like Industry 4.0 for Make in India or for smart cities.
Data Analytics Policy: To take the programme from a transaction management to strategic insights mode.
ICT procurement policies at the state level including the cloud services procurement guidelines.
4. Skill building:
• Given the extensive focus and investments on IT for India’s transformation, it may be good to have e-governance courses introduced in academia. While some leading institutes have already taken this up (more as an elective subject), it can be beneficial if students coming out of technical and non-technical institutes can be exposed to e-governance and digital India.
• It is important to include IoT, Artificial Intelligence and Data Analytics in ICT skill building planning. While National Institute of Electronics & Information Technology (NIELIT) and others have already initiated the work on the same, this may need to be converted into a structured plan.
With the excellent structure and progress made till date, the program management 2.0 based on the above can help expedite the achievement of objectives of Digital India.
Let us collectively move forward to achieve the vision of an IT led digital economy and society for India.