The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) has taken several strategic initiatives to make Indian cities smarter, says Sanjay Goel, Joint Secretary (e-Governance), MeitY, in an exclusive interview with Gautam Debroy of Elets News Network (ENN).
Tell us about some of your recent initiatives in e-governance sector.
The MeitY, Government of India, has initiated several new initiatives in eGovernance sector.
Some of the initiatives are as follows:
Unified Mobile Application for New-Age Governance (UMANG): UMANG has been developed as a single mobile platform to deliver major Government services with core platform integrated with Aadhaar, DigiLocker, PayGov, Rapid Assessment System (RAS), etc. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had dedicated UMANG to the nation on 23 November, 2017. UMANG will empower 40 crore smartphone users to access government services. About 196 services from 38 departments and four States are already available on UMANG and the count is increasing day- by-day.
It supports around 12 Indian languages, in addition to English, and has been hosted on cloud. UMANG aims to bring power to finger tips of citizens. They can access pan-India Government services from the Central Government, State Governments, local bodies and their agencies and some important utility services from corporate.
Government e-Market Place (GeM): In order to transform the procurement process of goods and services by various Government bodies, Government e-Marketplace (GeM), the online procurement platform, has been implemented. GeM provides tools for e-bidding and reverse e-auction as well as demand aggregation to facilitate efficient procurement. GeM is being used by 22,208 organisations of the Central Government and States/UTs. 102,683 sellers and services providers are registered on the portal.
National Centre of Geo-Informatics (NCoG): Geographical Information System (GIS)-based decision making is being promoted by National Centre of Geo-Informatics (NCoG), MeitY. The GIS platform established by NCOG is a GIS based decision support system (DSS) platform for sharing, collaborating, undertaking location based analytics which caters the requirements of government departments/ agencies. The system is designed to promote acceptability, adoptability and affordability across governance by integrating geographic science systems, information science systems. Some of the key features of NCoG include base map available up-to 1:5000 scale, ensures compatibility of multi-purpose geodatasets, allows user to plot assets/ features on their own, cost effective and based on open-Source software. GIS platform has provision to integrate with MIS data of Ministries/Departments, e.g. MNREGA, Panchayati Raj, Mines, etc. GIS Platform provides the citizen-centric services on web and mobile platform, navigation facility including location based information system. So far, 25 applications across various domains are operational.
e-Sign: One of the initiatives taken under Digital India Programme is to provide non-repudiable authentication of applicant’s identity through a facility called eSign. This facility is an online digital signature service. eSign is an online electronic signature service which can be integrated with service delivery applications via an open API to facilitate an Aadhaar holder to digitally sign a document. Using authentication of the Aadhaar holder through Aadhaar e-KYC service, online electronic signature service is facilitated. Five agencies namely eMudhra, C-DAC (govt. ESP), nCode, NSDL and Capricorn are empanelled to offer e-Sign Services.
Open Government Data platform: The portal is intended to be used by Government of India Ministries/Departments, their organisations to publish datasets, documents, services, tools and applications collected by them for public use. As on 31 April, 2018, over 1,75,300 dataset resources under 4,260 catalogs contributed by 110 Ministry/ Departments (85 Central and 25 states). 1,385 visualisations created, 4017-Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) created. OGD India has 15.76 million times viewed and 5.77 million datasets have been downloaded.
GI Cloud (MeghRaj): To utilise and harness the benefits of Cloud Computing, National Cloud has been set up as a state-of-the-art secured government cloud to provide services over the ICT Infrastructure to the government departments. Enabling All Schools with Virtual Classrooms: A new scheme has been initiated namely
“Enabling All Schools with Virtual Class Rooms Phase-I”. The project aims to set-up smart virtual classroom facilities in Government owned/controlled schools in 7 pilot states, namely Himachal Pradesh, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Tripura, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Haryana, with the focus to improve the quality of education to students in remote/rural part of the country. The project aims at creating technology enhanced classrooms that foster opportunities for teaching and learning by integrating learning technology, such as computers, electronics white boards, projectors, specialized software, interactive audiovideo systems etc.
Do you think people from across sections have accepted Make in India concept?
India had witnessed significant manufacturing activity related to mobile handsets and its component ecosystem. 115 new mobile and mobile component manufacturing units have been set up in two-and-a half years with the efforts of the Government by providing ease of doing business in India after 2014 under Make in India programme.
How do you find the IT connectivity in rural India?
Various steps have been taken by the Government for better expansion of digital facilities under Digital India in remote areas/villages of the country. Some of the key initiatives are as follows:
• BharatNet: Provisioning of internet connectivity at rural areas is under the purview of Department of Telecommunications (DoT), under Ministry of Communications. DoT is implementing National Optical Fibre Network (NOFN) project, renamed as BharatNet.
It has been envisaged to provide 100 Mbps broadband connectivity to all Gram Panchayats (approx. 2.50 lakhs) in the country by using an optimal mix of underground fibre, fibre over power lines, radio and satellite media.
• National Information Infrastructure (NII): A pilot project on National Information Infrastructure (NII) for a period of one year of operation was initiated by MeitY in July, 2015 for one district each in the States of Nagaland, Karnataka, Kerala, Gujarat, Uttarakhand and UT of Chandigarh and Puducherry to integrate various ICT infrastructure namely State Data Centres (SDCs), State Wide Area Network (SWAN), National Knowledge Network (NKN), National Informatics Centre Network (NICNET), State Service Delivery Gateway (SSDG) including National Optical Fibre Network (NOFN)/BharatNet created in these States.
The objective is to provide connectivity to government offices up to Gram Panchayat (GP) level (1,059 GPs)
. • Common Services Centre (CSC): Common Services Centres are Internetenabled centres operated by local entrepreneur, called Village Level Entrepreneurs (VLEs) and provide e-services to rural citizens. CSCs deliver various Government-to-Citizen (G2C), Business-to-Citizen (B2C) services, Aadhaar services, financial inclusion services, educational services including Digital Literacy, Financial Literacy, Legal Literacy, Skill development services etc. to citizens. Till March, 2018, there are 2,92,605 Common Services Centres (CSCs) functioning across the country; among which, 1,83,203 CSCs are at Gram Panchayat (GP) level.
You have created MyGov, a platform to build a partnership between citizens and Government with the help of technology. How do you find the project?
To boost participatory governance in India, the government launched MyGova citizen engagement platform. MyGov is a unique, first-of-its-kind participatory governance initiative involving the common citizens at large. MyGov brings the Government closer to the common man by the use of online platform, creating an interface for healthy exchange of ideas and views involving the common citizen and experts with the ultimate goal to contribute to the social and economic transformation of India. MyGov operates on three main pillars of engagement – Do, Discuss and Disseminate.
The activities hosted under each pillar allows to establish a source of transparent communication between the Government and the citizens. Presently, 56.92 lakh users are registered with MyGov, participating in various activities hosted on MyGov platform. MyGov activities are structured under 64 groups consisting of 745 tasks, 770 discussions, 244 Polls/Surveys and 176 talks.
How do you connect IT and Smart Cities?
Smart City and IT are complimenting each other none of the initiatives envisaged under Smart City can run without IT intervention. IT is enabler for disseminating citizen centric services envisaged under Smart City and make it quick, easier and accessible to everyone and to everywhere. Smartness in a city means different things to different people. It could be smart design, smart utilities, smart housing, smart mobility, smart technology, etc. In Smart City, the extensive use of ICT is a must and only this can ensure information exchange and quick communication. Most services will need to be ICT enabled, and this often helps reduce the need for travel. The ability to shop online or book tickets online or converse online is very powerful ways of reducing the need for travel, thereby reducing congestion, pollutants and energy use.
An extensive use of ICT enabled services require a sound communications backbone. In this context, we can say that ICT is not the“end” but only the “means” to an “end” – the end being improved service quality and information availability. This includes social media; mobility, Machine-to- Machine (M2M), Internet of Things (IoT), Big Data, and Cloud Computing will become the backbone of next generation smart cities. The availability of universal ICT infrastructures stimulates the development of new services and applications by various types of users, and allows for the gathering of a more realistic assessment of users’ perspectives by conducting acceptability tests directly on the infrastructures already in place and functioning in the smart city.
To this end, Living Lab networks can help to make the testing of new applications and e-services easier and should be used as building blocks for the more efficient development of smart cities. In the smart city model, one and the most important factor is to find a sociotechnical infrastructure containing the contextual factors that need to be present in an ecosystem to fully exploit the potential of ICT. The key ingredients are networks, data, software, and laws that should be respectively accessible, interconnected and innovation-friendly. It is, in fact, important to underline that value does not only reside in the individual resources (e.g. data or software) but also in the links and connections that it is possible to establish between the different resources.