Former prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee is no more but his legacy in e-governance space is very much alive and thriving in India. It was during his third tenure as prime minister that the ministry of information technology came up with an ambitious Rs 26,000 crore e-governance programme consisting of 26 projects for various central ministries.
The five-year programme promised to transform governance in India through various digital initiatives. In his address on August 15, 2002, the then prime minister announced The National e-Governance initiative with an objective to link grassroots public services with those at the macro level.
“The Ministry of Communications and Information Technology will implement a comprehensive programme to accelerate e-governance at all levels of the government to improve efficiency, transparency and accountability at the government-citizen interface. E-Bill Post and internet-based E-Post Service network will be expanded to cover all districts in the coming year,” he said in his address.
“The establishment of Media Lab Asia, a joint collaboration between the Department of IT and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA, has been an important initiative to address the challenge of Digital Divide in India and other developing countries. It would pursue high-end research in four areas germane to the needs of rural India: World Computer (low-cost computing devices); Bits for All (bringing low-cost connectivity to the doorstep of rural masses; Tools for Tomorrow (creation of low-cost learning tools to bring out the spirit of innovation among the rural youth); and Digital Village (where the above three research programmes would be demonstrated for palpable impact).
Media Lab Asia has been designated as an Asian Regional Hub of the United Nations ICT Task Force for coordinating activities of academia and the private sector in the area of IT for the masses,” he added.
The programme stands as a testimony of the great vision that the former prime minister had of a new India, bringing governments and citizens closer through transparency in service deliveries. “India will embrace technology even more comprehensively and confidently as we modernize our agriculture, industry, services, and governance. We are steadily increasing spending on R&D both in public and private sectors. We have set for ourselves the ambitious target of IT For All by 2008,” he said at the Asia Society 12th Annual Corporate Conference in 2001.
It was owing to the futuristic vision of Atal Behari Vajpayee that helped the ministry of corporate affairs digitise the records of companies and making all filings and data retrieval online a reality. The success of many such projects had a spiralling effect and led to several other innovations like introduction of a digital framework for the value-added tax programme in states.
Recognising Vajpayee’s contribution in governance space, the present government led by Narendra Modi recently decided to mark December 25, which is the birthday of the statesman, as ‘Good Governance Day’. The move is aimed at creating awareness on the government’s commitment to offer a transparent and accountable administration in the country of which digital is a major part.
Vajpayee realised the significance of futuristic policies that touched lives of every citizen across the country as India was entering the 21st Century under his visionary leadership. “India’s police personnel in the new century have to be intelligent, disciplined, suave and adept in the use of modern technology. That is the only way to keep pace with the changing profile of crime, for example, cyber crime and cyber terrorism,” he said at a conference of DGPs and IGPs in 2001.
He was also among the few leaders who understood the impact of public-private partnership in transforming India as a digitally connected country to bring in efficiency, transparency and improving citizens’ interface with the government.
He was one of the tallest leaders India has produced and will continue to inspire the policy makers to design and implement people-centric policies to ensure India stays ahead among the community of nations when it comes to governance.