Organised by the National Institute for Smart Government (NISG), the Make ICTs work for people: ICTD workshop was supported by UNDP and Ministry of IT and Communications, Govt. of India. As a first step in the implementation of the UNDP sponsored ICTD project, the workshop aimed at increasing awareness about the ongoing projects in India in the ICTD domain and also to identify projects that could be implemented in the future. It was attended by over 140 delegates from all sectors- governments including the IT secretaries from 12 states, businesses and NGO’s from the ICTD domain.
A highlight of the event was the launch of the eGovGateway portal by Ramalinga Raju, Chairman, Satyam Computer Services. “eGovGateway is a repository containing the entire knowledge and best practices in e-Governance. It shall also function as a place for e-learning,” said J. Satyanarayana, CEO, NISG.
In his presentation, R. Chandrasekhar, Joint Secretary (e-governance), DIT, stated that the National e-Governance Action Plan launched in 2003 had been awarded high priority by the new Government at the Center and significant funding for e-Governance projects is possible.
Dr Maxine Olson, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative while releasing the book “ICTs for Development: Case Studies from India”, emphasised the role that ICTs can play as a catalyst and engine for social growth. “ICTs should work for the masses and not only for the classes,” she said while lauding India as one of the e-Governance leaders in the world.
Dr Ashok Khosla, Chairman, Development Alternatives, spoke on the need for every village to be an outsourcing center. “Technology can only work if there is support of having a sound business model with social sustainability a key factor for success”, he said while delivering the key note address.
Projects, current and future, showcased in the workshop were broadly divided into four themes namely “Integrated citizen services, ICT’s for enhancing rural livelihoods, ICT’s for transforming rural governance and ICT’s for Women empowerment”.
“Integrated citizen service” projects have the ability to directly impact lives of thousands of citizens and are thus high on the priority list of ICTD initiatives in our country. By organising and speeding the delivery of essential services to the citizens, projects such as the e-Seva in Andhra Pradesh, Sukhmani in Punjab and the Tirunelveli Municipal Corporation in Tamil Nadu, have brought about transparency, accountability and empowered both governments and citizens. The suggestions from this session were that NISG take the initiative and build technology, BPR and business models that can be adopted for integrated services projects after taking into account local needs. Precise Service Level Agreements, it was felt, should govern the management of such centers.
In the session “ICTs for enhancing rural livelihoods”, projects which provide livelihood opportunities to the rural people by targeting agriculture and allied sectors, and which are currently being implemented by MSSRF, Tarahaat, n-Logue Communications, Governments of Assam and Kerala, were presented.
While informing all present that India currently dominates this sector with 150 ongoing projects, the session on rural livelihoods also threw up questions about the acute water shortage problem India shall have to face after 20 years. Thoughts surfacing from this session focused on providing demand-driven services in rural areas that result in economic benefits through access to markets, rural credit and employment by leveraging on the existing infrastructure.
The focus of the session on “ICTs for transforming rural governance”, was on decentralisation of power and empowering of local bodies through the use of ICTs. A special session showcasing projects like the e-Choupal, e-Panchayats and work done by Byrraju Foundation and Tarahaat through short video films, was also arranged for the delegates.
Anita Gurumurthy, Founder-Member, IT for Change chaired the session on “ICTs for Women/Child Empowerment”. Presentations by delegates from Azim Premji Foundation, SEWA, Datamation Foundation and UNICEF stressed on the need for capacity building of women, enabling them to play a dominant role in mainstream economic activities.
At the end, it was suggested by all present that NISG take the initiative to frame standards and roadmaps for e-Governance projects to help unify all the varied projects going on across India.
The workshop ended with a common resolution to join hands together and make ICTs work for people across the country. The partnership between UNDP, NISG and GOI is expected to help people of all sectors to carry out many more ICTD projects across the country.