The Government of India has formulated the National E Governance Plan (NeGP), which consists of 25 Central, State and Integrated Projects to be implemented in Mission Mode along with 8 support components for rapid introduction of e-Governance in the country. The Plan envisions providing all government services in an integrated manner at the doorstep of the citizen at affordable cost and aims to radically change the way governments interact with citizens and businesses and deliver services. Currently, most government offices still function with the colonial legacy handed to us by the British, which was designed to handle very few citizen government interactions on a daily basis, as opposed to the millions of interaction which are necessitated today. The result of course is delays, opaqueness, and a lot of discretion at the hand of a government employee. The aspiration levels of the government as expressed in the Plan mean that governments at the National, State and local level would have to radically change the way they function and government employees would have to learn a new way of doing business. The Technical and managerial implications of such an initiative are enormous and currently most government departments at the national State and local level are woefully in-equipped to meet this challenge.
The needs of managing such a programme at the State level to deal with issues relating to standards, security, ways of optimising costs through the use of common core infrastructure like networks, data centres and service delivery front ends requires not only a vision at the highest levels of the State Government, it also requires capacities at various levels of government to be able to implement this ambitious programme successfully, and in a time bound manner. The Government has recognised that the first step in being able to implement this plan needs capacities to be built, at the State level, where the maximum citizen government interface occurs. Considering the fact that most departments do not even have a department of Information Technology, or if they do it usually consists of 2-3 persons, who often have very little expertise to deal with the complexities of the task at hand, it is here that first capacities need to be built. Accordingly the Government of India is funding a capacity building exercise across all States through the funds made available by the Planning Commission under the head of Additional Central Assistance to States.
The guidelines formulated by the Government recognise the fact that not only are the States at different levels of e-Governance, they may also have different aspirations and priorities. Accordingly the guidelines are based on the premise that the highest level of leadership at the State level would have to see value in e-Governance and that an e- Governance Plan, particularly one as ambitious as the NeGP, requires political buy in at the highest level. The guidelines highlight the fact that it is the political leadership, which would have to provide the leadership and vision to ensure the successful implementation of the various initiatives in the State. It is also recognised that while the buy in at the highest level is essential if the plan is to success, this is not a sufficient condition for its success. Thus what is needed is an optimal mix of knowledge and authority to ensure the success of this plan. It is also recognised that currently most States do not have any institutional structure in place, which could handle the implementation of e-Governance initiatives across the State. The guidelines also acknowledge that currently, the skill sets needed to ensure effective implementation do not fully exist within most State Governments and that there is a need to bring in expertise from the private sector and marry it to the domain expertise from within government, thereby creating a resource which would be adequate to meet the requirements of the tasks at hand.
The following illustration provides a conceptual overview of the Capacity Building and Institutional framework in the State Government:
Accordingly, it is proposed that each State would have an Programme Steering Council, headed by the Chief Minister, to provide overall vision, broad policy direction and guidance to the State e- Governance Program. Further, in order to achieve the policy goals and objectives as determined by the Program Steering Council, a high level committee termed as the Apex Committee is to be set up to provide strategic direction and oversee the State e-Governance program & ensure inter -departmental coordination. The Apex Committee is to be headed by the Chief Secretary and would comprise representatives from the departments of Finance, Planning as well as the line departments which are involved in implementation of the various e-Governance projects. This would ensure that the authority needed to take crucial decisions on issues relating to government process reengineering, change management, as well as on issues of standards, security, setting up and utilisation of the core common infrastructure would be institutionalised. However, these two bodies would need to have the required knowledge and a choice of options made available to them to enable them to take the crucial decisions needed for implementation of the State e Governance Plans.
Hence what is also envisaged is the setting up of a core State e Mission Team (SeMT) which would have the requisite knowledge and expertise to provide inputs to the E Gov Council and the Apex Committee and assist them in taking the correct decisions and making the right choices. Thus the primary task envisioned for the SeMT is to function as the secretariat of the Apex Committee as well as its in house advisory resource. It is this team, which would be ideally headed by the State IT Secretary, which would look into issues relating to the overall direction of the programme, issues relating to standardisation, the interdependencies and overlaps which would necessarily exist in a programme of this nature. This team would also look into aspects relating to security, overall architecture etc. and place the same for the approval of the Apex Committee and the Programme Steering Council, respectively. However, this is not the only task, which is proposed for the SeMT. Recognising the fact that even the basic skills needed to conceptualise and formulate e-Governance projects may not exist in most government departments, the SeMT is also viewed as a resource to assist government departments on various aspects of e-Governance projects, right from the stage of conceptualisation to project formulation and implementation.
The SeMT is not perceived as a very big organisation and it is proposed to be a group of not more than 5-10 persons. Keeping with the overall philosophy of the NeGP, what is also proposed is that wherever possible, most of the activities relating to project implementation should be outsourced. The SeMT is therefore viewed as an internal resource available to departments, which would play the role of an advisor, in assisting departments in sourcing the skills required for various activities. Thus, if a project document is to be prepared, the SeMT would help with the initial conceptualisation and thereafter help departments in the hiring of a consultant who would finally prepare the overall project report. Similarly, if a project has to be implemented on a turn key basis, the SeMT would advise on the preparation of RFP, assist in managing the bid process and help design and monitor the Service Level Agreement entered into. It is also recognised that the kind of skill sets required by the personnel of the SeMT, which would primarily be in the area of technical expertise, change management, Government Process Reengineering, financial management and project management, may not fully exist within the government. Accordingly it is proposed that the SeMT would have a judicious mix of people with domain experience, i.e. from within government and people from the private sector, particularly for issues relating to technology, project management, change management etc. The SeMT would also be a repository of best practices in the country as well as the State. Thus if a department is proposing an implementation strategy which has faced problems within the State or elsewhere in the country, the SeMT would be able to advise the department about the pit falls of the strategy and how to avoid them.
The guidelines also propose that apart from the high level expertise needed at the overall State Programme level for managing the programme and assisting departments, what is also needed is a core group at the project level which would form the heart of the implementation effort needed for an e-Governance project. Thus, the departments taking up e-Governance projects would need to have a full time dedicated Project team, called the Project e-Governance Mission Team (PeMT). It would be the responsibility of this core group within the department to actually handle the implementation of the specific e-Governance project. It is this team that would deal with technology, process & change management related issues specific to that project. This team would also manage outsourcing tasks like preparation of project proposals, preparing the consulting assignments, System Design & Architecture etc.
Essentially, the guidelines have been based some crucial realisations, gleaned from the success and failures of successful e-Governance projects across the country. What has been seen is that while there have been a huge number of e-Governance initiatives which have been undertaken across the country, the success rate of these initiatives has been low. Usually, the initiatives, which have succeeded, have had a person in a critical position, (Champion) with sufficient authority, knowledge and the vision to make an e-Governance initiative a success, and who was able to build a core team to support him. Secondly, most initiatives that have failed, have largely done so because even if the persons driving the initiative were well meaning, they did not have recourse to the necessary expertise which could advise them on the best course to follow. Thus most e-Governance initiatives were looked at as a simple marriage of hardware and software, not realising that this was the simplest and usually the least important component in the success of any e-Governance initiative. Thus these guidelines are an attempt to create an institutional mechanism, which ensures that a project does not succeed or fail just because of one crucial person. The attempt is to institutionalise the concept of an internal core team closely associated with the decision making structure is to ensure that failures in project implementation are minimised during the implementation of the States e-Governance plan.