What are the key initiatives of Cisco in e-Government in India?
Cisco is a key partner in most of the e-Governance successes in the India. In India, Cisco’s networking equipment is at the core of all major e-Governance projects in the country, which include the Akshaya, E-seva project among others. In the past, Cisco has undertaken several initiatives with the aim of generating awareness for ICT and its relevance in India. In February – 2005, Cisco along with The National Institute for Smart Government (NISG) and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) jointly hosted ‘South Asia Public Sector ICT Summit 2005’. Recently, Cisco also announced a major investment of $10 million in the National e-governance plan. The modalities of the investment will see Cisco collaborate in establishing a SWAN Advanced Technology Enablement Program, in the State government headquarters in India. These centers will serve as Pilots/Proof of Concept Labs which will enable the demonstration of technologies such as LAN/WAN, IP communications, wireless and security. They will also serve as test beds for State Governments to test applications and services before they are rolled out on the SWAN Network.
Besides this, Cisco will also partner with the Indian government to establish “Common Service Centers” (CSC) across more than 100 villages in India. Cisco will support this initiative by providing networking equipment necessary to build networking infrastructure.
According to you, what is the level of progress made by India in the past five years in e-Governance?
The last few years have seen India take rapid strides in the e-governance space. Today, most states in the country have drafted state-specific IT policies and are in different stages of implementation. Furthermore, the government at the center has taken several initiatives to advance ICT usage across all government bodies.
These include These include – roll out of the National e-Governance plan (NeGP), launch of mission 2007 as well as formation of e-Panchayats across the country, among others. Clearly, the Indian government is taking greater cognizance of the benefits of technology across all government functions and state machinery.
What is your agenda in the e-Government arena in India for coming years?
State governments in the country are intensifying their ICT expansion drive and are investing heavily in setting up IP based Next Generation Networks such as IP MPLS (Multi Protocol Label Switching) at the core, as well as State WANs. Cisco is actively engaging with all the state governments and partnering them in this endeavour. Cisco will also be expanding the scope of its highly successful Cisco Network Academy Program across the country, to train the next generation of networking professionals, capable of manning these networks.
What are the present challenges India is facing against fast-forwarding e-Government implementation?
The obvious challenges that need to be addressed in this context are:
• Literacy Rates : India is characterized by low literacy rates especially in rural India. Hence, benefits of ICT enabled governance get restricted to the literate few, who can access and utilize information.
• Infrastructure bottlenecks: Connectivity in some parts of the country still remains a challenge. Hence, large belts of population do not have access to advantages offered by the
internet / telecom facilities.
• Cost of Service: With low levels of income levels, availing ICT based services may not be viable at all. Hence, popularity of e-governance as a means of improving citizen welfare gets restricted.
Where do you see India in relation to other Asia-Pacific countries?
According to a World Economic Forum report released earlier this year, India is ranked at 39 among the world’s most networked ready countries. Singapore, Japan and South Korea are the leading APAC nations in this regard. However, India has significantly improved its position from the 45th position last year – a clear sign that ICT adoption is on the rise. Going forward, I expect India’s ranking to improve even further, given the thrust for ICT expansion in India.
Do you think government is doing enough in bringing more Public-Private partnerships?
Success of e-Governance in any country has to be seen in the context of a joint industry-state partnership. In India, e-Governance is still in a nascent stage and its adoption will increase only over time. This would obviously require a more intensive effort on the part of the industry and the state in order to make it a success story. Cisco is working and will continue to work closely with the government in this regard.