GENERATIONS OF e-GOVERNANCE
e-Governance efforts in India have seen significant acceleration with the alignment of all the e-Governance initiatives in the country, directed by the National e-Governance Plan (NeGP), under the Ministry of Information Technology.
In the first generation of automation efforts, we saw government offices all across the nation inundated with hardware infrastrucutre that laid the initial base for e-Governance. Presently most government organisations are still at the first generation level, with computers being used for word-processing, making presentations and in some cases for spreadsheet applications.
Second generation automation saw government departments executing networking projects & developing discrete software packages. The focus was almost entirely on G2C space. Also islands of internal automation such as file Tracking Systems, DMS by private vendors like TCS, NewGen and others were attempted. Out of the many thousands of government organisations, across the country, very few have even migrated to this level.
We observe that while there are some successes like the Railway Ticketing System there are numerous disappointments. This is due to the lack of standardised approach; focusing mostly on populist G2C projects with ’21st century’ front ends burdening the end user with the predominantly manual, paperbased ’19th century back office with insignificant automation’.
NEXT GENERATION OF e-GOVERNANCE
The recent drive by NeGP to usher in replicable solutions across government ecosystem with its Mission Mode Projects (MMPs) can be identified as the start of third generation of automation, which can overcome the challenges being hitherto encountered in the 1st and 2nd generation efforts.
IMPORTANCE OF e-OFFICE
One of the core MMPs – the ‘e-Office’, covering tens of thousands of government offices, incurring an estimated INR 50,000 million assumes critical significance as its rate of success will have a lasting effect on the success of other MMPs. Implementing e-Office as a priority and a pre-requisite will lay the necessary foundation and set the stage for the successful implementation of G2G, G2B & G2C initiatives.
The e-Office which is currently at its drawing board stage needs to be carefully architected with a holistic view of scalability and interoperability with solutions being pursued by other MMPs.
CHALLENGES TO BE ADDRESSED BY e-OFFICE
With the exception of stand alone applications like pay roll processing or intranet based systems like file tracking and DMS, most of the internal work are manually processed with paper based information flow. The resulting high turn around time to serve the citizens/ targeted beneficiaries, processing delays, lack of transparency and consistency, ineffective resource management are
well recognised issues to be addressed by e-Office.
Government in India no longer has a financial resource crunch. However the increase in population, the improvements experienced by citizens in verticals like travel, banking, etc., and the lack of concomitant increase in staff, had made the ushering in of latest technology in e-Governance an unavoidable imperative.
WHAT SHOULD BE THE e-OFFICE
Analysing automation in major private and public sector enterprises, with my experience of the government ecosystem, I visualise e-Office to be a comprehensive web enabled, portal based government resource Planning ‘GRP’ framework, specifically developed for Indian government. The GRP should automate all the internal processes to lay the foundation and integrate with other organisations/ systems (See the fig.).
Once this system is stabilised, government organizations can transform themselves into efficient, citizen friendly organisations, equipped to easily self monitor and self correct on a continuous basis.
The e-Office GRP should be built to:
Streamline, align, optimise and automate all the internal processes across administration/establishment; finance and accounts; stores and purchase, and projects and schemes.
Embed all the rules and regulations stipulated in the CCS guidelines, the FR, SR, GAR, GFR etc that govern and validate the execution of all the work flows.
Be completely workflow based and data driven through structured forms
Conform to the e-Governance Standards
Have flexibility to configure and accommodate core activities of a particular establishment.
Achieve rapid implementation
Provide user friendly, familiar front ends enabling quick learning and quick acceptability by employees
Provide value added outputs
Satisfy the requirements stipulated by Right to Information Act (RTI), DARPG (Department of Administrative Reforms and Public Grievances), Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG), other auditing agencies and the citizen’s charter.
PRODUCTISED APPROACH FOR FAST TRACK PROLIFERATION
With the potential, nation-wide reach and the impact that it would have by directly or indirectly touching the lives of all the people, it is evident that the implementation of e-Office GRP can be undertaken by harnessing all the resources and competencies, both public and private. The DIT should initiate and encourage private technology players to come up with products/solutions that match the objectives of e-Office, backed by a mechanism to evaluate and certify the same.
This initiation would attract the interest of private companies to come up with solutions for certification and implementation. Progressively, the certified, commercially off the shelf ‘COTS’ (Commercial-of- the-Shelf) products would facilitate a term bound, fast track proliferation of e-Office GRP at optimised costs.