IT Applications in Municipalities

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egov has always believed that the constant exchange of ideas and knowledge is imperative for a more aware citizenry and a more proactive government. In alignment to this belief, egov launched its first Annual Knowledge Exchange Series as a part of its commitment to create more public awareness, discussions and debates on critical issues relating to e-Governance and e-Government.

Held at the Grand Intercontinental Hotel, New Delhi on 8 January, 2008, this inaugural  event served as a platform for learning and sharing for more than 50 delegates from public sector, private sector, media, academia and international organisations.

The seminar started with a welcome note by Ravi Gupta, Chief Editor, egov, in which he informed that the motive behind such an event was to create public awareness through regular debates as well as to try and expand boundaries, create repository of ideas and solutions and add value to the process.  He also thanked Krishnaperdash Aswanth Kumar, Chief Financial Officer and City Treasurer, City of Durban, for accepting the invitation to share his experiences from Durban.  Ravi Gupta also spoke about using web 2.0 technology for effective information dissemination through the egov portal. He announced that egov will hold many such similar events in the future on a regular basis, within and outside India, as it has been doing in the past. He also talked about the next big conference and exhibition, eIndia2008 and the progress of egov over the last three years.

After the welcome address, SP Singh, Senior Director, Department of IT, Ministry of Communications and IT, Government of India, gave an overview of the National e-Governance Plan of the Government of India and the Mission Mode Projects being implemented under the NeGP. He thanked egov Knowledge Exchange Series for providing a platform to share the best practices, experiences, expertise, common strategies and methodologies.

This was followed by an introduction to the city of Durban by the Deputy Mayor of the city of Durban, Lomie Naidoo, who spoke about the infrastructure, the innovative fibre optic connectivity adopted by Durban, and the connection with India, including its partnership with Ramco Systems, a private sector software and service provider.

After this was an insightful presentation by Krishnaperdash Aswanth Kumar, Chief Financial Officer and City Treasurer, city of Durban, South Africa on the role of IT in managing municipalities. Krishnaperdash gave a detailed account of the municipality reforms in Durban. He said that the vision of the local government was to follow a ‘people’s first’ policy in order to provide world class services to the citizens and make the services accessible and available to all with a focus on the underprivileged  sections of the society.  The elimination of backlog infrastructure, providing basic services and provisions such as housing, water and sanitation, employment, and  lack of capacity to deliver especially by the smaller municipalities were some of the challenges he mentioned.

The proposed solution requirements that he suggested were – a holistic approach to harness the potential of IT, seamless integration of inter and intra departmental processes, IT enabled and Batho pele complaint departmental processes, elimination of wastage by time capturing and validation of information at source. He also emphasised on the fact that any programme to be successful needs a strong policy and political leadership for the reforms to be implement strongly. According to him, operational efficiency, employee satisfaction, cost saving and innovation were the objectives to be kept in mind.

Krishnaperdash also spoke of the collaborative development and delivery between the municipalities and the partner organisations. While talking about the collaborative development and delivery, he spoke of partnerships from India. He said that the key element for the strategy was to own Internet Protocol (IP) rights and make them globally available at nominal rates.

He spoke of the broadband strategy and the revolutionisation of service delivery.  Talking about the solution map he informed that global best practices had been adopted by Durban and they have best collection rates.

Concluding his presentation, Ashwanth Kumar spoke of the solution benefits that were expected to be provided  to the citizens like services at the citizen’s doorsteps with broadband, eliminating wastage of citizen’s productive time and general opportunities for employment and self employment etc.

The presentation was followed by a very interactive question and answer round. Some of the key issus that were raised were:  the strategies to instigate political willingness for resource mobilisation, queries on the extent of paperlessness and on electronic voting, data integration at local  level, sustainability factors for service delivery models and so on. During the discussions, queries on financial management and accounting standards adopted by the city of Durban were answered by Chris Nagooroo, the city’s Head of Expenditure.   The seminar closed with a thank you note by SP Singh, where he also informed about the differences and similarities between e-Governance implementation in municipalities in India and the city of Durban.

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