e-Governance initiatives launched by the Lakshadweep administration has shown that nothing is impossible.
Lakshadweep islands look like emeralds in the vast expanse of blue sea. Varying hues of turquoise blue translucent water surround them. Coral atolls, the matchless marine environment with myriad colours resulting in complex interaction of animate and inanimate things. Built on ancient volcanic formations are the Lakshadweep (meaning a hundred thousand islands), the smallest Union Territory of India. It consists of 12 atolls, 3 reefs and 5 submerged banks. The atolls poised on submarine banks, harbour 36 islands having an area of 32 Sq.Km. Of these, 10 islands are inhabited namely Agatti, Amini, Andrott, Bitra, Chetlat, Kadmat, Kalpeni, Kavaratti, Kiltan and Minicoy. The islands lie about 220-440 Kms from the Malabar coast. Kavaratti is the Administrative Headquarter of the Union Territory.
Lack of adequate transport facilities and deficiencies in communication in these islands pose a major problem for the masses. It takes around eight days during normal season and fifteen days during monsoon to go to the headquarters island of Kavaratti and avail of important services and return to ones native island. To virtually integrate these far-flung islands, Lakshadweep Administration has implemented several e-Governance projects with focus on delivering services virtually anywhere, as also to usher in transparency, accountability and efficiency in the extension of public services. Information and Communication Technology (ICT) has played a major role in digitally integrating the geographically dispersed islands in respect of several important needs of life. Some of the major projects undertaken by the Administration recently reflect its commitment for overall development of the union territory using ICT tools.
An electricity consumer preparing his own electricity bill after reading the meter may be a dream in any part of India other Lakshadweep where it is a reality. This is the result of the e-Governance initiatives launched by the Lakshadweep administration. The digitally integrated Department of Electricity provides online services to consumers. All the offices of the department on the islands and the mainland are connected through NICNET-VSAT facilities. Web-enabled systems have been developed for consumer management, energy billing, complaints management, materials management and human resource management.
Total Digitisation of Employment Services is one such project. This e-Governance project aims at safeguarding objectivity and transparency in providing employment and in facilitating dynamic utilisation of human resource and bringing employment exchange services to the very doorsteps of the people of Lakshadweep. Timely and systemic online registration from any part of India or abroad, maintenance of seniority and online sponsoring of names to employers/ government departments has been achieved under this project which goes a long way in bringing trust between government agencies and the unemployed persons and the numerous job seekers. Services are now virtually made available in all the islands. Incidentally, Lakshadweep has attained the unique distinction of being the first UT / State in the country to fully digitise its employment exchange and related services in the country. Ministry of Labour & Employment in Government of India have has also shown keen interest in it now, as this project has a high replicable potential and would definitely help the young human resource of India to dynamically and objectively participate in rapid economic development.
Being scattered in the Arabian Sea, the main mode of transport in the islands is ship service. Shipping is truly the lifeline of people of Lakshadweep. All the thirteen Port offices of the Administration have been interconnected, extending the NICNET’s VSAT based communication network. This network has enabled web-based ship ticket passenger reservation and cargo booking systems. The ship schedules, ship ticket availability, status of ship tickets are now available through Internet providing transparency and easy access. Tickets, in any ship to any destination, can be booked from Kochi and Kozhikode also. This project had also received Microsoft National e-Governance award for ‘innovative project.’
Video Conferencing Facilities
Video Conferencing facilities have also been installed in all the inhabited islands. This facility is again provided through the NICNET-VSAT’s installed in all the islands, including the smallest and remotest island of Bitra, which is having a population of less than 300 people. On the Independence Day of 2007, first time in the history of Lakshadweep, the Administrator interacted one-on-one with all the heads of the Village Panchayats and the Dy. Collectors / SDO’s located in the remote islands through video conferencing. It has brought the islands closer and has started a new wave of development
U.T. of Lakshadweep is a restricted area. A valid entry permit is required for visiting the islands. Permits are issued from the administration office at Kochi. The Permit Management System accepts applications for entry permit and issues the permit. The status of permit applications can be viewed through Internet. This is a workflow system and issues permit after due checking by the authorities. Sub Divisional Officers and Station House Officers in various islands get advance information about the permits issued and they can verify the authenticity of a physical document by cross checking it in the web. The system is being upgraded to accept applications online from anywhere.
Also, web-enabled Students Scholarship Management System for processing scholarships for the students from Lakshadweep studying in various educational institutions in the mainland is already under implementation. The system validates the scholarship claims based on the pre-assigned criteria and processes the claims and generates the sanction orders and the bills. The students and their institutions can get the status of their scholarships from anywhere in India.
Lakshadweep also, possesses the unique distinction of having Computer Labs and Internet facilities in all the schools. There are 33 Vidhya Vahini Community Information Centres functioning in the territory providing Internet services to the general public for availing various services. The EDUSAT facility is also made available in all high schools and on receive-only EDUSAT terminals in all other schools in the territory. Pioneering work has also been accomplished in Web Enabled Medical Inventory system (medicines and appliances) and Telemedicine facilities in Lakshadweep .
Where there is a will there is away. This proverb has been proved true by the people and administration of Lakshadweep. Technology is their for every one to use but it requires appropriate administrative reforms strong determination to implement it for betterment of the masses. Lakshadweep has shown the way, now the question is will other states match the work done in the island? Lets hope other states are not left behind.