Ajay Mishra, Principal Secretary, IT&C Dept, Govt. of AP; S P Singh, Senior Director, DIT, GOI; S Mahalingam, President, CSI; Suresh Chanda, ex. Secretary, IT&C Dept, Govt. of AP; Ashok Agarwal, Chair, CSI-SIGeGov; Pyush Gupta, NISG
Successful implementation of e-Governance projects always throws up some crucial challenges in the form of rising cost due to usage of proprietary softwares and technology, mere digitisation rather than Business Process Re-engineering, frequent transfer of IT secretaries, and lack of awareness among officials about the larger impact of e-Governance projects.
In a three-day regional conference by the Computer Society of India, IT Secretaries and officials from 10 Indian states, a senior Austrian government functionary, and the CISCO Internet Business Solutions Group deliberated these and many other challenges coming in the way of proper implementation of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) projects.
The conference, held at Hyderabad in the first week of June, was co-organised by the Government of Andhra Pradesh, Centre of Good Governance (CGG), Hyderabad and National Institute for Smart Governance (NISG) and co-sponsored by CISCO to facilitate sharing of experiences and and ‘reducing the learning curve’. The high point of the conference was presentations on 17 projects in e-Governance followed by an interactive Q&A session. The concluding day of the conference also saw an engaging panel discussion.
e-Governance and Democracy
Speaking at the inaugural session, Additional Secretary, Department of Information Technology, Government of India, S R Rao said, “e-Governance and democracy are closely interrelated and both require decentralised implementation.” He pointed that with the supply aspect – procurement and installation of hardware– not posing a challenge anymore, there is
a need to look towards the demand side, ie, services and software suited to local needs of the population.
Informing the audience that till date 36,000 Common Service Centres (out of the total one lakh) are operational in the country, Shankar Aggarwal, Joint Secretary, DIT, raised concerns that though “the infrastructure is ready for e-Governance, service delivery is yet to be insured.”
Speaking on the project of e-Forms, he informed that the DIT would launch a minimum of 30-50 e-Forms by July 1st week. e-Forms, which is being developed by CDAC, allows all the government forms to be available online on the state government websites. These can be subsequently downloaded by the public and submitted online as well. CDAC expects to make online by next year, around 1000-1500 e-Forms customised to local language. Mr Aggarwal added that with the e-Forms initiative, India could achieve an additional 2% of GDP.
Christian Rupp, Federal Executive Secretary, Government of Austria, dwelt upon the successful implementation of e- Forms in Austria. He said, “Austria is the fi rst EU Member State to achieve a 100% full online availability.”
Mr Rupp shared with the audience the factors responsible for its success, legal framework involved, and consistent electronic procedures in implementation of e-Forms for the citizens’ services. He particularly emphasised on the need for integration of back-end systems of various departments, enabling inter-departmental sharing of information about citizens and enhanced monitoring.
Making ap Administration Assessible
Suresh Chanda, Secretary, Department of IT&C, Andhra Pradesh, made two presentations on Administration of Today and Tomorrow (ATOM) and Online posting of Government Orders (GO) in most of the state departments.
Speaking on the ATOM initiative, Mr Chanda informed the audiences of the four components of ATOM which includes: offi ce fi le workfl ow; knowledge bank; C2G interface and reports; which facilitates electronic processing of fi les, accessible fi ling system, tracking of applications and fi les through call centre and Internet by the citizens, and availability of fi le notings and real time monitoring of fi les.
On GO, Mr Chanda said that earlier since the whole system was manual, a GO once issued would not reach the concerned people as it would lie with the section offi cers. This gave non-discretionary powers to the offi cers. Now with online publication of GO’s, it can be accessed by anyone.
Open Source for Sustainability
Secretary, Department of IT, Gujarat, Rajkumar, spoke on key issues concerning Open Source in e-Governance and factors determining the success of an ICT project. Elaborating on the issue of promoting the use of Open Source in governments, he cited an example of 8,000 government senior secondary schools in Gujarat that are running on Open Source. He also spoke about the state initiative of distributing Open Source CD free of cost to all the students studying in these schools.
On the success factors, he cited a state initiative called ‘Chintan Shivir’ where politicians, bureaucrats, and experts within and outside the state got together regularly for three years to deliberate on issues. Key suggestions that emerged out of it was speedily implemented with less obstacles on its way.
He further said that offi cials implementing ICT projects should never talk of technology but should always talk of its impact. The government and its citizens should be considered as two identities – former being a service provider and the latter a customer. Lastly he said that the IT department should set an example for other governmental departments and institutions in terms of ICT implementation.
In his presentation on Open Source for sustainable governance, Dr Jaijit Bhattacharya, Director, Sun Micro Systems, said, “In a study conducted by IIM Ahmedabad for Delhi government, it was found that the administration could save 78% of the total amount spent on proprietary softwares, if the government offi ces ran on Open Source.” He emphasised on the need for appropriate technology, particularly on Open Source technologies, with special reference to Open Source hardware and corroborated it by citing a line from the prose of Rabindra Nath Tagore, which says “Where the mind is without fear and where the head is held high / Where knowledge is free”.
UTPAL SHARMA, SPECIAL SECRETARY, IT, ANDAMAN AND NICOBAR; RAJIV SHARMA, DG,
CGG; AJAY MISHRA, PRINCIPAL SECRETARY, IT&C, AP; SANJAY MURTHY, CEO INCHARGE,
NISG; DHARAM PAL, SECRETARY, IT, GOVT. OF NCT
Initiating the panel discussion chaired by Ajay Mishra, Principal Secretary, IT&C, Andhra Pradesh, on the last day of the conference, Sanjay Murthy, CEO, National Institute for Smart Governance raised concerns on “frequent transfers of the IT Secretaries leading to disruption in the business continuity and the project ultimately suffering. He pointed out that departments should develop in-house expertise and should reduce dependence on private players.
Secretary, IT, Government of NCT of Delhi, Dharam Pal stressed on the need for Business Process Re-engineering rather than mere digitisation. He also focused on the urgency for strategic control of data.
Presenting some fi gures at the panel discussion, Mr Mishra cited fi ndings of a study done on the share of different factors in success of an e-Governance project and opined that the mindset of the people (including offi cials) occupied a share of 52% on the success/failure of any project, whereas technology had a share of just 10 %.
Rajiv Sharma, Director General, Centre for Good Governance, stated, “Unawareness about the larger impact of any project among the offi cials leads to low motivation among the offi cials, affecting their performance.”
Elaborating on the importance of standardisation of processes, Mr Sharma said, “In the current scenario, there is lack of standardisation and uniformity. Different offi ces have different systems, procedures, processes and decision making. And these processes are not standardised even at the national level. Giving an example of the misuse of resources and the mismatch between training and job given, Mr Sharma said that the CIO programme in Andhra Pradesh provides ICT training to select government offi cers, but these offi cers are hardly given any responsibility related to IT,communications or e-Governance.