Additional Secretary, Department of Information Technology, Ministry of Communications and Information Technology
Shankar Aggarwal,one of the prominent e-Governancet practitioners, is responsible for realising the government’s vision to make services accessible to the common man through the use of information and communications technology. The Additional Secretary, Department of Information Technology, Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, shares his mission and vision with Dr Ravi Gupta and Rajeshree Dutta Kumar.
What has changed in the last six years in e-Governance in India? Where do you see e-Governance moving in the coming six to ten years?
In the last six years, e-Governance has shown a lot of transformation. Earlier e-Governance was solely a computerisation exercise. But today, it is all about business process reengineering. Today, the focus of e-Governance’s process is on business transformation. It is only possible with technology to transform business processes. Today, technology is used for the benefit of citizen. The focus is to automate the backend. Even though, it was to automate the government process, it did not give enough results. Unless the benefits are accrued to citizens, it is not going to help. So, the focus should primarily be for the benefit of citizen only and not for the benefit of a particular department. The government has to ensure that the e-Governance has to be citizen-centric. ICT is a very powerful tool.
We have been discharging our responsibilities and duties and delivering services in a particular fashion. Now suddenly if you ask, us to change that it is a very tall order, but unless we do that we will not able to achieve the project, so the focus has to be business process reengineering, that is one part. And secondly, to make use of this ICT, it is necessary that we follow certain discipline, and that discipline would come with standards. So we got to evolve certain standards so that everybody is adhering to those standards, only then we can make advantage of the technology. Thirdly, capacity building is an important aspect. Unless we create capacities, this goes along with that change management and the business process re-engineering, that you got to change the mind of people.
You’ve got to train them properly which is a huge challenge, because it requires lot of effort, lot of time and you’ve got to build this capacity across the government, and across the country. This means it includes right from the top most level to the lowest level, within the government and even outside the government. So to create capacity among the public, we go in for the communication and awareness kind of a programme and to create the capacity within the government we go in for training and capacity building programme. So our focus is basically on three
areas: capacity building, communication awareness, standard.
How successful has the journey of NeGP been so far? Is there a roadmap to change e-Governance in the coming years?
e-Governance is required for public transparency, accountability, efficiency and making life simpler. There is a need to use mobile technology. Today mobile has reached every nook and corner of the country. Mobile governance
“DIT will act as a facilitator and catalyst for by various ministries”
is going to be the key component of our endeavours to take the NeGP to the next level. We have to create a policy environment so that we can achieve what we want. Mobile phones have a far deeper reach than the internet as nearly 70 crore people have got a mobile connection. That means mobile technology has reached very remote villages also. This means a mechanism is available to communicate information, transfer information, seek information, and once you have a communication channel you can seek services, you can deliver services. People are unable to make use of the internet primarily because only two percent of people speak English and most of the content on the internet is in English. We have to have a greater focus on the local language and regional languages. We are trying to convert information in the local languages and we have already notified a certain standard so that people are able to share information in different languages.
Out of 27 MMPs, 24 have been approved. In addition to these, what is important is that to ensure whether it is citizen- centric. The NeGP has primarily two parts. The first was delivery of services under which we had identified 27 Mission Mode Projects (MMPs). Of these, 24 projects have been approved by the competent authority and most of these have gone live. However, as far as replication and national roll out is concerned, there may be some issues which may have to be addressed, but things are moving at a very fast pace. We have created State Wide Area Networks (SWAN), the secure network for government operation; State Data Centres (SDC), which are the repository of all information and applications; and the third is Common Service Centres (CSCs), also known as tele-centres. These are the centres at the front end where a citizen can go to seek services.
Which according to you is more significant— connectivity, content or capacity?
All the three are very important. If there is no connectivity, technology is of no use. If there is no content, merely having connectivity is of no use. All three are interlinked and all three are very important. It is all a vicious circle, content is not available because there is no connectivity. At the same time, if content is there and no connectivity is available, then it becomes useless. So, both content and connectivity are necessary to be developed. Many CSC programmes are not working out due to lack of connectivity. Though SWANs, SDCs are available, without connectivity how is it possible to implement them. The main reason for the not-so-successful status of SWAN can be attributed to low connectivity. Many states are implementing projects and achieving success. But we are not able to replicate success,
What do you think is the reason for this?
Learning from one state’s success is good but not always practical. Rate of literacy is one of the main reasons for this. Every state has a different level of literacy and thus every project is not feasible in every state. The willingness to learn and to implement it is to very essential in this whole process. All this can be achieved by education. Unless the conducive environment is created which will comprise of political will, education and implementation, success cannot be achieved. Fortunately, at least no one is questioning e-Governance today, it has become a common term and everyone is aware of it now. With time maybe we will be able to replicate success.
What will be the role of DIt in the next five years?
DIT will play an important role in the next five years. It will act as a facilitator and catalyst for the implementation of NeGP by various Ministries and State Governments and also provide technical assistance. In addition, DIT is also implementing pilot, infrastructure, technical, special projects and will realise the goal of Process Re-engineering across all government departments.