What is the way ahead for e-Governance?
Maharashtra has always been in the forefront of e-Governance. It was one of the first states to implement projects such as the File Tracking System in the Mantralaya. The state set up a high –powered committee under the Chief Secretary way back in 1999. Constituted under a Cabinet directive, this committee was empowered to take decisions about e-Governance projects in the state of Maharashtra. Several projects were subsequently launched and are operational today. Sales tax is one example; SETU project under which computerised citizen facilitation centres for fast and efficient delivery of various services to citizens and businesses have been established, is another. The Health Department has also undertaken e-Governance on a large scale. All treasuries have been computerised and connected. In terms of infrastructure, the State Data Centre and the State Wide Area Network (SWAN) are in place.
What in your view are the key technologies for e-Governance?
I am personally inclined towards mix of mobile and wireless. Of course the backbone network will be based on broadband but as far as the consumer-facing end is concerned, it will be mobile and wireless network, because we have very good mobile penetration and with 3G and 4G, bandwidth at the last mile is improving.
Last mile connectivity can be done very fast with wireless and this helps in quick rollout of projects. So the consumer-facing end should be mobile and wireless while the backbone would be largely based on optical fibre.
What is the next stage in the UID project?
UID was launched in Maharashtra by the hon’ble Prime Minister and the hon’ble Chairperson of the UPA on September 29, 2010. Since then the state has become the biggest registrar as far as enrolments under Aadhar are concerned. Roughly around 4 crore people have been enrolled in the state so far. The state should be able to enrol every resident by middle of next year. Several e-Governance projects can then be launched in a big way as UID will facilitate such projects. It will help benefits reach the people, plug leakages and make the system more efficient, transparent and closer to the people.
Maharashtra will lead the way in applying UID for improving e-Governance in the state as it is a very powerful platform that can be used for taking benefits directly to the people without any intermediary or middleman.
How important are language tools in e-Governance?
If any e-Governance project is not done in a local language, it cannot achieve success. In Maharashtra, appropriate emphasis was laid on communicating with people in their language so that they could take full advantage of the project. All citizen centric interfaces have been implemented in Marathi, so that the people assess the system with ease.
What have been the major challenges in e-Governance?
The common challenges are for any new project that replaces or modifies an existing system are that it will encounter inertia, it will encounter resistance. This is the case with e-Governance as well. One has to work with the stakeholders and address these challenges. The state IT Department and now the UIDAI have been working with various Departments and facilitating the move to IT-backed systems.
It is important to convince the stakeholders that e-Governance would lead to improved service delivery, that efficiency and transparency will go up and leakages in the system will be plugged, and intermediaries will become redundant. This will bring governance closer to the people. This is what we keep communicating to the various Departments, and the results are showing.