Building an e-Inclusive state economy

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J K Banthia
Chief Secretary, Government of Maharashtra

After ensuring success of its cloud platform and state of the art state residents data hub, the Government of Maharashtra is now having one of the largest implementation of e-Office(Digital Work Place Solution) project in the country,” says J K Banthia. In conversation with Rachita Jha

What have been the key achievements of Maharashtra in implementation of e-Governance? Compared to other states how do you position Maharashtra in adoption of e-Governance?

Government of Maharashtra has always been in forefront of service transformation through use of technology, or e-Governance. It has consistently featured at the top of the pyramid and adjudged as ‘Leader’ in e-Governance in the “India : eReadiness Assessment Report” published by Department of Electronics & IT, Government of India. Our efforts have taken us to the position of leadership and now we are continuing our efforts to reach greater heights. The state is committed towards using e-Governance to provide integrated, efficient and transparent service delivery to the citizens in a systematic and holistic manner. e-Governance has brought ease of functioning, agility and transparency in various state departments, wherever it has been implemented.

Tell us about the e-Governance policy that the state has developed.
Maharashtra is one of the first states to have formulated a comprehensive e-Governance policy. Government of Maharashtra, through this policy is ensuring that eServices become a mandate for each department and our services offered to citizens in a uniform and standardised manner. Today, Maharashtra has erected a strong infrastructural base for success of e-Governance in every tehsil of the state. This includes State Data Centre, State Wide Area Network, SETU Centres, MahaeSeva Kendra and Sangram Kendra in rural areas. Through this all the Governmental services and applications are being made available at the doorsteps of common people. We have also formed a joint venture called Mahaonline, which delivers standardised e-services to citizens through various delivery channels, such as CSC and Sangram Kendras. It is the first state in India for leveraging the Aadhaar platform for overall improvement in service delivery through implementation of State Resident Data Hub (SRDH) at State Data Centre.

The state is a national leader in terms of Adhaar enrolments. How will the state government, districts and citizen benefit from this massive roll-out plan?
The state government is one of the leading States in Aadhaar enrolment, and more than 5.65 Cr. residents have been enrolled so far and UIDs generated for more than 5.14 Cr. residents. The State Government is envisaging maximum enrolments to be completed by Dec 2013. With more than 4500 UID kits presently working in the State and 2000 more kits in the final stages of buying, We are very much on track to meet our targets. The government as well as the citizens will benefit immensely once we start linking the service delivery of various beneficiary schemes with UID. The process has started on a pilot basis in 6 districts with 12 schemes identified by Govt. of India and more and more districts and schemes shall be added in due course. This would enable the State Government to identify and remove duplicate and bogus beneficiaries and help bring the genuine beneficiaries who have been left out due to lack of identity into the mainstream. Additionally, it will help bring in Financial Inclusion and help citizens get their benefits directly into bank accounts.

Direct Benefit Transfer is a key e-Governance policy of the central government. How do you see this scheme? What is the status of
DBT in Maharashtra?
We have started implementation of DBT in 6 pilot districts for 12 schemes from 1st Jan 2013. Out of 3.2 lakh beneficiaries in these districts for the 12 schemes, UID seeding and linkage with Bank Accounts have been completed for more than 80,000 beneficiaries and UID linked payments have been made for more than 11,000 beneficiaries. The State Government has adopted a systematic approach towards implementing DBT, which has been appreciated by UIDAI. To check the correctness of the bank accounts and its linkage with UID, the State Government has devised a mechanism to pay One Rupee each into such accounts. The details of successful transactions are maintained, and actual benefit transfer takes place into bank accounts of beneficiaries after successful completion of transfer of Re 1. The State Government has decided that linkage of UID with department data and UID linked payments shall be done in districts after they reach 80 percent coverage of UID. This would ensure that genuine beneficiaries do not face hassles in getting UID linked services. We are very confident that by Dec 2013, most of the districts would reach 80 percent coverage, and the State Government would be in a better position to launch UID linked services. However, in the meantime, lot of preparatory work is going on including standardization and cleaning of databases, seeding of UID numbers with department data, digitization of data etc., which would ensure timely and systematic adherence to DBT. State is devising the uniform and tested platform for payments in these schemes through banks and NPCI. Such Implementation shall weed out the bogus and the benefits will be transferred through all electronically verified by system which is linked with UID. Voter ID list, Ration Card Data, etc are also in process of linking with UID for benefit transfer to citizens, which shall help make the Government system more robust and exploit-free.

Recently there was a fire mishap in Mantralaya. How can a paperless or e-office benefit the departments in case of disaster management. How many departments have adopted e-office and what are the key challenges in implementation of the same.

Digitization of files at Mantralaya had already started in 2010, with scanning of all closed files. After the fire mishap, we have increased the speed of digitization of files, by issuing work orders to additional vendors for scanning. We have also extended our data entry Rate Contract to the scanning vendors so that indexing and uploading happens at a good pace. eOffice is our step forward into an era of paperless administration. e-Office is a Digital Workplace Solution that replaces the existing manual handling of files and documents with an efficient electronic system. Being an electronic system, all the data is being stored digitally and servers have regular backup and Disaster Recovery systems are in place. In addition, this being a web based application, people can access it from anywhere on VPN continue working while at offsite. While eOffice implementation is helping us primarily as the disaster management, it also aims at significantly improving the operational efficiency of the Government by transitioning to a “Less Paper Office”. As a result, effectiveness of government responses to citizens will improve and turnaround time to meet the demands of the citizen’s charter will reduce. This will help the state administration in resource management and in improving the quality of administration. Last but not least, it will bring accountability and transparency in the system. Currently all departments of Mantralaya have completed the prerequisites and are ready to use eOffice. About 2100 and files and 7800 receipts have been already been created in eOffice. As on date, 28 departments are using eOffice. We have also started eLeave module of eOffice, which will is an electronic leave management system. We are adding more modules such as eTour, KMS which are integral part of eOffice suite. eOffice at Mantralaya is one of the largest implementation in the country. Considering the number of users, departments and different levels of users, transformation from paper based office to a paperless office for a set up like Mantralya is a challenge. We have overcome those by continuous training and by providing dedicated support from eOffice team. Each departmental nodal officers are working on the transition plans to migrate all physical files into electronic mode and then migrating those to eOffice.

It is usually said the eGovernance is limited in its reach to the last mile regions of a state. However, there has been a lot of focus by Maharashtra to make e-Governance an inclusive agenda upto the district level. Please share your views on these initiatives.

In order to make e-Governance an inclusive agenda at the district level, the concept of Divisional & Guardian district consultants has been implemented. e-Governance Consultants have been deployed in each of the 35 districts in Maharashtra, a ‘Guardian District Consultants’. The primary intent and objective of the deployment of the consulting team is to support the DIT initiatives at the ground level and embark on various IT initiatives required to be proposed at the local administrative level. The key responsibility of the consultants is to liaison between the Divisional Administration teams and the State IT Team (Directorate of Information Technology) in order to ensure the success of eGovernance Projects at last-mile level. The Divisional and District consultant concept is helping the e-Governance initiatives in solving many of the challenges at being faced in implementing e-Governance initiatives at the District Level, like lack of IT awareness amongst officials at field department & district, escalation of issues to appropriate channels to eliminate bottlenecks etc. This initiative has also brought into limelight some really good work being done at the district collectorate level and such e-Initiatives are now being replicated across state, so that citizens in other part of the state also benefit from them.

What are leading technologies that will transform governance process in any State and why? Please share with us a tech tool that has fascinated you the most?

We have taken up eOffice (Digital Work Place solution) project in big way, which will transform the functioning of any government office completely. We are also strongly emphasising on use of Maps and GIS for many eGovernance Applications. Business Intelligence and Data Mining will go a long way in unlocking value in the vast data like UID Enrolments, Electoral Roles and Ration card data. Mobile governance will be the next frontier, like Apps, mOffice (Mobile eOffice), SMS based user-interface, location based services etc. Alternative input methods like touch, speech, device-location will also play a major role in transforming the way citizen interact with e-Governance programs. Personally, I am fascinated by various Apps that are being developed on mobile platform for government projects.

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