Connecting Meghalaya through IT

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A L Hek
Minister, Information Technology & Communications,
Health & Family Welfare, IDR, Stamp Registration
Government of Meghalaya

“e-Governance is doing very well in Meghalaya, and I am proud to say that we have been able to reach out to people in every part of the state,” says A L Hek

The Government of Meghalaya has undertaken many initiatives for development of ICT infrastructure in the state. Please tell us about your vision for improving e-Governance in Meghalaya?
When we talk about e-Governance, we have to understand that we are basically talking about ensuring that the basic services from the government are available at the citizen’s doorstep. We want to ensure that people get all the benefits that are possible from the proper use of new technologies. We want to do all we can to effectively leverage Information Technology for the state’s overall development. We understand very well that IT dissemination and usage as a crucial engine of economic growth. Information technology is a tool which can increase productivity, effectiveness, speed and transparency of the government departments. This in turn leads to improved quality of life for the common man, better opportunities for businesses and transparency in the working of government agencies.

State Wide Area Network is now fully operational in the state of Meghalaya. What kind of response are you seeing in the district level in terms of increasing connectivity in Meghalaya?
e-Governance is doing very well in Meghalaya, and I am proud to say that we have been able to reach out to people in every part of the state. MSWAN (Meghalaya State Wide Area Network) was launched on 17th August, 2011, to support the various e-Governance initiatives being planned by the State as well as the Central Government. The MSWAN has been implemented on Build-Own-Operate and Transfer (BOOT) model, spread over a period of five years to provide Data, Voice and Video services to various offices of the Government of Meghalaya and other locations. It has been designed to establish a reliable horizontal and vertical communication corridor. The Meghalaya Information Technology (MITS) had been nominated by the Information Technology Department, Government of Meghalaya, as the nodal agency for setting up and operating the Meghalaya State Wide Area Network (MSWAN). The response is very encouraging in terms of implementation of various government services to the people. This will not only help the State in taking informed decisions but will also make way for faster review of processes and sharing of knowledge.

Government of Meghalaya is planning to distribute free tablets preloaded with education software to the students. What are the main objectives of the scheme?
The Government of Meghalaya is very keen to improve the education standards in our schools. We want to ensure that all our students have access to latest IT hardware and software for meeting their education needs. Currently we are analysing the benefits that students and teachers can have from the free distribution of tablets.Once the analysis is done, we will provide our students with free tablets, which are pre-loaded with educational software.

Some of the remote areas in the North Eastern parts of the country are still not fully connected with mainstream India. What kind of challenges are you facing in developing IT infrastructure in North East?
Challenges will be there in anything that you do. The idea is to find solutions to those challenges and keep working. We have improved our IT infrastructure to a large extent. The main challenge we face is related to connectivity. This is a hilly state and there are number of remote areas where the network is not that good. We are trying to deploy latest technology for improving the network in such areas.

Today the IT industry is regarded as big job generators in any state. What are your plans for developing the local IT industry so that the younger generation can find suitable employment?
We are taking initiatives to ensure that the youth in Meghalaya have access to better opportunities in every sector. You see, Information Technology is not the only industry through which jobs have to be generated. Other industries also have to develop. So we are planning to have a holistic development of the industry in the state. We are inviting private players to invest in our state so that our people find large number of employment opportunities. Development can be possible only when private players are ready to invest. We have taken various initiatives to boost IT infrastructure in the state. We have 80 acres of IT Park in Meghalaya. We also need to develop basic infrastructure like road, water and network connectivity, because it is only on the shoulders of such infrastructure that IT industry or any other industry can prosper. We want to create a sustainable economic environment so that our students can get employment in their own native place.

You are also taking care of Health and Communication Department. Please tell us about some the initiatives taken by you in these two sectors.
I feel very proud of the fact that the healthcare services in the state of Meghalaya are much better as compared to the other states in the country. In times to come it is going to become even better as we are now planning a number of new initiatives. We are going to introduce telemedicine soon. We are working on certain modalities through which people will be able to get medicines in a cheaper price. While providing subsidised medicines we also want to ensure that the quality is not compromised and our citizens have easy access to the best generic and standardised medicines. We are expanding our network of health centres and hospitals in rural areas. Various government schemes are in the pipeline and soon we will launch those schemes so that our people get benefitted in the best possible way. I want to ensure that people of my state get the best IT services. Communication is my department, but it is not fully under the control of state government as it monitored by Central Government. We are soon going to launch 4G network in the state.

What kind of response are you having from the youth in the state when it comes to use of Information Technology?
The youth in the state are very close to Information Technology. Today students from 3rd onwards are using internet. In fact, I would say that our youth are in the forefront of the information technology revolution, not only in the national level but also in the international level. We just need to develop all the opportunities so that our youth are able to use their IT expertise for their own gain and also for the growth of the state’s economy.

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