Tell us about the IT scenario in the state of Uttarakhand.
The Government of Uttarakhand intends to harness full potential of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) for improving the quality of life of its citizens by accelerating social and economic development, and ensuring transparency in the government decisions. State also wants to accelerate IT adoption among various user segments – all leading to an ideal e-society model through efficient, service-oriented, cost-effective, information networked, eco-conscious and with year-on-year growth approach.
However, we have also to keep in mind the fact that as a hilly state, Uttarakhand has its own problems. Last year we faced a huge disaster. Uttarakhand is yet to recover fully to get back to its normal development mode. The disaster had also affected the IT performance of the state. However, we are now almost back to the normal operations.
What are the major IT initiatives undertaken in the state?
Immediately after the formation of the state, we had some problems. But now we are focussed to the development of IT sector in the state. The Chief Minister himself is in charge of the IT Department. At present, our major area of focus is implementation of National e-Governance Plan (NeGP), as we are lagging in its implementation. In the last one year and a half,ever since I have taken over, our endeavor has been to position Uttarakhand as one of the top states in terms of NeGP implementation. We have already implemented State Wide Area Network (SWAN) successfully up to block and tehsil levels. Now all our blocks and tehsils are connected with both district and state headquarters… All the 13 districts are connected with the state headquarters through a 4 mbps line and a 2 mbps line links the districts with the 121 blocks and tehsils. Besides, we are also focusing on providing horizontal connectivity to the various departments of the state government.
Crime and Criminal Tracking Network & Systems (CCTNS) project is another focal area. It is more or less complete. 44 police stations and posts have been connected using IT.
One of the major areas of focus for us is establishment of a State Data Centre (SDC). We will have our own individual specific data centre in the IT Park in Sahastradhara by March 2015.
The state is planning a dedicated IT cadre for better service delivery by the government, says Ravinath Raman in conversation with Souvik Goswami of Elets News Network (ENN)
Any plans for up-grading the state IT Department?
We are coming up with a new structure for the IT Department. Actually, our department is structured as per the old e-governance projects initiated in 2005 under the aegis of the World Bank. Ever since, the structure has not been revised, though the times have changed a lot. The work of the IT Department has increased heavily. So, we are now working on a revised, new structure and planning to get it approved by the state cabinet soon.
Not just that, we are even contemplating to have a dedicated IT cadre in the state. We face issues in finding officers in various departments who are good at using IT. I think IT Department should have dedicated IT cadres in various departments to lead the progress of IT and e-governance initiatives at the respective places (of deployment). This is in the concept stage and we are working on it. We also plan to restructure the IT directorate also.
Tell us something about e-District and State Service Delivery Gateway projects in Uttarakhand.
e-District pilot project was launched in Pauri district. We have completed the pilot project for 13 services, which will be rolled out from June. The remaining 19 services will be launched by 2015 as per the Government of India mandate. Initially, we had some problems with SSDG, as we were planning to tie up with System Integrators (SIs). But now a conscious decision has been taken to initiate SSDG with NIC. In last one year, we have conducted four training programmes for our government officials keeping in mind capacity building in the IT domain.
What are the state’s initiatives in the field of ICT and e-governance?
We are doing really well as far as IT applications are concerned in the various departments like finance, commercial taxes, etc. All our treasuries are e-enabled. We have also moved into e-procurement. The entire process of payment and assessment of commercial taxes is e-enabled. Besides, we are also implementing various Government of India projects like the National Optical Fibre Network (NOFN) and National Knowledge Network (NKN). In keeping with the Supreme Court order, we are also trying to connect all the district courts in Uttarakhand. We are also working on digitization of the Public Distribution System (PDS), for which we have already completed the tender process. Our focus is also on development of IT infrastructure in the election department.
Uttarakhand intends to harness full potential of ICT for improving the quality of life of its citizens by accelerating social and economic development, and ensuring transparency in government decisions’
Throw some light on the state’s IT policy and the IT Park in Uttarakhand.
We have an IT Park in Sahastradhara. Incidentally, establishment of IT Parks and allied issues fall under the Industry Department in the state. So far, we have not been successful in attracting big multinational IT or ITeS companies to the state. Although a few call centres are there, we are now focussing on attracting the multinationals. So, we will have an IT policy in place by July next year. The new IT policy will focus on bringing investment in the IT sector in the state by offering tax incentives to the investors.
According to you, what are the hurdles in developing the IT sector in the state?
The biggest challenge is connectivity. We are actually facing a lot of connectivity-related problems in a hilly state like Uttarakhand. Also, 65 percent of the state has got forest land, where the Forest Conservation Act applies. In this scenario, laying optical cables and building wifi towers is a big challenge. We have to go for mix technologies, as we cannot have any particular technology for connectivity. Our last experience in the state, when the disaster happened, showed us that OFC cable is an unreliable technology. That is why, we are proposing to have a basket of technologies together, so that connectivity is not lost in times of natural disasters.
What is your vision for IT development in Uttarakhand?
I want to see the entire governmental work being performed in a completely paperless manner. We have been hearing about going paperless for many years, but we haven’t moved ahead. I believe once the departments start adapting to the IT environment, it will be easier to make the government operations completely paperless. I am hopeful of seeing paperless governance in the next five years in Uttarakhand.