Employees at every level must be exposed to IT as then only they can take IT initiative and e-governance at a larger scale, says KP Bakshi in an interaction with Ragini Srivastava of ENN
What benefits does your department get through the implementation of IT?
I serve as an Additional Chief Secretary and Planning Development Commissioner of Maharashtra. I look after the main programmes as well as the entire planning of the state. The sector where I am directly responsible for my activities is MPLADS (Member of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme). Under the scheme, each MP has the choice to suggest to the District Collector for works to the tune of Rs 5 crores per annum to be taken up in his/her constituency.
The department has issued the guidelines on scheme, concept, implementation, and monitoring. The department has initiated all necessary steps to ensure that the scheme is successfully implemented in the field. The progress of the works being implemented under the scheme is monitored on a regular basis.
We have software that helps in deciding what activities should be taken up and what not. For example, at the lower levels, sometimes there is demand for a work which is not admissible. It becomes very difficult for the local level functionaries to decide whether the work should be taken up or not. But then we put it in the software that immediately accepts or rejects the proposal. Some works which are not allowed by the state governments can be immediately decided by the functionary. This is a completel automated system through which we use IT to monitor MPLADS.
Brief us about the initiatives implemented and the feedback of users towards the services?
As I mentioned, we are involved with state level planning; we do not get involved in execution or lower level monitoring as it is done by respective departments. We only supervise from a broader perspective, allocate funds and generally coordinate between various secretaries to take some of the developmental activities forward. Here, the entire policy making, advising various departments in making cabinet notes, approving or giving our consent for the cabinet notes, which go to the cabinet for decision, everything is done by us. So, there is not much of IT being used in that field.
“The government should make IT knowledge a compulsory requirement at the entry level so that everybody has some basic knowledge of IT… Every employee must be exposed to IT as then only they can take up IT initiatives and e-governance at a larger scale”
What are the major hurdles during the implementation of IT and how do you counter them?
One of the major hurdles is the invention of new technology in short span of time. Technology is changing rapidly, while the government procedure in appointment of a consultant, fixing up a panel of consultant is a time-taking process. By the time they are ready with the panel of consultants the technology has changed and there is no use of consultants.
At the time of appointing a consultant he will be completely updated about the latest technology but when the government is done fixing up its contracts the technology has moved ahead and thus the appointed consultant is found to be inadequate. This is one issue that needs attention and solution. Secondly, procurement of hardware or all IT related initiatives also poses a problem because this is a time-taking procedure and too faces a similar problem.
There again, changes in technology and lack of clarity in specifications, these are the things that come in the way. For example, Mumbai is proposed to be linked with 6000 surveillance cameras. At the time of deciding upon the specifications of CCTV cam- eras, IT department and user department (Police dept.) would give two different set of opinions. Arriving on a unanimous decision takes a long time and when it happens the technology has been replaced by a newer one in the market with altogether different set of specification. This project with an investment of hundreds of crores has been on hold due to these reasons. This is just one example as similar problems can be found with small and big projects around the country.
Tell us about the initiatives in the pipeline for exploring the potential of IT.
As I mentioned, MRSAC (Maharashtra Remote Sensing Applications Centre) is involved in mapping and monitoring of natural resources for their better management. MRSAC also offers benefits of Remote Sensing and Geographic Information System (GIS) technology. The centre has promoted this technology to government departments and academic institutions for various applications in areas like soil and water conservation, ground water potential, forest and biodiversity studies, crop acreage estimation, watershed development and monitoring, urban development, etc. Apart from the applications, MRSAC is provides software solutions in Geo-spatial domain and has developed information / decision support systems. With the sound foundation of multi-scale databases and its Web Geo-portal MRSAC is committed to help the state to achieve e-Governance.
Keeping these benefits in mind I requested the government to open units of MRSAC and they agreed, so, we now have one unit each in Mumbai and Pune. Earlier, MRSAC was based in Nagpur only. Thus there are three units of MRSAC in Maharashtra and all these three units are covering the respective areas and respective departments.
What is your vision for the use of e governance in enhancing the functionality of the department?
I feel that e-governance has a tremendous scope in public administration/government activities. But the problem that we face is of our own recruitment system where qualifications are not updated. Even if the present setup allows us to recruit highly qualified people, we do not have the system of recruiting those qualified people in the government setup. And unless they recruit updated IT qualified people, they won’t be able to take e-governance forward.
Therefore, the eligibility criteria for recruitment need to be changed. The government should make IT knowledge a compulsory requirement at the entry level so that everybody has some basic knowledge of IT. Every employee must be exposed to IT as then only they can take up IT initiatives and e-governance at a larger scale. As of now, we have started to implement it but still, a lot needs to be done.
In this scenario, IT departments have set an example as they have the best consultants in their unit. It has helped them to take up e-governance projects. If similar practice is extended to other departments and if we allow them to have technically qualified people then they too can be in sync with the current developments.
Your views on Knowledge Exchange forum?
This is one platform where all government functionaries and important private sector players can interact and exchange their views, their experiences and then learn from each other. Normally, what is happening in a remote state will not be known to us unless I locate them on their website. This would only give me an idea of their innovative practices, experiments or projects, but direct interaction, questioning, getting their answers, hearing their doubts is only possible via such interactive exchange forums. Organising such forums will really help in taking e-governance forward.