Information Technology has struck the right chord in the development of eco-tourism and related services, says A K Nigam in an interaction with Kartik Sharma & Poulami Chakraborty of ENN
How has ICT transformed the operational and functional working of FDCM?
Forest Development Corporation of Maharashtra (FDCM) is a public sector company founded in 1974 and has been continuously running in profit since 1987. To weed out old and the obsolete information and lessen the burden of heavy documentation, help of Information Technology has been frequently and readily taken. To meet such requirements, a computer with latest software support is handy.
In the first stage, Local Area Network (LAN) was set up in the headquarters, and regional and divisional offices. Wide Area Network (WAN) was also set up with the help of web-based software and Internet services. Efforts are being made to link the field staff with Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs) to make the monitoring, reporting and retrieval of field related functions and operations more real, spatial and less time consuming.
Brief us about the projects fostered by IT and implemented by the Eco-Tourism Department.
FDCM is implementing some eco-tourism projects along the fringe or peripheries of Protected Areas (PAs) in Maharashtra, like Moharli and Kolara along the Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve in Chandrapur district; Pitezari, Nagzira and Nawegaon in Nagzira-Nawegaon Tiger Reserve, Gondia district; Semadoh and Kolkhaz in Melghat Tiger Reserve, Amaravati district; and Bor in Bor Sanctuary, Nagpur district.
Earlier, the bookings for resorts and safaris were made manually. It frequently caused undue harassment to visitors regarding unavailability of 42 egov / egov.eletsonline.com / August 2014 facilities due to pre-occupancy or partisan attitude of the booking personnel. Management was unsure of its occupancy positions and at times also deprived of its revenue. Client satisfaction was jeopardized due to uncertainty.
Resort and Safari bookings have now been made online services. Clients are assured of their stay and their trips to PA are enjoyable and pleasant. FDCM Ltd is now also assured of its revenue. Client can now cancel their trips any time with nominal cancellation charges. It has rendered great service to the people, with an element of transparency and fairness.
How successfully has the department established communication networks in rural areas?
It has prevailed over traditional methods in many ways. Earlier, procurement and installation of communication networks involved large capital often leading to delays. Now, regular staff is trained in all these activities and they support various processes, resulting in faster disposal of services. All offices are linked and image enhanced across the state.
What challenges do you face in the utilisation of technologies and how do you counter them?
The prime challenge faced by department in the utilisation of technology was ill project management which involved procedures, timelines and costs. That in turn hindered the process of clear communication and accessibility involving all stakeholders and as a result software-hardware implementation, route selection, ownership at executive level etc, everything gets disrupted.
How has technology helped you curb poaching and generate nature awareness?
IT and ICT have been effectively utilised in the field of forest protection —preventing illicit felling of trees, curbing poaching of wildlife and generating awareness amongst youths by providing adequate training, among others. FDCM has a website http://www.fdcm.nic. in/ through which lot of information can be accessed. Also, we are using the technology for staff recruitment.
Tell us about future initiatives and the department’s vision in exploring the potential of IT.
We are following Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s call for –“Minimum Government, Maximum Governance”. This is only possible by using IT & ICT in addition to other inputs. FDCM shall be using modern technology for good governance and in providing quality food and services expeditiously.