Advancements in ICT are transforming everyday life for citizens in the country. Kerala has always accepted technology as a catalyst in development, and has now embraced it for improvement and transformation of public service delivery.
We have embarked upon a lot of prestigious e-Governance initiatives to deliver the services in an efficient and hassle-free manner to the common man. By leveraging the existing core infrastructure, Kerala has two state-of-the-art data centres and Kerala State Wide Area Network (KSWAN) connecting more than 3,378 locations in the state.
At present, close to 2,300 Akshaya centres in 978 panchayats are functioning successfully in Kerala, with each panchayat boasting of at least two Akshaya centres. The Government of Kerala had mandated to carry out all government purchases above Rs 25 lakh online using the e-procurement system. The government also connects with suppliers for the purpose of buying products through online systems.
This year, the state’s budget has also put a lot of thrust to boost the IT sector. The government’s mission is to provide all the government services through Internet and especially via mobile phones, as mobile penetration is high here. Also, through implementation of e-Office, we see an opportunity to improve administrative efficiency and transparency. I am confident that eINDIA 2014 summit will help us catalyse more innovations to bring about greater convenience and productivity, create new opportunities for business to create value and improve the lives of the citizen.
We all know about connectivity and the importance of bandwidth and voice connectivity that should reach every citizen to bridge the gap. In the case of electricity or power, there was a huge gap, but it has been narrowed down substantially from a national perspective. As far as electricity is concerned, in Kerala, we have been able to give 24/7 power to every consumer.
Ten years back, we were concerned with access to computers ad computing devices, and that is when we started the Akshaya Kendra project where we have provided computer access to every citizen at the grass-root level. At present, this issue has been addressed through personal computing devices like smartphones and tablets. In Kerala, we have two big challenges, one with respect to bandwidth and second with respect to customising e-governance services so that these are available to citizens in a more user-friendly fashion.
I was impressed by Akshaya centres in Kerala when I first visited the state a decade ago. It mapped the whole path in the country for village level entrepreneurs. Thirdly, I am impressed with Kerala’s e-governance eco-system, which uses open source solutions. The open source content, which Kerala is producing in all the schools, prevents educational institutions to purchase software and kids can also experiment with this content.
I represent Vodafone, but as a citizen of this country, which is at an inflection point of digital India, which will empower the last citizen of the country in terms of seamless and two-way communication. There are five growth levers and as a telecom service provider, we find that we would be able to add immense value to two of them which are digital India and gen-next infrastructure.
We have been hearing about creation of 100 smart cities. I personally feel that collaboration is the key in terms of growing in this area. Government ministries and departments and our industry need to collaborate extensively to realise the dream. While interacting with various decision makers and users in the central and state governments, we realised that the immediate priorities should be providing basic services such as quality education, better health, and transparent and speedy redressal of public grievances.
Vodafone has created unique services delivery platform which acts as catalyst between government and citizens. As the backbone and future-ready technology such as Cloud and Big Data Analytics, we are very keen to partner with the central government and the state governments.
During the Independence Day speech, our Hon’ble Prime Minister stated that every citizen of the country should have the capacity and capability to govern. Being the leading telecom player, with mobility as our forte, we understand transformative ability of mobility.
As a total communication partner to the government, we have the robust infrastructure. Vodafone is keen to collaborate customising our global best practices in India. Let’s design and deliver the dream of digital India.
Our state is very much focussed on e-governance as we have already started infusing more technology in various government departments and providing impetus to the technological changes. As a result, all the 14 districts have come to be known as e-districts. In my ministry, we are also infusing e-system in a big way. Almost all police stations in the state are now connected with this system. Senior officers can now operate from the police headquarters and can track number of cases registered per day and also track various investigations taking place in different police stations across the state.
The Government of Kerala has brought total transparency in the system. After receiving lots of complaints against PWD and the motor vehicles department, the government decided to set up e-system at both places. Besides, we already have more than 2,350 Akshaya centres, which are very useful for the people. Now people do not require to visit village offices or taluka offices. People now visit Akshaya centres to get their certificates, for filing various applications, etc.
After digitisation in my office, it easy for me to review the files even when I am not physically present in the office. This has resulted in speedy redressal of the issues. Major changes have been witnessed in the administration ever since introduction of e-governance in the system.
Now, our main concerns are white collar crimes and the cyber crimes. In order to address these issues, we are contemplating to have a cyber dome in a techno park. For this, 2,500 sq ft has been allotted and the rest is in the making. By 1st January 2015, we will be able to inaugurate it.
The Digital India mission states that we would ensure nationwide digital transformation through application of ICT in various sectors of the economy, empowerment of people and delivery of government services electronically to the citizens and businesses through re-engineered processes integrated and inter-operable systems and multi-delivery channels.
The mission rests on three pillars: Infrastructure as a Utility to every citizen, governance and services on demand, and digital empowerment. Further, these three pillars entail nine key action areas: broadband highways, voice connectivity, public Internet access, e-Governance, e-Kranti, information for all, electronic manufacturing, IT for jobs and some prevcious harvest programmes.
Voice connectivity is primary to all. When we talk about Digital India, the first pillar has to be access to simple voice connectivity to every citizen. We have had in this country the fastest growing telecom industry in the world. Today, 90 percent of our villages have voice connectivity. In states like Karnataka and Kerala, there isn’t a single village which does not have a telephone. But, if you look at Arunachal Pradesh, 55 percent of the villages are not yet reached; Mizoram, Meghalaya, Manipur, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Odisha are other with less connectivity. That means, 30 percent of the population is not yet served with simple voice telephony.
The reason coverage has not reached these areas is due to difficult terrains, market size, customers’ paying capacity, law and order issues, etc. In areas, where coverage by commercial providers is not reached, it is certainly the responsibility of the government to make good use of Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF).