Not many years have passed we used to line up to get our money from the bank. We used to take rounds of Government office’s to get the application form. We used to run pillar to post to get the government documents. We used to line up to pay our utility bills…
The scenario has changed now for those who have the power of “e” and power of “m”. They generally do not line up or wait for availing these services from the Government / Corporate. Instead, they use online facility to avail these services.
The social media platform has also transformed the functioning of government and corporate in India. Twitter has emerged as the front-end for political parties. Their leaders announce major decisions and perform critical activities on Twitter.
If you post your grievance against the government or corporate on social media, the chances are that the top-notch of the organisation come forward to resolve your problem which was not the case earlier.
Therefore, transformation has already started and cruised to its next phase. We must visualise the ingredients of transformation in the governance. One must understand that mere transformation of the existing process and term automation cannot deal with it.
Even the critics of the government will agree that in the last two decades, governance has changed, and the process is in continuity. This happened because of the emergence of the enabling technologies; governance process re-engineering took place and there was a political will for this change across the country.
Transformation is a paradigm shift in the system. It requires a very strong political will. Fortunately, the Prime Minister of India has given a very clear mandate as:
The future of the governance will highly rely on the efficient use of emerging technologies. Indians are adoptive especially in terms of latest technologies. It is exciting to see that ‘adaptability’ of technology is more amongst the lower, lower middle-class and the middle-class public. The penetration of 100 crore mobile phones and usage of 2.08 lakhs of ATM tells the story of ‘Technology Enabled India’. There are 88 crore debit card and 3 crore credit card users.
India is a country with diversity, here the process of change is at different stages in different parts; the states, which started late are moving fast because they got learning from others and the support of better technology. This trend will continue in future as well.
The efficient use of technology will result in the transformation, if there are strong catalysts, in the form of efficient process re-engineering and adoption of technology by people of this country.
In the first phase of the computerisation, we translated the existing processes into computer-friendly versions and reduced the number of visits to the department providing the services.
We have also developed soft infrastructures like a database of citizens in the form of Aadhaar Number, PAN and Election Photo Identity Card (EPIC). Now in its next avatar, we are ready to use this soft infrastructure with other emerging and diffusing technologies like cloud computing, Internet of Things (IoT), GIS, etc.
Fortunately, India has a mature and forward looking think tank at the top with a very strong political will to implement e-governance across the country. We have National e-governance Plan (NeGP) and now its next version e-Kranti (NeGP v 2.0) is being implemented.
There will be a major change in the field of communication technology. We have witnessed the 4G revolution. Its speed and coverage gave birth to new business models. In near future, we will be channelling data on high-speed networks.
The launch of Goods and Service Tax (GST) reforms in India is just a beginning of a huge technology led transformation affecting almost everyone in the country.
In the early days of governance, the purpose of creating multiple departments and ministries was to organise the work in a structured manner. There was a very limited mode of communication, therefore information was asked in multiple forms. The information availability was also highly decentralised.
In today’s scenario, with high availability of information and high processing speed and connectivity, many departments have lost their relevance, as the entire eco system of information processing has changed.
At present, the government is overloaded with many departments and their conflicting roles and responsibilities. The present format of governance is very complex. The government offices must be converted into friendly modern virtual offices (visible to the public!). The interaction of public with the government offices is to be brought to a minimum, leading to zero. The concept of the virtual office is not new in the corporate world, but it is yet to be initiated in the government space. The concept of less paper utilisation in offices should be merged with a minimum human intervention which should facilitate in providing the services to citizens.
Despite fanfare and appreciation of the passport process computerisation, not much has changed (The front end seems nicer). Despite the fact that they issued the old passports in the first place, they still need a copy of the old passports, with the photocopy of the original document.
Why cannot they fetch all the required data about the passport applicant from their own database? Process re-engineering must be done in this case, apparently with a well-sung re-engineering project of India.
The proactive governance will empower the citizens in such a way that:
- At the time of child birth, the birth certificate should be automatically available in the Digi Locker
- Aadhaar number should be assigned and linked with Parent/Guardian.
- When the child turns 18 years old, his/her Election Photo Identity Card (EPIC) should automatically be available in the Digital Locker.
- Income Tax returns should be waived off as Income Tax Department knows exactly all about the financial transactions of the citizens.
- All entitlements from the government should automatically be available at Digi Locker.
- No need of applications for getting the government service. For additional services, just an online request will give the citizens their Aadhaar card and service will be added in their Digital Locker.
- When a citizen turns 60 years old, the old age pension should be automatically initiated in their bank account.
- Renewal of passport should happen over a phone call.
E-office is one-step forward to create virtual offices in the government area. The present version of e-office is not a transformation, but a translation of existing procedure.
Its new version might improve its user experience and lead of actual transformation in the office procedures. In fact, easy availability of hand held devices and high bandwidth would give a better user experience and access to the government employees.
In the next decade, fibre to home will give wings to the imagination of office less governance. Let every node of internet network turn into a virtual office, where citizens can transact with government. With enough will, it is possible in the next decade. Online shopping has created virtual markets where multiple choice is available for the public to exercise the options.
The financial institutions have already taken a lead in this direction. We cannot leave our villages and towns behind, therefore the target should be to connect each citizen with the network, either wireless or fibre.
Geo Spatial Information System (GIS) is to be used to create a unique identification number for each land property across India. This is one of the reforms leading to the transformation of our nation towards an efficient management of the land resources.
Traditionally, the applications for the government service are either developed by its own agencies like NIC, C-DAC etc. or work is outsourced to some private companies. This trend must change now. The government owns a lot of valuable data in the digital or manual form. This data can be made open to the innovators in our society and they can invent wonderful things using this data; for starters, by developing many useful applications. This has already been initiated by the government in the form of open data. For example, if Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) starts sharing GPS locations for its buses in the form of open data, many enthusiastic developers will come out to develop useful applications using GPS data.
The government must involve these innovators in its development program by the means of Hackathons to address many of its problem areas. These innovators will act as catalysts in the process of technology led transformations.
Smart cities, smart town & smart village shall lead our country as Smart India. The next big thing which the government must focus on should be the Internet of Things (IOT). Not much progress has been made in IOT in India, especially in the government sector. The process of automation will require the use of IoT, ultimately resulting in power saving, intelligent switching of routes, decision making, etc.
Traditionally, all online forms are available on the government websites or mobile applications developed by them. The citizens/users have to bear with the flat and non-user-friendly designs created by the government. The next decade will be a decade of involving private and public sectors in hosting input forms (applications) also. The government is to declare the input parameters in public and let innovation take place in creating user-friendly forms and mobile apps. The parameters required for processing can be passed to the government. The basic concept of “government works on mistrust” must be removed from the mind of the public.
The outcome of the transformation should be such that the people only go out for fitness, recreational activities and social activities and to attend medical emergencies, etc. The environment will improve with the transformation taking place in the governance. Activities like rushing to office, rushing for appointments to submit application forms etc. must go out of the scene when a 360-degree transformation takes place.
Transformation is a slow process. It takes a lot of efforts, time and resistance. Some of the major challenges are:
Digital Divide: India is a large country and there is a huge swath of gaps within have and haven’t. Though this gap will always be there, it must be reduced as close as possible to have an effective transformation. This can be done by making base technology affordable and uniform for everyone. Availability of high-speed network across the country is the need of today, the slogan of “Roti, Kapda, Makan aur Internet” becomes a saying.
Cyber Security: The other challenge is cyber security. As the government takes on new challenges, and brings out the change for its citizens, it is also the responsibility of the government to provide adequate security to them in the cyber space. The recent ransomware attack is just a small example of the criticality. Comprehensive cyber security policies and a strict compliance with the policies will prevent almost all the breach attempts on the government networks. We need to create an exclusive army of cyber experts to combat such future attacks.
Flexible Acts/Rules: 18th and 19th Century acts and rules cannot be worked with 21st-century technologies. The Government has gotten rid of many non-relevant acts and rules recently. This is not a one-time activity to be performed in every two centuries.
In fact, consideration part in our rules must be dynamic and must change automatically with time, technology and trends. For example, General Financial Rules (2005) allowed good/services worth Rs 15,000 could be procured from any shop/company. This worked well until 2005 but in 2016, the rule went irrelevant due to inflation. A simple ideal situation could have been that every year, the limit should have been enhanced by 10%.
Similarly, if penalty to commit a crime was Rs 200/- in 1860, the same penalty cannot be continued in 2017. There is no relevance of such rules.
Employee Empowerment: Successful Human Resource Management (HRM) is the biggest challenge in technology led transformation. The government is still working and relying on age old conduct rules. It is surprising to see that as per the order of the Government, a laptop can only be issued to the Joint Secretary and above officers!
Still, almost every officer has one laptop! This mindset that a laptop is a luxury, must not be entertained.
Not only laptops, but all gadgets involved in communication systems must be given to all employees regardless of the ranks as an entitlement. In the technology-led scenario, we need to be more open- hearted while considering to provide the latest technology to employees.