“E-governance was there from the past 15 to 20 years but the COVID pandemic has flagged it as the most essential thing in governance,” Sarvesh Kaushal, Former Chief Secretary to the Government of Punjab, opened his address on this note.
“Physical contact has to be minimised for combating the pandemic. There is no way that any government or any organisation can ignore the online handling of its systems or online delivery when everything has to be done contactless one has to go online. G2C and B2C services have no option but to digitise,” he highlighted. Pandemic is a tragedy but for the IT applications, it posed as the biggest opportunity, Kaushal added.
When asked about the challenges that the Government faced initially in implementing the IT applications, he answered, “Initially we lacked the backbone infrastructure. We did not have efficient connectivity and in many areas, there was no connectivity at all. Also, there existed huge digital illiteracy earlier. In addition, the hardware was not pocket-friendly, unmanageable in terms of size and was not even available easily.” Unfortunately, there was not an equitable spread of IT transformation and most of it was through central funding which started diminishing with time. The institutionalised and standardised growth of IT was missing and this caused regional imbalances, he added.
Speaking on the growth of IT in the past few years, Kaushal said that there have been excellent models of growth but unfortunately most of them have been silos. “So we are basically reinventing the wheel simultaneously at different places, synergy and integration are lacking.” There should be a national policy and a state policy which shud be consistent, considering the next 20 to 30 years’ vision, deliberated Kaushal.
Pointing out a few solutions, Kaushal said, “There is a need to devise an open-source mechanism which allows integration of efforts so that officers (district/ city leaders or policymakers) do not end up reinventing the wheel every third year.” Emphasising on integration and knowledge sharing, he added, “When some solution is being implemented in Delhi or Kerala and when it is adopted in Patna, then Patna should not start from scratch but it should start from the level where Delhi is at present.”
The national response to the COVID pandemic has brought out the best response in any country including India. The basic governance gets toned up in such times. If all the wheels of governance doing their individual jobs in a complete synergy then technology can be applied to their efforts so that their service delivery becomes effortless and contactless, he pointe out.
On the way forward, Kaushal said, “I visualise a quantum jump as the issues are clearly flagged now, especially after COVID, however, for this we need apt manpower and liberal funds from the Centre. The potential to grow is now being tapped with all the goals, challenges, probable outcomes, clearly flagged. Also, the new generation of officers are digitally literate and hence, I see the next five years will be a revolution in the application of IT in governance.”