Kerala’s IT Metamorphosis a state transformed by technology

Bridging Digital divine

Kerala has consistently taken the lead in advancing, embracing, and leveraging Information Technology. It boasts one of the nation’s most extensive user bases for internet access and mobile usage as the internet reach is 87 for every 100 people in the state. Abhineet Kumar of Elets News Networks (ENN) provides an insightful overview of Kerala’s remarkable journey in the realm of Information Technology transformation.

Kerala has consistently led the way in embracing cuttingedge e-governance initiatives, earning itself the esteemed distinction of being the “first digital state” in India. Back in 1999, the Kerala government embarked on a comprehensive strategy to fully leverage the potential of information and communication technology (ICT) in a more efficient and systematic manner. This visionary approach ultimately gave rise to the Kerala State IT Mission (KSITM), a strategic milestone that has paved the path for numerous notable achievements in the state’s ICT sector, solidifying Kerala’s reputation as an ICT leader.

Kerala State IT Mission

Kerala State IT Mission

KSITM, operating under the Department of Electronics & Information Technology within the Government of Kerala, serves as the primary agency responsible for ICT-related matters in e-Governance. As an autonomous administrative entity, its mission is to provide technological and managerial support for all e-Governance initiatives across the state.

Its primary objectives include: Project Implementation
KSITM oversees the implementation of various e-Governance projects, ensuring they are executed efficiently and within the stipulated timeframes.

Capacity Building
It plays a pivotal role in building the capacity of government employees to embrace digital tools and technologies effectively.

Promoting IT Education
The IT Mission promotes IT education and digital literacy, with a focus on schools and colleges across the state.

Digital Inclusion
It works towards bridging the digital divide by extending the benefits of technology to marginalised sections of society.

Innovation and Research
The IT Mission encourages innovation and research in IT and related fields, fostering a culture of technological entrepreneurship.

The core mandate of KSITM revolves around harnessing ICT and related engineering to drive transformative change within the public sector. This includes the deployment of a diverse array of ICT solutions, nurturing fresh talent and capabilities to bolster digital service delivery, and developing an advanced infrastructure and applications ecosystem for a Smart State. KSITM actively promotes innovative technologies to revolutionise government operations, recognizing citizens as the most valuable asset and aiming to redefine Kerala as a Smart State.

Kerala has made remarkable progress in eGovernance, and recent developments underscore its commitment to digital transformation. The state’s achievements are particularly notable considering the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, which accelerated the adoption of technology in various sectors.

COVID-19 Response
Kerala’s robust IT infrastructure played a pivotal role in its response to the pandemic. The state developed a comprehensive COVID-19 portal that provided real-time updates, test results, and vaccination information to the public. This initiative showcased the state’s agility and responsiveness in utilising technology during a crisis.

eHealth Kerala
The state has launched the eHealth Kerala project, which aims to create a digital health ecosystem. This initiative focuses on the digitization of health records, telemedicine, and improving healthcare access for citizens.

e-Office Implementation
Kerala has made significant progress in implementing e-Office solutions across government departments. This move has streamlined administrative processes, reduced paperwork, and improved transparency in decisionmaking.

e-Krishi:
Kerala’s e-Krishi project focuses on leveraging technology for agricultural development. It provides farmers with real-time information on crop management, weather updates, and market prices, thereby boosting agricultural productivity.

GOVERNMENT POLICIES

Kerala’s commitment to eGovernance is supported by a conducive policy framework that encourages innovation and technology adoption. The state government has formulated policies that lay the foundation for digital transformation.

Kerala Information Technology Policy 2017
This policy document sets the vision for Kerala to become a prominent IT hub in India. It emphasises the importance of fostering a vibrant startup ecosystem, promoting IT education, and providing a robust IT infrastructure.

Single Window Clearance for IT Projects
Kerala offers a single window clearance mechanism for IT projects, making it easier for businesses to set up and operate in the state. This initiative promotes investment and job creation in the IT sector.

Digital Empowerment of Kerala (De-K)
The De-K initiative aims to bridge the digital divide by providing affordable internet access and digital literacy training to all citizens. It is aligned with the Digital India campaign of the central government.

KEY AGENCIES AND THEIR ROLES

Several key agencies and organisations play a pivotal role in driving Kerala’s IT initiatives for eGovernance. Each of them has a specific focus area and contributes to the overall digital transformation of the state.

KELTRON (Kerala State Electronics Development Corporation Limited)
Keltron, founded in 1973, stands as India’s pioneering electronics development company. It played a pivotal role in shaping the electronics landscape in the country, particularly in catalysing the growth of Information Technology in Kerala. Over the past five decades, Keltron has earned a stellar reputation and has become an indispensable partner in numerous flagship projects across India. Notable contributions include the supply of electronic modules for ISRO’s Chandrayaan 3 and Aditya L1 mission, strategic devices for Indian Naval Defense, AI-driven camera enforcement and traffic solutions, software development for various government departments, affordable digital programmable hearing aids, UPS systems for several Nuclear Power stations, Amazon hybrid cloud data solutions, and the commercial-scale production of supercapacitors using ISRO technology.

KELTRON

In September 2021, Keltron presented a comprehensive Master Plan Document to the Government of Kerala, outlining a projected investment of Rs. 375 Crores. The Master Plan ambitiously envisions completing these investments within a span of four years, with the aim of achieving a total turnover of Rs. 2000 Crores by 2031, accompanied by a net profit of 100 Crores. These investments, coupled with other strategic growth initiatives, are expected to create employment opportunities for approximately 1250 individuals.

Keltron has also distinguished itself by being the first organisation in Kerala to implement Amazon’s cutting-edge Cloud Computing and Secure Data Storage services.

KELTRON has been a key player in shaping India’s IT landscape, contributing to ISRO missions, naval defence, AI-based traffic solutions, and government software development among other significant initiatives.” said N. Narayana Moorthy, Chief Managing Director, Kerala State Electronics Development Corporation Limited (KELTRON)

KFON (Kerala Fiber Optic Network)

On June 5th, the Kerala government, led by Pinarayi Vijayan, officially unveiled the Kerala Fibre Optical Network (KFON), a flagship project conceived during its first term in office. KFON is an extensive optical fiber cable network spanning 30,000 kilometers, equipped with 375 Points-of-Presence strategically positioned throughout the state. This infrastructure will be made accessible to various service providers in collaboration with cable operators. While individual users will need to rely on private local internet service providers, government offices will utilise the cable network for their connectivity needs. The government has specified that KFON services will be delivered through local ISP/TSP/cable TV providers.

KFON

The primary objective of the state government is to ensure that every government institution, including schools, colleges, hospitals, and offices, becomes part of the K-FON network. Furthermore, there is a commitment to offer free connectivity at speeds of up to 30 MBPS to all families living below the poverty line (BPL) in the state.

KFON is a game-changer in providing high-speed internet connectivity across Kerala. With the aim of making Kerala the first fully digital state in India, KFON has been laying a comprehensive fiber optic network, ensuring that even remote areas have access to fast and reliable internet.

“We have successfully laid 30,000 kilometres of fiber optic cables across the state. Our primary objective is to provide internet connectivity to over 30,000 government offices and offer free internet to 20 lakh families below the poverty line. I am pleased to report that we have achieved the target of providing free internet to 14 lakh families so far. We are committed to achieving self-sufficiency and generating profits from our infrastructure.”, said Dr. Santosh Babu, Principal Secretary & Managing Director, Kerala State Information Technology Infrastructure Ltd (KSITIL) & Kerala Fibre Optic Network (KFON)

Kerala State IT Infrastructure Limited (KSITIL)
In a strategic move to foster the growth of Information Technology and Information Technology Enabled Services (IT/ITES) in Kerala, the Kerala State Information Technology Infrastructure Limited (KSITIL) has emerged as a key player. Established as a premier public limited company in alignment with the Government of Kerala’s IT Policy, KSITIL is at the forefront of catalysing the establishment of IT/ITES Special Economic Zones (SEZs), IT Townships, and IT Parks throughout the state.

Founded under the provisions of the Companies Act, 1956, KSITIL received its impetus through Government of Kerala’s G.O (MS) No.33/07/ITD, dated 12-11- 2007, and boasts its headquarters at the Park Centre, Technopark Campus, Kariavattom, Thiruvananthapuram.

A visionary approach by the state government aims to spread the benefits of the burgeoning IT industry to all 14 districts of Kerala. Unlike many other states where IT development is concentrated in a select few cities, Kerala’s model stands apart. It operates on a hub-and-spoke concept, with Thiruvananthapuram, Kochi, and Kozhikode serving as the central hubs, while the remaining districts radiate outwards as spokes. This strategy ensures a more equitable and widespread IT ecosystem, benefiting the entire state.

KSITIL is responsible for developing and maintaining the state’s IT infrastructure. It plays a critical role in ensuring that the digital backbone of Kerala’s eGovernance initiatives is robust and secure.

Information Kerala Mission (IKM)
The Information Kerala Mission stands as a groundbreaking e-governance endeavour initiated by the government of Kerala. It distinguishes itself in several aspects, charting a unique course in the realm of governance. This project is both vast and intricate, presenting a compelling challenge while captivating our attention. What sets it apart is its unwavering focus on placing people at its core, with a strong emphasis on building capacity and empowering individuals. Rather than merely digitising local bodies, it views technology as a catalyst for meaningful change.

This endeavour transcends the realm of conventional e-governance; it is a commitment, a relentless pursuit of our vision for ideal local governments. Driven by an unwavering passion for excellence, it strives not only to computerise local bodies but also to leverage technology for enhancing productivity, ensuring superior service delivery, expediting impartial decision-making, and bolstering accountability. Information Kerala Mission is not just a project; it is a promise.

K-SMART
‘K-Smart,’ short for Kerala Solutions for Administrator Reformation and Transformation, is a pioneering initiative that exemplifies Kerala’s commitment to harnessing technology for administrative reform and modernization. This innovative program, launched by the government of Kerala, aims to streamline administrative processes, improve transparency, and enhance the efficiency of public services.

K-Smart leverages cutting-edge technologies, such as data analytics, artificial intelligence, and blockchain, to optimise governance. It empowers administrators with real-time data and analytical tools, enabling them to make informed decisions swiftly. Additionally, it promotes citizen engagement by providing user-friendly online platforms for accessing government services and information.

“K-Smart is slightly different from all other software developers in the country. We follow a 82-day sprint strategy, focusing on developing nine citizen-centric modules out of the total 30. All these modules are Citizens facing modules like Birth & Death, Building Permit, Property Tax, Finance, HRMS, File management etc. All these modules are now being developed on an 82 days sprint strategy.” said Dr. Santosh Babu, Chairman & Managing Director & ED, Information Kerala Mission (IKM)

This initiative aligns with Kerala’s vision of becoming a knowledgedriven and digitally empowered state. It not only enhances the ease of doing business but also fosters a more accountable and responsive government. K-Smart sets an inspiring example for other regions seeking to modernise their administrative systems, emphasising the transformative potential of technology in governance. As it continues to evolve and expand, K-Smart promises to be a catalyst for positive change in Kerala’s administrative landscape.

Information and Communication Technology Academy of Kerala (ICTAK)
The ICT Academy of Kerala (ICTAK) is a collaborative venture between the Government of India and the Government of Kerala, working in partnership with prominent industry leaders such as TCS, UST, IBS, QuEST Global, as well as receiving support from renowned organisations like Infosys, EY, Tata Elxsi, and others. It also receives financial assistance from the Ministry of Electronics and IT (MeITY) to establish itself.

“Being a Govt & industry-partnered entity with a not-for-profit construct, the mandate of ICTAK has always been on transitioning young jobseekers to true professionals of the future. ICTAK has been making significant contributions to fulfilling the aspirations of the youths of Kerala.” said Santhosh Kurup, Chief Executive Officer, ICT Academy Kerala

ICTAK’s primary mission is to equip the youth of Kerala with essential skills in emerging technologies, preparing them for employment opportunities. In addition to its training programs, ICTAK is actively engaged in activities such as digital awareness training, the development of ICT solutions, and the management of substantial projects. Drawing from its extensive experience working with young learners and understanding their unique learning styles, ICTAK has developed its proprietary training approach, known as the PERL TM Methodology. This methodology leverages various learning channels to allow candidates to learn in ways that align with their individual preferences, ensuring a personalised and scalable learning experience.

Digital University Kerala (DUK)
Digital University Kerala (DUK) is breaking new ground with its innovative approach to higher education and research in the field of digital technologies. DUK is on a mission to cultivate a highly skilled workforce primed to lead the charge in driving innovation and technological breakthroughs.

Digital University Kerala (DUK)

At the heart of innovation lies the synergy between rigorous thinking, creative ideation, a vibrant ecosystem, and a touch of the unexpected. Within the diverse community of Digital University Kerala, these elements come together harmoniously, igniting a spirit of inspiration and dynamism. The individuals within this community share a common passion – to be catalysts in sparking the next major technological revolution.

Kerala’s IT initiatives for eGovernance stand as a testament to the state’s commitment to leveraging technology for the betterment of its citizens. Recent developments, government policies, and the concerted efforts of key agencies like KELTRON, KFON, KSITIL, IKM, ICTAK, and DUK have propelled Kerala into the digital age.

THE WAY FORWARD

As Kerala continues on its journey of digital transformation, it serves as an inspiration to other states in India and nations around the world. The state’s success in using technology to enhance governance, improve public services, and promote digital inclusion underscores the immense potential of IT in shaping the future of governance and public administration. With its unwavering commitment to innovation and digital empowerment, Kerala is well poised to remain a beacon of progress in the realm of eGovernance.

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