‘A journey of a thousand miles begins with a small step.’

–Randeep Sudan,

Special Secretary to the Chief Minister, Andhra Pradesh.

One would mistake him for
another strait-jacketed bureaucrat. But surprisingly, this 39-year-old 1983 batch IAS
officer comes across as a very open and cheerful person. His day starts at 6 am and ends
sometime between 10 pm and 4 am. And virtually no holidays for him-something unheard of in
the corridors of Indian bureaucracy. But that is what makes the telugu-speaking Punjabi,
Randeep Sudan, different. Excerpts from an interview with the Special Secretary to Chief
Minister Chandrababu Naidu:

On Naidu’s recent visit to the US:
The objective of the visit was to set up high level contacts in view of the future
investments in the state in the area of IT. The CM had meetings with Bill Gates
(Microsoft), Lou Gerstner (IBM), Ray Laine (Oracle), John Chambers (Cisco), KP
Chandrashekar (Exodus), Sabeer Bhatia (Hotmail), Sanjeev Sidhu (i2). But there were
obviously other important aspects on the agenda too. One was the vision of setting up an
electronic government, whereby enabling citizens to interact with the information system
for all their information needs. IBM and Cisco have already committed to this initiative.
The second was reinforcing the ties of these top IT companies with IIIT. This also
included their future participation in various projects like distance education.

On the government’s thrust areas:
There are four areas in IT on which we are concentrating-IT education, IT in government,
IT in private sector and IT infrastructure. The first entails the IIT initiative, while
the second concerns electronic governance. IT in private sector concerns the promotion of
the usage of computers in day-to-day business. The last is very important, and that
involves providing connectivity.

On the vision of electronic
governance:

The traditional structure of the Government is in the form of various departments working
in isolation. Combined with this is the hierarchy in the system. For example there are 47
levels between the lowest and the highest levels in the state bureaucracy. In the
Secretariat, there are 11 levels. The third problem is of government monopoly. Therefore,
a citizen is baffled by the complexities associated with interacting with the Government.
All these will be done away with, when there is an information system with which the
citizen will interact for all his needs concerning the Government.

On the current status of this
initiative:

We have already embarked on a pilot project called Twins project in Hyderabad. It stands
for Twin Cities Integrated Network Services project. We also call it the one-stop-non-stop
project as it involves integrating all the government-related services on a single system.
This project will be step-by-step extended to the other areas of the state as well. As a
Chinese saying goes, ‘A journey of a thousand miles begins with a small step’. And this
project is that first step in this direction.

On the plans for IT infrastructure:
Connectivity is very important for any initiative taken, whether it is for electronic
governance, or for distance education. What is being done is that we are working on
broadband connectivity. We are working alongwith the DoT and Tata Tele Services to create
a fiber optic backbone network. The fiber optic cable will run on the already existing
physical electricity infrastructure. By utilizing this, we cut down the costs
tremendously, since laying down of the cable is more costlier than the cable itself. The
network will be utilized for providing services combining voice, data and video.

N SAILAJA and
SIVAKUMAR V
in Hyderabad.

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