E-Gov's P3 Learning Curve

DQI Bureau
New Update

Prasanto K Roy

It's likely the hottest area of growth in the new fiscal round the corner.

E-gov makes for a wide canvas, big numbers, hefty budgets, big-ticket sales.

And much potential to improve governance, and the citizen's life. Inaugurating

the Dataquest E-Gov Summit 2005, union minister Suresh Pachauri said e-gov 'strengthens

participative democracy'.

Absolutely. But there could be a danger: a latent belief that e-gov should

somehow be based on a foundation of (subsidized) altruism rather than sound

business models, measures and returns.


The government is fashionably different from other 'verticals'. Its scale

is staggering. If a software giant employs 20,000: you'll find many times that

number in low-profile departments. A panelist at the Dataquest E-Gov Summit

spoke about a Web-based HR and payroll app serving 45,000 employees across the

public works departments, and that's a modest-size body. How about a million

and a half employees in the Railways..?

The difference is often an artifice. It would pay immensely to look at

corporate India-and to learn from there. Let's take three examples.

The Project. This has a well-defined life cycle in the corporate world. And a

driver, objectives and goals, a budget sheet with P&L, measures, milestones

and checkpoints, reviews and audits, end-points, even a project management

framework. These are rare in government, so there's little pressure for a

pilot project to work out in a defined period, low accountability.


RoI: An investment must pay off! You wouldn't question this basic premise

of the corporate world. But it's rare in e-gov. There's the belief that

bottom-line measures are inappropriate. But a project must make business sense,

with clear returns and measures! And where you can quantify impact, the chances

of project sustenance and success and replication are far higher. An excise app

that helps collect additional revenues of 10 times the investment is a candidate

for easier comprehension and replication by other states.

The business process, management and HR: These are not tech issues, but are

critical success factors for e-gov-indeed, for good governance. There is much

that governments can absorb from the corporate world: process before tech, the

importance of good management, motivation, user buy-in...

As the government's e-gov coordinator Jt Secy R Chandrashekhar put it at

the DQ Summit, P3 (PPP, or Public-Private Partnership) has an important

spin-off: as the investment comes from another party, you're more likely to

have pressure to ensure returns. Without that sort of direction, he said, you

could have the OO+NT = EOO equation-old organization plus new tech equals an

'expensive old organization'!

P3 will be an important route as well as a learning tool for both sides,

helping grow e-gov in the year ahead. So that both public and private sectors

can benefit by pooling their resources, to improve the delivery of basic

services to citizens.

Prasanto K Roy