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IT Industry: A Critical Partner to the Government

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DQI Bureau
New Update

By 2020 we would see a situation where all the government services that are available today through the Internet, would be available on the mobile telephone which would be the mass device. For that the first action which the government should take is to ensure a rapid rollout of broadband connectivity to all the villages in India, so that they can get the benefit of the services without having to leave their homes, or at least their village, says R Chandrashekhar, secretary, Department of IT, Ministry of Communications and IT.

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Wise words indeed, coming from a man considered by many as the pioneer of e-governance in India. Indias journey on the e-governance road started way back in 2006 when the government approved the National e-Governance Plan (NeGP). The objective behind NeGP was to improve upon the efficiency of government service delivery; ensure an efficient use of government resources; make sure that the services are reaching out to people; and last but not the least to ensure that all services are made available in a cost effective manner.

And the results have been there for all to see. Out of the approved 27 Mission Mode Projects (MMPs), 14 have already started delivery of services while the remaining 13 are expected to begin delivery by 2013. Thanks to the introduction of ICT in governance, terms like e-governance and e-procurement are becoming commonplace, and in the years to come ICT will assume a more critical role.

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As Ravi Venkatesan, chairman, Microsoft India says, The IT industry is in the unique position to act as an enabler and facilitator for developments in other areas, the most pressing among those being governance. With a slew of e-governance initiativessome in the pipeline, some implemented and some already set to move to the next stage of impactthe role of the IT industry as a partner of the government is critical. Take the Unique Identification (UID) initiative, the security initiatives, the Right to Education, the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MNREGS) or even state-level initiativesthe right application of IT can help these programs multiply the impact by enhancing scalability and access.

Challenges Ahead

While we may pat ourselves on the back for the benefits accruing from introduction of ICT in governancebringing transparency in government system; there is however still a huge roadblock in transparency in money-related dealings. Citizens today are demanding outcome based evaluation as to where the money is going and the demand for transparency in money-related matters will be significantly up in this decade, says Navin Agrawal, IT Advisory practice KPMG.

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People have become more aware of their rights, thanks to the Right to Information (RTI) and they also want to be kept informed that the systems are transparent. However as Magsaysay awardee, Dr Kiran Bedi puts it, Its a great leap forward with the RTI but the problem is: what do you do with the information you get? Thats the real challenge.

There has been a huge leap forward for e-governancewhere six years back the primary objective of the government was to set-up the ICT infrastructure in place (the CSC, SWAN, WAN etc), today the MMPs are talking about making services available to citizens on their mobiles.

Agrees Nandan Nilekani, chairman, UIDAI, Technology will really reach everybody. This combination of mobile number and Aadhar number and bank account number will bring technology into the hands of everyone.

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Agrawal says while the blueprint is ready, the real journey will start in this decade when we start the implementation and this is where the real challenge lies, sadly government offices dont realize the problem.

In addition, the next decade will also see a shortage of talented, skilled personnel required for project implementation at all levels who understand how it all works.

By 2020

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The Planning Commission in a study on Governance in India: Vision 2020 says that by 2020 Indias government structure will undergo a sea change. With smaller states and smaller districts the administration is bound to be better networked. Identity cards, information technology hook-up, a nation-wide computerized driving license storage system and similar other devices and facilities would certainly lead to a much better networking horizontally and vertically. Work has already begun in this direction with the Unique Identification project (Aadhaar) which will give an identity to citizens residing in the remotest corners of India.

This will lead to a greater exchange of ideas and information at all levels, among the departments, units of civil society; similarly at the state level and at the district level, and verticallyas between the central government, the states and the district level including Panchayati Raj Institutions and urban local bodies. And if all goes as planned, it will lead to greater efficiency in administration.

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On the government front, the introduction of ICT in service delivery and other support systems, will transform the manner in which government offices function. Perhaps the government employees will have to log in a certain hours of work. Tele-conferencing and video-conferencing at all levels should be made possible, not only would this save a lot of time and money but would also result in quicker decision making.

With agriculture being one of the mainstays of the Indian economy, ICT can most certainly play an important role in increasing productivity and reducing cost of operations, not surprisingly therefore agriculture has been identified as one of the MMPs. The Planning Commission report goes on to state that the envisaged Agricultural Resources Information System will create a comprehensive database on various parameters related to land use, water use, and a system for strengthening advisory services to farmers in adopting the latest agricultural production practices. In this decade, the government will be undertaking efforts to provide the latest information on real time basis to farmers and Decision Support System on agricultural production and marketing, water allocation in an irrigation system, and cattle farming system in livestock will be required to be developed aggressively.

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The presence of ICT in governance will be all pervasive and all encompassing. Says Agrawal: Its a big YES; partly because we have no other option but to depend on ICT. India is a huge country and only with judicious use of ICT can you meet diverse requirements (both demographic and geographic) and one can improve rural and urban infrastructure.

While India may be at the cusp stage when it comes to project rollout; we have created the infrastructure, identified services to be delivered through this infrastructure and by 2012-13, the number of successful projects will be more.

As the CEO of TNeGA Santhosh Babu says, the vision for the future should be that people should not see the government, instead, they should feel the governance. The interface between citizens and government office should be removed. Citizens should not even know where the government office is functioning from.

Stuti Das

stutid@cybermedia.co.in

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