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Redefining Evolution

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DQI Bureau
New Update

A historian who writes the history of human thought and endeavour a hundred

years from now will have no doubt that the last three decades of the 20th

century were the most defining decades in the history of mankind. By that year,

the nature of governance, as we know it today, would have changed so much as to

make the word ‘governance’ a historical anachronism. Because the word ‘governance’

presupposes existence of someone or something that exercises power or control

over the day-to-day lives of people. Once the dividing line that distinguishes

the ‘governors’ from the ‘governed’ disappears, what is left of

governance? In some respects, this powerlessness of governments to control the

Internet is manifestly clear to everybody.

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That historian will also unhesitatingly attribute the decline and fall of

20th century governance to the power of information and communication

technologies. Just as Galileo, Kepler, Copernicus and Newton changed the way

people perceived heavenly bodies, so also have the inventions of a number of

scientists in communications and computer technologies collectively contributed

to changing the perception of what constitutes governance and how best to

minimise face-to-face contact with government officials for getting work done.

This process, called e-governance, has already set the agenda for the governance

of the future.

What we all are witnessing today are colossal changes in all walks of life.

While in some areas, the changes have been fast, they have tended to lag behind

in the area of public administration. These changes have a common thread running

through them–empowerment of people. In the private sector, companies have

empowered employees and customers as never before. In public administration, the

focus is on how to empower people. But if the technology is there, why is it

that in this most important area of human endeavour, there is no comparable and

perceptible change?

Bureaucracy runs public administration. Over time, it has come to acquire

vested interests in perpetuating a system that not only benefits those who run

it, but is also seen as essentially irreplaceable. This partly explains why even

routine changes are anathema to bureaucracy. It thrives on doing the same kind

of jobs day in and day out, without bothering to find out whether there is a

better way of doing it… perhaps because there are no rewards for finding

better ways and no sanctions for not finding them. People, in their dealings

with the government, generally suffer on account of secrecy, lack of

accountability and for want of access to information to which they are entitled.

And these, in turn, breed corruption. Once computers are in, they will in one

stroke remove all irritants. These reasons make the job of introducing IT in

government doubly difficult. Such a person deals with people who are status-quoists.

And there is no reward or incentive for those willing to change and risk

failure.

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Then there are other reasons. Job security, job-content and the existing

system of rewards and punishments also play a part in making even well-meaning

government servants less likely to experiment with new ideas, to adopt new

technologies and to come up with solutions that deliver. In the government, it

is better not to try and never fail than to honestly try out something new and

fail. If you succeed, no one is going to garland you. So why should anybody take

chances with failure? "Why should I stick my neck out" is the question

that is most often asked by status-quoists.

These factors make bureaucracy the most unlikely vehicle of change in the

government. So is there any hope? Yes there is. You. The people will ultimately

force governments’ hands to adopt new technologies in delivering government

services. IT industry and its associations constantly make people aware of how

IT can make their life a lot easier if only the government were to adopt use of

IT in its day-to-day working. That raises expectations of the people and they

understand that technology is not the limiting factor anymore. And that puts

enormous pressure on the governments to deliver. I am sure that all state

governments are doing something or the other to bring the benefits of this new

technology to the people. All countries are adopting this new technology. Which

of these countries will change the course of its history by adopting this

technological revolution will be known only when our historian friend writes

about it in the year 2100. As for me, I fervently wish that he does not single

out India as a country that was long on promise, but short on delivery.

DS Pandit addl secy, Dept of IT Government of Delhi

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