The e-Gov Man

E-governance is 20% ‘e’ and 80% ‘governance’. So says
R Chandrashekhar.

He should know. He’s the man driving it all. He’s Joint
Secret1ary (e-Governance) with the Department of Information Technology at the
Ministry of Communications & IT.

Rentala Chandrashekhar

Date of birth:
Year of Selection to IAS: 1975 (Andhra Pradesh Cadre)

Academic Qualifications:
B.Sc. (Chemistry Hons) – Presidency College, Calcutta University (1971)

M.Sc. (Chemistry) – Indian
Institute of Technology, Bombay (1973)

M.S. (Computer Science) –
Pennsylvania State University, USA (1988)

Family: Married with
a son and a daughter

Mar 2002 — present: Joint Secretary (E-Governance), Union IT

Responsible for drawing up
national policy, strategy and action plan for E-Governance

May 2001 — Feb 2002:
Joint Secretary, Union Defence Ministry

Responsible for policy and
administrative matters connected with ordnance factories

July 1996 — May 2001:
Chairman & MD, AP Industrial Infrastructure Corporation

Took many pioneering
measures to privatize infrastructure projects including the prestigious
HITEC city project for IT industry

June 1997 — Dec 1999:
Secretary, Dept of IT, Govt of AP

Responsible for policy
issues relating to IT in State Government

Aug 1994 — Jun 1996:
Joint Secretary, Union Commerce Ministry

International trade
regulation and promotion dealing with specific territories and commodities

Oct 1992 — Aug 1994:
Director, Union Commerce Ministry

Administrative control of
State Trading Organisations

Mar 1991 — Oct 1992:
Director of Security, Cabinet Secretariat

Intelligence co-ordination
and other matters dealing with VVIP security including electronic

Dec 1989 — Mar 1991:
MD, AP Technology Services, Hyderabad

Computerization and office
automation in State Government and PSUs including implementing total

Sep 1988 — Dec 1989:
Additional Secretary to Chief Minister, Andhra Pradesh

Executive assistant to the
Chief Minister

Aug 1986 — Sep 1988: On
study leave at Penn. State Univ., State College, PA, USA.

Completed MS Computer
Science at Penn State Univ, USA

Jan 1985 — Jul 1986:
Joint Secretary, Finance, Govt. of A.P.

Expenditure Control of
various key depts, computerization in Finance department

Nov 1982 — Jan 1985: District
Collector, Karimnagar, A.P.

District Administration,
rural development

May 1982 — Oct 1982: Deputy
Secretary, Dept. of Energy, Environment, S&T, Govt of AP

Policy matters relating to
the department

Nov 1980 — Apr 1982:
Joint Collector, Nizamabad, AP i/c DDO and i/c MD, NCSF

"E-governance is about making governments more
citizen-oriented and reforming the processes, and effecting this transformation
through the imaginative use of technology," says the man who is credited
with laying the foundation for e-governance.

He is also the man who established the first Department of
Information Technology in the country, in Andhra Pradesh, and heralded some of
the most innovative and path-breaking efforts including the public-private
partnership concept in e-governance projects.

Romance with e-Gov
A double Masters in chemistry from IIT Mumbai and Computer
Science from Pennsylvania State University, Chandrashekhar was inclined towards
getting into research. However, as things had to be, the research alternative
was given up in favor of civil services. He was inducted into the government
affair in 1975.

The reason: Doing research in those days meant going to the
US and Chandrashekhar wanted to do something within the country; something that
would have an impact on a much broader section of the society.

Today, the man has no regrets. "While the private sector
may have been lucrative, it could not have given me the same satisfaction,"
he says. The e-governance charge has given him the opportunity to make an impact
among the masses right at the grassroots level. "It gives me immense
satisfaction to do something which is big, visible and has a sustainable impact
on society, and e-governance is one such area," he adds.

During his stint in Andhra Pradesh, Chandrashekhar is
credited with conceptualization, planning and implementation of various key
initiatives in IT. This included creating the HITEC City; strategic human
resource development initiatives like the setting up of IIIT; and evolving a
comprehensive policy framework for the adoption of IT in governance.

The comprehensive framework drawn up by him helped in
catapulting the state to the forefront of IT development in the country, that
was largely relegated to a concept hitherto. Pioneering the concept, Andhra Pradesh’s IT revolution set the tone
for e-governance in India and emerged as a role model for the other states.

Chandrashekhar says the absence of a legacy to follow was a
big advantage, then. However, shaping up the first Department of IT in the country was not an easy task. Drawing upon his vast experience within
governance as well as his computer science education background helped.

"One doesn’t really need a degree in computer science
to drive e-governance. However, I feel that the experience of working on ground
in the government together with the technical background helped me in
conceptualizing the role IT can play in governance and in understanding it
better," he explains.

Innovative Approach
One of the key contributions of Chandrashekhar during his
tenure has been the concept of public private partnership in IT, in the
government space. The HITEC City and IIIT being two examples of the pioneering
effort. "The key to a successful PPP initiative is in recognizing the
interests of both the government and the private sector party, and striking the
right balance," he explains. However, he also adds that it is not an easy
task as people question the need for change, and will do so till the success of
the approach is proved.

What has kept him going is his inherent belief in the
philosophy of doing things differently and innovatively. Ultimately, as he
points out, "Nothing else counts if you can deliver."

Early Learnings
Chandrashekhar points out that his stint with AP Technology
Services, Hyderabad (APTS) helped him in providing some of the basic learnings
relating to applying IT into governance. One key learning was the necessity to
take e-governance right up to the grass roots level. "In government IT has
been mostly about handling very large volumes of data. The computational aspect
is limited in majority of the key projects. Unless it penetrates right up to the
grassroots level it will be difficult to capture accurate data and make the
desired impact," he quips.

True e-governance for him, hence means that the process at
the back-end is migrated totally and irreversibly in a sustainable manner into
digital format.

National Impact
Today, Chandrashekhar is applying his learnings at a much
wider level, nationally, generating a much bigger impact. The task of driving
the agenda of e-governance for the entire nation as opposed to a single state
has its own pressures. But Chandrashekhar has his task clearly laid out. From
March, 2002 onwards, as joint secretary (e-Governance), Dept of IT, he has been
responsible for formulation of national polices, agendas, strategies and action
plans for e-Gov.

His task at the national level now involves balancing the
drive across multiple ecosystems as opposed to a single ecosystem, to be able to
successfully drive the agenda at the broader level of national interest. The
challenge, in terms of meeting the interests of the various states and fitting
in the unique requirements of each of these units into the broader agenda, is
something that does not deter him at all. Apart from playing a crucial role in
developing the National e-Governance Plan (NeGP), some of the other highlights
of his e-governance initiatives include policy framework on SWAN and CSC.
Besides, he is also driving the evolution of the concept of integrated service
delivery in e-governance projects.

On being asked whether he ever gets frustrated by the
bureaucracy and confines that are inherent to any government set-up,
Chandrashekhar explains that while there are a lot of procedural barriers he has
had to work with there are leeways also and one has to learn to find innovative
ways of doing things. At the same time the man says he was fortunate that there
was room for experimentation and he is operating at a time when the changes and
experimentations are possible and supported by the system. "We are seeing
it all around us today. It is difficult but not impossible," he adds.

Today, Chandrashekhar is a very busy man driving those
innovations within the tight confines of government set-up. While that has taken
a toll on actively pursuing his interests in tennis and chess, he has no
regrets. After all, he is the man who is driving the revolution, creating the
impact that he always wanted to.

Shipra Arora

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