In a detailed conversation with Vishaal Bhatnagar, AVP, Government Affairs and Public Sector Practice, CyberMedia Research, Dr. Saurabh Gupta, Senior Technical Director and SIO, NIC, Uttar Pradesh, tells us how the Uttar Pradesh state NIC is helping the government in realizing its e-Governance vision. Dr. Saurabh Gupta is a proven Strategic Management professional with 27 years of IT experience, and has held several prestigious posts in the past including Special Secretary, Information Technology, Govt. of Sikkim; and Private Secretary to Minister of State for Communications and IT, Govt. of India.
Some edited excerpts from the interview:
What do you see as the major types of IT solutions (ERP, SCM, CRM, Cloud, Security etc.) and IT infrastructure (Server, Storage, Networking, Clients etc.) required for effective roll-out of e-Governance and m-Governance projects in Uttar Pradesh in FY 2015-16?
A judicial mix of all is perhaps what is required for the effective rollout of e-Governance & m-Governance in the state. In terms of IT solutions – Cloud based government service delivery models are fast transforming the IT landscape in the country. Cloud computing utilizes the same IT building blocks but presents a whole new paradigm. It promises to remove the age old digital divide at a macroscopic level as mobile computing does at the microscopic level. Government of India too has taken a note of it and implemented the ‘Meghraj’ cloud to host both central and state government applications.
In Uttar Pradesh we have already migrated a couple of our applications on the cloud. All the district websites are hosted in a cloud environment and the centralized ‘Bhulekh’ application for Land Records has also been migrated to cloud. Bhulekh is incidentally the first centralized land records solution in India on cloud. Very soon majority of the applications will be hosted either on the state or central cloud.
The other critical component is Security – the growth of e-Governance has led to unintended security implications, cyber threats and the risk of losing critical public information and citizen data. One of the prime concerns for the future of e-Governance or m-Governance in the state is the security of information infrastructure. Even the citizen centric services being provided through Internet and mobile are vulnerable to a variety of advanced threats and need to be addressed with a foolproof security mechanisms.
As far as ERP, SCM and CRM are concerned; I think readymade ERP might not completely suffice for the e-Governance applications. However, a customized ERP can make the difference. We are already using SCM in the Food & Civil Supplies Department to manage the entire food grain movement from the FCI Godowns to the Fair Price Shops and ultimately consumers and it has the potential to improve quality of service in a significant manner. NIC has also used CRM in the National Animal Disease Reporting System (NADRS) for data collection, sampling and diagnostics. A very interesting example was recently in news in Lucknow when the CRM based NADRS system showed that the animals from a particular district in UP had contracted a life-threatening disease when they had been taken to another state for some routine business purpose. All these three systems when deployed after some process re-engineering will definitely help the growth of e-Governance and m-Governance in the state.
Talking of IT infrastructure, connectivity needs to be strengthened at the village and grassroots level to extend the service to the common citizen right at his/her doorstep. The state government is in process of providing handheld devices to field-level officers to remain connected to the web based applications and reduce delays in government service offering.
Do you see a need for faster adoption of SMAC (Social Media, Mobility, Analytics and Cloud) technologies to speedily deliver desired outcomes from the state’s G2C, G2B and other large scale e-Gov programmes?
Leave aside India and Uttar Pradesh, SMAC has basically revolutionized the way computing is done across the world. It has also re-defined the way citizens and consumers interact with government and businesses in India. I strongly believe that SMAC will be a potent and leading business-technology enabler of the next decade especially in the area of government services.
Even during the implementation of e-Governance solutions in the state we observed that the SMEs play a crucial role in the socio-economic growth of the state, they provide employment and business avenues in rural areas and have to be properly engaged for delivering services at the field level. However, SMEs have very limited resources as they can only invest in very essentials of their business. They need the best support and resources to be competitive; it is here that SMAC extends huge opportunity. The increased popularity of social media, rapid innovations in areas of Mobile Analytics and Cloud make technology adoption easier, simpler and cheaper for SMEs.
The other major stake holder of e-Governance in rural areas which will really benefit from SMAC is the VLE (Village Level Entrepreneur). Like SMEs they too have limited or rather minimal resources and they can take the advantage of SMAC to enhance and expand their businesses. In Uttar Pradesh we have 38,000 Common Service Centres (both SCA supported and CSC SPV – TRIVENI) delivering service to the citizens. All these CSCs are basically VLEs extending the reach of the government to the village level.
The need of the hour is for SMEs and VLEs to take the lead in adopting SMAC and make it an integral part of their business and service delivery strategies.
How does Uttar Pradesh state NIC deal with the issue of technological obsolescence/fast-paced changes in technology? Specifically, how do you keep your technical staff updated in the latest skill-sets?
NIC is constantly upgrading the skill-sets of its employees through various technical training programmes that keep them abreast with the latest technologies and innovations happening in the IT world. Technical sessions are organized in collaboration with the leading technology partners to discuss various aspects of the solutions being designed and ways and means to fine-tune the applications.
NIC Headquarters and other Technical Centres like Software Development Centre in Pune, Open Source Technology Centre in Chennai and some premier institutes like IIMs, NIFM (National Institute of Financial Management), Faridabad and few more conduct regular Management & Train-the-Trainer programmes for NIC employees, both on technology and specific projects. The master trainers in turn conduct training sessions for all the employees and on a variety of subjects.
Another mode of technology sharing in NIC is the videoconferencing setup available in all the districts. This mode is extensively used to share technology with the industry experts, major IT companies and global IT giants. It is also used for sharing guidelines on security, network, data centre practices extra. Videoconferencing has been very effective in taking the technology to the field level employees of NIC as they are the guiding force behind deployment and usage of IT in the districts.
How do you implement change management/staff training once programme SLAs have been approved and signed off by the executive head (Minister/Secretary) of a user department?
Coordination and constant interaction with the user department/ministry is the key to manage the SLAs in the Government Sector. Most of the projects being done by NIC need hand-holding at the state head quarter and also the district and sub-district level. Here the core strength of NIC comes into picture that lies in its reach up to the district level. The advantage of having technology experts at the district level and resources to undertake implementation support, training and change management at the field level is a big plus as it not only helps the cause but also pays rich dividends in terms of handling SLAs.
Another effective tool to carry out user training programmes at the field level are the NICNET and SWAN Centres operational in all the tehsils and blocks of the state. With 885 PoPs (Point of Presence) UPSWAN is one of the largest government owned network in the country and it has helped the government in managing SLAs and run user training programmes at the block level.
In order to reach out to the government staff at the sub-district level, NIC has launched the Panchayat Enterprise Suite which comprises of 12 core components such as Local Government Directory, Priasoft, ActionSoft, National Panchayat Portal, Area Profiler, Plan Plus etc. All these applications provide a tool to the local government staff to access detailed information about their areas. This is a new concept to provide the training and information both at the tips of the government employees at the sub-district rather panchayat level.
A live example of adhering to SLAs with very strict timelines is the implementation of e-Scholarship project in Uttar Pradesh benefiting more than one crore students every year. The entire project that involved multiple departments, data collection and entry in all districts, data cleansing, training on application, was completed in a record time of 3 months with all stakeholders working day-in and day-out at all levels on a war footing. The project highlights the strength of NIC and the clear advantage of it reach at the district level. The project went on to win the NASSCOM Social Innovation Honours award and helped the government in cutting down leakages in the system.
All this provide a cutting edge to NIC and almost all the projects have been successful to adhere to the SLAs due to the constant support from districts and sub-district levels.
Does it help if you engage with a leading vendor with a clearly defined technology roadmap, and able to provide end-to-end solutions and services?
Yes it will definitely help, implementing IT solutions is always a collaborative effort between, government, solution consultants, technology partners, system integrators, businesses (SMEs & VLEs in particular) and participation of the citizens and people. No project can be successful without this collaboration. During the process of implementation of various IT projects in the state we have learned that a clearly defined roadmap and a technology partner with a proven track record always help the successful rollout of the project.
There are two examples here – the first one is e-District, Uttar Pradesh where the technology has helped us in reaching the citizens and providing them online services right at their doorstep. This enablement has been possible due to a clear well defined technology roadmap and support from the technology vendors. In e-District the entire workflow of 26 services including certificates, ration card, pension, employment exchange, application for social welfare schemes has been automated and the digitally signed services are being offered to the citizens over the Internet or through authorized information kiosks. We already have more than 5 crore satisfied citizens and the process is on for increasing the number of services to 90.
The second example is the e-Scholarship project which is again a web based system but the technology enablement has led to a win-win situation for all stake holders including the government. In e-Scholarship, interoperability is introduced which helps the auto verification of data (such as caste, income, domicile details and high school/ Intermediate results) submitted by applicant with the other databases such as eDistrict (for certificates) and result data. This has resulted in a fool proof mechanism to ensure authenticity of the candidate. Further integration with banks, treasury and PFMS has helped the government in weeding out forged or bogus records. The two examples clearly indicate that a well-defined technology roadmap definitely helps in providing end-to-end solutions.
Some successful e-Governance examples
Cloud computing promises to remove the age old digital divide at a macro level, as mobile computing does at the micro/individual level – UP’s ‘Bhulekh’ application for Land Records is the first centralized land records solution in India on cloud
ERP, SCM and CRM
NIC Uttar Pradesh has used CRM in the National Animal Disease Reporting System (NADRS) for data collection, sampling and diagnostics. A very interesting example was recently in the news in Lucknow when the CRM based NADRS system detected that animals from a particular district had contracted a life-threatening disease when they were taken to another state for some routine business purpose.
The major stakeholder of e-Governance in UP rural areas who will benefit from SMAC is the VLE (Village Level Entrepreneur) across 38,000 Common Service Centres (CSCs); like SMEs, these VLEs have limited resources and they can take the advantage of SMAC to enhance and expand their businesses.
A live example of adhering to SLAs with very strict timelines is the implementation of e-Scholarship project in Uttar Pradesh benefiting more than one crore students every year. The entire project that involved multiple departments, data collection and entry in all districts, data cleansing, training on application, was completed in a record time of 3 months with all stakeholders working day-in and day-out at all levels on a war footing.