For the first time since independence, we are seeing that the central
government and a few state governments are driving governance with a coherent
strategy based on their election promises and socio-economic agenda. That is not
to say that the earlier governments or politicians did not try to implement
their promises; but in most cases, they were isolated and disjointed, if not
insincere. As a result, many well-intentioned plans failed. And the electorate
never really distinguished between lack of success in execution and lack of
intention. The positives of a coherent strategy are that it is efficient on the
resources and the progress is easier to measure centrally.
Now, once you have a coherent strategylike the objective of an inclusive
growth in case of the UPA government at the centerthe next step is to try to be
more effective, build accountability and be resource-efficient. No marks for
guessing what could help. Yes, the role of IT could change from being a supplier
to that of a partner, as has happened in many leading enterprises. What it means
is that IT should not come after everything has been planned; it should come
right at the beginning.
The governmentat least at the centeris slowly recognizing this fact. The
decision to rope in Nandan Nilekani to head the UID Authority was primarily
meant for achieving this objective. And, he has shown that he means business. A
by-product, probably, was a positive publicity and momentum.
Another small but important step that the government has taken comes as part
of the budget speech of the finance minister wherein he announced the setting up
of a Technology Advisory Group for Unique Projects (TAGUP) for all unique
projects of the government with Nilekani as the head. While this does indicate
that the government has realized the value of interweaving technology with
planningand that is a great piece of newsthis approach is still project to
What we need is converting this to a process in the overall governance
scheme. It may still need special thrust for some projects, but they must roll
back to a coherent technology strategy for governance. At this point, it may be
a good thing to try at all levels, but is an absolute must at the central level.
Informationits collection, processing, dissemination and decisions based on
those informationis of utmost importance at this point. In a country whose
scale is next only to China and diversity is next to none, that is a mammoth
The answer could lie in appointing a high powered federal CIO who could drive
that agenda for the government. Let me clarify. I am not suggesting a US like
federal CIO and a federal CTO. The appointment of the latter is a tactical issue
now, and may be one of the different possible paths available; but a federal CIO
is a must.
Today, in governance like in many enterprises, there is no difference between
the demand and supply side of IT. NIC, by and large, plays that role. And, it
has done a great job in many cases.
But, NIC was formed at a time when governance was very different and the
approach to technology was that of a supplier-buyer and not of a partner. But,
NIC has got the ability to change and it should be reoriented a bit. But unlike
today, where many ministries do not take ownership of their tech plans and leave
it to the NIC, a small, internal team of the government should drive the agenda.
That should be the CIOs office. Whether it should be a separate department or
be part of the PMs office is open for debate.
The author is Editor of Dataquest.