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"We have less, conventional, IT baggage"

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DQI Bureau
New Update

Two years after it was carved out of the Science &

Technology department, Jharkhand's relatively new IT department has been

working hard at making its presence felt across all government functioning. The

5-year old state, which came out with its IT policy in December 2004 has also

roped in NISG and PwC as consultants for capacity building and e-governance

roadmap. In a discussion with Jasmine Kaur of Dataquest, the state IT Secretary

Ram Sewak Sharma talked about the climb uphill. Excerpts:

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Then formed, any new state has its share of problems and

challenges. Five years into a new administration, what has the journey been like

for Jharkhand's IT department?



In the earlier three years, we were a part of the Science & Technology

department. We separated from the department in June 2003, and it is after that

that the actual work on the IT initiatives accelerated. Isolated efforts on

e-Governance till 2003 gave way to a holistic approach when the IT department

was set up. We came out with our IT policy in December 2004. The policy lays the

vision for the IT sector in Jharkhand and includes the 3 broad objectives of

improving communications and infrastructure, development of human resources, and

effective governance.

Ram

Sewak Sharma,



IT

Secretary, Jharkhand

We have programs charted out to meet these objectives. JharNet,

Internet connectivity across the states, seamless connectivity among various

government organizations, rural telephony, multi-purpose community and service

delivery centers are few of our initiatives for improving communication and

infrastructure. Upgradation of colleges, e-learning, training for government

employees, and computer literacy programs would help upgrade HR resources while

organizing annual IT events with industry associations, introduction of e-mail

and Internet access in all government district offices and computerization of

government departments are our initiatives for 'Effective Governance'.

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What is the status of JharNet?



Ours is the only state which has allocated and started work on the State

Wide Information and Communication Network-JharNet. We are the only state to

have reached so far under the NeGP. We have gone through the entire process of

tendering, vendor selection and signing of agreement. The letter of intent was

sent out two months earlier to United Telecom, which is going to work on a

Build, Own, Operate, Transfer (BOOT) mode along with the government.

Since Jharkhand does not have a legacy when it comes to

e-governance, which services will run on the networks?



The applications will include video, voice and data, being available for

interconnection of both GtoG and GtoC. GtoC services will be made available at

both the block and panchayat level. Wireless networking would connect the blocks

to the panchayats and would deliver citizen services-registration of

documents, birth and death, ration cards, consumer courts, employment exchange,

welfare schemes, rural development and grievance-through the citizen service

centers or computers operated by Panchayats. As of now, all our 11 offices in

Ranchi are interconnected through a high-speed network.

Which e-Governance applications have you already rolled, and

which are in the offing?



We have already implemented computerization projects for the treasury,

transport, employment exchange, tender information system, commercial taxes and

municipal taxes on our existing networks. Most of our current applications are

on Dial-up networking.

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Computerization of the Transport Department has facilitated

online payment of motor vehicle taxes, issue of driving licenses, issue of

permits for goods and passenger vehicles and better and more frequent passenger

services on our roads. The land registration project is presently running as a

pilot in Ranchi for the past 6 months and is due to be replicated soon. We have

always believed in initially rolling out pilot projects, identifying and

resolving issues before rolling them out on a wider scale.

Other projects underway include establishment of modern Security

and authentication systems for jails, video conferencing for courts, GIS

applications, digitization of cadastral maps, NRIS and Urban Utility Information

Systems in another 8 months. Other major applications due for roll out in

another couple of years include Tele-education and delivery of healthcare

through tele-medicine.

That is a huge number of projects you're working on; are

these being developed in-house? How are you levying Intellectual Property

available from other states?



While some applications have been developed in-house, NIC and consultants

are developing some others. With NeGP we are developing capacity at the state

level. We have hired PrincewaterhouseCoopers and National Institute of Smart

Government as consultants for helping us in capacity building and chalking out

our e-Governance roadmap. Our IT and capacity building roadmap should be ready

in two months time.

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We are most open to adopting applications, which are available

without any IP issues.

How much is Jharkhand investing in IT?



We have been spending approximately Rs 50 crore yearly, internally, on our

IT projects. From April 2006, there will be an added funding by NeGP to the tune

of Rs 150 crore.

To increase our reach to the remotest of villages, we have

drafted a project wherein the operator would be paid Rs 100 crore over a period

of 5 years, on getting the hubs, nodes, and LANs in place. Bandwidth charges of

Rs 20 crore would also be payable to BSNL over a period of 5 years. This is

after a 74% bulk bandwidth discount from BSNL. The connectivity should be in

place by March 2006 at the block level.

What are the challenges that you have faced with regard to

change in the IT outlook?



Since we started on a clean slate, we have less conventional IT baggage.

However, processes have to change keeping in mind the change that IT brings with

itself. There has been resistance to change from a few quarters, especially in

Business Process Re-engineering. We believe there are other states too facing

the same problem, and that they'll go away with time. Another common problem

is people's disinterest in learning automated procedures. Running computers is

another glitch, given the power problem in villages. To counter this problem the

government is parallely increasing investment in infrastructure. On a department

front, we are backing our systems with solar power and other power backups.

Another issue we are facing is with regard to investment in IT

sector-but things are becoming better with improvement in the investment

climate, and with Jharkhand expanding into services like steel, power and coal.

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