‘We hope to drastically change the way the government functions’



Implementing projects like Akshaya, Friends, Computerization
of Local Self Government bodies, Citizen Call Centers, e-Payment facility, e-Krishi
etc established Kerala as one of the leading e-governed states. In an interview
with Urvashi Kaul of Dataquest, Kerala’s special secretary, K R Jyothilaltalks
about how the state is gearing up to launch more projects under the framework of
the National e-Governance Plan (NeGP). Excerpts:

With the Akshaya project, Kerala, has earned a unique
distinction as the first state to start a drive to become a 100% information
technology literate village. How far has it been able to achieve its target?
The Akshaya project was implemented with a long-term vision to provide
citizen access points at the lowest tiers of society, though e-literacy is not
the end result of Akshaya. Around 1,800 Akshaya centers spread across eight
districts of the state have made significant impacts on their future. We have
set our target to roll out the most sought after citizen services through
Akshaya centers. e-Payment facility also offers a bouquet of services to the
citizens. We plan to roll out more services and also services in the private
sector through the Akshaya network.

After implementing some of the other e-Gov projects like
Friends, Computerization of Local self government bodies, Citizen call centers,
e-Payment facility, e-Krishi, etc, which other projects are on the way?
We plan to implement new projects under the framework of the National
e-Governance Plan (NeGP). We are planning to roll out all new services through
the channel, which has penetrated to the Panchayat level.

Our approach towards e-governance is two-pronged. First shall be
the rollout of all the successful e-Governance projects mentioned above and
second implementing new projects through the existing network. All government
departments shall be prompted to make at least 20% of their G2C services online
every year. Similarly, we have plans to set up a Citizens Complaint Registration
Cell, so that the citizens can track the status of their complaints through the
existing facility of the call center.

To integrate all the planning activities we have an ambitious
plan to set up a GIS repository. We have also charted out a program to create
awareness against cyber crimes. Another key initiative focused on the
traditional sector is the e-Krishi project, implemented with financial
assistance from UNDP.

What are the various initiatives launched under e-Krishi?
e-Krishi aims to establish a connected farmers community throughout Kerala
which will have access to information on market demand, prices, good
agricultural practices, and quality agricultural inputs supported by a
technology enabled robust transaction platform that facilitates all their
offline activities.

Till date we have established a network of 7,500 farmers in the
Malappuram district and more than 10,000 farmers and buyers registered in the e-Krishi
portal for selling and buying produces.

As of now, the project has developed linkages with agricultural
institutions, krishi bhavans, agroclinic centers, krishi vinjana kendrams, soil
testing lab, seed farms, agricultural industries corporation, agri related
centers, agricultural banks, directorate of marketing (Agmarknet), agricultural
organizations, NIC, Kudumbasree unit etc. Integration with KISSAN and VUAT
portals has also been established.

We have another portal providing trade related information
connected with WTO is VUAT KERALA portal maintained by the Virtual University
for agricultural Trade attached to the Kerala Agricultural University.

What are the success parameters of the e-Governance projects the
state undertook?
Ever since the launch of the Friends project, the collection received
through Friends centers has crossed Rs 250 crore. The Citizen Call Center, which
attends to an average of around 5,000 calls per month is showing a positive
growth trend. There are a few other initiatives, which have gained substantial
citizen satisfaction; Smart Move of Motor Vehicles department, Pearl of
Registration department, initiatives of Commercial Taxes Department and Land
Records computerization projects have made substantial progress.

What are the targets Kerala has set to achieve during the year?
We want to automate all important process modules of government departments
in the coming year. The DC Suite package, by which Palakkad became the first
computerized district headquarters is being replicated in the remaining 13
districts. A customized version of DC Suite, named MESSAGE, is now implemented
in government secretariat.

Another ambitious program to automate the personnel and payroll
functions is also being implemented across all government departments in the
state. The project named SAPRK has made substantial impact on the way in which
conventional establishment and payroll functions are being handled in
departments.

Ever since
the launch of the Friends project, the collection received through Friends
centers has crossed Rs 250 crore

Digitization of around 5.5 lakh service records of government
employees is a tedious task, but with a structured implementation plan and an
efficient monitoring mechanism, with total ownership of the departments we don’t
think that it is a distant dream. Integration with Treasuries and Accountant
General’s Office is also envisaged as part of the project.

What is the strategy drawn to implement various projects?
We plan to implement e-Governance projects under the framework of NeGP. We
have chalked out a phased strategy for completion of the core and priority
projects. Apart from the 10 mission mode projects, the state has identified 11
important departments where the e-Governance projects are to be implemented on a
mission mode basis.

You have already implemented a State Information Infrastructure
project. What is the progress on SWAN?
The state government is undertaking Kerala State Wide Area Network with
financial support from the Government of India.

The project will be implemented on BOOT Model over a period of
five years. As per plan, the Network Operating Centers at the district level
will be completed within five months from the date of signing. Also, the Network
Operating Centers at all block HODs will be completed within nine months from
the date of signing the BOOT Agreement. Also, 1,660 government offices at the
district and block level will be provided connectivity as part of Kerala SWAN.

What are some of the roadblocks and challenges that Kerala needs
to overcome over the next few years?

Kerala state envisages to be a complete e-state in all respect in the coming
years. We expect to build the infrastructure by implementing SWAN up to the
Panchayat level. With the completion of the rollout of Akshaya, we will have
around 3,000 Akshaya centers, penetrating all Panchayats in the state. A massive
plan to impart ICT skills to government staff is also on the anvil. With
simultaneous implementation of these initiatives Kerala aims to achieve the
topmost position in e-Governance implementation among the Indian states.

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