Saturday, February 14, 2009

E-Governance in India

The Government is using Information Technology (IT) to facilitate governance. The IT industry is doing its bit to help as public-private partnerships become the order of the day. The last couple of years have seen e-governance drop roots in India. IT enables the delivery of Government services as it caters to a large base of people across different segments and geographical locations. The effective use of IT services in Government administration can greatly enhance existing efficiencies, drive down communication costs, and increase transparency in the functioning of various departments. It also provides citizens easy access to tangible benefits, be it through simple applications such as online form filling, bill sourcing and payments, or complex applications like distance education and tele-medicine.This is why almost every State has an IT policy in place with the aim of evolving itself from being an IT-aware to an IT-enabled Gvernment.
The citizens’ dream of “anytime, anywhere” Government services could be a reality by 2013 with the Centre deciding to pump in Rs. 20,175 crore for as many as 27 projects for this purpose under its National e-Governance Plan (NeGP) in the next four years. The plan, jointly formulated by the Department of Administrative Reforms and Public Grievances and Department of Information Technology, will cover all kind of services which can be provided to citizens online. While 16 projects worth Rs. 10,622 crore have already got the Cabinet’s nod, the remaining ones will be unveiled in due course. Resources will be mobilised from private sector as well. These projects to be implemented in a phased manner by the concerned Central and State Ministries or departments—digitisation and delivery.
Services will be delivered through setting up 1,00,000 Common Services Centre (CSC) across the country. The CSC scheme has been approved at a total cost of Rs. 5,742 crore over four years.
Once implemented, the citizens will have all the services—land records, ration cards, immigration details, vehicle registration, public grievances, government certificates, traffic challans and registration of criminal cases—available on touch-screen computers or online on their computers.
Role of IT
IT has a vital role to play in all transactions that the Government undertakes. It helps the government cut red-tapism, avoid corruption, and reach citizens directly. Such initiatives help citizens learn about the various policies, processes and helplines that the Government offers. The Governments of Singapore, Canada and Switzerland have implemented such portals, and set the benchmarks in this regard. With the help of IT, the Government can process citizen to government transactions such as the filing of tax returns, death and birth registration, land records, etc.
A strong technology infrastructure can help central and state governments deliver a comprehensive set of services to citizens. Microsoft is working with several state governments to help evolve a long-term technology blueprint for IT infrastructure. It is working with various departments of the Central Government, and has undertaken several projects and initiatives with state governments as well.
Government Initiatives
The NeGP reflects the strategic intent of the central government in the right perspective. Many projects are earmarked under this plan, and it is trying to address the digital divide.
From a political perspective, after watching the performance of some IT-savvy states in the recent elections, the system has woken up to the need to focus more on rural development. The political systems are keener to use IT to disseminate information faster to farmers, disburse loans, improve education and the health systems in villages, etc. There is a clear-cut incentive to do it as 60 per cent of the vote-bank still lives in rural India.
In future, education, agriculture, State Wide Area Networks (SWANs) and Community Information Centre projects will be rolled out backed by a strong PPP model to achieve long-term sustainability.
Projects with PPP models in these segments can revolutionise the governance experience. In the next couple of years the industry is expected to grow by 22-25 per cent.
E-governance holds advantages for the business community too, playing the role of a catalyst and a channel for e-business, a fact evidenced by developments in the US and Singapore. But perhaps the single-largest benefit of e-governance is its potential to give birth to an entire web-based economy.

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