eGovernance in India

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Process Automation based e-governance implementation in core government functioning in Tiruvarur district of TamilNadu. (India)

Posted by egovindia on May 28, 2006

Process Automation based e-governance implementation in core government functioning in Tiruvarur district of TamilNadu. (India)

Tiruvarur district of TamilNadu was declared the Pilot-e-district by the Government of TamilNadu on the 13th June 1999. The largely agrarian district which is located at 350 KMs from Chennai had accomplished near total automation of the field level government functioning in Taluk offices, District Rural Development Agency (DRDA), Collectorate, Block offices, Town Panchayat Office (local body) and Regional Transport Office. Land record administration, rural development scheme administration, student scholarship administration, public grievances handling, HR administration, Social welfare scheme administration such as National Old Age Pension Scheme, Distress Relief Scheme, Accident Relief Scheme, marriage assistance scheme, Agriculture labourers’ Insurance scheme, etc were migrated to manual register free status, thus removing hurdles in getting citizen service delivery. Under the title ‘Power of e-governance’ the district conducted 8 outdoor camps in different places where the Taluk office functioning was held in Marriage halls proving a point that the district could run government offices literally anywhere, without moving any manual registers. Times of India, a leading newspaper in India had rated Tiruvarur as ’20 years ahead of rest of India’.

Executive Summary

Tiruvarur district of TamilNadu State was a new district carved out from Thanjavur and Nagapattinam districts on 1-1-1997. Tiruvarur is a riparian district of the Cauvery delta. Its annual contribution to the paddy production of the state is about 5,50,000 tonnes. Wetland agriculture forms the backbone of Tiruvarur’s economy. Tiruvarur district has over 1.1 million population. Over 80% of the population lives in villages. UNDP had classified Tiruvarur district under ‘highly disaster prone’ list. Cyclones, floods and droughts are a recurring phenomenon there. The literacy level is 68% as per the latest census. The district has very high level of poverty and associated backwardness.
Geographically, Tiruvarur is located at 350 KMs from Chennai. The district has 7 Revenue Taluks and 10 Development Blocks.
Mr.C.Umashankar, an IAS (Indian Administrative Service) officer borne on TamilNadu cadre (1990 batch) took over the reins of the district as its second District Collector on the 11th of February, 1999. On the date of joining the district had only one personal computer. This was kept in a box. With this one PC the pilot e-district commenced its operation during February 1999. In the next two years, the district went through a barrage of e-governance initiatives that resulted in over 85% automation in conventional offices such as Taluk offices, Block offices and District Rural Development Agency (DRDA). From a single personal computer, this backward district reached a level of 311 computers, including 32 servers in 20 different offices.
The district also had ushered in a wi-fi revolution by setting up the first wireless LAN using 802.11b radios, connecting all the 20 offices coming under the district in 14 locations.
Mr.Umashankar left the district on 11th June 2001 on transfer orders.
The Government of TamilNadu declared Tiruvarur district as the pilot-e-district on 13th June 1999 thus paving the way for experimenting various application software tools to automate the government processes aimed at reducing the troubles of the citizens in their interface with the government machinery in their day to day life.
Based on the pilot-e-district announcement, the district went ahead with the setting up of 4 software development centres in the District Collector’s office itself, employing over 30 software professionals for the development of e-governance application software packages. The Collectorate became a virtual software development cum implementation centre.
The pilot-e-district rolled out over 20 e-governance software packages touching various areas of citizen interface with the government. The major beneficiaries were agriculturists, land owners, students, widows, agricultural labourers above 65 years of age, schools, local body population, rural population, below poverty line people benefiting from social welfare schemes such as marriage assistance scheme, pregnant women assistance scheme etc.
The district did not receive any formal commitment of funds from the State budget. In the absence of budgetary support, the District Collector Mr.C.Umashankar floated an Non Profit Organisation named District Welfare Committee which was headed by the District Collector and participated by the people’s representatives. This Non Profit Organisation mobilised funds from various sources to the tune of Rs.25 million and implemented the e-governance programme.
The IPRs of the application software packages are owned by the Government thus giving scope for the Governments to adopt the packages in their respective areas of governance.
By the end of the 2nd year of commencing the e-governance initiatives, the district reached a very high level of e-governance thus enabling citizen services online in the Revenue and rural development areas almost to the tune of 85-90%. It is important to understand that by automating the Revenue and rural development wings of the district administration, the level of citizen services, especially the common man reaches an automatic level of over 70%.
Because these two departments generally pose a major challenge to the citizens in their interaction with the bureaucracy for getting the necessary government services. The level of corruption and inhuman treatment by the bureaucracy pose a challenge to anyone who wishes to aim for better G to C services. What happened in Tiruvarur district sounds almost unbelievable, yet it is true that the Taluk office services were dispensed through 8 online camps during the period between 30th September 2000 and 11th February, 2001. These online e-governance camps were held in public buildings such as Marriage halls where the servers of the Taluk offices were moved to provide online and on the spot services. The entire online service was provided under the public glare, without using any manual registers. These camps introduced one vital phase in Indian e-governance experiment that conventional government offices can indeed be run without paper based registers. Tiruvarur had set a trend to the rest of India by making the electronic records as the first source of government records and every other record, including manual records, if any, were made secondary records (of reference) only.
Technically speaking, Tiruvarur had no precedence to follow. It had to lay down its own path. And when it created a new path, it made it right. Tiruvarur introduced a novel concept in workflow engine suiting the requirements of Indian bureaucracy. The workflow engine ensured total accountability on the users and reliability of the database created. The result was that the users took complete ownership of the records created using the e-governance system. They were ready to switch over to the electronic workflow from the totally manual system due to the tight yet transparent workflow engine.
Tiruvarur also introduced two new concepts viz., intranet digital signature for the intranet operations and a transaction based disaster recovery engine. The transaction based disaster recovery engine was conceived by the District Collector Mr.C.Umashankar which enabled the e-governance system from all types of disasters, man made or otherwise. This design got the Government of India merit citation award during 2003.
The speciality of Tiruvarur’s experiment lies in the following:
1. The entire technical and functional areas of Tiruvarur e-governance initiative were headed by the District Collector Mr.C.Umashankar who had no technical qualification to carry out the IT work. Mr.C.Umashankar handled the front end and back end design of each and every e-governance package, its security features such as intranet digital signature and disaster recovery design and he also validated the packages.
2. It became a successful experiment in large number of areas such as land record administration, rural development administration, social welfare scheme administration, civil supplies administration, scholarship administration, driving licence issue/ vehicle registration administration, grievance redressal mechanism, issue of various certificates in Taluk offices, HR administration including payroll processing and so on.
3. It was fully accepted by the users (Government servants), citizens and peoples’ representatives.
4. It has a built in bilingual database interface. The vernacular language support with English as an add on language option proved to be an important trigger for the success of the experiment.
5. Whoever worked with pen and paper earlier was migrated to the paperless electronic workflow, thus paving the way for near paperless office administration. The level of back end automation was over 85% in the offices where the e-governance packages were implemented. The total number of users in Revenue department exceeded 750 and in rural development administration and Collectorate the number exceeded 175. The coverage is roughly 90% of the ministerial staff of the district. Each one had his/her own userID and password to operate the system. It could be a surprise that none of these officials had ever touched a computer before the e-district experiment began.
6. Tiruvarur introduced campaign based e-governance services whereby the Taluk office servers were moved out and kept in public places such as marriage halls and citizens were given services online. It is a case of government going to the citizens to provide services online instead of the other way round.
7. Tiruvarur’s efforts were wholly funded from local resources. All the people’s representatives, irrespective of political party affiliation contributed liberally for the e-governance experiment.
8. Tiruvarur introduced 802.11b based wireless LAN to connect all the offices coming under the direct control of the district administration during April 2001.
9. The training and motivation of the entire government machinery was handled locally using local resources. It may be surprising, yet true that the 32 and odd servers barring the three Collectorate servers were being manned by these non technical government officials who had been trained to carry out software administration cum system administration (limited to server operation).

Five years after commencement of the operations, Tiruvarur district transacts is businesses online till date (October 2004). The users (government staff) own these operations as on date. They do not require the champion to keep the services going. 

Tiruvarur e-Governance Project
Transformation of the India's first e-district by tech. savvy I.A.S. officer Mr. Umashankar.    View  case file>>   GO HERE and check it out.


One Response to “Process Automation based e-governance implementation in core government functioning in Tiruvarur district of TamilNadu. (India)”

  1. bazgate said

    Hi all,

    Visit new Thiruvarur web site

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