Public-private participation in e-Governance
Posted by egovindia on June 23, 2006
Public-private participation in e-Governance
What couldn’t be achieved by public and private sector organisations separately is quite doable when they combine their forces to attack e-Governance problems. Chirasrota Jena reports.
e-Governance enhances the efficacy of citizen and government interaction. This has been made possible by public-private sector partnerships leading to the availability of more affordable and rugged PCs to suit operating conditions in the hinterland and deepening Internet penetration. With the realisation of e-Governance projects in India, the time has come to review the role of the public sector as well as private sector to speed up the process of implementation of different projects related to e-Governance.
Government agencies throughout the world are considering and conducting e-Governance initiatives with the help of private players; the scene in India is much the same. The development of network-based distributed systems that serve numerous and diverse constituents and improve the overall efficiency and functioning of government is a priority. Considering these requirements, private players such as IT vendors are extending their overall support to realise e-Governance projects for Indian citizens. Not just the central government, state governments are also actively participating in these projects. Today, most states in the country have drafted state-specific IT policies that are in various stages of implementation. The central government has also taken several initiatives to advance ICT usage across all government bodies as this will benefit the common man. These include the roll-out of the National eGovernance Plan (NeGP), the launch of Mission 2007, and the formation of e-Panchayats across the country.
The three Ps
As far as the e-Governance initiatives are concerned, the three Ps—Public-Private Partnership—say it all. This model requires less investment from the government.
States R Chandrashekhar, Joint Secretary, Department of Information Technology, Government of India, “We welcome private participation in fulfilling the e-Governance initiatives of the Government of India. But this participation can only happen at the front-end level since the government is handling all the back-end work. For example, in the case of ICT kiosks, any private party can do the setting-up of a kiosk, but to run that kiosk the government will provide all support.”
If we have a closer look at the various projects already implemented in India, as well as those at the pilot stage, then we get a clear idea of the PPP model. Some of the IT companies that have taken a pioneering role in e-Governance projects include Microsoft, Sun, IBM, TCS, HCL Infosystems and Adobe.
"Our e-Governance vision is to enable governments to lead the information society by leveraging information technology for delivering effective citizen-centric services"
– Rohit Kumar, Country Head, Public Sector, Microsoft India
Microsoft is working with 14 state governments in various projects across the country. Says Rohit Kumar, Country Head, Public Sector, Microsoft India, “Our e-Governance vision is to enable the public sector and governments to lead the information society by leveraging information technology for delivering effective citizen-centric services and ushering in a more participative and transparent form of governance. The public-private partnership is very important in the successful implementation of e-Governance projects.”
"Our Flash and Adobe readers, along with collaborative features, are freely downloadable so that ICT kiosks can provide an engaging experience for the user"
– S Angiah,, Business Development Manager,., India & SAARC,, Adobe Systems
According to S Angiah, Business Development Manager, India and SAARC, Adobe Systems, “Adobe has a unique advantage in the PPP model. More often than not, Adobe directly handles the pilot projects for the identified government department. We along with the particular government department then freeze the out-based project, after which it is the government that floats the tender seeking other vendors to bid, operate, transfer or own. Adobe’s value proposition is unique and very visible after the projects are undertaken.”
Projects powered by this model
There are various projects that have already been implemented by the Government of India and various state governments in association with private players. Notable ones are the Bhoomi project of the Karnataka state government, Community
Information Centres in the north-eastern states, AP Online, Kalyan Damodar Valley Project, CDFD Medical Bioinformatics Centre for Excellence in Hyderabad, and the Common Service Centres (CSCs). Chandrashekhar informs, “A lot of progress has been made in the area of e-procurement. This will again be an example of the PPP model in action. It will be a unique project, as well as large. This project requires a great deal of participation and the involvement of different ministries and departments. Things are moving forward in this initiative. The Central Vigilance Committee has recommended this project for bigger organisations and PSUs. In fact, online tenders are now a reality. Soon, entire government tenders will be available online.”
The SharePoint Portal Solution is poised to play a pivotal role in keeping with the e-Governance vision for greater transparency in public affairs and being local-language-enabled, since state governments are required to communicate with citizens in local languages. Kumar says that in the recent past Microsoft has witnessed great demand from government agencies across India to develop solutions that enable effective communication between elected governments and the public.
Some important projects in the pipeline are SUNKalp by Sun Microsystems, MCA-21 of the Ministry of Company Affairs (along with TCS), and the eCOP project of the Andhra Pradesh (AP) government (along with Sun). MCA-21 is the largest e-governance initiative by the Ministry of Company Affairs, and a mission project under the Government of India’s NeGP was formally launched on a pilot basis with a comprehensive online portal to enable e-filing. HCL Infosystems, as a single-window infrastructure provider, has participated in a number of e-Governance projects providing direct support infrastructure at 300 locations.
Elaborates Jaijit Bhattacharya, Country Director, Government Strategy, Sun Microsystems, “Though we have not participated in the MCA-21 projects, we are working on various e-Governance projects both with the central as well as state governments. Sun is helping AP build better police services with a state-wide data access network. As part of the Vision 2020 programme, eCOPS is an e-Governance initiative that empowers the law enforcement services of AP with real-time and seamless data flow. The focus of eCOPS is the computerisation of investigation activities and administration and support services across the state.” Sun is also working with the Haryana Government wherein its office productivity suite, StarOffice 7, will be adopted across the state government’s departments.”
The ICT kiosk project is at an advanced stage. Almost all private players are interested in participating in the ICT kiosk projects. Microsoft has already established 1,500 kiosks in rural areas in the last 18 months. “All ICT kiosks need a rich user interface. Our Flash and Adobe readers, along with collaborative features, are freely downloadable so that ICT kiosks can provide an engaging experience for the user,” comments Angiah.
Adds Sudhir Narang, Senior VP, Service Provider and Government, Cisco Systems India and SAARC, “As a part of the $5 million investment to support the NeGP, Cisco will establish CSCs in 100 villages in India. These will provide citizens online access to government services in rural areas. We will also establish Cisco Networking Academies (CNAs) to help address the shortfall of networking professionals in the country. To date there are 131 CNAs across 21 states and one union territory.”
Meanwhile, IBM provides service providers with citizen solutions that are based on open standards. It also works closely with NIC, CDAC and state nodal agencies to provide Web-based solutions in agriculture, panchayati raj, taxation and health to realise the concept of ICT kiosks. “In this project our goal is to establish 100,000 ICT kiosks covering India. Rural areas will be given higher consideration. In other words, one out of every six villages will have ICT kiosks. The implementation strategy of this initiative will be completely dependent on PPP. We plan to take on this project through block-wise coverage,” informs Chandrashekhar.
When it comes to e-Governance projects, better cooperation is the need of the day both from public as well as private players. Says Narang, “Cisco is proud to collaborate with the Indian government in its endeavor to e-enable the country, which is an important step as India moves into the next phase of economic growth. From an implementation perspective, the response has been positive and reflects the government’s commitment.”
Many vendors spoke about the positive response they are getting from the different government departments with which they are working. Explains George Paul, Executive Vice-president, HCL Infosystems, “Unlike the common perception, we find that there are very dynamic and positive-spirited government officers with the vision and enthusiasm to implement e-governance in all aspects of their operations. We have seen them effectively adapt to these changes. The policy of the government is to invite participation both from the public and private sector—whoever is an expert in their respective fields.”
IBM has been working very closely with the central and state governments on many strategic projects that pertain to the complete range of e-governance solutions and requirements such as citizen-centric applications, business process re-engineered solutions, and enterprise computing. Observes Satish Kaushal, Country Manager, Government, Software Group, IBM India: “All IBM solutions are built on government needs, and are based on open standards and inter-operable platforms.”
However, the complex nature of our governance process as well as the unnecessary interference of some groups of people is creating problems for private players during the implementation of the projects. Opines Bhattacharya: “There is a need for further legislation for the smooth functioning as well as implementation of these projects. Banking facilities should be extended to each and every corner of the country. The Government of India is providing all-round support to private players like us. Affordable access to information infrastructure will play a critical role in India becoming a developed country…the government recognises that, and is committed to it.”
Developing standards is certainly a key component in any continued success. A lot of integration and the involvement of different bodies is required to design these standards. “We are aggressively working on this and have already formed five groups to develop these standards. An apex committee has also been formed at the Department of Information Technology. But we see that there is a long road ahead of us. All the projects have different concerns, and focus of their own. Example: some e-Gov projects have been initiated where storage is a top priority, while others have security as a major concern to address. Thus, each and every project is going to have its own strategy,” notes Chandrashekhar. Adds Kaushal, “The scale and complexity of solutions, and different states having different standards, are creating challenges for private players while working on these projects.”
According to Paul of HCL, “Every e-Governance roll-out is a learning opportunity. We go with a pre-conceived idea about the use of computers in metros, but the real world is quite different. Also, it is very encouraging to see the difference that these projects are able to make to the lives of people. Regional language computing is one of the challenges we face, but going forward the use of Unicode and multi-lingual software should be able to address these challenges effectively.”
The Indian government is taking greater cognisance of the benefits of technology across all government functions and state machinery. Over a period of time this pace of ICT adoption will increase exponentially and drive greater benefits to the common man. The full-fledged participation of governments as well as private players will definitely bring success to the various missions announced by different governments.