eGovernance in India

Improving eGovernance in INDIA

E-GOVERNANCE: 20 Hot eGov Projects in India Wednesday, October 15, 2003 [just to recap memories for some and for some it is new]

Posted by egovindia on July 16, 2006

E-GOVERNANCE: 20 Hot eGov Projects in India Wednesday, October 15, 2003

http://www.dqindia.com/content/top_stories/103101501.asp

 

 

The ubiquitous mouse has a special place in the Indian psyche. It is revered as the vehicle of Lord Ganesha—the remover of all obstacles. Today, in the arena of governance, its Pentium-powered avatar reigns supreme in the hands of an increasingly e-literate janata

One click is deemed good enough to cut the much-dreaded Indian red-tape to shreds. Another one takes the wind out of all those touts hanging around public offices. Public accountability and responsive services seem suddenly just a blip way. Welcome to the transforming potential of eGovernance…

The term eGovernance has different connotations:

  • E-administration—The use of ICTs to modernize the state; the creation of data repositories for MIS, computerisation of records.
  • E-services—The emphasis here is to bring the state closer to the citizens. Examples include provision of online services. E-administration and e-services together constitute what is generally termed e-government.
  • eGovernance—The use of IT to improve the ability of government to address the needs of society. It includes the publishing of policy and programme related information to transact with citizens. It extends beyond provision of on-line services and covers the use of IT for strategic planning and reaching development goals of the government.
  • E-democracy—The use of IT to facilitate the ability of all sections of society to participate in the governance of the state. The remit is much broader here with a stated emphasis on transparency, accountability and participation. Examples could include online disclosure policies, online grievance redress forums and e-referendums. Conceptually, more potent.

Global shifts towards increased deployment of IT by governments emerged in the nineties, with the advent of the World Wide Web. What this powerful means to publish multimedia, support hyperlinked information and interactive information meant was a clearer avenue for G to C interactions and the promise of the attainment of the goals of good governance. Governments weighed down by the rising expectations and demands of a highly aware citizenry suddenly began to believe that there can be a new definition of public governance characterized by enhanced efficiency, transparency, accountability and a citizen-orientation in the adoption of IT enabled governance.

Origins in India
E-governance originated in India during the seventies with a focus on in- house government applications in the areas of defence, economic monitoring, planning and the deployment of ICT to manage data intensive functions related to elections, census, tax administration etc. The efforts of the National Informatics Center (NIC) to connect all the district headquarters during the eighties was a watershed. From the early nineties, e-governance has seen the use of IT for wider sectoral applications with policy emphasis on reaching out to rural areas and taking in greater inputs from NGOs and private sector as well. There has been an increasing involvement of international donor agencies such as DfID, G-8, UNDP, WB under the framework of e-governance for development.

While the emphasis has been primarily on automation and computerization, state endeavours to use IT include forays into connectivity, networking, setting up systems for processing information and delivering services. At a micro level, this has ranged from IT automation in individual departments, electronic file handling, access to entitlements, public grievance systems, service delivery for high volume routine transactions such as payment of bills, tax dues to meeting poverty alleviation goals through the promotion of entrepreneurial models and provision of market information. The thrust has varied across initiatives, with some focusing on enabling the citizen-state interface for various government services, and others focusing on bettering livelihoods.

State-wise Teledensity

*As on 31 March 2003

Source: Ministry of Commuications and Inform

State-wise Teledensity

s on 31 March 2003

Source: Ministry of Communicatio

State-wise Teledensity

Teledensity

URBAN  RURAL  TOTAL
Delhi 30.2 0 26.9
Punjab 25.7 4.6 11.6
Kerala 23.7 7.9 11.1
Andaman & Nicobar 15 7.7 9.6
Maharashtra 19.3 2.2 9
Himachal Pradesh 39.6 5.4 8.4
Tamil Nadu 15.2 2.1 7.8
Gujarat 17.8 2.5 7.4
Karnataka 15.8 2.4 6.5
Haryana 16.5 2.3 6.1
Andhra Pradesh 16.5 2 5.6
Uttaranchal 12.6 1.3 4
West Bengal 11.5 0.9 3.7
Rajasthan 11.3 1.3 3.4
Madhya Pradesh 10.2 0.6 2.9
North East 9.2 0.9 2.7
Jammu & Kashmir 8.3 0.5 2.5
Orissa 11.3 0.9 2.2
Uttar Pradesh 8.8 0.6 2.1
Assam 11.5 0.5 1.9
Jharkand 6.1 0.4 1.6
Chattisgarh 5.6 0.4 1.4
Bihar 9.3 0.5 1.3
Total 15.2 1.5 5
*As on 31 March 2003  Source: Ministry of Communications and Information Technology

The eGovernance market

The Economic Times recently reported that the government in India is emerging as the fourth largest vertical spender on information technology after the telecom, manufacturing and banking and finance industries. According to Gartner estimates, the Indian government has spent around 1 billion USD on information technology in 2002. This includes the expenditure of the Central and state governments on hardware, software, telecommunication equipment, telecommunication services, and IT services, but excludes salary costs of IT staff. In fact, the government accounted for 9 per cent of the total IT spend in India for the year 2002, and in five years that is estimated to go up to 15 per cent. Though e-government is still in its infancy, over 20 states/union territories already have an IT policy in place. In terms of basic computerization, police departments, treasury, land records, irrigation and justice are seen as having the maximum potential.

Nasscom estimates that in the next five years, state governments in India will spend close to Rs. 15,000 crores on computerising their operations. The pressure to be IT-savvy is not only to keep with times, but comes from a more pragmatic dimension; loans to governments from multilaterals have now become more or less contingent upon a proper treasury management system which translates into a computerised system that will tell lending institutions what has happened to the money that it has lent. Currently, India’s manual treasury systems don’t permit this with the kind of transparency required.

For governments, the more overt motivation to shift from manual processes to IT-enabled processes may be increased efficiency in administration and service delivery, but this shift can be conceived as a worthwhile investment with potential for returns. As is evident in the celebrated case of Saukaryam (Vishakapatnam, AP), computerization and more efficient back-end processes can actually imply revenues for governments. Saukaryam is self-sustaining and does not require government funding. More importantly, the real spin-off is in the enhanced image of the government as being citizen-friendly.

Some E-governance Initiatives

Some E-governance Initiatives
State/Union Territory Initiatives covering departmental automation, user charge collection, delivery of policy/programme information and delivery of entitlements

Andhra Pradesh e-Seva, CARD, VOICE, MPHS, FAST, e-Cops, AP online—One-stop-shop on the Internet, Saukaryam, Online Transaction processing
Bihar Sales Tax Administration Management Information
Chattisgarh Chhattisgarh Infotech Promotion Society, Treasury office, e-linking project
Delhi Automatic Vehicle Tracking System, Computerisation of website of RCS office, Electronic Clearance System, Management Information System for Education etc
Goa Dharani Project
Gujarat Mahiti Shakti, request for Government documents online, Form book online, G R book online, census online, tender notice.
Haryana Nai Disha
Himachal Pradesh Lok Mitra
Karnataka Bhoomi, Khajane, Kaveri
Kerala e-Srinkhala, RDNet, Fast, Reliable, Instant, Efficient Network for the Disbursement of Services (FRIENDS)
Madhya Pradesh
Gyandoot, Gram Sampark, Smart Card in Transport Department, Computerization MP State Agricultural Marketing Board (Mandi Board) etc
Maharashtra SETU, Online Complaint Management System—Mumbai
Rajasthan Jan Mitra, RajSWIFT, Lokmitra, RajNIDHI
Tamil Nadu Rasi Maiyams–Kanchipuram; Application forms related to public utility, tender notices and display
North-Eastern States
Arunachal Pradesh, Community Information Center. Forms available on
Manipur, Meghalaya,  the Meghalaya website under schemes related to
Mizoram & Nagaland social welfare, food civil supplies and consumer affairs, housing transport etc.
Even as e-governance signifies a business opportunity for industry and a strategy for the government, from a citizen perspective, there exists an overarching concern. Not how much can be spent, but what could be achieved is really the moot point. Setting up MIS may be an important and necessary exercise but very often cost-benefit analysis is not done and public money is used up in avenues that are not meaningful.

A classic example is of buying hardware (like colour laser printers) far in excess of requirements or buying computers without a clear training plan for staff. There are larger implications of the absence of visioning. Without a clear vision, huge investments in the name of e-governance may not really contribute to improve the quality of life of citizens despite huge potential.

MIS systems like DACNET of the Ministry of Agriculture have received flak for being no more than tools to control agricultural development activities rather than act as a facilitative platform for informing multiple stakeholders about how agriculture can be developed in India and supporting them in improving productivity and participating in markets, including global markets.

Without clear vision, huge investments in the name of e-gov may not really contribute to improve the quality of life of citizens, despite there being huge potential in this

How have states in India measured up?
Thanks to e-savvy Chief Ministers like Chandrababu Naidu and S.M. Krishna, e-governance has become the buzzword for political success and the key enabler to facilitate reforms. However, a cursory glance at the e-governance map reveals a highly skewed profile. In benchmarking state initiatives, three independent frameworks of analysis seem possible. These frameworks have been presented as possible ways to look at governments’ progress and are exploratory.

  • Assessing the e-readiness of states
  • Assessing the stated commitment through IT policy and actual application by governments of IT tools toward reaching development goals
  • Applying the lens of good governance – the cornerstones of equity, accountability, transparency, participation, responsiveness, strategic vision, and rule of law – to what is happening on the ground.

E-readiness
The deployment of IT for furthering the priorities and goals of governance is dependent on many factors. There are many constraints on realising the presumed potential uses of IT and these reflect the readiness of governments to appropriate IT for pursuing development. Among the most obvious and critical is the connectivity factor.

State/Union Territory Official Website

State/Union Territory Official Website
Andaman & Nicobar (UT) http://andaman.nic.in/
Andhra Pradesh http://www.aponline.gov.in/apportal/index.asp
Arunachal Pradesh http://arunachalpradesh.nic.in/govt.htm
Assam http://assamgovt.nic.in/
Bihar http://bihar.nic.in/
Chandigarh (UT) http://chandigarh.nic.in/
Chhattisgarh http://chhattisgarh.nic.in/
Dadra & Nagar Haveli (UT) http://goidirectory.nic.in/dadra.htm
Daman & Diu (UT) http://daman.nic.in/
Delhi http://delhigovt.nic.in/newdelhi/index.html
Goa http://goagovt.nic.in/
Gujarat http://www.gujaratindia.com/index.htm
Haryana http://haryana.nic.in/
Himachal Pradesh http://himachal.nic.in/
Jammu & Kashmir http://jammukashmir.nic.in/
Jharkhand http://jharkhand.nic.in/
Karnataka http://www.kar.nic.in/govt
Kerala http://www.kerala.gov.in/
Lakshadweep (UT) http://lakshadweep.nic.in/
Madhya Pradesh http://www.mpgovt.nic.in/
Maharashtra http://www.maharashtra.gov.in/
Manipur http://manipur.nic.in/
Meghalaya http://meghalaya.nic.in/
Mizoram http://mizoram.nic.in/
Nagaland http://nagaland.nic.in/
Orissa http://orissagov.nic.in/
Pondicherry (UT) http://pondicherry.nic.in/
Punjab http://punjabgovt.nic.in/
Rajasthan http://www.rajasthan.gov.in/
Sikkim http://sikkim.nic.in/
Tamil Nadu http://www.tn.gov.in/
Tripura http://tripura.nic.in/
Uttar Pradesh http://www.upgov.nic.in/
Uttaranchal http://www.uttaranchalassembly.org/government.html
West Bengal http://www.wbgov.com/e-gov/IntroJpgNew.htm
Teledensity
About connectivity in India, the following remarks by Prof. C.P. Chandrasekhar, (from the India Country Paper in “Promoting ICT for Human Development in Asia: Realizing the Millennium Development Goals”) is significant to our analysis:

  • Data suggests that India may be on track to realise the required degree of diffusion of tele-communications technology, even if at a slow (but accelerating) pace. Recently released figures indicate that telephone density has touched 5 per 100 inhabitants as on March 31, 2003, compared with only 1.39 at the end of March 1994, when the shift to a new, more liberal telecom policy began. Since then the rate of expansion of connectivity has indeed been rapid, with tele-density touching 2.86 lines per 100 people on March 31. 2000, 3.64 on March 31, 2001, 4.4 on March 31, 2002 and 5 as on March 31, 2003.
  • While this growth in connectivity is expected to substantially increase interactive communication between distant centres, permit improved governance through the more efficient delivery of information and a range of social services in rural areas as well as expand access to the internet and the benefits it can provide, there are some problems with using aggregate tele-density as a measure of the extent of technology diffusion.
    The aggregate figure conceals the low penetration of telecommunications capacity and a high degree of urban and regional concentration. Tele-density in rural India in 1999 was just 0.4 lines per 100 people. Rural tele-density, which crossed one per hundred in 2002, stood at 1.49 in 2003, when urban teledensity was placed at 15.49. Further, inter-regional variations were also substantial. As on March 31, 2003 while total teledensity in the state of Delhi was 26.85, that in Bihar was as low as 1.32 (see Table, State-wise Teledensity).

Besides, the figures also appear to be substantially influenced by the recent growth of the mobile telephony sector. Given that a very large proportion of cellular phone subscribers are those who subscribe to the service in addition to holding a regular landline, the rise in telephone density as a result of an increase in cellular telephone connections can hardly be taken as indicative of the diffusion of telecommunications technology among those who were thus far marginalized from the network.

If we consider Public Call Offices (PCO) related data as a measure of diffusion among the marginalized, the story is rather discouraging. The number of PCOs that could be converted into telecom kiosks or centres with internet connectivity stood at just 10.6 lakh at the end of March 2002. This figure amounted to less than 3 per cent of the total number of DELs in the country. Further, while the population in rural areas amounted to more than 70 per cent of the total, the number of rural DELs worked out to just 23.5 per cent of the total. Finally, despite the government’s efforts to reach a telephone connection to each of India’s 600,000 villages, the total number of village public telephones at the end of March 2002 amounted to 469,000.

These figures are clearly indicative of a digital divide driven by asset and income inequalities, such that there a few at the top who are connected while the majority, preponderantly in rural areas, are marginalized from the communications network.

Internet connectivity
Even if connectivity in the form of a communications link is established, there is no guarantee that this can be viably expanded to connect India’s villages to the world through the internet. Despite its large population, the success of its IT industry and the government’s stated intent of wiring India’s villages, India today lags far being many other developing countries in terms of the bandwidth necessary for people to simultaneously access information flow through the Internet. In 2001, the International Telecommunications Union estimated bandwidth availability in India at 1475 megabits per second (Mbits/sec), as compared with 2639 in Singapore, 5432 in South Korea, 6308 in Hong Kong and 7598 in China.

A composite measure of e-readiness that places e-governance initiatives alongside other IT achievements has been employed by NCAER in a national level survey. The survey rated the states’ performance on six broad parameters – network access, network learning, network policy, network society, e-governance, and network economy.

Even though performance on e-governance is one of the parameters in this survey, one can argue that the effectiveness of e-governance may itself be implicitly dependent on the other parameters constituting e-readiness.

Open Source is taking off because buying and upgrading proprietary software is expensive. It is safer to entrust knowledge in the public domain to Open Source, which is also in the public domain, than to proprietary platforms

The parameters are described below:

  • Network access included indicators such as tele-density, percentage of households with phones and cable TV, cellular phones, number of PCs and Internet connections, average price per hour of Internet use, number of cellular operators, telecom staff per 100 lines, and the number of villages covered under the village public telephone network.
  • Network learning was monitored in terms of percentage of colleges and schools with Internet access and computer labs, universities offering infotech courses, number of websites of schools and colleges, number of registered training centres, percentage of students passing out from ICT courses, percentage of IT-qualified teachers, and percentage of government employees covered under online training programmes.
  • Network policy was evaluated on the governments’ efforts to address issues related to telecom, e-commerce taxation, presence of IT policy, and cyber laws.
  • Under e-governance, the study monitored rural connectivity; IT applications in agriculture, education, and health services; and, computerisation of land records.
  • Network society and economy were measured by the number of online companies, local language websites, and number of households having access to Internet. The number of IT parks, employment in the IT parks, and sales turnover of the companies in the IT parks were also taken into consideration.

The NCAER survey identified Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, and Maharashtra as the leading States in terms of “e-readiness”. It must be mentioned here that the parameters may provide crude proxies to understand the relative performance of states across different IT-related parameters, but nascency in the process of ascribing weightages to the parameters makes ranking a difficult exercise. Also, we must bear in mind that the parameters described cover e-readiness for embracing the IT revolution rather than e-governance per se.

IT Policy and IT initiatives – Taking a human development perspective to look at states

IT polices
This section will take a look at IT policies in the various states and examine them from how governments have conceptualized the use of IT to meet development goals. While it is important to critique failures in implementation, it is equally important to look at statements of intent and identify their lacking. The breadth of vision obviously has a critical role to play in the length of achievement. Interestingly, at least two states – Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh – have redefined their policies, bringing out the second version, in the light of the rapidly changing macro context and to plough back their own learnings. In our analysis of state policies, six areas of focus – agriculture, health, education, local language, welfare of socially disadvantaged groups and e-governance – have been selected to scan through these policies. Some broad observations follow:

  • Agriculture is an area conspicuously absent in policies. Even in a predominantly agrarian state like Haryana, there is no mention of use of IT in agriculture extension.
  • References to the use of IT for health is confined to few policies and even here, there is a lack of clarity on how exactly IT can help the larger goal of health.
  • IT literacy (learning IT) is dealt with in great detail by most governments. However, there is very little reference to the use of IT as a learning tool (learning through IT). Karnataka is one of the few states that has discussed the potential of multi-media applications to promote literacy. Many policies have a narrow emphasis on IT education, focusing on employment in low skilled jobs in data entry, marketing, transcription, call centres, content creation and data processing. Some even look at this as a revenue spinner. Clearly, this is a short-term and narrow perspective.
  • Development of applications in local languages has been promised in many policies, but the depth of perspective on what needs to be done to evolve standards, promote local language content and applications and appropriate hardware, is limited to few states like Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.
  • The use of IT to help the socially disadvantaged, including in terms of promotion of enterprises by socially disadvantaged has received attention from very few states. Even where IT is seen as having potential for empowering women and the economically disadvantaged, like in the case of Karnataka, the vision is operationalised in terms of creating beneficiary data bases to monitor programmes and automating social welfare departments. The emphasis is on managing programmes rather than on empowering people.
  • E-governance is limited mostly to e-services and vision on how IT can help governments to interact, transact and elicit citizen participation in agenda-setting is absent. GIS, which can be a critical tool for mapping resources and requirements is sought to be used in very few states like Andhra Pradesh.

One overall observation is that there seems to be a lack of clarity of vision in conceptualizing and operationalising the power of IT for development. It might be worthwhile for states to revisit their policies a la Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.

In 2001, the ITU estimated bandwidth availability in India at 1.5 Gbps, compared to 2.6 Gbps in Singapore, 5.4 Gbps in S Korea, 6.3 in Hong Kong and 7.6 in China. We have come some way since then, but it’s a long road ahead…

E-governance
Although policies may have lofty goals, much seems to have happened only in automation and computerization. All states and union territories, except Daman and Diu, have a web presence. However, few have progressed to delivering e-services. Even among them, efforts are in pockets. E-seva is perhaps one of the few e-service initiatives that now has a clear roll out plan to cover all municipalities in Andhra Pradesh. Despite these trends, it must be said that while five years ago IT was the handmaiden of few states like Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, today most seem to have jumped on to the bandwagon (see table, Some E-governance Initiatives).

Very few initiatives in India seem to have ventured into the more complex areas that transcend the efficiency and management concerns of governments and put in place programmes addressing quality of life issues. Tremendous possibilities exist in these domains. For example, states can use IT for:

  • Services that increase productivity and income of communities -like Warana, Maharashtra; DISK, Gujarat
  • Agriculture extension/Better returns for produce – like Krishi Marata Vahini, Karnataka
  • Service delivery in health – like the Telemedicine Projects in Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh
  • Service delivery in Education – like Head Start, Madhya Pradesh; Community Learning Centre, Karnataka; Akshaya, Kerala
  • Disaster management – like Flood Management, Bihar; Earthquakes Management, Maharashtra
  • Use of IT based tools for planning and decision making – like the India Health Care project, Rajasthan

Through the lens of good governance The touchstones to assess the various initiatives in e-governance have to essentially come from expectations of good governance. In that sense, the success of e-governance is not about technological marvels; rather, it is about whether and how good governance has been attained through technology. If we were to operationalise the touchstones, it would encompass the dent that IT interventions have made not only on the goals of efficiency and effectiveness, but equity, transparency, accountability, participation, responsiveness, strategic vision and rule of law. Assessing states by these is a research project in its own right and there is no conclusive evidence on relative performance of states. However, we can attempt to look broadly at how states have attempted to address these goals.

Equity
The goal of equity addresses the special responsibility of governments to account for the needs of the marginalized. Many initiatives that reach information about policies and programmes and deliver government documents are attempts to reach entitlements to rural populations. In many contexts, such as in the RASI Maiyams of Kanchipuram and the e-seva initiative in West Godavari, micro-enterprise models for promoting employment through kiosks have focused on socially disadvantaged populations. E-seva runs through self-help groups of women in the villages. The partnership between the Government of Karnataka and the Azim Premji Foundation to establish and run community learning centres in the schools in rural areas, especially in certain backward districts aims at equipping the rural schools with state of the art learning resources driven by IT.
We do not have data on the profile of rural users, and whether socially disadvantaged sections of society enjoy equal access to IT mediated governance initiatives. However, it can be said that governments at this stage have not done enough to look at how IT can address the needs of the poor in general and poor women in particular, towards economic and social empowerment. Such a neglect is also seen in the absence of programmes for the urban poor.

The goal of equity can be operationalised at many levels since the digital divide itself is a story of multiple divides. However, ground-level evidence reflects attention primarily to the urban-rural divide, and inadequate focus to the concerns of the illiterate, of marginal farmers, and women.

Outcomes in terms of equity also have to do with how despite intentions, processes at the grassroots are influenced by context-specific factors and therefore everything from the location of a kiosk, the pricing of government information to cultural barriers to mobility could impact actual access by the marginalized. Also, e-governance efforts may be built willy-nilly on the super-structure of societal inequities, and therefore what you have after IT came in is no different from what existed hitherto.

Constraints that governments face in operationalising equity in their e-governance initiatives is illustrated in the Bhoomi example Central to the Bhoomi project is the computerised system of producing a farmers Record of Rights Tenancy & Crops, an all-important identity paper needed by the farmer to obtain bank loans (for diverse activities ranging from children’s education to buying seeds), settle land disputes and even use as collateral for bail. It is no less than a social ID.

A recent article by Keya Acharya, a development journalist in Bangalore, talks about how the problem with Bhoomi is that the state government did not tackle fraudulent land records that went online in the Bhoomi project. Secondly, unlike the village accountant (corrupt or otherwise) who used to be at the village, the Bhoomi kiosks are located at taluka headquarters, which implies costs in terms of time and money for a poor villager.

Transparency and accountability
Robert Klitggard of RAND has an interesting equation to explain corruption : C = M+D-T. Corruption = Monopoly + Discretion – Transparency. In India, the state holds an absolute monopoly over most of the delivery of basic services. This means that for most of the citizens, there is no exit option available to move from an unresponsive and unreliable provider. This is where e-governance can bring in radical changes. In the Indian case, one can showcase a few pioneering initiatives to underscore the potency of technology to enhance transparency and accountability in matters of governance.

Bangalore City Corporation has recently introduced the Fund Based Accounting System (FBAS) as a strategic management tool. Apart from radically altering the basic financial architecture by generating accurate and timely data, FBAS also loops back the information to the public domain. This highly enabling framework of integrating backend reforms with front-end outreach has virtually galvanized civic participation by applying this credible and open information base to monitor the activities of the local government.

This initiative (called PROOF -Public Record of Operations and Finance) is an advocacy campaign that uses the quarterly statement of the corporation as a tool to take information about the financial performance of the corporation to citizens. It seeks to bring multiple stakeholders together in an exercise to track financial statements of the government, develop performance indicators for different expenditures, and create a space for management discussion. It seeks to ask the basic question, where is the money of the government going and what value are we getting out of the money being spent.

The work of PROOF has enabled questions to be raised about the assets owned by the city corporation, the way in which these assets are being used, and also the examination of whether development expenditure, like in education, is giving value for money.

Another highly enabling application has been in the field of procurement. Bids and tenders for public works are widely perceived to be the fountain-head of corruption in local governments. Saukaryam in Vishakapatnam has addressed this issue by an e-enabled disclosure process of publishing all financial transactions – bidding and auctions, decisions, tenders, procurement etc. through the net into the public domain.

Online Citizen Charters on key services is another example of using the power of ICT to usher in more transparency and accountability. By openly committing to standards and norms, public agencies are now holding themselves to account. And technology has dramatically altered the ease of public access.

However, there a few downsides to this encouraging scenario. In many cases, the government websites seldom get updated and therefore public information is rendered obsolete. The cutting edge of the Internet is its dynamic interface and if that organizing principle is truncated, the relevance of the medium ceases to exist. The problem of the last mile also looms large.

With a highly skewed pattern of teledensity and the highly disabling profile of rural illiteracy, the reach of the Internet remains exclusive and limited. This means that online information put out by governments may not actually be accessed. Also, civil society groups in India are yet to engage with the government on the basis of what is available on the net. Though there are no short cut solutions to these basic problems, a major onus seems to lie upon NGOs to bridge the digital divide by connecting the new information now made available to the voices of the unconnected.

Any new paradigm shift brings with it new risks. The dictum holds good for e-governance too. Some of the unmanaged risks could include misuse of private information bases like land records and demographic profiles, privacy and confidentiality issues arising from the lack of protection to personal identities of the citizens (for example, a potential to sell citizen profiles to corporates for focused marketing). Another unmana-ged risk is the potential for the emergence of new touts—kiosk operators who may overcharge, or middle-men in the procurement of IT hardware and software.

Another unmanaged risk is the potential for the emergence of new touts—kiosk operators who may overcharge, or middlemen in the procurement of IT apps and hardware

Participation and responsiveness
The essence of a true democracy rests upon a healthy contestation of a plurality of views. One undisputed impact of the ICT revolution is the widening of the space for participation and contestation. Space and hierarchy have been virtually decimated by the Internet. This of course, has also meant that traditional power structures have been reoriented and the sarkar-janata relations are showing a shift from a provider-beneficiary mode to facilitator-participant one. How have governments in India responded to this opportunity/crisis?

Gyandoot and Lok Mitra have a facility for citizens to lodge their grievances and there is anecdotal evidence that complaints have been attended to by the authorities. However, these are sporadic successes. A quick study of the existing scenario reveals that states are by and large, not responsive. For example, though many of the key political figures, such as our ministers and MPs and Chief Ministers have published their email addresses, in reality, most do not respond to e- mails.

The Ministry of Agriculture has an interesting project that provides e-extension services through computer kiosks in some Indian states. The success of this endeavour in Ranga Reddy district in Andhra Pradesh is primarily due to the continuous flow of information from officials to women in the community and the responsiveness of the officials to the queries and feedback from communities. The officials use tools such as video-conferencing for regular communication with the project sites.

There are a few cases of citizen-led initiatives that have created the space for people to participate in the democratic process.

The ‘Lok Satta’ internet-based campaign aims to promote probity in the electoral processes. Such Internet based advocacy campaigns have the potential to persuade governments to respond.

It is only when citizens can engage with governments through the new spaces being made available to them can the notion of e-democracy begin to take birth. E-governance must allow for more than interaction. The shift towards e-democracy will be possible only if there is scope for representation – the stage where the space for consultations are legitimized and citizen voices are incorporated into policy formulation and operational modalities; and for influence – when the citizens are accorded right to litigate and directly impact on policy and praxis. However, the possibilities of ICT impacting on the direct representation process to influence policy, which some of the developed countries have been exploring through tools like e-referendums, seem to be quite far away in the Indian context.

The manner in which technology is influencing human development in India seems to be top-down, with elite users, who use the technology to share information and analysis guiding the mobilization of public opinion nationally and internationally to change policy regimes. The more democratic face of the technology, evidenced in the use of technology by the disadvantaged and their participation of in the formulation and implementation of policies, is starkly absent.

Strategic vision
As mentioned in the section analyzing the policy statements of the governments, it is critical that a deployment of IT for e-governance be guided by a well thought-out vision. While there would be several aspects of such a vision, three are highlighted.

Partnerships
Even as it is the responsibility of the government to further the development agenda through e-governance, government alone cannot ensure that ICT plays its designated role in development. There are several stake-holders, many times better positioned than the government to ensure the success of e-governance initiatives.

The government does need to play a key role in providing the basic socio-economic infrastructure, on which the superstructure of IT hardware, software and applications can be plugged by the other players. But it is the private sector that has valuable know-how. The Indian private sector has in fact, gained a leadership position across the globe and is well-positioned to use the expertise gathered to work with the government and further development goals.

NGOs also can bring in their perspectives in promoting equity, transparency and participation goals. They have played and do play a major role in development and have the knowledge, the experience and the grass-roots organization required to induct ICT into existing projects and design projects aimed at utilizing ICT in innovative ways. International donors, with their long track record in supporting development activities, can use their international experiences for scaling up small experiments.

Thus, a range of domestic and international partnerships (public-private, government-CSOs, and private sector-CSOs) are both inevitable and necessary in the area.

The private sector has been playing a key role in many e-governance initiatives. The Governments of Madhya Pradesh and Kerala are talking to Gartner India Research and Advisory Services for consultancy. Gartner has been engaged by the Andhra Pradesh Government for more than four years now as consultant and research provider. IBM India has been closely working are Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat, West Bengal, Pondicherry, Goa and Haryana. Last year IBM set up the ‘IBM e-Government Center’ in Gurgaon, near New Delhi to offer technology, support and infrastructure to help governments and total service providers to design, develop, test and port proof-of-concept and prototypes of e-government applications.

Microsoft too has been working closely with the government, signing memoranda of understanding with some of them and helping in evolving a long-term technology blueprint for IT infrastructure.

An interesting example of an NGO-government partnership, is the RASI Maiyam initiative in Kanchipuram, Tamil Nadu, where FOOD, a Tamil Nadu based NGO has built and implemented the model. However, this is an exception and in terms of NGO involvement to bring in development perspectives into e-governance, governments across the board need to become more proactive.

In this discussion on the strategic place of partnerships, one significant dimension needs to be stressed. We have observed that there is a wide variation in the e-governance initiatives across state governments. Some are clearly ahead and have implemented several projects with varying degrees of success.

There is tremendous potential for cross- learning between the states. In fact, the bureaucratic structure could be leveraged for replicating successes in other states. Civil servants could be deputed from states like Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka to other states and states need not look only at the private sector for expertise. In fact, Andhra Pradesh has announced that it is ready to help out other state governments in implementing ‘e-seva’. This government to government co-operation would enable the laggers to ‘leap frog’ ahead.

Choice of technology platforms
For many governments the world over, the choice of Open Source is a strategic one. This preference towards Open Source platforms is firstly because, acquiring and upgrading proprietary software is expensive. There is also the proposition that it is safer to entrust knowledge in the public domain to Open Source, which is also in the public domain, than to proprietary platforms. Thirdly, using open source would enable India to encourage our own software professionals to provide software support in the form of add-on applications that could be written at a cost much smaller than that required to buy multi-featured packaged software. This would also decentralize software production, from the current paradigm of large transnational production of packaged software. While Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Goa have preferred Linux software in their official IT programmes, states like Punjab and Rajasthan fully rely on Windows while even Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh and the central government continue to base their initiatives on the windows platform in addition to Linux.

Capacity-building
E-governance is not about software and hardware, but about people and processes. The early efforts of the Indian government to assign a computer to district headquarters was a major failure since there had been no strategy to address people’s mindsets and reservations. More recently, in Jharkhand, top officials have been given laptops, but most are not put to envisaged use. Some say they preferred not to use it since they had not been given training.

Capacity-building is a pre-condition for the success of initiatives. A close assessment of initiatives like rural e-seva in West Godavari reflects the thought and effort invested in training self-help groups who run the e-seva kendrams.

For government departments, the shift towards using IT is actually an opportunity for building the morale of their staff. Capacity-building to train staff in using hardware and software can have the positive effect of boosting employee self-image and this is most likely to impact efficiency and productivity.

Despite its population, the success of its IT industry and the government’s stated intent of wiring up villages, India lags in bandwidth necessary for info-access on the Net

Rule of law
Upholding the rule of law and provision of justice are fundamental aspects of governance. However, very few states have used IT to support these. Andhra Pradesh has an e-cops programme, which allows the law enforcers to communicate through a network and share information on crimes and criminals.

If crime and criminal records are computerised, these electronic repositories could support the easier tracking of crimes.
Another possibility in using IT in this regard is to use it to fight corruption, which vitiates norms of justice. The initiative for anti-corruption in India was led by Chief Vigilance Commissioner Mr. Vittal through the CVC website.

The website publishes the names of officers of IAS / IRS and other elite services against whom investigations have been ordered or penalties imposed for corruption. Apart from this, it also publishes a list of Chief Vigilance Officers from each Department who can be contacted to complain about corruption.

In conclusion…
Hazarding judgments about relative performances of states based on the available information is a rather tricky business. In the Indian landscape, states like Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh seem to have more thought-out policies and many initiatives on the ground, but islands of innovation exist across the board. This needs to be sorted out fast.

The future is poised on how efforts can sustain momentum and meet the load of increasing expectations and demand; how governments are able to learn from each other and leapfrog; whether citizens, particularly the disadvantaged, can and will influence the face of e-governance and the role that civil society organizations will need to play towards this; and the huge challenge in upscaling successes. Worthy of mention here is the unexplored potential in the gizmos of a lesser god like cable TV, radio etc.

E-governance is not just the Internet as the common perception goes and governments need to move back in a certain sense, to reappropriate the older communication tools like radio and cable TV. A critical mass of people is required to push e-governance to the next gear.

The India-egov@yahoogroups.com seems to be a platform with much promise for the exchange of ideas. Finally, governments need to start putting in place MIS that track user and beneficiary profiles of their initiatives and ensuring that e-governance is meaningful to the last woman.

IT for Change
This article is authored by the IT for Change team. ITfC is a non-profit organization in Bangalore, which supports the info-communications needs of other NGOs and undertakes research on the social dimensions of ICTs. The team is grateful for the information and perspectives in the ‘India Country Paper’ authored by Prof CP Chandrasekhar for the Regional Human Development Report, for UNDP.

Akshaya
1. As part of Kerala’s ambitious e-literacy campaign, Akshaya e-Centers are being set up throughout Kerala. These centers will initially provide e-literacy to one member from every household and act as ICT dissemination nodes and ITeS delivery points in every village. All Akshaya e Centres will have Internet connectivity and will be networked with a centralized operating center. Implementation of the first phase of the project is on in Malappuram district. The second phase involves setting up of over 6,000 e-centers in all districts, expected to be over by December 2004. www.akshaya.net/proj.htm

Arunachal Pradesh Community Information Center
2. On 22 August 2002, the Prime Minister dedicated to the people of the eight North-Eastern states a new structure of localised governance called Community Information Centres. Each is well-equipped with modern infrastructure, including one server, five client systems, a VSAT, laser printer, a dot matrix printer, modem, LAN hub, TV, webcam and two UPS’. Each center has two CIC operators as managers and for providing services to the public. Basic services to be provided by CICs include Internet access and e-mail, printing, data entry and word processing and training for the local populace. Most CICs charge nominal amounts from users for services which helps them to meet day-to-day running expenses. To ensure future financial sustainability of this enterprise, it is proposed to use the Community Information Centers for e-entertainment.

Bhoomi
3. Karnataka started Bhoomi in mid-1998 as a major initiative to computerize land records to ensure more secure title deeds and roll-back the rampant cases of corruption. The existing registry of the 20 million land records of 6.7 million land owners in 176 taluks of Karnataka have been computerised and organized into a database. The government intends to sustain Bhoomi and replicate it at many more delivery points at sub-district levels, by positioning the land records database as a ‘killer-application’ which will ensure kiosk operators a minimum income of Rs 3000 a month. Bhoomi is keen on private sector involvement and options are being explored for partnerships with the private sector for ‘retailing’. www.revedept-01.kar.nic.in/Bhoomi/Importance.htm

CARD
4. The Computer-aided Administration of Registration Department in Andhra Pradesh is designed to eliminate the maladies affecting the conventional registration system by introducing electronic delivery of all registration services. CARD was initiated to meet objectives to demystify the registration process, bring speed, efficiency, consistency and reliability, substantially improve the citizen interface etc. Six months following the launch of the CARD project, about 80% of all land registration transactions in AP were carried out electronically. Since 60% of the documents, Encumbrance Certificates (ECs) and certified copies relate to agricultural properties, the success of the CARD project has great benefit for the rural farming community.

Community Learning Center Project
5. Set up between March and July 2001, the Community Learning Centre is a joint initiative between the Azim Premji Foundation (APF) and the State government of Karnataka. The government contributes towards hardware and other related expenses per CLC and the Foundation takes care of management and the training of Young India fellows (YIFs) who manage the CLCs. Each CLC is housed in a separate room in the school and is equipped with five to eight computers. The CLCs are used to enhance classroom learning during school hours. In the first phase in 2001, 35 CLCs were launched in Bangalore, Kolar and Mandya districts. In the second phase beginning 2002, 55 CLCs were inaugurated across 11 districts within one month and in the third phase, 135 CLCs are scheduled to begin operations in 2003. www.azimpremijifoundation.org/clc.htm

Dairy Information System Kiosk
6. The DISK application targeted at the booming dairy sector has been tested for two milk collection societies by the Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad’s e-governance center. The project consists of two basic components—an application running at the rural milk collection society that could be provided Internet connectivity and a portal at the district level serving transactional and information needs of all members. DISK has helped in the automation of the milk buying process at 2,500 rural milk collection societies and has been pilot tested in two co-operative villages of Amul dairy in Kheda district. Software called AkashGanga has been developed with special features to enable speedier collection of milk and faster disbursement of payments to dairy farmers.

Delhi Slum Computer Kiosks Project
7. To help improve the conditions of the Ambedkar Nagar colony of Delhi as well as to spread computer awareness, the Delhi government initiated in November 2000, an unique project targeted at the urban poor. After using the computer based learning modules, the children’s grades in subjects like science, math and the English language improved remarkably. The community is now lobbying with the Delhi government for more content and multimedia based self-paced educational resources. The project is also exploring the option of providing separate access hours for girls. delhigovt.nic.in/newdelhi/index.html

e-Seva
8. Launched on the 25th of August 2001, electronic seva (e-Seva) is the improved version of the TWINS project launched in 1999, in the twin cities of Hyderabad and Secunderabad. There are currently 32 eSeva centres spread across the twin cities of Hyderabad and Secunderabad, operating from 8:00 am to 8:00 pm every day and between 9:30 am and 3:30 pm on holidays. Citizens can pay utility bills, avail of trade licenses and transact on government matters at these facilities. Though the e-Seva had a very lukewarm response from the citizens, the initiative has picked up tremendous confidence on the way and has so far netted a thumping collection of close to Rs 2,000 crore (February-end 2003) from a meagre collection of Rs 43 lakh in August 2001.The government has rolled out the project to other parts of the state, including rural areas like the West Godavari district. Customized services like issuance of certificates and land records, online mandi rates, tele-agriculture, common accounts of SHGs are offered. www.esevaonline.com; www.westgodavari.org

FRIENDS
9. Fast, Reliable, Instant, Efficient Network for the Disbursement of Services is part of the Kerala State IT Mission. FRIENDS counters handle 1,000 types of payment bills originating out of various PSUs. The payments that citizens can make include utility payments for electricity and water, revenue taxes, license fees, motor vehicle taxes, university fees, etc. Firewalls safeguard data from manipulation. The application has provisions for adding more modules and for rolling back incorrect entries without affecting the database even at the user level. One important feature of FRIENDS is a provision for adding more modules and a queue management system.

GramSampark
10. ‘Gramsampark’ is a flagship ICT product of the state of Madhya Pradesh. A complete database of available resources, basic amenities, beneficiaries of government programmes and public grievances in all the 51,000 villages of Madhya Pradesh can be obtained by accessing the website http://www.mp.nic.in/gramsampark/. Gramsampark has three sections-Gram Paridrashya (village scenario), Samasya Nivaran (grievance redress) and Gram Prahari (village sentinel). An eleven-point monitoring system has been put in place whereby programmes are monitored village-wise every month. Four more programmes are under the monitoring system, which includes untouchability-eradication, women’s empowerment, water conservation and campaigns for sanitation. www.mp.nic.in/gramsampark/

Gyandoot
11. The Gyandoot project was initiated in January 2000 by a committed group of civil servants in consultation with various gram panchayats in the Dhar district of Madhya Pradesh. Gyandoot is a low cost, self-sustainable, and community-owned rural Intranet system (Soochnalaya) that caters to the specific needs of village communities in the district. Thirty-five such centres have been established since January 2000 and are managed by rural youth selected and trained from amongst the unemployed educated youth of the village. They run the Soochanalayas (organised as Kiosks) as entrepreneurs (Soochaks); user charges are levied for a wide range of services that include agricultural information, market information, health, education, women’s issues, and applications for services delivered by the district administration related to land ownership, affirmative action, and poverty alleviation. Kiosks are connected to the Intranet through dial-up lines, which are soon to be replaced by wireless connections using CorDECT technology. The Soochanalayas have been equipped with Pentium multimedia colour computer along with dot matrix printers. The user interface is menu based with information presented in the local Hindi language and the features of the Gyandoot software are continuously being updated. www.gyandoot.nic.in

Headstart
12. Headstart provides computer-enabled education and basic computer skills for all students in 6000 Jan Shiksha Kendras of Madhya Pradesh. Madhya Pradesh has 6500 Jan Shiksha Kendras (cluster resource centres) located in Middle School premises in 48 districts. Headstart will equip every Jan Shiksha Kendra in the state with computer hardware and multimedia software. It repositions the JSK as a media unit capable of providing computer-aided education for the children of the middle school in which the JSK is located and familiarization to computers to all children in primary schools through simple demos and games to excite their imagination. Among primary schools, EGS school children will come first. For being able to manage this, teachers with a Math or Science background preferably, will be trained across the state through the decentralised training capabilities of the Bhoj Open University. www.bhojvirtualuniversity.com/it/headstart.htm

Lok Mitra
13. The Lok Mitra project was formally dedicated to the people of Hamirpur in Himachal Pradesh as a pilot phase on the 8th of May 2001. The services offered include information about vacancies, tenders, market rates, matrimonial services, village e-mail. An interesting feature is that citizens can use the IT enabled system as a grievance redress system. The LokMitra INTRANET set up in the district Hamirpur consists of two Pentium-III-based Servers (Under WindowsNT), with 4 Pentium-III-based Client systems and a Router, set up in a LAN using HUB, in a separate room at the Deputy Commissioner office, Hamirpur, named as LokMitra Soochnalaya. A total of 25 panchayats have been identified for setting up Citizen Information Centres. The project will be extended to cover all the districts of Himachal Pradesh. www.himachal.nic.in/lokmitra.htm

Mahiti Shakti
14. Launched in 2001, the portal http://www.mahitishakti.net operates like a single window through which the citizens can access information related to all aspects of the government’s functioning, various benefit schemes and services ranging from obtaining ration cards to getting sanction for old age pension. Anyone who wishes to avail the benefit has to go to his/her nearest designated STD/ISD kiosk, submit the necessary documents to the Info Kiosk owner and fill in the required form online. For online submission of application, the Info Kiosk owner charges Rs. 10 for the application form and Rs 20 for submission. The taluks of Halol, Kalol, Santrampur, Jambughoda, Ghogamba, Kahmpur, Lunawada, Morwa and Shahera have such info-kiosks.

OLTP
15. Launched in the year 2002, the project connects 16 government departments in Andhra Pradesh on a single network. All government records and transaction procedure details at the district will be centrally stored and managed on a single Oracle9i database. The project seeks to serve the Government department users and citizens in ten villages of Shadnagar mandal, one village each in Bijnepally and Jadcherla Mandals, Mahaboobnagar District. Citizens in these pilot locales will be able to conduct government department service transactions efficiently through specially designed internet-enabled kiosks. These transactions can be carried out in English as well as Telugu interfaces. www.ap-it.com

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