eGovernance through Regional Languages
Posted by egovindia on July 16, 2006
eGovernance through Regional Languages
With increasing recognition of information technology in catalyzing economic activity and efficient governance, countries have benefited through eGovernance. In India, application of Indian languages on computers has driven eGovernance initiatives. C-DAC has applied language technologies successfully to a number of eGovernance solutions to deliver efficient Government Services in a transparent manner.
Practically all world economies have recognized importance of information technology in catalyzing economic activity, in efficient governance and in human resource development. They have, therefore, made significant investments and successfully integrated it with the development process in reaping the benefits of the information technology revolution that is taking place globally, to their society. In India, likewise, these developments have impacted the Industrial, Education, Service and Government sectors, and their influence on various applications is increasingly being felt of late.
As the era of digital economy is evolving, a significant impact of these developments has been felt in eGovernance. The questions often asked in the context are:
- How government can become more responsive and accessible?
- How can the government enhance its role as a catalyst of economic growth?
- How can one provide better Government services? and
- How can the Government use advanced technologies for transferring benefits to the society in terms of improving health care, education, administrative and citizen interface services?
eGovernance consequently has emerged as a technologically driven methodology to realize economic prosperity leading to transparency, providing information speedily to all citizens, improving administrative efficiency, improving public services, higher velocity of business, improved productivity and an exciting business opportunity.
In a large, geographically dispersed, demographic multilingual country India, the common thread in implementing and achieving these basic objectives of eGovernance has been the development and adoption of language computing tools and methodologies. The Government officials in various provinces, the non-government functionaries across the country and the people, mostly use their own language in day-to-day work, be it in Government administration at various levels, in business, in profession, in services or in school education. Thus, if the fruits of information technology revolution have to spread to all these participating members, in Government and public, it is best done through the use of computers in their own languages.
Out of a billion population, there are only 5% people in India who know or speak English, with balance 95% (950 million) people speaking or practicing in at least 18 different officially recognized languages. This poses both a challenge and an opportunity.
The Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC) has made pioneering contributions in developing Indian language tools with natural language processing, and in evolving script and font standards through its GIST technology, to enable and spread use of computers in various languages. It accordingly took up the initiative of developing important eGovernance solutions in Indian languages, which impact Government and the citizens both. This initiative started in 1997 and has grown to a significant extent by the end of 2001. Significant parameters of this initiative were:
- Improve government’s own functioning
- Provide better service to citizens in a transparent manner
- Reduce hassles, corruption and drudgery in various government bodies – public interactive functions
Significant information technology based applications developed and successfully commissioned under this initiative are:
- Public Works Department (Maharashtra State) – Covered Works, Accounts, Employees and Tender management modules networking the various 250 state offices to lead to an improved, transparent and efficient system of works services. Involved an outlay of Rs. 10.5 crores (U.S. $ 2.0 Million) to address Works Services of an average Rs. 2500 crore (US$ 500 Million) of the PWD – Maharashtra. This is now proposed for other States also.
- Stamp Registration (Maharashtra and U.P. States) – Provided on-line property registration, valuation and report generation across 366 offices at various state administrative units, reducing time from several days to mere 20 minutes for an individual, and increasing number of registered documents from 16 to 40 per day with 10 – 15% revenue increase. Involved an outlay of Rs. 5.5 crores (US$ 1 Million) to address a Statewide annual revenue of Rs. 2000 crores (US$ 400 Million).
- Municipal Corporations (Karnataka) – Computerized major functions of property tax valuation/collection, issue and record of death/birth certificates, water supply billing, consumer complaints and internal MIS functions providing improved citizen services. Involved an outlay of Rs. 2.5 crores (US$ 0.5 Million) in the first phase of six Corporations to address a budget of Rs. 2000 crores (US$ 400 Million).
- Octroi collection (Nashik – Maharashtra) – Dispensed with cash collection at remote check posts, providing instant valuation, receipt and reconciliation of accounts in a transparent manner. Total outlay Rs. 60 lakhs (US$ 0.1 Million).
- Decision Support System (Andhra Pradesh State) – Implemented a data warehouse of land and person data of 60 million population to enable well informed, timely and accurate policy decisions by the Government officials across various departments. Involved an outlay of Rs. 5 crores (US$ 1 Million) to address the total State data.
- Hospital Management System (Specialty and Government Hospitals) – Implemented to improve Healthcare services for the patients. Involved an outlay of Rs. 1.5 crore (US$ 0.3 Million) over two hospitals of 500 beds and 1500 beds respectively.
- GIS based Land Management (Industrial Development Corporations) – Implemented at a cost of Rs. 55 lakhs (US$ 0.11 Million) to provide web-based access to land data covering allotment, transfer, mortgage, surrender, etc. of industrial development units, in the particular case for MIDC, Maharashtra.
- Archives Computerization – This application enables effective scanning and archival of various types of old documents with proper enhancement, indexing and retrieval facilities. This application has been successfully deployed for Department of Archives, Govt. of Maharashtra.
All these applications have been very effective in the achievement of their objective, have involved significant technology component covering web, data warehousing, database architecture, Geomatics, Scan/Archive, advanced software tools, and applied in a most innovative manner, ensured replicability to other organizations by building a licensable software product. These also enabled, through business process re-engineering, an effective organizational change to ease their functions and offer a more productive service to the intended beneficiaries. Their relevance has been equally brought about by providing language technology component of significance to the target user group(s), which have broken any language barriers by enabling users to interact with computers in their own languages.
C-DAC groups were organized activity-wise to implement various development projects that were commissioned during the period 1997-2001. The groups comprised of approximately 100 software professionals who worked over an approximate budget of Rs. 30 crores (US$ 6 million) to address the direct business of over Rs. 6500 crores (US$ 1.3 Billion) of the State Governments annually. This initiate is now being spread to other parts of the country to similarly provide effective solutions and services.
C-DAC is an institution of a 575 regular plus 175 contract staff of high skills in advanced information technologies, training and business activities. It is an autonomous scientific institution of the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, Govt. of India. It currently operates on an annual budget of Rs. 100 crores (US$ 20 million) and works with a network of 100 plus partner institutions in the private enterprise for providing training and support services countrywide.
Set up over a decade ago, as India’s national initiative for design, development and delivery of high performance computing (supercomputer systems) and solutions based on parallel processing technology, C-DAC has over the years diversified its activities, transferring the expertise it acquired and technologies it developed in the high-end computing to develop and deploy Information Technology (IT) based solutions in various sectors of economy. Through this approach, it has maintained a balance between developing strategic technologies needed in the country in the high performance computing area for achieving self-reliance, and addressing mission critical problems in the science and engineering fields on one hand, and using expertise developed to commercialize its technologies and products to meet the requirements in various sectors of economy on the other.