The session was rather unique as it brought together for the first time three current and former secretaries of the department of information technology of the government of India. Their insights on the emerging challenges and opportunities that will shape the IT sector and government at the states and Centre were candid.
Between them, Chandrashekhar, R Satyanarayana and current secretary RS Sharma are at the helm, shaping India's information technology policies for the past seven years.
Agreeing with Chandrashekhar, Sharma said e-governance is a governance multiplier. It is the best way to make minimum governance work.
In a riveting discussion heard by the who's who of the Indian IT industry, both agreed with Satyanarayana that a huge opportunity to deploy IT aggressively for citizen interface has now opened up for India. Satyanarayana, incidentally has last week taken over as the principal adviser, IT, to Seemandhra chief minister Chandrababu Naidu.
All of them gave an insight on how deploying IT will break down the silos that have blocked the efficient delivery of government services. In response to session moderator Anant Goenka, Wholetime Director & Head New Media at The Indian Express, Satyanarayana said the central government has fallen prey to a complicated structure that made actual performance difficult to measure.
The larger the organisation, the more it works through silos. These silos make monitoring the performance of work done, more complicated, he said.
Also at the Express Tech Sabha: Videos
Sharma said: Sometimes, the IT silos are worse than the non-IT ones. And often technology vendors make the system unnecessarily complex. He offered an example from his own experience: In the UID project, the IT team was taking time in making the interface through which citizens could feed in data. So, on a couple of weekends, I wrote the software for people to go out on the field and start enrollments.
Examining the silo problem from another perspective, Chandrashekhar said there are some very talented people in the government-run NIC, but that does not mean it is able to perform. It needs to be re-invented. Fortunately, things have changed. He said one of the reasons why government departments work in straitjacket is the restrictions on salary levels.
The government cannot pay much and there were rules that were coming in the way of hiring. But when National Institute for Smart Governance came onto the scene, we created an environment where people could be hired at near-market salaries. A new HR policy was created for e-governance and a two-way channel was created for the industry to work on for a couple for years.