Government organisations are looking to leverage the power of technology to significantly transform the way it functions or delivers services to the citizens. But this transformation is also posing challenges related to creating basic infrastructure, providing cyber security and being investor friendly. Mohd Ujaley spoke to key government officials who are at the helm of affairs. They share their tryst with technology in the past and the way forward. Most of them are of the view that time has come to provide citizen centric governance where the citizen does not have to ask for a government service; rather it should be delivered to him as a right. “Though we have made big strides in this direction, it is far from my satisfaction,” says P H Kurian, principal secretary, revenue, Government of Kerala.
Kerala has witnessed the growth of the Indian IT industry from a nascent stage to a leading industry and be counted among the biggest in the world; but this has been mostly on the services side. Today we are witnessing a change in the IT industry from a service focus to a product oriented industry; from a few large players employing huge manpower to large number of small startups creating value through their products.
I was IT Secretary during two tenures and there has been considerable change in the way the face of the industry has changed and the way ICT has affected the lives of the common people. It was during my first tenure as IT Secretary, during 2003 to 2008, that we looked at the proliferation of the Akshaya centers across the state on an entrepreneurship model. That was the time when we laid huge emphasis on creation of the basic infrastructure – be it the connectivity backbone or the data center, well ahead of the government of India schemes. The period also marked remarkable asset creation by the IT majors in the State.
During my second tenure from 2012 to 2016, we looked at going digital. The digital road map was created for the state in 2012, wherein we tried to create a digital society. This needed electronic governance and facilitating the common man’s life through technology. We planned to create an integrated system with access for citizens based on his/her authentication. Kerala completed 95% and above Aadhaar registrations by 2013-14 itself and started working on a citizen database. We attempted to create interoperability of systems and announced that the data, other than classified/personal data, will be shared among departments. The digital divide was attacked at a new level, i.e., by Internet-enabling citizens through an innovative project with the help of student police cadets. In this program, the student police cadets facilitated the basic learning and hands-on working of ‘digitally illiterates’ using a tab and a software developed for the same. They were issued awareness certificates and the data was centrally recorded.
I had a dream of citizen centric governance where the citizen does not have to ask for a government service; rather it would be delivered to him as a right. Thus, he would not be required to run around government offices to avail a particular service. This would require seamless flow of information and close integration of various government departments. Though we have made big strides in this direction, it is far from my satisfaction.
Other area, in which we need to catalysed the process is ease of doing business as government of India ranked us poorly. Now, we have identified specific areas of improvement in various parameters of doing business in the state. These include putting in place a centralized 24×7 helpline and web portal with details on all clearances required, availability of industrial land, regulatory procedures, and the incentives in the state for various enterprise types. A unified online single window clearance system will be implemented in the state, and a self-certification regime is proposed to be introduced for green category industries. The government will ensure that time frames prescribed under Right to Service Act are adhered to by all departments concerned. Action plans have been formulated in this regard, with the aim of bringing Kerala to the top 5 ranks under ease of doing business.
Use of technology is indispensable for any organization – be it the government or the private sector. The requirement or the necessity of using technology, and e-governance is huge. And especially in the ministry like road transport and highways and its corporation like NHIDCL, the role of e-governance is immense. That is why here at NHIDCL, we went with technology and today, NHIDCL is one of the fist Government of India’s company which is completely e-governed.
We make use of e-office for all our files from start to finish, except for some contract management file, nothing in our office gets done through a manual route. Only some contract managemen,t because there are some technical requirements. Rest of it, is all done through e-office. Any order that we issue within the organisation is put out online. We have created e-pace which is for real time monitoring of all our projects. At the same time, we make use of e-procurement portal for all our tenders that we invite. We have invited tenders worth more than Rs. 15,000 crore, all these tenders have been put out online.
Our future road map would be to integrate all tech driven initiative together. Right now, we have a lot of projects which are serving their own needs. Some of them are not integrable because they are all in their own home. They are bigger project like INAM-Pro portal which has established it positions in a market place for infrastructure providers and material suppliers. So obviously, it cannot become part of our system, it is platform for external world but some of our internal initiatives, can get integrated. But obviously right now whatever we have done, is good enough to take us to the next level.
Our Common Service Centres (CSCs) are an integral part of the Digital India initiative of government of India. CSCs are largely access points which have basic computing infrastructure run and operated by the local entrepreneur who lives within same community. One of the services relates to the financial inclusion part which is under the Pradhan Mantri Jan-Dhan Yojana. In 2016, our objective was to make every CSC a business correspondent point. So far about 30000 CSCs are doing that part of work. The last year financial commission to these service centres had been Rs 40 crore.
Now we have built technology with National Payments Corporation of India that will enable CSCs to become a white level BC, in the sense that a CSC can do transactions for all banks, and not just one bank. So, in a village, if a person has account with PNB, SBI, they could withdraw money from CSC and the cost is negligible – CSC just needs to put a biometric device and do it. Presently, only withdrawal is done and we are now trying to work out if deposits and remittances can also be done. The objective is to create an access point of financial services across the country.
After Independence, there have been only about 40,000 rural branches in this country from public sector banks. There are six lakh villages and 2 lakh 50 thousand panchayats, the only way to create is that we can actually do the same thing in one or two years and cover most of the villages. What has been done in last 70 years, can be done in last two years because of the disruptive use of technology. We are using new technologies, and the government is also persuasive in trying and creating that model, wherein citizens get access to financial services.
Going forward, our aim is to create at least one CSC in every panchayat. So far, we have created 1 lakh 60 thousand across India. In addition, about 250 people are involved in CSCs at the headquarter and now we are planning 2 people in every district. So, we will have about 1,400 people across the all the districts. We are also trying to extend connectivity which is the major constraint. So, what we have decided that wherever there is an NOFN, CSC will be in that location – either established or shifted from existing locations. We have recently taken an ISP licence to enable our VLE to also provide Internet through NOFN backbone and create a business model. We are also trying to work-out an e-commerce model. Although, we signed agreement with large companies like Flipkart and Snapdeal, they mostly serve in urban areas. So now we are trying to create ourselves a platform to sale products which are unique to India, like Agra shoes. Our VLE will upload the product details on the platform and we will try to sell them. This will an e-commerce from rural to urban areas.
We will also focus on providing more training to our VLE. The new CSC 2.0 has a three-day entrepreneur development programme. Earlier we used to teach about how to deliver a service but now we have shifted to make it an entrepreneur development programme. This is being done all over the country.
As you know the Transport Department of Telangana is a highly IT driven organization. Most of our processes and backend are already digitized. The basic purpose of using IT in the government department is to enable a smooth and hassle free interaction between citizen and government. This is only possible when you cut the number of touch-points and offer as many services as possible through a single platform. To do this, in the transport department, we have removed manual processes. Most of our services are available on the Internet. In fact, now you can apply for the learning license by sitting in your home. You only have to visit our office to give your thumb impression and photo.
For our own administrative purpose, we have connected all our offices in the state to a central server, so now we have real-time information about any transaction taking place in any part of the state. This has helped us in improving our standards and accuracy of information. All our decisions are now data driven. That is the main reason public reliability has increased and corruption in the system has reduced.
In recent past, we have taken several steps to use IT for our own benefit. We have 49 offices across the state. Today, they are connected on real-time basis to our central server. This gives us better visibility about our own activities.
Also, you are aware that to cut the burden of physically producing vehicle documents like driving license, registration certificate to enforcement authorities, we have launched a mobile app called ‘RTA m-Wallet’ and officially declared it as valid during any enforcement done by the police. This app allows a user to download digital copies of documents like driving licence and registration certificate and insurance papers, which could be shown to the police and RTA authorities when demanded. This app has been a major hit and over 10 lakh people have downloaded it.
The next big thing that we are going to do is to make our entire interaction with the people, appointment based. Most of our offices have time limitations and officers can only meet a limited number of people in a day. The system is so unpredictable that even if you visit an office, there is no guarantee that your work will be done. To get over this, we are working on an appointment based system like passport seva project. A person will seek appointment through our website or mobile app from available slots. Once their appointment is confirmed, it means that their work on that day will be done. This will not only ease the process but also remove the corruption and touts from the system.
Going forward, our plan is to expand the m-Wallet service. We have an e-challan system. We would like to link m-Wallet and e-Challan. So, in case of any challan, the citizen can make the payment via the m-Wallet. Once a person is challaned, he or she will get the notification in the m-Wallet app itself. We will integrate a payment gateway into m-Wallet, that will enable a person to make the payment in the app itself. Also, we are trying to incorporate CCTV footage, traffic and weather updates in the mobile app. So, that people do not need to go to different platforms to access this information. Above all, now we are thinking to use blockchain technology for our document management.
Since the day, I joined here as district collector, my priority has been to ensure that all the schemes of the government are implemented to the satisfaction of the people. On technology front, we have created a working model to for WiFi zones in villages so that people avail various online services sitting in their homes. As you know the main requirements in villages are information relating to farming, health consultancy and education inputs for the students. If we can create low cost WiFi zones it will ensure that people get these services on their own.
With low cost Wi-Fi, we are aiming to become the first Wi-Fi district. It involves the effort of various entrepreneurs, social organisations and administration. We have thought of mainly three ways to promote it. One is led by volunteer organisaions like the one done in the panchayat Bawadikheda. But this is not sustainable as nothing is free in this world. But there could be sponsors to promote this model. We are trying to bring them in. The other model is to let it be free for the entrepreneurs to implement and levy user charge. This may involve complex issues of licenses and all. We are considering such legal issues. The third one is facilitating the local bodies to implement it. We are working on details of all such ways. There could be two other ways but it is still in the process of development.
Going forward, the broad vision is to make people capable through various inputs like training and technology to ensure they take right decision at right time leading to improvement in the quality of life for all the residents of the district, especially rural folks. We aim to improve the standard of living by increasing the agricultural income to double in 5 years, the construction of two major dams adds to the effort as they would be completed by the year 2018. Better the human health and education index by improving the health services and quality of education. Besides, start few services that makes it possible to ensure delivery of services at the doorstep of residents. And, in all there is huge role of information communication technology (ICT).