India celebrates its 62nd independence this year. Even after 62 years of independence, India has not attained the status of a developed nation. On the one hand, in a country like India, where corruption has become a normal phenomenon, on another hand, the government is trying to bring transparency and flow of information with the implementation of e-Governance projects across the country. Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is one of the most important tools in implementing e-Governance.
The e-Governance systems introduced in India in the late 60s and early 70s with an emphasis on computerizing applications of defence services. In order to computerizing departments and bringing IT services, the National Informatics Center was established in the 1980s. The 90s saw the emergence of a national IT initiative by the Government of India with corresponding plans in the states.
In the last couple of years, IT has enhanced the delivery of government services as it caters to a large base of people across different segments and geographical locations. The effective use of IT services in government administration has enhanced existing efficiencies, drive down communication costs and increased transparency in the functioning of various departments. Currently, some states are only implementing e-Governance in their departments to bring transparency. This approach will gradually would be extended to other states, which will leverage the power of IT to streamline administrative functions and increase transparency in their departments. Acknowledging such states, which have stood out in ICT deployment for the welfare of the masses, here, the article presents five e-Gov states, which have stand out among other states.
The Government of Andhra Pradesh initiated and implemented many statewide e-Governance applications since the year 2000, when the Central Government of India enacted the IT Act 2000 to provide legal recognition to electronic transactions.
As part of these initiatives, the state government has set up an e-Procurement Marketplace to link all the departments, agencies and local bodies with their vendors. The e-Procurement project aims to:
- Reduce the time and cost of business for both vendors and government
- Realize better value for money spent through increased competition and the prevention of cartel formation
- Standardize the procurement processes across government departments/agencies
- Increase buying power through demand aggregation; provide a single-stop shop for all procurements
- Allow equal opportunity to all vendors; bring transparency and ultimately reduce corruption
Apart from the e-Procurement project, the GoAP has launched eSeva project, which has around 46 centers (with 400 service counters) that are spread over the Twin Cities and Ranga Reddy district. Besides, AP has to its credit projects like Computer-aided Administration of Registration Department and ICT@Schools.
Gujarat Government has made landmark in Asia by implementing the largest optical fibre wide area network stretching over as long as 50,000 km. The state government has connected all departments, municipalities and local bodies. The state government has initiated a new concept called SWAGAT, where government officers can interact with the people living in rural areas through video conferencing. After providing e-Governance services at all its 141 municipalities, now the state government extending e-Governance services at the district level, taluka and the village level. The state government has also established computerized e-Grams with Internet connectivity. In this regard, all 14,000 gram panchayats have been made e-Grams.
The computerization of land records project, called e-Dhara has been extensively successful and widely accepted. Apart from these projects, the state government has other e-Governance projects like electronic smartcards for driving licenses online and roaming ration card system, online filing of sales tax returns, connectivity between courts and jails, creation of huge data base of youths available for employment, online availability of the Government resolutions and forms in digital format, departmental websites disseminating information on various Government schemes and activities, etc.
Aruna Sundararajan, former Kerala IT secretary and CEO, CSC Programme, IL&FS, stated that after attaining total literacy, now Kerala is emerging as an e-Literate state and to be 100% digital society by implementing e-Governance initiatives to the grassroots level.
In order to make it a reality, the state government has rolled out several e-Governance initiatives in a bid to address in the state through an integrated and holistic approach. In 1998, the state government has implemented IT policy with an objective to take IT to the rural masses.
By organizing e-Literacy campaigns throughout the state, the state government is attempting to bridge the digital divide. In this regard, the Akshaya project has helped in taking IT to Malapuram district, the remotest part of Kerala. Launched in November 2002, Akshsya project has been implemented through Panchayati Raj Institutions and also involves private enterprises in the development of training institutes and content generation. Akshaya eCenters provide training that not only familiarizes people with the basics and scope of IT, but also ensures hands-on skill in operating a computer.
One of the first and most successful initiatives implemented by the Kerala Government was the Fast Reliable Instant Effective Network for Distribution of Services (FRIENDS). The FRIENDS project aims to create single window and enable the citizens to pay taxes and other utility payments. Firstly launched in Thiruvananthapuram Corporation in 2000, FRIENDS handles bill payments of seven departments – revenue, motor vehicles, civil supplies, local bodies, universities, electricity, water, and telephones. In order to make panchayats IT savvy, the state government has been computerizing panchayats with help of two software solutions; Sulekha and Sevana.
Secretariat Wide Area Network (SWAN) is a massive automation process of the state Secretariat, which houses 37 departments across six blocks, is in full swing. The project christened SWAN links key areas of the Secretariat- the annexe, Vikas Bhavan and the Public Office in a phased manner.
Karnataka belongs to the category of Indian states, which have spearheaded the e-Governance drive in the country. One of the foremost and first projects is Bhoomi, a project that made other states to realize the potential of ICT in agriculture. Bhoomi is an online management system of land records delivery through computerisation of 20 million records of ownership of 6.7 million farmers.
Bringing e-Governance services at the doorstep of people, the government has launched Nemmadi telecentres as a one stop-shop solution to 39 government services across the state. Apart from these two major projects, the state government has implemented Samanya Mahiti, a web based initiative of Rural Development & Panchayati Raj Department to provide information about basic amenities available in all Hamlets of Karnataka State. It covers 387 parameters of all 21 sectors. Some other major initiatives are e-Granthalaya, Sahakara Darpana, Sarathi & Vahan, Returns Filing System (RFS), e-MAN, Aasthi Terige (Property Tax), Child Labour Eradication Activities Information System (CLEAIS), Krishi Marata Vahini , Ahara, etc.
Tamil Nadu has a well-established e-Governance network in place. The State Data Centre is being upgraded and all the blocks and taluks are e-Connected. Also, 6 mission mode projects viz., enhancing e-Services of civil supplies, registration, municipalities and town panchayats, taluk (block) offices, collectorates and transport departments are being rolled out. A large number of innovative and pioneering e-Governance applications have also been developed in areas such as treasuries, registration, land records, transport, municipalities, agriculture, etc.
The first district which went under e-Governance was Tiruvarur, the home district of veteran politician M Karunanidhi. Thereafter, all subsequent regimes shown interest in e-governance and under J Jayalalitha video conference facilities with district collectors was expanded vigorously.
If the Central Government is implementing National e-Governance Plan (NeGP) across the country, then some states like Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Haryana, Gujarat, etc., have thought-out more than policies and many initiatives on the ground, but there are some states like Assam, Meghalya, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh are one step behind in bringing e-Governance services.
e-Governance is not just the Internet as the common perception goes but it is more than computerizing of departments. Now, governments need to utilize older communication tools like radio and cable TV t reach the masses.