Wednesday, March 20, 2019

E-Governance and Modi Government’s Ambitious “Digital India” Program

E-governance has often defined as the application of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) for delivering government services, exchange of information communication transactions, integration of various stand-alone systems and services from the Government to its customers, businesses, other governments, and also management of the entire back office processe and interactions within the government system.

In India, the e-governance initiative is handled via what is known as the National e-Governance Plan (NeGP).  It is a comprehensive framework for the government to engage with its stakeholders.  Here is how the Government of India defines it:

The National e-Governance Plan (NeGP) has been formulated by the Department of Electronics and Information Technology (DEITY) and Department of Administrative Reforms and Public Grievances (DARPG). The Union Government approved the NeGP, comprising of 27 Mission Mode Projects (MMPs) and 10 components on May 18, 2006.

The NeGP aims at improving delivery of Government services to citizens and businesses with the following vision:
“Make all Government services accessible to the common man in his locality, through common service delivery outlets and ensure efficiency, transparency & reliability of such services at affordable costs to realise the basic needs of the common man.”

Given the expanse of the country and the diversity in every sphere of life, and the overall federal structure where the states in India are major stakeholders in governance, it is not easy to bring the whole country onto the e-governance band wagon so easily.

History of e-Governance in India

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In 1970, the Government of India set up the Department of Electronics, which was later followed up with the setting up of National Informatics Center (NIC) in 1976.  This was the first time, that the country’s ruling elite focused on technology and communications for the first time as an area of importance.

In a decade, the government was able to create a national satellite-based computer network called NICNET.  Using this technological infrastructure, a drive to digitize and computerize all the district level offices in the country was started.  States were offered free software and hardware and by 1990, the NICNET connectivity had been extended from the State Capitals to the District headquarters.

The rather well done National Informatics Center Website discusses the achievements of NIC since its inception.

National Informatics Centre (NIC) was established in 1976, and has since emerged as a “prime builder” of e-Government / e-Governance applications up to the grassroots level as well as a promoter of digital opportunities for sustainable development. NIC, through its ICT Network, “NICNET”, has institutional linkages with all the Ministries /Departments of the Central Government, 35 State Governments/ Union Territories, and about 625 District administrations of India. NIC has been instrumental in steering e-Government/e-Governance applications in government ministries/departments at the Centre, States, Districts and Blocks, facilitating improvement in government services, wider transparency, promoting decentralized planning and management, resulting in better efficiency and accountability to the people of India. (emphasis added)

Given the scale of the entire task, this is nothing short of amazing!

NICNET – the brain behind e-Governance in India

NICNET does all the spade-work behind the entire connectivity in the country.  With its rich expertise, over the years it has been able to come up with new means of digitizing Government works and providing consulting to the state governments.  The major activities undertaken are:

  • Setting up of ICT Infrastructure
  • Implementation of National and State Level e-Governance Projects
  • Products and Services
  • Consultancy to the government departments
  • Research and Development
  • Capacity Building

NICNET’s repertoir of e-Governance initiatives is large and growing.

Various initiatives like Government eProcurement System(GePNIC), Office Management Software (eOffice), Hospital Management System (eHospital), Government Financial Accounting Information System (eLekha), etc. have been taken up which are replicable in various Government organizations.

As NIC is supporting a majority of the mission mode e-Governance projects, the chapter on National e-Governance Projects lists the of details of these projects namely National Land Records Modernization Programme (NLRMP), Transport and National Registry, Treasury Computerisation, VAT, MG-NREGA, India-Portal, e-Courts, Postal Life Insurance, etc. NIC also lays framework and designs systems for online monitoring of almost all central government schemes like Integrated Watershed Management (IWMP), IAY, SGSY, NSAP, BRGF, Schedule Tribes and other Traditional Forest Dwellers Act etc.

So, if you are getting any information from the Government in anyway, chances are that NICNET will have a major hand in its information gathering, reporting and delivery.

Models for e-Governance

Primarily there are four e-Governance models:

  1. Government to citizens (G2C)
  2. Government to government (G2G)
  3. Government to employees (G2E)
  4. Government to business (G2B)

The following graphic explains the different models in context of India.

e-governance models

Challenges in e-Governance in India

In a country with the diversity and size as India’s, there are bound to be several challenges, least of which are technical.

Interaction and integration: The success of any e-Governance initiative lies in complete integration between the services.  That is easier said than done.  We are a country with 18 official languages and states having different parties in power than at the Center.  This creates