by July 1, 2010 0 comments



Government departments and its processes have been eternally associated with
long queues, endless rounds of govt offices for even a simple registration, red-tapism,
corruption and of getting stuck in the age-old manual processes. But while
auditing for Best IT Implementation Awards 2010, we got to see many govt
projects embracing IT to ensure transparency in public processes, to improve the
accessibility of its services to citizens and to allow for better governance.
The scale of these projects ranged from region specific to to pan India.

The two key drivers of e-gov projects have been National e-Governance Plan (NeGP)
and Right to Information Act (RTI) 2005. Where roll out of National e-Governance
Plan (NeGP) envisions bringing public services closer to its citizens, the RTI
Act 2005 requires each public authority to computerise their records so as to
disseminate it widely, and proactively publish certain categories of information
so that citizens need not request information formally everytime. An analysis of
the past year’s Best IT Implementation Awards nominations clearly showed a trend
of wide adoption of Business Process Management and Automation (BPM & A)
technologies and shifting of many government services from paper-based to
online.

This time also we saw a similar trend with a spike in BPM and A projects
where govt processes moved on from manual to digital, leading to automation of
processes. We also saw projects where some G2B and G2C services went online,
thus speeding up the service delivery to citizens and eliminating their need to
visit govt offices every now and then. We saw some unique ones like MP State
Education Portal, addressing the challenge of successful implementation of Right
to Education Act 2009; another e-gov project designed to smartly tackle the
challenge of managing one of the largest gathering of people that happens for a
religious purpose in the whole world itself – Kumbh Mela; and Tsunami Early
Warning System, a Business Intelligence and Decision Support System project,
meant to issue timely alerts to the administration on predicting a tsunami.

IT Implementations received from Govt. for
Best IT Implementation Awards 2010

Challenge of transparency in govt processes
BPM and A projects and implementation of web-based interface is simplifying
working of the govt  bodies, reducing manual errors, and the time and effort
that was required previously. They are also providing a centralized, easily
referred database and leading to a lot of cost savings. But on the top of all
this, they are also leading to transparency in govt processes by removing the
manual interface.

An example of this is the IT deployment by Central Board of Excise and
Customs which developed ACES (Automation of Central Excise and Service Tax), an
e-governance portal, a work-flow based application. It has made e-payment of
service tax mandatory w.e.f . 1.10.2006, for all assessees who have paid (in
cash plus through CENVAT credit) a service tax amounting to Rs 50 lakh or more
in the preceding financial year or in the current financial year. Also Indian
Railways took up the initiative of introducing transparency in its public
procurement processes, by shifting from a paper-based public procurement process
to an e-procurement process covering 16 zonal railways & 6 production unit
processes.

IT enabled improved governance in Andhra Pradesh by enabling the submission
of public grievances by the petitioner to District Collector through — Prajavani,
a web-based software in the local language Telugu that enabled a petitioner to
submit public grievances, through any internet cafe at a very nominal charge.
The petitioner accesses the software through a common user ID and password and
can submit and track his/her petition online. Also the district collector can
clearly monitor the performance of various departments on action taken w.r.t the
grievances submitted by public.

Challenge of implementing RTE Act, 2009
The Govt has mandated effective execution of the Right To Education Act,
2009 through implementation of the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan.  Also managing School
Education Department’s operations has become important to effectively fulfill
the intentions of RTI Act, 2005 of providing transparent and accountable
governance. With this managing various stakeholders of the school education
departments of each state through a common platform, has become a necessity. MP
State, in a first of its kind initiative decided to deploy IT to fight this
challenge and implemented MP State Education Portal. This portal is enabling
tracking of 1.60 crore students, with nearly 1.12 crore students in govt
schools, more than 1.6 lakh out of school children and more than 1 lakh children
with special needs. It is also managing and administering around 1.15 lakh govt
schools located in more than 90,000 remote habitations with around 3.50 lakh
teachers and support staff.

Providing timely and critical information
If an early warning could have been provided to the inhabitants of the India
coastline before the Indian Ocean tsunami bashed us in Dec 2004, the massive
devastation could have been averted to a large extent. In reponse to this need,
the Tsunami Early Warning System was envisioned by the Ministry of Earth
Sciences, and set up as a part of Indian Nation Center for Ocean Information
Services (INCOIS) by 2007. This DSS sends tsunami warnings, and alert messages,
list of affected villages and measures for evacuation to the Ministry of Home
Affairs, Andaman Nicobar administration, Central & State disaster management
centers and district administrators of coastal districts. Also, the citizens
registered with the website, get tsunami alerts through various media like email
& SMS.

Key challenges faced by us are strong
network back-bone upto the village level which will enable the common man to
submit his grievances to the district administration from his own village,
so that digital divide between the urban and rural areas can be resolved.
Going forward we would like to look at web-based land records management
software to enable both the citizen and employee to know details of the
land, loan taken, etc.

K. Rama Subba Reddy, DIO/TD,NIC,
Collectorate Anantapur, AP

It has been observed that the rural
farming community still has difficulty in accessing crucial information in
order to make timely decisions. KISSAN Kerala project is now in the process
of expanding its integration of voice and video based content delivery
through mobile platforms. With Kerala, being one of the leading state with a
high rate of mobile penetration, this service would get wider acceptance and
enhance the demand driven information service for farmers. In addition, we
are also researching on to launch an integrated podcast based service in
agriculture to support farmers. The project will continue to research and
work on Open Source systems for our technology developments.

Ajith Kumar R, Chief Coordinator, KISSAN Kerala, IIITM-Kerala.

Kumbh Mela witnesses millions of devotees thronging religious cities
periodically. Managing and offering security to such a massive crowd was an
extremely challenging task. To resolve this IP Surveillance systems connected
over a secure wireless network spanning all 4 critical locations (Rishikesh,
Haridwar, Muni Ki Reti, and Neelkanth) were installed and the wireless system
was integrated to a centralized command & control center located at Haridwar.
This led to information feeds flowing in from different locations that enabled
real time remote monitoring. This inturn aided in informed decision making for
crowd and traffic control.

Another interesting project was how Department of Agriculture, Govt of Kerala
resolved the challenge of reaching out to the farmer community with the right
agricultural information at the right time through a BI and DSS project,
Karshaka Information Systems Services and Networking (KISSAN).The project has
adopted a multi-modal delivery approach and integrated various platforms like
Internet, television, telephone, mobile, video streaming etc, letting the
farmers  choose the medium.

The Domain of the education department is
1.25 lakh government schools where more than 1.1 crore students are
enrolled. These schools and the supervising offices are located in the
remote and rural areas of the state. The key challenges in use of the IT
solutions in these areas are the lack of availability of power and Internet
connectivity. To resolve these we are exploring the use of solar power. For
connectivity, we are trying to make use of broadband facility being provided
by GoI under USOF (Univeral Service Obligation Fund) Scheme. We are working
on to maximizing the use of Open Source technologies, browser-based
computing, multi-seat computing solutions, WIMAX, etc to save the cost of
the deployment and maximize their coverage and deployment.

Sunil Jain,
Technical Director, National Informatics Centre (NIC), Ministry of
Communications and Information Technology, MP

Technologies deployed
Some of e-gov projects used Open Source technology like LAPP (linux, apache,
postgressql, php) and GNU Linux distributions. Database servers used in the e-gov
projects were either SQL servers or Oracle 10G. J2EE technology had widely been
deployed over .NET. The Tsunami Early Warning System used Geospatial
technologies like ArcGIS Desktop 9.2, ArcSDE 9.2, ArcGIS Engine 9.2, WebGIS
technologies like ESRI ArcIMS 9.2 and for datawarehousing used IBM Ascential
Datastage.

Future outlook
We asked some of the project heads about key challenges that their domain
faces, that are yet to be resolved and the way forward. We received some
interesting inputs which revealed the challenges associated with bringing the
benefits of IT to rural India, which constitutes around 70% of the country’s
population.

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