General Studies Essay Paper: ICT & Governance

ICT and Governance

IAS Junior Mains Answer Writing June-Sep 2019 Schedule (Click Here)

 

Syllabus: General Studies Essay Paper: Governance

 

ICT: Panacea for governance?

 

Introduction:

Governance is the deliberate and conscious management of regime structures for enhancing the public realm. Governance can be viewed from social, political and economic perspectives. Indeed, good governance is pivotal to the development process. Development linked governance has been an issue much debated in the contemporary world. The term ‘governance’ has taken a much wider meaning and is no longer restricted to ‘rule’ or ‘administration’ but is used in a broader sense to imply the manner in which power is exercised. Since power can be exercised in any manner as desired, certain principles would be required in order to judge whether the discourse of the power has been made as per certain standards and norms. Such judgment can be based on several criteria – participation of citizens, upholding the rule of law, transparency of the system, responsiveness of the authority, consensus oriented policy, equity and inclusiveness of the policy, accountability of the system, strategic vision of the authority, etc.

Body:

Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) play a key role in development & Economic growth of India. Political, Cultural, Socio-economic Developmental & Behavioural decisions today rest on the ability to access, gather, analyze and utilize Information and Knowledge. ICT is the conduits that transmit information and knowledge to individual to widen their choices for Economic and social empowerment. Government of India is having an ambitious objective of transforming the citizen-government interaction at all levels to by the electronic mode (e-Governance) by 2020.

It is an imperative for economic progress in today’s world. Today many government departments have started using information and communications technology (ICT) to automate their works because of ease of access to computer technology and the numerous developments in the field of information and communications technology. There has also been an increased efficiency in the functioning of the government services because of computerization of services like ration cards, income certificates, building licences, Passport/VISA, Pensions, Road Transport, Property Registration, Railway services, land records, and income tax payments etc. which has made life convenient, efficient and transparent for the citizens.

India started its e-Governance initiative with the establishment of National Informatics Center (NIC) in 1977. But with the introduction of NICNET (National Informatics Center Network), the main emphasis was given for e-governance, which was a national satellite based computer network, after which the district information of National Informatics Center (DISNIC) for computerization of all district offices in the country The system was launched, for which free hardware and software was offered to the state governments . NICNET was extended for all district headquarters through the state capitals till 1990.

A large number of e-governance initiatives were taken at the union and state levels. In 1999, the Ministry of Information Technology was created. By 2000, a 12-point minimum agenda for e-Governance was identified by the Government of India for implementation in all Central Government Ministries / Departments. The use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) for the integration of services of e-Governance, exchange of information, communication transactions, different stand-alone systems and services is available.

eKranti’ or NeGP 2.0 was also conceptualized with a focus on electronic delivery of services. Later Digital India is an initiative to ensure that Government services are made available to citizens electronically by improving online infrastructure and by increasing Internet connectivity. 

Government of India took many initiatives to make use of Information communication technology to provide transparency and accountable governance some instance s like
Government to Citizen (G2C) is an initiative which deals with extending the reach of governance to have a major impact on the people at large. Projects taken in this direction are Computerization of Land Records (Department of Land Resources, Government of India), Bhoomi Project: Online Delivery of Land Records, Gyandoot, Lokvani Project, e-Mitra Project, Project FRIENDS, eSeva, Revenue Administration through Computerized Energy (RACE) Billing Project, Admission to Professional Colleges – Common Entrance Test (CET) etc..

E-Seva, a Government to Citizen Project: The e-seva project whose services include online payment of utility bills, issuing certificates, issuing licenses & permits, e-forms etc started in 1999.It was designed to provide ‘Government to Citizen’ services. It delivers services online to consumers by connecting them to the respective government departments and providing online information at the point of service delivery. The project has become very popular among the citizens especially for payment of utility bills. Success of this project is largely based on payment of electricity bills. It exemplifies the potential for integration of delivery of Union, State and Local Government services at one point. However, it also shows that the model based on payment of utility bills could not be rolled out in the rural hinterland.

 

Project FRIENDS, a Government to Citizen Project FRIENDS (Fast, Reliable, Instant, Efficient Network for the Disbursement of Services) which was launched in June 2000 is a Single Window Facility providing citizens the means to pay taxes and other financial dues to the State Government. Its services are provided through FRIENDS Janasevana Kendrams. This project is a classic case of achieving front end computerized service delivery to citizens without waiting for completion of back end computerization in various government departments. This project thus tries to avoid the complex issues involved in business process re-engineering in the participating departments. To remove bottlenecks at the time of processing, a government order was issued to treat a receipt from a FRIENDS counter as equivalent to a receipt from the concerned government entity.

Government to Business (G2B) is an initiative which deals with activities of government which impinge upon business organizations. The objective of bringing activities like registrations, licenses and exchange of information between government and business under e-Governance is to provide an amiable legal environment to business, speed up processes and provide relevant information to business. Some of the projects are e-Procurement Project, e-Procurement, MCA 21, etc.

E-Procurement Project, a Government to Business Project: Prior to the introduction of an e-Procurement system procurement in Government departments was done through a manual tendering process. The process consisted of a long chain of internal authorizations and scrutiny which necessitated several visits by the suppliers to government departments. The manual tender system suffered from various deficiencies, including discrimination, cartel formation, delays, lack of transparency etc. The e-Procurement project was introduced in 2003. The benefits of the new system were reduction in tender cycle time, reduction in opportunities for corrupt practices, Cost Savings, substantial reduction in the advertisement costs in the press media, Transparency in the bidding process .Besides, it has made a visible social impact, as citizens are assured that government procurement is conducted in a transparent manner, saving taxpayers’ money.

Government to Government (G2G) is an initiative which deals with large scale processing of information and decision making within government systems. This initiative has been taken to help in making the internal government processes more efficient. Some of projects are Khajane Project in Karnataka, SmartGov (Andhra Pradesh), etc…

SmartGov, a Government to Government Project: The processing of information in the Government is predominantly workflow intensive. Information moves in the form of paper files from one officer to another for seeking opinions, comments. SmartGov was developed to streamline operations, enhance efficiency through workflow automation and knowledge management. The solution automates the functioning of all levels of Government entities and provides a well defined mechanism for transforming the “hard copy environment” to a “digital environment”. It enhances productivity through use of IT as a tool. SmartGov replaces the paper file with an e-file. SmartGov provides the features of creation, movement, tracking and closure of e-files, automation of repetitive tasks, decision support system through knowledge management, prioritization of work, easy access to files through an efficient document management system and collaboration between departments.

 

Digital India: Digital India is the latest initiative it is a program that aims at transforming the country through leveraging information and communication technologies in every sphere of economy and society. It is centered around providing digital infrastructure as a utility to every citizen, governance and services on demand, and digital empowerment of citizens. This was launched keeping in view that despite the successful implementation of many e-Governance projects across the country, e-Governance as a whole has not been able to make the desired impact and fulfil all its objectives.

MyGov.in which is a platform that has been implemented for citizens to interactively engage within the government.

An Aadhaar based biometric attendance system is being implemented in the central government offices in Delhi to begin with. JeevanPramaan Portal: A portal which allows pensioners to submit their life certificate, which can later be disbursed to the agencies for necessary processing.

Digital Locker, facility will help citizens to digitally store their important documents like PAN card, passport, mark sheets and degree certificates. Digital Locker will provide secure access to Government issued documents. It uses authenticity services provided by Aadhaar. It is aimed at eliminating the use of physical documents and enables sharing of verified electronic documents across government agencies. Digital Locker provides a dedicated personal storage space in the cloud to citizens, linked to citizens Aadhaar number. Digital Locker will reduce the administrative overhead of government departments and agencies created due to paper work. It will also make it easy for the residents to receive services by saving time and effort as their documents will now be available anytime, anywhere and can be shared electronically.

 

Crime and Criminal Tracking Network & (CCTNS) aims at creating a comprehensive and integrated system for enhancing the efficiency and effective policing at all levels and especially at the Police Station level through adoption of principles of e-Governance, and creation of a nationwide networked infrastructure for evolution of IT-enabled state-of-the-art tracking system.

Public Distribution System Computerization of the PDS is envisaged as an end-to-end project covering key functional areas such as supply chain management including allocation and utilization reporting, storage and movement of food grains, grievance redressal and transparency portal, digitization of beneficiary database, Fair Price Shop automation, etc.

Health ,ICT for programme management has been undertaken by the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare in the Mother and Child Tracking System (MCTS) programme and the Ministry envisages a more comprehensive use of ICT including for Hospital Information Systems, supply chain management for drugs and vaccines, providing ICT tools to ASHA and ANM workers, programme management of National Rural Health Mission (NRHM), etc through this MMP.

e-panchayat The Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) are saddled with the problems of inadequate physical and financial resources, technical capabilities and extremely limited computerization. As a result, the potential of PRIs as the preferred delivery channel for the schemes of State and Centre as well as for citizen services has not been fully realized. While some computerization efforts for PRIs have been made by NIC over the years, the e-Governance revolution sweeping the country has not touched the PRIs yet in significant measure. The Ministry of Panchayati Raj, Government of India has therefore decided to take up the computerization of PRIs on a mission mode basis.

 

Application of ICT in governance helps both government and common people .Technology makes communication speedier. Internet, Phones, Cell Phones have reduced the time taken in normal communication. Most of the Government expenditure is appropriated towards the cost of stationary. Paper-based communication needs lots of stationary, printers, computers, etc. which calls for continuous heavy expenditure. Internet and Phones makes communication cheaper saving valuable money for the Government. Use of ICT makes governing profess transparent. All the information of the Government would be made available on the internet. The citizens can see the information whenever they want to see. But this is only possible when every piece of information of the Government is uploaded on the internet and is available for the public to peruse. Current governing process leaves many ways to conceal the information from all the people. ICT helps make the information available online eliminating all the possibilities of concealing of information. Once the governing process is made transparent the Government is automatically made accountable. Accountability is answerability of the Government to the people. It is the answerability for the deeds of the Government. An accountable Government is a responsible Government.

 

Electronic governments also consist on certain concerns . mainly Literacy of the users and the ability to use the computer, users who do not know how to read and write would need assistance. An example would be the senior citizens. In general, senior citizens do not have much computer education and they would have to approach a customer service officer for assistance. And also, in case of rural people, it gives scope for middleman, who distort the information.  The main disadvantage of an electronic government is to move the government services into an electronic based system. This system loses the person to person interaction which is valued by a lot of people.

In addition, the implementation of an e-government service is that, with many technology-based services, it is often easy to make the excuse (e.g. the server has gone down) that problems with the service provided are because of the technology. Another prime concern has been broadband penetration. According to a report released by The UN Broadband Commission released India ranked 131 out of 189 countries on fixed-broadband subscriptions in 2014.Then there is a concern about rural connectivity, the government is this with the aim to connect more than 2 lakh village panchayats. The monitoring and evaluation system is also weak and needs to be improved.

Even though the level of confidence in the security offered by government web sites are high, the public are still concerned over security, fear of spam from providing email addresses, and government retention of transaction or interaction history. There has been growing concern about the privacy of data being collected as part of UID project. The security of cyber space and misuse of data is still holding back the citizens to full adaptation of Aadhar card.

 

Conclusion:

For e-governance initiatives to be truly successful government support at the highest level is required, next application of Information Technology should be preceded by process re-engineering; then an intellectual and empowered leader with a dedicated team who can conceptualize and implement e-Governance projects with the help of officials at all levels and technological solution providers are needed; Issues of connectivity and electricity supply are of paramount importance; and In case of complex projects, all components need to be identified and analyzed at the outset, followed by meticulous planning and project implementation.  In India, e-Governance applications in the recent past have demonstrated their positive impact in minimizing the processing costs, increase transparency and support economic development by income generating ventures, increase in agricultural production, and improvements in health and education sectors, all of which promote the overall quality of life. Despite all the challenges, there are award-winning e-governance projects in India. Therefore, we can say that ICT is a panacea for developing countries like India to reduce corruption, provides efficient and effective or quality services to its citizens.

 

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