E-Governance for Rural Development


By

Swati Bhatt
Sr. Lecturer (Marketing Area)
Department of Management Studies
SRM University, (NCR Campus)
Ghaziabad
 


India is a land of diversity. This diversity spans across culture, tradition, language, geography and the economic condition of the people. It is a nation that has a significant number of people who are below the minimal socio-economic benchmarks. This includes rural and urban poor, women in rural areas, street children, people belonging to historically disadvantaged castes and people living in less developed areas. The vulnerability of these sections of society has increased with globalization and this section is prone to become even more marginalized - economically and socially.

Successive governments have committed themselves to addressing these divides, but effective implementation of various economic development programmes aimed at individuals belonging to these sections of society has proved an elusive goal.

During the 1980s and early 1990s, initial attempts towards e-Governance were made with a focus on networking government departments and developing in-house government applications in the areas of defence, economic monitoring, planning and the deployment of IT to manage data-intensive functions related to elections, census, tax administration etc.80 These applications focused on automation of internal government functions rather than on improving service delivery to citizens.

Over the past decade or so, there have been islands of e-Governance initiatives in the country at the national, state, district and even block-level. Some of them have been highly successful and are suitable for replication. A need was therefore felt for taking a holistic view of the several e-Governance initiatives implemented across the country. It was increasingly perceived that if e-Governance was to be speeded up across the various arms and levels of Government a programme approach would need to be adopted, which must be guided by a common vision, strategy and approach. This would have the added advantage of enabling huge savings in costs, in terms of sharing the core and support infrastructure, enable interoperability through standards etc, which would result in the citizen having a seamless view of Government.

eGovernance- the term

The term eGovernance has different connotations: 

* E-administration—The use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT's) to modernize the state; the creation of data repositories for MIS, computerisation of records.

* E-services—The emphasis here is to bring the state closer to the citizens. Examples include provision of online services. E-administration and e-services together constitute what is generally termed e-government.

* eGovernance—The use of IT to improve the ability of government to address the needs of society. It includes the publishing of policy and programme related information to transact with citizens. It extends beyond provision of on-line services and covers the use of IT for strategic planning and reaching development goals of the government. 

* E-democracy—The use of IT to facilitate the ability of all sections of society to participate in the governance of the state. The remit is much broader here with a stated emphasis on transparency, accountability and participation. Examples could include online disclosure policies, online grievance redress forums and e-referendums.

E-Governance is now mainly seen as a key element of the country's governance and administrative reform agenda. The Government of India aspires to provide:

Governance that is easily  understood by and accountable  to the citizens, open to democratic involvement and scrutiny (an open and transparent government)

Citizen-centric governance that will cover all of its services and respect everyone as individuals by providing personalized services. 

An effective government that delivers maximum value for taxpayers' money (quick and efficient services) 

Hence the Government of India views e-Governance as a vehicle to initiate and sustain reforms by focusing on three broad areas:

* Governance

Transparency
People's participation
Promotion of a democratic society

* Public services

Efficient, cost-effective and responsive governance
Convenient services to citizens and businesses
Greater citizen access to public information
Accountability in delivery of services to citizens

* Management

Simplicity, efficiency and accountability
Managing voluminous information and data effectively
Information services
Swift and secure communication

Implementation

Implementation of e-Governance is a highly complex process requiring provisioning of hardware & software, networking, process re-engineering and change management. Based on successful e-Governance applications, the approach and methodology adopted for National eGovernance Plan (NeGP) contains the following elements:

i. Common Support Infrastructure: NeGP implementation involves setting up of common and support IT infrastructure such as: State Wide Area Networks (SWANs), State Data Centres (SDCs), Common Services Centres (CSCs) and Electronic Service Delivery Gateways.

ii. Governance: Suitable arrangements for monitoring and coordinating the implementation of NeGP under the direction of the competent authorities have also been substantially put in place. The programme also involves evolving/ laying down standards and policy guidelines, providing technical support, undertaking capacity building, R&D, etc. DIT is required to adequately strengthen itself and various institutions like NIC, STQC, CDAC, NISG, etc., to play these roles effectively.

iii. Centralized Initiative, Decentralized Implementation: e-Governance is being promoted through a centralised initiative to the extent necessary to ensure citizen-centric orientation, to realise the objective of inter-operability of various e-Governance applications and to ensure optimal utilisation of ICT infrastructure and resources while allowing for a decentralised implementation model. It also aims at identifying successful projects and replicating them with required customisation wherever needed.

iv. Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) model is to be adopted wherever feasible to enlarge the resource pool without compromising on the security aspects.

v. Integrative Elements: Adoption of unique identification codes for citizens, businesses and property is to be promoted to facilitate integration and avoid ambiguity.

vi. Programme Approach at the National and State levels: For implementation of the NeGP, various Union Ministries/Departments and State Governments are involved. Considering the multiplicity of agencies involved and the need for overall aggregation and integration at the national level, NeGP is being implemented as a programme, with well defined roles and responsibilities of each agency involved. For facilitating this, appropriate programme management structures have also been put in place.

vii. Facilitatory role of Department of Information Technology (DIT): DIT is the facilitator and catalyst for the implementation of NeGP by various Ministries and State Governments and also provides technical assistance. It serves as a secretariat to the Apex Committee and assists it in managing the programme. In addition, DIT is also implementing pilot/ infrastructure/ technical/ special projects and support components . Department of Administrative Reforms & Public Grievances (DAR&PG)'s responsibility is towards Government Process Re-engineering and Change Management, which are desired to be realised across all government departments. Planning Commission and Ministry of Finance allocate funds for NeGP through Plan and Non-plan budgetary provisions and lay down appropriate procedures in this regard.

viii. Ownership of Ministries: Under the NeGP, various Mission Mode Projects   (MMPs) are owned and spearheaded by the concerned line Ministries. In case there      are any ongoing projects which fall in the MMP category, they would be suitably enhanced to align them with the objectives of NeGP. For major projects like Bharat Nirman, Rural Employment Guarantee Schemes etc., the line ministries concerned are advised to make use of e-Governance as also automation techniques from the inception stage. States have been given the flexibility to identify a few additional state-specific projects, which are relevant for the economic development of the State.

Agriculture, power and education are fields where the government makes use of IT to provide services to citizens. The revenue collection department is in the process of using information technology for applications such as income tax.

Some notable examples:

* A Kolkata-based hospital leverages e-governance for tropical medicine. The hospital employs tele-medicine to assist doctors in rural areas as they analyse and treat panchayat residents. This method does away with patients having to travel all the way to Kolkata for treatment. Patients feel better being examined in their own village. Using tele-medicine, the hospital is able to dispense its expertise to far-flung districts. The patient goes for an examination to the local doctor in the panchayat. This doctor is in contact via a voice & data connection with a doctor at the hospital for tropical medicine. Thus, the panchayat resident gets the benefit of being treated by both a local doctor and a hospital specialist.

* The Karnataka government's 'Bhoomi' project has led to the computerisation of the centuries-old system of handwritten rural land records. Through it, the revenue department has done away with the corruption-ridden system that involved bribing village accountants to procure land records; records of right, tenancy and cultivation certificates (RTCs). The project is expected to benefit seventy lakh villagers in 30,000 villages.

* A farmer can walk into the nearest taluk office and ask for a computer printout of his land record certificate for Rs 15. He can also check details of land records on a touch-screen kiosk by inserting a two-rupee coin. These kiosks, installed at the taluk office, will provide the public with a convenient interface to the land records centre.

* In Gujarat there are websites where citizens log on and get access to the concerned government department on issues such as land, water and taxes.

* In Hyderabad, through e-Seva, citizens can view and pay bills for water, electricity and telephones, besides municipal taxes. They can also avail of birth / death registration certificates, passport applications, permits / licences, transport department services, reservations, Internet and B2C services, among other things.

* eChoupal, ITC's unique web-based initiative, offers farmers the information, products and services they need to enhance productivity, improve farm-gate price realisation, and cut transaction costs. Farmers can access the latest local and global information on weather, scientific farming practices, as well as market prices at the village itself through this web portal-all in Hindi. eChoupal also facilitates the supply of high quality farm inputs as well as the purchase of commodities at the farm.

Given the literacy and infrastructure constraints at the village level, this model is designed to provide physical service support through a choupal sanchalak-himself a lead farmer-who acts as the interface between the system and the farmers. The contents of this site in their entirety are made available only to the registered sanchalaks.
 

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Source: E-mail February 14, 2011

          

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