e-Governance in India
It is only recently that the call for ‘minimum government, maximum governance’ has grown louder. Technology is at the core of the idea of transforming the way India perceives governance. While computerisation of government departments was the first sign of progress that was seen in the 90s, the e-Governance in India has steadily evolved to be more citizen-centric, service-oriented and transparent.
The thrust on applying information and communication technology (ICT) for delivering government services has been given by both the UPA and the NDA governments, although the latter has aimed more aggressively for it.
e-Governance Initiatives in India
The National e-Governance Plan (NeGP), which intends to change the outlook of the government towards the processes followed, has always hinged on two factors: building capacity within the government and creating awareness among the citizens.
The plan, which got government’s approval on 18 May 2006, was formulated to create a strong foundation on which the edifice of e-Governance could be built. It elaborates on the need for creating ‘right governance’ and having adequate institutional mechanisms, infrastructure and policies in place to ensure speedy implementation of mission-critical projects both at Centre and State levels.
Major e-Governance Projects in India
Digital India initiative has been incubated to integrate administration and the citizens of the country. The initiative has three main components: create digital infrastructure, deliver services digitally and ensure digital literacy. Besides aiming at connecting rural India with high-speed internet networks, it also lays down the objective of making government services available to people electronically and reducing the paperwork.
Modi’s Thrust on m-Governance
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has recently urged the relevant stakeholders to think about ‘mobiles first’, which, he thinks, is a must for successful implementation of e-governance. His emphasis on mobile governance is to be seen as a major push for the Digital India initiative. Further, Modi recently launched ‘Twitter Samvad’ – a new service that will deliver government’s tweets to registered mobile users every day. As per the initiative, tweets related to government services and developments will be delivered to those who sign up for the service.
e-Kranti: Electronic Delivery of Services
In order to make the use of IT more pervasive, the NDA government plans to introduce interactive voice response systems to integrate buyer-seller platforms through mobile apps. This is a step towards making mobile phones an enabler for agriculture governance. Besides e-Kranti, there are eight other pillars that Digital India initiative focusses on, including Broadband Highways, Public Internet Access Programme and Digital Wallet.
States That Have Implemented e-Governance
Bhoomi Project (Karnataka)
Karnataka government transformed the way land records are maintained with the Bhoomi Project. The concept of digitising land records has not only brought transparency but also given 6.7 million farmers direct access to 20 million rural land records. Farmers get unhindered access to their land details through 177 kiosks across the state. Moreover, it eliminated the need for depending on middlemen.
Gyandoot (Madhya Pradesh)
This intranet-based service delivery initiative was launched in the Dhar district in January 2000. The objective has been to provide relevant information to the rural population. This initiative acted as an interface between the district administration and the people.
Lokvani Project (Uttar Pradesh)
It is a public-private partnership project initiated in November, 2004 with an objective of providing an e-Governance solution when it comes to handling of grievances, land record maintenance and providing a blend of other essential services.
FRIENDS Project (Kerala)
FRIENDS is an acronym for Fast, Reliable, Instant, Efficient Network for the Disbursement of Services. Considered as the most popular e-governance project, FRIENDS enables citizens to pay the taxes and do the necessary government related transactions with ease.
e-Mitra Project (Rajasthan)
The project has been operational since 2005. Its macro objective is to ensure anytime access to citizen services pertaining to all the government departments. Both urban and rural citizens can be assured complete security for their transactions. Instead of running around various departments, they can use an integrated e-platform to avail the services.
e-Seva (Andhra Pradesh)
The e-Seva initiative was a move to deliver ‘Government-to-Citizen’ and ‘e-Business-to-Citizen’ services. All the services are delivered online to citizens by connecting them to the respective government departments.
This online school monitoring system was a major leap in e-Governance for the state. It monitors online attendance of teachers and students in schools and track through biometric device. The state was selected for the National e-Governance Award 2014-15 for innovative use of geographic information technology. It developed a GIS-based web application to plot and map schools in villages to be covered under Rajiv Gandhi Shiksha Mission.
Challenges in Implementing e-Governance
India’s efforts towards bridging the urban-rural divide as well as digital divide are yet to yield substantial results so far. A recent United Nations report, which tracks the status of e-Governance preparedness across countries, has placed India at 118th position in the list of 193 countries. The report also revealed that there’s a strong correlation between the e-Government Development Index and the national income of a country.
While it is convenient to pass the buck to “resistance to change” for low user adoption of web-based system for government services, there are two other challenges that are rearing their heads. In the absence of privacy law and data protection law, implementation of a majority of e-governance initiatives in India has witnessed failure. Another challenge that the government of India can’t deny for long is the poor cyber security in the country. According to the experts, e-governance without cyber security is meaningless. They are of the opinion that the apathy towards cyber security breeds from the fact that there is no mandatory e-governance services in India.