E-governance is a pretty complex matter that is made all the more complex with the advancement of technology. In a country the size of India, to change any process is itself a long process. So we have to do something radically different; we have to break the shackles of process before we can produce the kind of result that is expected or desired.
Innovation is good but only in a certain context; it is not equivalent to upsetting the apple cart and trying to start all over. E-district will be the focal point at which all services will converge and again diverge to the citizens. Last year we had launched this project in 102 districts and in the current year we are going to launch in 200 more districts.
The second important aspect is BPR processed re-engineering. It is often frustrating trying to fill up a form; it is even more difficult to, in Indian circumstances, to fill a form online than to scribble a few lines on paper. Let us realise that; so unless we cut down on the forms, cut down on the length, breadth and size of the form and the complexity of the forms and attachments on the form, we are not doing a great service. In fact, we are doing dis-service; we are making life more miserable by creating such e-forms.
Then, of course, wherever a good project has been done, there should be a way of replicating it rather than re-inventing it. So we have created the e-government app. Store. You can also see it in the public domain – at apps.nic.in. It not only showcases the best projects, also available is a fully downloadable app. The code is available there. You can download or you can run it in the cloud environment straight away. This is another hope for the future, where we are not trying to give fish, distribute fish but distribute fishing rods. So using that analogy we have created the app. store where the best of applications thoroughly proven, will be posted – whether it is done by the government or by the private sector. It is for others to see and evaluate. We are going to grow this into a very viable, vibrant site as we go along. So this is one way to eliminate duplicate and redundant work.
There are two other important elements that need to also fall in place. One is the implementation model, how agile can the implementation be within the government. The concept may be excellent, but when it is put on the ground, there are a lot of hurdles and problems. As a result, the concept doesn’t seem to translate and trickle down to the person whom it is supposed to benefit. So we need to further refine existing implementation models, the existing PPP models and implement partnerships in the real spirit. This is opposed to a vender relationship; we need to have partnership relationships. That will take us much faster and closer to the goal.
We need to further refine the existing implementation and PPP models, and implement partnerships in the real spirit. This is opposed to a vender relationship; we need to have partnership relationships. That will take us much faster and closer to the goal
There is also a need for champions; things won’t happen by themselves or by accident. How do you build such champions? How do you create such champions? We are working on a big capacity building programme where the idea is to inspire them, give them some tools and some kind of guidelines to go forward and let them go ahead and innovate.
But there are a few imperatives. First of all, we need to be clear about what to do. Whatever maybe the organisation’s broad goals, the objectives of a scheme should be very clearly set so that from top to bottom everybody understands it the same way and there is a resonance. It is not that existing programmes do not have it, but it is time that we validate, revalidate, refine those objectives and recast them, if necessary.
Attached to that is the concept of, in a country like India, centralised planning with decentralised implementation. In most schemes it is the State that implements. Therefore, it is necessary to create certain core concepts and core objectives and leave some degree of freedom for the States and the local governments to customise or configure.
Last, but not least, another imperative is the need for empowerment and delegation of the people at the cutting edge level. At the end of the day, the image of the government and image of a programme and the impact that a programme creates is seen, felt and appreciated or otherwise at the cutting edge level. So, how effectively you empower people at that level is the key to success. Today’s technology and instruments are like double-edged swords. You can use them either to excessively centralise sitting in Delhi – you can press a button and make things happen in a remote village. The other edge of the sword, which is more democratic and more sustainable, is decentralisation with responsibility and accountability. Systems are in place to take care that things are being done in accordance with the rules and in a transparent manner. Nobody needs to look over the shoulder of every field implementer. Decentralisation with corresponding systems built in is the answer to a faster, better and more realistic ground level implementation. All this will help in making government smarter, faster and more responsive to the people.