Governance is the process by which the state or government delivers services to its citizens,effectively. The primary task of any chosen government is to continuously improve upon this process of service delivery. When Information and Communications Technology (ICT) is utilized by the state to make the delivery of services more effective, efficient, equitable, it is known as E-governamce or digital governance. E-governance also enhances transparency and accountability in the process of service delivery, thereby, boosting public trust and confidence in government. In 21st century, e-governance has transformed the way governments conduct their business.
In India, the history of the use of ICT in ushering in good governance goes back to 1980s when the Rajeev Gandhi government introduced computers in India. Later, 1991 LPG reforms opened up Indias’ gates for the entry of world class technology from abroad. As a result of which we saw the IT revolution in 2000s. The telecom revolution is its most famous success story. However, a major boost from government came in the year 2006, when the UPA-1 government headed by former Prime Minister Mammohan Singh launched the National E-governance project (NeGP). The idea was to provide government services online. Consequently, services like applying for passport, driving-licence etc became online.
From 2006 to 2015, many monumental changes have taken place such as – Introduction of Adhaar, advanced in mobile and cloud computing, Geographical and Information systems etc. Under influence of these enabling changes, NeGP has been remoulded in its new avatar as a more comprehensive and holistic project has been launched by the current NDA government – on July 1st, 2015, Prime Minister Modi launched his flagship Digital India Programme. Seen by many as NeGP 2.0, this project envisages to not only provide services online, but also aims at bridging the digital divide by empowering indians digitally along with simultaneously creating digital infrastructure. Therefore the three core components of DIP are :
1. Online delivery of services – Various web-portals have been created in the past three years to make governance simpler and transparent. These include measures like, introduction of BHIM app for easier transfer of funds ; PRAGATI that is pro-active governance and timely implementation of projects as a grievance redressal mechanism and also to directly overlook the real-time progress of various central and state projects ; Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) schemes such as PAHAL for crediting LPG subsidy directly to bank accounts ; SHAKTI scheme for transparent allocation of coal tenders through online bidding etc have also been taken. The idea has been to curb red tapism and corruption in government functioning. Leakages and loop-holes in various welfare schemes have been plugged by the use of online portals, so that benefits reach to the intended people. Transparency and ease of doing business has increased. The most important tax reform in India – GST, is also operationalized through the GSTN, an online platform.
2. Digital empowerment of citizens by making them digitally literate – A major hindrance in the progressive march of ICT revolution in India has been the low levels of digital literacy. Digital divide is massive, which renders many efforts to digitize economy moot. Therefore to tackle this, government under DIP has introduced various measures such as, introduction of Pradhan Mantri Grameen Digital Saaksharta Abhiyaan (PMGDSA) which aims to digitally literate 6 crore households by March,2019 ; a 24*7 television channel Digishala has also been launched ; for students SWAYAM portal has been launched while NCERTs of all classes are now available online. In a bid to ensure, inclusive development, Sugamya Pustalya Abhiyaan has also been launched for creating of digital library for blind people. Moreoever, VISAKA that is Vittiya Saaksharta Abhiyaan has also been launched to raise awareness about digital economy and benefits of cashless economy.
3. Creating Digital Infrastructure – Everything which has been mentioned above would not be possible without a robust digital infrastructure to support it. Hence, the government under DIP has laid down a vast network of Optical fibres under the scheme of National Optical Fibre Network (NOFN) also known as Bharat Net. Under this, the government has provided broadband highways to 2.5 lakh Gram Panchayats, linking them with Block and districts’ administration. E-Sampark has linked government departments and jurisdiction while Common Service Centres (CSCs) also called as Jan Suvidha Kendras have been set up in rural areas.
These are E-kiosks which ensure last mile delivery of online services. This initiative is significant because in a country where still 22% people live below poverty line, it is utopian to expect households, especially in rural India to own a computer or a smartphone. Besides, Adhaar has provided Digital identity to almost all Indians. Lastly, the government is also using cloud computing (DigiLocker) to provide its citizens a shareable private space on a public cloud and making all documents or certificated available on this cloud. The idea is to move towards paperless governance.
To sum up, the whole purpose of ushering these transformatory changes in the way government performs its core functions, has been to movr towards Good and SMART governance. The acronym SMART stands for Simple, Moral, Accountable, Responsive, and Transparent government. The process of learning and improving is one that never ends, and in today’s age where technological changes are happening at a rapid pace, it is critical for governments to continously adapt to these monumental changes.
It is prudent to accept the advancement of human civilization and keep pace with it. Hence we must also embrace the new era of big data, Intenet of things, Artifical Intelligence, and the revolutionary block-chain technology. Digital India Programme (DIP) in this scenario has done well in serving our present needs, but challenges are also immense and needs to be addressed. Hope, the wheel of good governance keeps moving.
-Contributed by Kunwar Suryansh
Picture Credits: livemint.com