E-Governance in India

 

Background

Today's is a world of change and revolution. With this changing environment, the nature of governance often changes depending on the intensity and speed of transition within and around societies.  Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) are playing an increasingly important role in the day to day lives of people and hence affecting public governance. E-governance (Electronic Governance) is the application of ICT to transform the efficiency, effectiveness, transparency and accountability of exchange of information and transaction of government services through the use of internet. It gives citizens the choice of when and where they access government information and services. Through this, citizens can save their time and money. In developing countries, Government beneficiary schemes can be made reachable to the lowest strata of society by efficiently implementing E-Governance projects. E-governance is advocated as a tool to achieve the policy prescriptions of the good governance agenda. P.M Modi  referred to e-governance, as easy governance, effective governance and economical governance.

“The establishment of the National Informatics Centre (NIC) in 1977 was the first step towards e-Governance in India as it brought 'information and its communication in focus'. However, the main thrust for e-Governance was provided by the launching of NICNET in 1987 – the national satellite-based computer network. This was followed by the launch of the District Information System of the National Informatics Centre (DISNIC) programme to computerize all district offices in the country for which free hardware and software was offered to the State Governments. NICNET was extended via the State capitals to all district headquarters by 1990.”[1] Gradually several states initiated measures to introduce e-governance to improve their governance process like Bhoomi in Karnataka, Gyandoot in Madya Pardesh, Project Smart Government in Andhra Pradesh, Project Sampark in Chandigarh, etc.

Challenges

According to United Nations E-Government Survey 2014, India Ranked 118 out of 193 countries in E-government Development Index (EDDI). E-governance is a big challenge to bring services to all citizens in terms of quality and accessibility. “It is ironic that despite the Internet penetration in India growing faster than most countries, 90 per cent of its population are still not connected. A McKinsey report states that there will be 330 million Indians on the Internet in 2015, making it the second largest connected population in the world. However, even with that number, India’s internet penetration will be a mere 28 per cent. Today, the Internet is primarily being used as a medium for social networking and entertainment in India, while its immense potential in enabling widespread access to education, healthcare, employability and access to government services is still largely untapped.” [2] To improve the quality of governance of PRIs, GOI in 2005 had initiated an e-governance scheme known as e-Panchayat. E-Panchayat is one of 31 Mission Mode Projects (MMPs) of Govt of India under the National e-Governance Plan (NeGP). The project is aimed at automating the internal work flow processes of all the 2.5 Lakh Panchayats and equivalent Rural Local Bodies across the country. “When the government began rolling out the e-Panchayat project, it was widely expected to change the governance structure at the village level all across the country. But some states have taken to it whole heartedly, others are reluctant participants and several are not there in the picture. It has however been five years since the ambitious plan was drafted, but the Ministry of Panchayati Raj (MoPR) and the National Informatics Centre (NIC) have, at the cost of Rs. 50 crore, developed a set of web application that cover only the core functions of the panchayat administrative process. The objective of the project seems clear enough on paper but the ground reality seems to be very different. Several people associated with panchayats are unaware of the project’s objectives. It has also been observed that Power and connectivity, the basic requirement for any computerized system, have proved to be a major roadblock in the implementation of e-Panchayat in Rajasthan and in several other states”. [3] To bridge the digital divide between Urban and Rural areas “the government has announced National Fibre Optical project of connecting 1 lakh gram panchayat with broadband network by March 2015, Department of Telecom (DoT) found the pace of work is too slow. “National Optical Fibre Network (NOFN), it is supposed to connect 2.5 lakh gram panchayats when completed. The Rs. 20,000 crore project has already been delayed by over 2 years due to issues around procurement of equipment.” [4]

There are other various factors constraining access to electronic communication, although such access is an essential precondition for the effectiveness of e-governance. (1) Internet access is too expensive for the poor in a developing country like India. (2) Low level of literacy and awareness (3) Dominance of English on the internet constraint the access of non-English -speaking population.

Conclusion

The Indian Government has for the past 2 decades widely acknowledged the use of e-governance in the public sector. But there is still a digital divide in the country. The poor citizens immediately need the basic material necessities of life, including food, health, education and employment, and only then can they become interested in non-material concerns like information and knowledge provided by e-governance. There is no doubt that with proper implementation of e-governance certain sections of people can enjoy certain services but it is yet to be seen whether e-governance can eradicate poverty, reduce inequality and satisfy basic human needs in a poor country like India.

Written by Ajay Kumar Ranjan

 


[1] http://arc.gov.in/11threp/ARC_11thReport_Ch4.pdf

[2] http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/opinion/india-still-out-of-the-net/article4544460.ece

[3] Ankita Lahari. “Five years on, digital Panchayat still a pipeline”. Governance Now, August 16-31, Vol. 05, issue 14, New Delhi, pp-56-57

[4] http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/features/smartbuy/dot-unhappy-with-slow-progress-of-national-optical-fibre-project/article6360903.ece

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