Shankar agarwal interview


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Interview of Mr. Shankar Aggarwal

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Shankar agarwal interview

  1. 1. photos: chinky shuklaINTERVIEW Shankar Aggarwal, Additional Secretary (e-Governance), DIT“New mission modeprojects on education,health and PDS”
  2. 2. government’s vision to make ser- vices accessible to the common Which mission mode projects under man through the use of informa- the NeGP would you like to identify tion and communications technol- as successes? ogy. Aggarwal, a 1980 batch IAS The entire NeGP, I would say. Today officer of the Uttar Pradesh cadre nobody questions the rationale for and additional secretary (e-Gover- e-governance. Everybody says that nance), Department of Information e-governance is required for public Technology (DIT), discussed his transparency, accountability, efficien- achievements and plans ahead in cy and making life simpler. an exclusive interview with Samir Sachdeva. Edited excerpts: Health is one of the key sectors which are not part of the NeGP. How The NeGP has entered its fifth year. are you planning to address this? What have been the key milestones It has been decided that we will ex- so far? pand this basket of 27 MMPs and the The NeGP has primarily two parts. cabinet secretary has given a direc- The first was delivery of services un- tion to include education, health and der which we had identified 27 Mis- PDS (public distribution system) as sion Mode Projects (MMPs). Of these, MMPs under the NeGP. 24 projects have been approved by the competent authority and most of The DIT is pushing the Electronic these have gone live. However, as far Service Delivery (ESD) bill as replication and national roll out is which mandates all government concerned, there may be some issues departments to deliver public which may have to be addressed, but services electronically after a things are moving at a very fast pace cut-off date. How do you see the and I would say that on a scale of 1 to bill impacting public services? 10 we have achieved something like Though we have identified these 27 7.5. The second part is creation of e- MMPs, the state governments are tak- infrastructure, the vehicle on which ing time, so are some departments of the services can be delivered. To cre- the central government. Unless we ate that vehicle, we have created State create a legislation which will make Wide Area Networks (SWAN), the se- it mandatory for all government de- cure network for government opera- partments and ministries to deliv- tion; State Data Centres (SDC), which er services in the electronic mode, are the repository of all information many departments may not be moti- and applications; and the third is vated enough to take necessary steps Common Service Centres (CSCs), also to deliver services. The only choice known as tele-centres. These are the for them is to decide the cut-off dateA centres at the front end where a citi- to achieve electronic delivery of ser- zen can go to seek services. vices. They may decide on one month, As far as this entire infrastructure two months, ten months or two years, is concerned, we have completed al- but within five years all government most 80 percent of our job. About 26 departments must necessarily deliver SWANs, 11 SDCs and 94,000 CSCs are all public services in electronic mode. under operation in various states and we expect the entire e-infrastructure The bill mandates this at the central will be up and running in another and state levels, but what about the three to six months. We have also services of the local government? been able to get the approval of the We feel that once it is adopted by the competent authority on the e-district state governments, the third level of project. Under e-district, we are go- government will automatically get ing to automate all the back-end pro- covered. Once it is adopted by the cesses at the district and sub-district state governments, all panchayats level. It will take one to two years for and municipalities will get covered. conceptualisation and one more year Though these are elected bodies, for s for implementation. In the next three the purpose of administration theyhead of the National e-Governance years most of the work will be done are under the supervision and controlPlan (NeGP), Shankar Aggarw- and most of the services will be deliv- of the is responsible for realising the ered in electronic mode.
  3. 3. How do you plan to promote How is your Technology Developmente-governance through use of social in Local Language (TDIL) initiativemedia? We believe DIT is also coming coming along?up with a draft guidelines on this. We are trying to convert informationThrough social media we can not only in the local languages and we havereach a larger number of citizens in already notified a certain standard soterms of dissemination of informa- that people are able to share informa-tion but also seek valuable sugges- tion in different languages.tions and comments on our proposedpolicies. We are trying to come out A majority of government websiteswith a policy framework on how to are still not mobile compliant.make use of social media. It will take some time. I think mobile technology came a little early – at aAre you facing any resistance in this time when everybody thought it wasregard? only for the purpose of communica-There may be some apprehension tion. Nobody thought that it could bein the minds of some people that the harnessed for transmitting informa-government is not willing to bring in tion also. This realisation has cometransparency or accountability, but only recently.the fact is that all government depart-ments and everyone in the govern- The DIT has recently come up withment from top to bottom is interested a Request for Proposal (RFP) forin bringing in transparency and ac- a citizen contact centre. How is itcountability. The question is just how different from the CSC project?to do this. That is taking time because CSCs are just the front end where onewhen you try to achieve it through a can go to seek services. A contact cen-framework, you have to look after all tre, on the other hand, is a commonaspects of this framework and make telephone number that anyone cansure people don’t abuse their power call in case of a query or a this framework. Individual securi- In the US, for example, you can justty and privacy should not be compro- dial 911 for emergency services. Wemised in any way. want to create the facility of a com- mon number for non-emergency pur-How do you look at the potential of poses governance in India?Mobile phones have a far deeper Which states are the best inreach than the internet as nearly 70 implementing e-governance?crore people have got a mobile con- “CSCs are just the front All state governments are movingnection. That means, mobile technol- very fast towards the era of e-gover-ogy has reached very remote villag- end where one can nance, whether it is Bihar or UP ores also. This means a mechanism is go to seek services. A Kerala. But the southern states cer-available to communicate informa- tainly have the advantage. They weretion, transfer information, seek infor- contact centre, on the the first movers, so they have alreadymation, and once you have a com- other hand, is a common covered some distance. I am sure themunication channel you can seek other states that have started recentlyservices, you can deliver services. telephone number that will catch up very fast. anyone can call in caseEven as more than 60 percent Indians What is the status of State e-Missionhave access to mobile phones, not of a query or a problem. Teams (SeMTs) in states?more than 0.1 percent use mobiles to In the US, for example, We were supposed to recruit someaccess internet. 350 professionals from IITs, IIMs andPeople are unable to make use of the you can just dial 911 for other institutions and we have beeninternet primarily because while only emergency services. We able to not only recruit but deploytwo percent of people speak English, 150 professionals to various statesmost of the content on the internet is want to create the facility and we feel that within six monthsin English. We have to have a greater of a common number time we will be able to recruit an-focus on the local language, regional other 200-250 professionals. Theselanguages. The moment we get con- for non-emergency professionals are going to be the eyestent in the local language, everybody purposes also.” and ears of the state governments atwill start using internet. the programme level in the area of e-governance.
  4. 4. “People are unable to You mean a separate project onWhat role can institutions such education?as the National Institute for make use of the internet It has to be there. If you want to im-Smart Government (NISG) play in primarily because while prove the quality of education in thise-governance? country, that’s the only way to do it.NISG is an excellent organisation. It’s only two percent ofa unique organisation because 51 per people speak English, Cloud computing is among the majorcent equity is held by the private sec- emerging areas. Are you planning totor and 49 per cent equity is held by most of the content leverage it for e-governance?the central government. However, for on the internet is in Through cloud computing, it is pos-all practical purposes it is a govern- sible to use information and resourc-ment organisation and government English. We have to es and share them. Today every de-departments find it comfortable to have a greater focus partment has got its own resources,negotiate with it or while negotiat- its own platform. This means a hugeing with the private sector through it. on the local language, cost because everybody is trying toThat’s the value of NISG. regional languages. The start from the scratch and everybody is trying to build up their own net-How is capacity building in central moment we get content work and their own storage facilities.and state departments progressing? in the local language, This also means issues of interoper-Capacity building is the responsibility ability because I have got my own siloof the departments concerned. When- everybody will start and you may have your own silo andever they take up an e-governance using it.” these two may not be able to talk toproject, they are expected to earmark each other. On the other hand, if yousufficient funds for capacity building work through a common platform in-and they are doing so. Take the UID teroperability is assured.(Unique Identification) project or theCCTNS (Crime and Criminal Tracking Are you in the process of buildingNetwork & System) have earmarked interoperability framework?funds for capacity building and peo- Yes, we have initiated it and it will beple are trained for that particular done. We have notified standards forproject. the purpose of interoperability. We have also come out with the policy onHow will the UID project help? open standards which has been noti-Today the biggest concern is that we fied. In the meantime, we are tryingdon’t have proper identification for to develop the interoperability gov-each and every resident of this coun- What was the response? ernment framework.try. So it becomes very difficult to Excellent. This year, we are thinkingensure that the subsidies are prop- of starting a mobile exhibition which Are the states following theseerly targeted. Once a unique identity will go from one place to another. guidelines?is given to residents on the basis of These will be followed because when-biometrics, services can be easily tar- How are you going about assessment ever we give any money we put ageted and this can become a common of e-governance projects? condition that all these applicationsthread among all government depart- As per the mandate given to us, all will have to follow the standards noti-ments and programmes. e-governance initiatives have to be fied by the DIT. assessed in terms of their impact.What are your efforts towards This assessment exercise has to be Many countries, including the UK,building awareness for undertaken through independent the US, New Zealand and Australiae-governance? third party organisation, IIMs and have taken open data initiatives. AreIn democracy, pressure groups work IITs. Whenever we take an initiative you planning anything along thesevery well and if we create awareness under e-governance and once it has lines?we are naturally creating pressure reached a certain level, we deploy We have also taken an initiative in thisgroups and there will be a demand to these agencies to undertake third-par- particular area and our stated policydeliver services in electronic form by ty assessments. is to encourage open source software.the government. And if there is some The government has decided in prin-kind of pressure on the government, The National Knowledge Network ciple that the entire data and informa-the government will work faster. Last (NKN) has already been planned for tion which has been created and gen-year, we took the initiative of start- the education sector. erated with public money should being Commonwealth Express, where- That is only to provide a mechanism available in public domain unless it isin six coaches were devoted to ICT to transmit data and knowledge. It sensitive or confidential. nand these coaches covered almost 50 is only a channel, but ultimately thedestinations. content has to be delivered.