E-Governance: Concept and the Indian Scenario
______________________________________Ms. Sarita (Assistant Professor)
E-governance has been the buzzword throughout the world for quite some time now. E-governance could be defined as an IT-led reconfiguration of public sector governance. Almost every country is using e-governance to manage their government and to govern the public and private activities, according to the different conditions and different governmental policies. The Government of India is also transcending from the traditional way of governance towards technological involvement in the process of governance. The purpose of this paper is to examine the basic concept of e-governance, its components, technology, infrastructures and issues-challenges of e-governance in India.
Keywords: E-Government, reconfiguration, Interoperability, Cloud computing, Biometric technology, accountability, transparency.
“A transparent smart e-governance with seamless access, secure and authentic flow of information crossing the interdepartmental barrier and providing a fair and unbiased service to the citizen.” Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam
Governance is referred to structures and processes that are designed in a manner to ensure accountability, transparency, responsiveness, rule of law, stability, equity, empowerment, and broad-based participation. Whereas e-governance is defined as “the application of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) to transform the efficiency, effectiveness, transparency, and accountability of information exchange and transaction between government, government agencies, between government and the citizens, between government and businesses. Through e-governance, government services will be made available to citizens in a more convenient, transparent and efficient manner.
The World Bank in its report on E-Governance has defined E-Governance as:
“Use by government agencies of information technologies to improve and transform relations with citizens, businesses, and other arms of government.”
The U.S. e-government Act, 2002 defined E-governance as “the use by the Government of web-based Internet applications and other information technologies, combined with processes that implement these technologies, to enhance the access to and delivery of Government information and services to the public, other agencies and other Government entities or bring about improvements in Government operations that may include effectiveness, efficiency, service quality, or transformation”.
The European Union defines it e-Government as “the use of Information and Communication Technologies in public administrations combined with organizational change and new skills in order to improve public services and democratic processes”.
E-Governance means online availability of government services at the doorstep with the help of the technology and the methods that are used in E-Governance projects. At present, the development of any country depends on the uses of E-Governance and its penetration. Various initiatives are undertaken by the government to serve some basic needs of providing information and services in a less cumbersome manner to the citizen which are qualitatively superior to those currently available. Also, e-governance services are provided to re-engineer governmental processes to make the system more efficient, transparent, accountable and cost-effective as they strengthen the decision-making process through connectivity, transmission, and analysis of large amounts of data. The Indian government makes the best possible use of technology to communicate and provide information in terms of national websites such as “India.gov.in”, “MyGov.gov.in” and “Dial.gov” etc. These websites provide information about the department concerned its objectives, citizen charters, organizational details and online grievance facilities available to its users.
The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has defined Information, Interaction, Transaction and transformation as four stages of e-government. E-governance services can be shared between citizens, businessman, government, and employees.
There are four models of e-governance-
Government to citizens (G2C) model of e-governance refers to the government services which are shared by citizens. Here, citizens visit the link of services that they want to use. This model strong the bond between the government and its citizen. Type of services which are provided by this model includes payment of online bills such as electricity, water, telephone bills etc., online registration of applications, Copies of land-record, Online filling of complaints or availability of any kind of online information.
Government to government (G2G) model refers to the services which are shared by the governments. There is lots of information that need to be shared between various government agencies, department and organizations. These types of services may include Sharing of information between the police department of various state, Government document exchange which includes preparation, approval, distribution, and storage of all governmental documents etc.
Government to businessmen (G2B) model refers to the bond between the private sector and government to communicate. They share information like the collection of taxes, rejection, and approval of patent, payment of bills and penalties, or sharing of all other kinds of information is done through this model.
Government to employees (G2E) model increases the transparency between government and its employee. Here, the employee can keep a check on the functioning and working of government and government can keep on its employees. Information related to data submission (attendance record, employee record etc) from various government offices can be shared by this model. Also, employees can file all kinds of complaints and dissatisfaction with this model. Along with the above mentioned, all kind of rule- regulation, information, payment and working record for employees can be shared by G2E model.
ESSENTIALS OF GOOD E-GOVERNANCE
The concept of good governance has also emerged from the felt need called New Public Management which began in the early 1980s, to improve public service efficiency. The core values around which new public management works are economy, efficiency and effectiveness. E-governance making use of ICT for better government functioning is a tool for achieving good governance. Good governance requires a long-term, strategic approach evolved through a consensus process. It also requires a long-term perspective on what is needed for sustainable human development. This can only result from an understanding of the social context of a given society or community. E-governance connects the citizen and government with ease and speed and hence has a pivotal role in the governance agenda. Good governance is considered the single most important factor for national development and poverty alleviation. It is based on certain key characteristics which are presented below:
Participation: Participation by both men and women is the key cornerstone of good governance and it could be either direct or through legitimate intermediate institutions or representatives. Participation needs to be informed and organized. This means freedom of association and expression on the one hand and an organized civil society on the other.
Rule of law: Good governance requires fair legal frameworks that are enforced impartially. It also requires full protection of human rights, particularly those of minorities.
Transparency: Transparency means that when decisions are taken their enforcement is done in a manner that follows rules and regulations. It also means that information is freely available and directly accessible to those who will be affected by such decisions and their enforcement.
Responsiveness: Good governance requires that institutions and processes try to serve all stakeholders within a reasonable timeframe.
Consensus oriented: There are several actors and as many viewpoints in a given society. Good governance requires mediation of the different interests in society to reach a broad consensus on what is in the best interests of the whole community and how this can be achieved. It also requires a broad and long-term perspective on what is needed for sustainable human development and how to achieve the goals of such a development. This can only result from an understanding of the historical, cultural and social contexts of a given society or community.
Equity and inclusiveness: A society’s well being depends on ensuring that all its members feel that they have a stake in it and do not feel excluded from the mainstream of society. This requires all groups, but particularly the most vulnerable, to have opportunities to improve or maintain their well being.
Effectiveness and efficiency: In real terms, good governance means that processes and institutions produce results that fulfill the needs of the society by making the best use of available resources. Additionally, the efficiency in the context of e-governance also covers the sustainable use of natural resources and environmental safety.
Accountability: It is also one of the most important key requirements of good governance. Not only governmental institutions are accountable to the public but also the private sector and civil society organizations must be accountable to their institutional stakeholders. Who is accountable and to whom is accountable varies on whether decisions or actions taken are internal or external to an organization. In general, an organization or an institution is accountable to those who will be affected by its decisions or actions. Accountability cannot be enforced without transparency and the rule of law.
TECHNOLOGY USED IN E-GOVERNANCE
Technology defines the infrastructure required for implementation of e-Governance services. The infrastructure includes hardware, software and communication protocols. Some tools are used for providing e-Governance services are –
Optical Character Recognition (OCR): OCR is the recognition of printed or written text character by a computer. This involves photo scanning of the text character-by-character, analysis of the scanned-in image and translation of the character image into character codes. Optical Character Recognition (OCR) is used by libraries to digitize and preserve their holdings. It is also used to process checks and credit card slips. It contributes to paperless governance by reducing the number of unnecessary copies when reading or detection can be done by a device at a lightning speed.
Magnetic Ink Character Recognition (MICR): MICR device which is commonly used in the banking environment where customer’s identification and bank information are preprinted with iron oxide-based ink. This device detects the ink will translate to the readable form. A MICR reader translates these characters into digital form for the computer.
Video Conference: Videoconferencing technology conducts a conference between two or more participants at different sites by using computer networks for transmitting audio and video data. The video conferencing system works much like a video telephone. The facilities are being upgraded with state of art technology by providing High Definition Video Conferencing systems. The Videoconferencing services are being used for monitoring of various Government Projects, Schemes, Monitoring of Law and Order, monitoring of Election processes, Public Grievances, Hearings of RTI cases, Distance Education, Tele-Medicine, and Launching of new schemes and so on.
Personal Digital Assistant (PDA): Personal digital assistant is a term for any small mobile hand-held device that provides computing and information storage and retrieval capabilities, keeping schedule calendars and address book information handy. Some PDAs offer a variation of the Microsoft Windows operating system called Windows CE.
Cloud Services: Cloud computing is an emerging area for organizations that offer on-demand based computing resources. It can be provided three types of services are Software as a Service (SaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS) and Infrastructure as a Services (IaaS). The e-Office cloud model allows easy creation of an e-Office setup for organizations.
Biometric Technologies: Biometrics is the science and technology of measuring biological data. The biometric technology refers to a device that obtains biometric information immediately typically in a digital format ready for comparison to a database. Some of the more uses of these biometric methods for identification or verification include Fingerprint recognition, Hand geometry, Retina scanning, Facial recognition, Signature dynamics, Keystroke dynamics, and Voice recognition. Other technologies that are emerging include facial thermography, DNA, hand grip, fingernail, ear shape, and brain wave pattern and footprint recognition.
E-GOVERNANCE MODEL ADOPTED BY INDIAN GOVT
3091815129540In the Ist stage, information is collected and is made available to citizens in the form of websites; this information is collected regularly and updated.
Then comes the IInd stage, that is, citizens will be able to download forms, contact officials and make appointments and requests online which previously would have been only possible with long queues near counters. Internally the government organizations can use LAN, WAN, intranet, and e-mail to exchange information.
The IIIrd stage is the transaction stage where citizens can do transactions with the government online, that is pay bills, reserve tickets online, finalizes decisions etc.
The IVth and final stage is the integrated stage where a total seamless integration of e-functions and services across administrative and departmental boundaries takes place. Now the citizen can interact with the government at a single point and can transact with the government.
All the information regarding the government and its transactions is available on a central portal called “The e-India portal”. This portal is internally connected to different Government of India portals and different state portals. All transactions related to G2G, G2C, and G2B take place through this portal. This portal is connected through the Internet, LAN, WAN, and Intranet for government organizations. The connectivity will be through the internet, mobile telephone networks, wireless networks, home PCs, integrated CSCs, kiosks, and DTVs for citizens and businesses
COMPONENTS OF E-GOVERNANCE PROGRAM IN INDIA
Talking in context to Indian scenario, over the past decade there have been e-government initiative in the country at the national, state and district level. Some of them are highly successful and are implemented across the country and some of them are not successful. Hence there is a need of taking a holistic view towards the entire e-government initiative across the country. The national e-government programme is conducted to effectively implement the e-government in India and following are the components of this programme:
Awareness and communication: The success of e-government plan highly depends on the awareness of the programme. Therefore the Government of India disseminates the information about the e-government plans.
Assessment: The Government of India is investing a significant part of its scare resource in e-government projects. Therefore it is necessary that a robust assessment strategy is devised for the existing e-government projects.
Capacity Building: The capacity building guidelines take into account the fact that different states are at different levels of readiness for e-governance and have different levels of aspiration. The role of the capacity building team is at the programme level to provide leadership and vision including policy formulation, preparing roadmaps, prioritization, preparing frameworks and guidelines, monitoring progress & capacity management.
Infrastructural and Technical: This cell provides support to the Department of Information Technology in implementing those projects and components of e-Government.
Research and Development: The e-Governance R&D team provides consultancy and research inputs in the areas of e-Governance Technical Standards including interoperability standards e-Government Enterprise architectural frameworks, Information Security etc.
INFRASTRUCTURE OF E-GOVERNANCE PROGRAM IN INDIA
A common digital service delivery infrastructure consisting of the SWAN, SDC, NSDG/SSDG, CSC is being created in every State and Union Territory to ensure a seamless and single-window delivery of public services to the common man.
State Wide Area Network (SWAN): State Wide Area Network is an advanced telecommunication infrastructure, which is used extensively nowadays, for an exchange of data and other types of information between two or more locations, separated by significant geographical distances. The medium of connectivity can be copper, optical fiber cable or wireless, whichever is feasible. Such wide area networks, in a way, create a highway for electronic transfer of information in the form of voice, video, and data.
Common Services Centers (CSC): The CSC is a strategic part of its commitment in the National Common Minimum Programme to introduce e-governance on a massive scale. The CSCs would provide high quality and cost-effective video, voice and data content and services, in the areas of e-governance, education, health, telemedicine, entertainment as well as other private services. A highlight of the CSCs is that it will offer web-enabled e-governance services in rural areas, including application forms, certificates, and utility payments such as electricity, telephone and water bills. The scheme creates a conducive environment for the private sector and NGOs to play an active role in the implementation of the CSC Scheme, thereby becoming a partner of the government in the development of rural India
State Data Center (SDC): State Data Centre has been identified as one of the important elements of the core infrastructure for supporting e-governance initiatives. SDC is created for the states to consolidate services, applications and infrastructure to provide efficient electronic delivery of G2G, G2C and G2B services. These services can be rendered by the states through a common delivery platform seamlessly supported by core connectivity infrastructures such as SWAN and CSC connectivity extended up to the village level. SDC provides many functionalities and some of the key functionalities are Central Repository of the State, Secure Data Storage, Online Delivery of Services, Citizen Information/Services Portal, State Intranet Portal, Disaster Recovery, Remote Management, and Service Integration etc. SDCs would also provide better operation & management control and minimize the overall cost of Data Management, IT Resource Management, Deployment, and other costs.
National e-governance Service Delivery Gateway (NSDG): The Government of India aims to cooperate, collaborate and integrate information across different departments in the Centre, States, and Local Government. Government systems are characterized by islands of legacy systems using heterogeneous platforms and technologies. These are spread across diverse geographical locations, in varying states of automation, making this task very challenging. The NSDG can simplify the above task by acting as a standards-based messaging switch and providing seamless interoperability and exchange of data across the departments. NSDG acting as a nerve centre would handle a large number of transactions and would help in tracking and time stamping all transactions of the government. The NSDG is an attempt to reduce such point to point connections between departments and provide a standardized interfacing, messaging and routing switch through which various players such as departments, front-end service access providers and back-end service providers can make their applications and data interoperable. The NSDG aims to achieve a high order of inter-operability among autonomous and heterogeneous entities in the centre, states or local bodies of government.
CHALLENGES IN IMPLEMENTATION OF E-GOVERNANCE IN INDIA
Diverse culture with different languages: India is a country where people from different cultures and different religions live. People belonging to different states speak different languages. The diversity of people in the context of language is a huge challenge in implementing e-Governance projects. Therefore, it becomes a challenge for the government to write e-Governance applications which are to be implemented for the whole nation in more than one language so that these may be acceptable to the users of a particular language.
Low IT Literacy: Much of the Indian people are not literate and those who are literate, they do not have much knowledge of Information Technology (IT). Most of the people in India are not aware of the usage of Information Technology. So, in India, having such low level of IT literacy is a major obstacle to the implementation of e-Governance.
Recognition of applications: Recognition of the e-Governance facilities by the citizens is another huge challenge. It is a challenge to have all the citizens well aware of the facilities offered by the e-government and have them to trust in it so that citizens should be ready to accept these facilities.
Struggle to Change: The struggle to change phenomenon can explain much of the hesitation that occurs on the part of the constituents in moving from a paper-based to a web-based system to interact with the government. Citizens, employees, and businesses can all have their biases with respect to how transactions should be processed.
Lack of integrated services: Most of the e-governance services which are offered by the state or central government are not integrated. Lack of communication between different departments of government may be its major cause. Therefore, the information that resides within one department has no or very little meaning to some other department of the government.
Cost: In developing countries like India, the cost is one of the most important obstacles in the path of implementation of e-Governance where the major part of the population is living below the poverty line. Even the politicians do not have interest in implementing e-Governance. A huge amount of money is involved in implementation, operational and evolutionary maintenance tasks. These costs must be low enough so that to guarantee a good cost/benefit ratio.
Maintenance of electronic devices: As the Information Technology changes very fast and it is very difficult for us to update our existing systems very fast. Regulations of different devices and their different characteristics may vary and the system in use must be capable to handle all the emerging needs. Maintenance is a key factor for long living systems in a rapidly changing technical environment.
Limited financial resources: India has limited financial resources so as to implement and maintain the e-Government projects properly becomes a challenging job for the government.
Interoperability: Interoperability is the ability of systems and organizations of different qualities to work together. The e-Governance applications must have this characteristic so that the newly developed and existing applications can be implemented together.
Privacy and Security: A critical obstacle to implementing e-Governance is the privacy and security of an individual’s personal data that he/she provides to obtain government services. With the implementation of e-government projects, some effective measures must be taken to protect the sensitive personal information of the people. Lack of security standards can limit the development of e-Government projects that contain personal information such as income, medical history etc.
Geographical problems: Corporate networks reside on reliable and controlled networks. Government networks have to go into all areas which are even unfriendly to live. It is, however, costly to wire up all the villages in the country. So, e-Governance systems must have to use the wireless networks like existing cellular networks to reach the applications into remote areas irrespective of the geographical issues.
The paper reviews the e-Governance concept, essentials, and components of good e-governance, infrastructure, and technologies along with the challenges namely socio-economic, cultural, technical constraints, privacy, security concerns and etc. faced by the Indian government in the implication of e-governance programmes. E-services provide better delivery of government services to citizens, less corruption, increased transparency, greater convenience, citizen empowerment through access to information, a decrease in time and effort, revenue growth and cost reductions. But in a developing economy like India with one-seventh of world’s population, the implementation of such services becomes challenging. We have seen a lot of improvements in this field over years but we need to improve more in technological advancements to overcome these challenges.
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