Adding Digital layers for democratic governance: A Profit or Loss
Polity & Governance
29th Jul, 2022
Democratic governance mechanisms are becoming more receptive to the potential of Information Communication Technologies (ICT) to achieve good governance in its implementation. However, is it benefitting people or either making it tough for them.
- The Government of India established the Department of Electronics in 1970.
- The first major step towards e-Governance in India was the establishment of the National Informatics Centre (NIC) in 1977.
- This was followed by the launch of NICNET in 1987.
- The District Information System of the National Informatics Centre (DISNIC) program was launched to computerize all district offices in the country.
- Thus, NICNET was extended to all district headquarters by 1990.
- A National Task Force on Information Technology and Software Development was constituted in May 1998.
- In the year 1999, a separate ministry was created for Information and Technology. Information Technology (IT) Act was passed by the Indian Parliament in the year 2000.
What is E-Governance?
- People's voice is the key driver of democracy and listening to that voice is the key test of good governance.
- The motive to provide good governance andthe revolution in information and communication technology have transformed public governance throughout the world. This has led to the formation of a new form of governance by the name of e- governance.
- E-Governance is the application of ICT (Information and Communications Technology) to government functioning in order to create ‘Simple, Moral, Accountable, Responsive and transparent’ (SMART) governance.
Interactions in e-Governance
There are 4 kinds of interactions in e-governance, namely:
- G2C (Government to Citizens): Interaction between the government and the citizens.
- This enables citizens to benefit from the efficient delivery of a large range of public services.
- The primary aim is to make the government citizen-friendly.
- G2B (Government to Business):It enables the business community to interact with the government by using e-governance tools.
- The objective is to cut red-tapism which will save time and reduce operational costs. This will also create a more transparent business environment when dealing with the government.
- The G2B initiatives help in services such as licensing, procurement, permits, and revenue collection.
- G2G (Government to Government): Enables seamless interaction between various government entities.
- This kind of interaction can be between various departments and agencies within government or between two governments like the union and state governments or between state governments.
- The primary aim is to increase efficiency, performance, and output.
- G2E (Government to Employees): This kind of interaction is between the government and its employees.
- ICT tools help in making these interactions fast and efficient and thus increase the satisfaction levels of employees.
India, being one of the largest countries democratically, demographically, and geographically faces a huge challenge in the application of e-governance to empower its citizens and for overall economic development, more specifically in the rural areas.
What are the Challenges Associated with E-Governance in India?
- Challenges in Interoperability: Interoperation among ministries and departments is difficult, and it becomes a hurdle for processing and sharing data. Most of the e-governance services are being offered by state or central governmentsthat are not integrated.
- Linguistic Barriers: A challenge due to the diversity of the country. The majority of the rural population cannot use the project led by the government because they use English or Hindi as their primary language. This enforces the need to do governance in the local language.
- Digital Illiteracy: Due to a lack of technical awareness and related knowledge most of them are incapable of using the facilities provided by the government.
- Lack of Digital Infrastructure: Lack of connectivity in rural areas through the internet and maintaining the continuous supply of electricity is a great challenge for effective e-governance.
- Authentication: It is very important to know the right use of the services or it may be misused by private competitors.
- Privacy Issues: Online transactions and privacy issues are becoming increasingly prominent. Insurance, banking, utility bill payments, all these services are provided by e-Government.
- Lack of Effective Grievance Redressal Mechanism: There are serious challenges in the absence of a timely and effective grievance redressal mechanism.
- In particular, biometric recognition errors, errors in online e-governance applications like National Mobile Monitoring Software that records attendance of MGNREGA workers at work sites.
What should be done to overcome these challenges?
- Unique identity for all: With the implementation of initiatives such as AADHAAR, NeGP (National e-Governance Plan), and SWANs (State Wide Area Network), it is expected that e- Governance services will reach all corners of the country and all sections of society.
- Generating awareness: There is a need for generating widespread awareness among the public at large. The success of e- Governance lies in increasing the number of electronic interactions between citizens and the government and not merely in building the infrastructure of e-Governance.
- Integration of Ministries and Departments: Integrating several ministries and departments responsible will align the work and reduce time for better policy implementation.
- Deployment of Intermediaries:For ensuring strategic coherence among planners and beneficiaries.
- E-Governance is expected to maximize citizen satisfaction by not just improving the responsiveness of public service delivery mechanisms but also by augmenting citizens’ participation in governance mechanisms.
- Citizen-centric approach: Involvement of citizens in decision-making will make the policies better and it will address the real challenges.
Some Government Interventions
National E-governance Plan: The National e-Governance Plan takes a holistic view of various e-Governance initiatives across the country.
- It seeks to lay the foundation and provide the impetus for the long-term growth of e-Governance within the country.
- The National e-Governance Plan was launched by the Department of Information Technology (DIT) and the Department of Administrative Reforms & Public Grievances (DAR&PG) on the recommendations of the Second Administrative Reforms Commission.
- NeGP is monitored and coordinated at the highest level by the National e-Governance Advisory Group.
- It is headed by the Minister of Communications & Information Technology, Government of India.
- NeGP implementation involves setting up of common and support IT infrastructure such as:
- State Wide Area Networks (SWANs),
- State Data Centres (SDCs),
- Common Services Centres (CSCs) and
- Electronic Service Delivery Gateways.
Mission of e-Kranti:
- It is to ensure a Government-wide transformation by delivering all Government services electronically to citizens through integrated and interoperable systems via multiple modes while ensuring efficiency, transparency, and reliability of such services at affordable costs.
- Its approach is fully aligned with the Digital India program.
- The program management structure approved for the Digital India program would be used for monitoring the implementation of e-Kranti and also for providing a forum to ascertain views of all stakeholders, overseeing implementation, resolving inter-Ministerial issues, and ensuring speedy sanction of projects.
Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam, former President of India has ‘a visionary in the field of e-Governance’. E-governance would enable the government to discharge its functions more effectively. However, this would require the government to change itself – its processes, its outlook, laws, rules, and regulations, and also it is way of interacting with the citizens.