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Sturdy Progress in Rural e-Governance

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  • Published
    27th Jan, 2021
  • Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) have emerged as a vehicle to bring people together and deliver services at the peoples' doorsteps, irrespective of where they live. The Government of India has prioritised a largescale implementation of e-Governance projects in the country.
  • Since a large part of India's population lives in villages, it is crucial that our e-Governance model makes sure that it is accessible to the rural masses in the country.
  • E-Governance is the mechanism for providing and managing government services via electronic means and is expected to help in ensuring a SMART (Simple, Moral, Accountable, Responsible and Transparent) government.

Digital India and e-Governance

The guiding principles for reforming Government through technology are:

  • Form Simplification and Field Reduction - only minimum and necessary information should be collected.
  • Online Applications and tracking
  • Online Repositories
  • Integration of Services and Platforms g., Aadhaar platform of Unique Identity Authority of India (UIDAI), payment gateway.
  • All databases and information should be in electronic form and not manual.

National e-Governance Plan

  • Department of Electronics and Information Technology (DEIT) and Department of Administrative Reforms and Public Grievances (DAR&PG) came together to make it a reality.
  • Rural citizens were the priority target for NeGP and State Wide Area Network (SWAN) and Common Service Centres (CSCs) were set up to meet that objective.
  • NeGP ensured that schemes and initiatives run by various arms of governments at centre, state and local level navigate in a well-defined direction and follow a common approach, vision and strategy.
  • Today, India is the second-largest telecom market worldwide. The number of mobile subscribers in India amount to around 1.15 billion.
  • This effectively handles the problem of limited PC penetration in the country as smart mobile devices have emerged as a convenient alternative to computers when it comes to using ICT based services.
  • The ultimate objective is to bring public services closer home to citizens as articulated in the Vision Statement of NeGP.

Some e-Governance Projects

  • E-Panchayats: The project, developed by NIC, provides a host of services including information on topics such as agriculture, irrigation, fisheries, loans, seeds, fertilisers etc. They provide services like various taxes, death and birth certificates, pensions, and approvals for building constructions.
  • Bhoomi: A Karnataka government initiative, Bhoomi has been instrumental in digitisation of land records.
  • E-Choupal: This is a private sector project, launched by ITC limited to address various requirements of farmers, including selling their produce directly to the buyers, and ruling out the role of middlemen in the process.

Limitations of Rural India

  • The biggest limitation is related with infrastructure; especially telecom/broadband infrastructure and power supply related infrastructure.
  • A large number of people in rural areas still use feature phones which limit their ability to access services electronically.
  • Literacy rate among the rural population is 67.67 percent. While male literacy rate stands at 77.15 percent, female literacy rate (57.93 percent) is even less in these areas. This is in contrast to urban literacy rates where male literacy rate stands at 88.76 percent and female literacy rate at 79.11 percent.
  • In rural areas, an extremely limited number of people understand English which is the primary language of interaction on e-Governance platforms. This seriously hinders peoples' ability to take advantage of the system.

Common Service Centers

CSC Guidelines envisage a wide variety of content and services that could be offered as listed below:

  • Agriculture Services (Agriculture Horticulture Sericulture, Animal Husbandry, Fisheries, Veterinary)
  • Education and Training Services (School, College, Vocational Education, Employment, etc.)
  • Health Services (Telemedicine, Health Checkups, Medicines)
  • Rural Banking and Insurance Services (Microcredit, Loans, Insurance)
  • Entertainment Services (Movies, Television)
  • Utility Services (Bill Payments Online bookings)
  • Commercial Services (DTP, Printing, Internet Browsing, Village level BPO)

Effectiveness of the ICTs

  • First of all, Internet virtually rules out need for administrative infrastructure and local resources which are otherwise a necessary component of government offices providing citizen services.
  • An important aspect to consider is, a large part of this infrastructure has been developed by private players.
  • The main pre-requisite here is the basic Internet/telecom infrastructure. Through the National Fiber Optic Network (NFON), the Union Government is already a long way forward in this direction.
  • ICTs contribute in making sure government services are available in a transparent and accountable manner. This is an inclusive, bidirectional system where rural population has liberty to reach out to the government with their complaints and grievances.
  • The e-Governance contributes in eradicating corruption as there is no middleman involved in the process of deliver and receipt of services. It also helps in reducing red tapes and bureaucratic hurdles, and improving efficiency.
  • We have made significant progress in terms of establishing e-Governance structures. There is realisation across the government that e-Governance can be a key enabler towards attaining the goal of Simple, Moral, Accountable, Responsible and Transparent (SMART) governance, and is going to remain a priority area for Central and State Governments.

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