Dr Ajay Bhushan Pandey Issue: India 2005
Article no.: 2
Topic: e-Governance–empowering the people of Maharashtra
Author: Dr Ajay Bhushan Pandey
Title: Secretary of Information Technology
Organisation: Government of Maharashtra, India
PDF size: 68KB

About author

Dr Ajay Bhushan Pandey is Secretary of Information Technology, Government of Maharashtra. Before joining this post, Dr Pandey worked as Secretary to Chief Minister of Maharashtra. As an IAS (Indian Administrative Service) officer, Dr Pandey has held various positions in the Government of India and Government of Maharashtra, including Director, Ministry of Labour, Government of India, Private Secretary to the Minister of Food, Government of India Collector, Jalgaon and Deputy Commissioner, Sales Tax. Dr Pandey, a graduate of Electrical Engineering from Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur, India, has leveraged his knowledge of technology to bring innovation, process reforms and efficiency in the departments he has worked. Dr Pandey earned his MS and PhD degrees in Computer Science from the University of Minnesota, Twin-cities, US. While at the University of Minnesota, Dr Pandey taught computer science to undergraduate and graduate students. Dr Pandey has published and presented several research papers in reputed international conferences and workshops such as ACM, IEEE and SIAM.

Article abstract

e-Government lets citizens access government information and services and gives them the opportunity to participate in democratic institutions and processes. e-Government provides higher quality, cost-effective, government services and a better relationship between people and their government. The Government of Maharashtra Information Technology policy calls for ‘Empowerment through Connectivity’. It is computerising all its departments and administrative units and working to provide universal access to information–in even the remotest areas and to the poorest people–to improve the standard of living statewide.

Full Article

A worldwide revolution in information and communications technologies is occurring. The Internet, the personal computer and the mobile phone are fundamentally changing our lives and affecting the way we work, learn and interact. e-Government uses new technologies to provide convenient access to government information and services, to improve the quality of the services and provide greater opportunities to participate in democratic institutions and processes. e-Government provides tremendous opportunities for higher quality, cost-effective, government services and a better relationship between people and their government. e-Government–quality government and participation e-Government will improve government in four important ways: √ It will be easier for people to have their say in government–when a Ministry proposes to make changes to a particular service, it could outline the changes on the Internet and seek comment from citizens to refine that policy; √ Better services will be available from government organisations–instead of queuing to register a motor vehicle, owners will be able to register it using the Internet, anywhere, at any time. This will greatly benefit citizens who do not live in the main population centres, improving flexibility, speed and access to government services, with lower the cost for the government; √ Government organisations will communicate more effectively with each other to better integrate services. When an accident occurs, for example, several different organisations–public hospitals, police, insurance companies–might be involved. If they can share information and integrate their services, the process is simplified and better, more cost effective care provided; √ It will make up-to-date information about laws, regulations, policies and services widely available to citizens–for example, it is currently difficult to find the applicable printed regulations when one wishes to transport an oversize truckload, but the regulations will be easily accessible on the Internet. e-Governance–the challenges √ Opportunities can be lost if no government organisation takes the leading responsibility to oversee and coordinate e-Government developments; √ People may be quickly divided into two groups–those who can use the new technologies and those who cannot; √ The purpose of e-Government is to bring people together, not to push them apart. The Government must plan e-Government so that: 1. Conventional means of access to government are maintained for those who need them; 2. Community access to the Internet is made available for those who do not have their own access facilities; 3. Educational programmes are provided to educate citizens about the new technologies. √ Governments can become impersonal. Giving people electronic access to government information and services will improve their ability to participate in government, and improve the state’s ability to provide services. This will serve to improve the lives of citizens; √ People are disappointed because governments promise much and deliver little. The government’s approach to implementing e-government will not include overnight, dramatic, developments, but rather a staged approach with each development building on those that have gone before. Tracking progress Within the next five or so years, people should be able to: √ Electronically register information such as births, deaths and marriages with the Government; √ Conduct financial dealings with government organisations electronically; √ Complete and send all government forms from the Government’s Internet site; √ Have their say on government proposals and policies through the Internet; √ Benefit from high quality public health services, including personalised services from GPs, specialists, hospitals and pharmacists, based on secure information sharing and analysis of patient records; √ Benefit from the reduced costs and time with electronically available and electronically registered land survey and title information; √ Provide a single entry change of address form to notify all government agencies at once. The technologies supporting these changes will develop continually, but the Government will monitor and lead those developments for the benefit of the people. The e-Government vision–social and economic goals The e-Government vision aims to restore trust in government by providing strong social services that: 1. Increase collaboration between government organisations; 2. Strengthen the relationship between people and the state through greater opportunities for participation; 3. Provide the state with an opportunity to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of public services while reducing their cost. The e-Government vision is all about inclusion–helping people take part in our economy. It fits well with similar developments in business and commerce. Together, e-Government, e-business and e-commerce will play an important role in the development of an economy that mobilises the knowledge and skills of all citizens. e-Government will be an example of an innovative use of developing technologies and will help citizens to understand and use the tools of the information economy, a matter of vital importance to the economic and social prosperity of individuals and country alike. e-Governance in Maharashtra The Government of Maharashtra (GOM) is keen to accelerate the process of computerisation and the pace and process of e-Governance. The mission statement of our Information Technology policy is ‘Empowerment through Connectivity’. The objective of this policy is to give to the citizens ‘anywhere, anytime, anyhow’ services. Maharashtra is determined to harness information technology to create a knowledge-based society that empowers citizens to participate in the development of the state and provides efficient and speedy services to its citizens and businesses. The Government of Maharashtra intends to computerise the working of all its departments and administrative units and provide universal access to information, whilst keeping administrative costs low. The aim is to make the State a ‘Maha-IT-rashtra’ by using state-of-the-art information technology–such as wireless technology and handheld portable devices–to reach the remotest areas and poorest people and improve the standard of living statewide. The vision The Government intends to unify the working of all its departments to provide efficient and seamless services to its citizens. Although Internet access using wireless handheld devices is a goal for the future, community centres will initially provide wired access to all. Services, including bill payment facilities, will be available at any and all times at a reasonable cost. The IT architecture specifies platform independence from the operating system, back-end databases and front-end access facilities. XML and other such technologies can ensure inter-operability. Database security and authentication standards will make these systems more reliable than paper-based certificates. Data centres at district and state headquarters, connected to one another, will process and store data for all departments and a disaster management site at Pune provides security and backup for the system. When implemented, a common payment mechanism for the state will enable online, paperless, cashless transactions for all government departments. Existing IT infrastructure A state-of-the-art V-SAT system has revolutionised the Government’s communications. It connects all the district and divisional headquarters to Mantralaya. The facility, named Mahanet, has video-conferencing, satellite phones, data transfer and email capabilities. Extension of this facility up to Tahsil and Block level is planned. VHF transmitters at district headquarters facilitate communication among Collectors, Sub Divisional Officers and Tahsildars for day-to-day operations. Major departmental applications There are a great many applications of information and communications technology already in use or being implemented. Some of the most significant are related below. Maharashtra’s computerisation began in the early 1980s, but large-scale computerisation began in early 1998. Today, there are nearly 10,000 computers in Government offices, but the growth of PC usage is rapid. The number may double by next year. Email use is growing as users are added. This eliminates delays and reduces telephone bills. Local Area Networks are speeding data exchanges in Vidhan Bhavan, Mantralaya and many of the Collectorates. There are LANs in all the offices of Public Works Department, the Treasuries and the Registration Department. One thousand LAN networks will be set-up next year alone for other offices. The Mahnet with its email facilities connects to the District office using VSAT links. Studio type high-speed video conferencing will cover all Divisional Commissioners and District Collectors. Connections between the District Collector and other District offices now use RF links. The Government has set-up about 175 centres known as ‘SETU’ to act as a bridge between citizens and the Government. These single-window counters provide routine services such as delivery of permits and certificates, registration of letters and handling grievance. Services routinely required by the people are now available in less than 24 hours and an online query system lets citizens track the status of their applications. Such centres operate from 8a.m. to 8p.m., including holidays. A payment window will be incorporated in the services provided. The centres will be replicated at nearly 400 locations across the State. The centres will provide service through non-governmental organisations (NGOs) at the front end and government administrative process at the back-end. Computerisation of the Public Works Department (PWD), responsible for the construction and maintenance of roads, bridges, housing and government buildings, is a major step towards e-Governance. Online tracking of the large number of projects and contracts at different locations will now be possible. The official website of the PWD has cut down delays for granting permissions for laying pipelines or constructing buildings along a road. PWD works with mobile telephone operators to provide SMS alerts for new tenders and sends, as well, emails to the registered clients. The website provides traffic information and sends email for rest-house bookings, among its many services. Another step has been to computerise the registration of documents. A private contractor, chosen through competitive bidding, has installed the hardware and equipment and services the public at a fixed rate. This is the first State wide project undertaken on this basis; it covers all the 386 sub registrar offices in the state. In a matter of minutes, the project, called SARITA, registers documents that previously took years to obtain, and online property valuation is now possible. The success of this experiment has prompted the identification of other similar investment opportunities; the Transport Department may soon follow the same model. The IT department has developed generic software viz. Document Journey Monitoring System (DJMS), called ‘Sahaj’, and a Personnel Information System (PIS). The DJMS package electronically tracks any document or file in the Mantralaya network. PIS, a comprehensive package, will build a database of all State Government employees, generate payrolls, monitor advances, maintain service books, etc. Treasury offices across the State have been computerised through a programme called Koshvahini, linked with State headquarters, which provides online monitoring of Government expenditure and receipts. It will bring greater fiscal discipline to the State. The Maharashtra Legislature’s workflow has been completely computerised since 2002. Employment exchanges in the State are computerised and will soon be networked to a centralised database, making it possible for employers to hunt suitable job seekers online. Work is under way to enable the Employment Department to effectively monitor the self-employment and Personal beneficiary schemes implemented by various departments. The e-Panchayat project in Hingoli district seeks to bridge the digital divide and bring IT to the masses. The Warna wired village project was the first of its kind in India. It links the diverse business activities in the village. The project put in place a web-based information system about agricultural markets and crop technology, a village information system, employment and self-employment schemes, educational and vocational guidance and a milk procurement application amongst others. Systems for the management of sugar cane cultivation and marketing are available to villagers over the Intranet. Land records documents will also be available to the cluster. With time, a broad range of additional services will be available at the village level kiosks. The State is supporting private initiatives for rural connectivity using WLL and other technologies. This will help reduce the digital divide and bring information to the rural masses. All the 40 offices of the Sales Tax Department in Maharashtra are to be covered under a project named Mahaviskas. This will allow businesses to file their returns online. The computerisation of the Excise Department is now nearing completion. The SEAS package links all the distilleries in Maharashtra; it will facilitate the granting of licences and permits. Simultaneously, the issuing, monitoring, and tracking of revenues received from transit passes is under consideration. This will generate additional revenues through transaction-based levies. Maharashtra was a pioneer in the computerisation of the Transport Department. The package already accounts for more than 50 per cent of the revenue collection by this department and will be extended to cover the issuance of driving licences and vehicle registration on Smart Cards for the whole State. The planning department has computerised the work flow for the MP (Member of Parliament) and MLA (Member of Legislative Assembly) funds to enable tracking of the progress of works proposed by the MPs and MLAs. Police Computerisation has enabled the integrated development of the modules that control police activities. All the 972 police stations in the State will be connected by a police network, which will simplify the department’s procedures. The computerisation of the Health and the Women and Child Welfare Departments will help improve the health and sanitation in the State and pave the way for telemedicine through the introduction of the Hospital Information System. Maharashtra has been on the forefront of court computerisation. The High Court’s daily case list is available on its website. Computerisation has been successful in 28 district courts. Computerisation of all the state’s courts is planned. There are proposals to convert the government’s website into a portal for all the government’s departments to provide seamless interaction with the state. The State has again been on the forefront in the use of Geographical Information Systems for administrative purposes. The village boundaries in Maharashtra have been digitised, and a village level information system using the GIS maps is being developed. Work is also under way to expand the maps and the system to cover the entire State. The above projects have successfully demonstrated how Information, Communication and Technology can empower citizens and improve governance. e-Governance provides better services to citizens and strengthens democracy by effectively enabling citizens to participate.