The last decade of 20th century had witnessed Information Technology (IT) emerge as the most prominent technology to have a revolutionary affect on the lives of people across the world. During this period, Indian engineers and scientists have earned a high degree of esteem around the world for their highly professional and innovative contribution to the technological advancements in this field. Large number of Indians occupy senior positions in IT companies of developed countries like USA. Recognizing the contribution of Indian software professionals in USA, countries like Germany and Japan have recently shown interest in hiring Indian software processionals to their countries. On the domestic front also, IT industry has shown highest growth rates consistently over the last many years compared to any other industry. Software exports from India have risen from US$ 50 million to US$ 5 billion during the last five years. Recognizing such a vast potential of IT industry, government has set an ambitious target to raise India's contributions to the IT-industry to the level of US$ 50 billion per annum by 2008 and thus help the nation emerge as an IT Superpower in the world. Government is aware that sustenance of such a high growth rate in the long run requires an equally strong and vibrant domestic IT market. Government has, therefore, decided to use Information Technology as a major vehicle for all round socio-economic development in the country and thus, as a by-product, facilitate creation of a strong domestic IT market.
With a view to facilitate fast paced growth of IT industry in the country, Prime Minister had set up a National Task Force on Information Technology and Software Development in May 1998. Based on the recommendations of this Task Force, Government has already implemented number of regulatory and promotional measures to remove impediments and enable the growth of IT industry in the country. With the passage of Information Technology Bill in May 2000 by the Parliament, Government has put in place a legislative mechanism in the country to enable large-scale applications of IT in various areas related to day to day lives of the people. The enactment of this legislation is expected to act as a major enabler for mass spread of Information Technology in the country.
While Government has been taking number of pro-active steps to promote the growth of IT Industry, it is equally conscious that these developments do not create a new division in society, referred to as digital divide by some people - divide between those who have access to IT based services and those who do not. Government is, therefore, determined to see that the benefits of Information Technology do not remain confined to higher classes of Society. In fact Government intends to use IT as a major instrument to provide new opportunities to those segments of society who do not see opportunities to improve their quality of life and tend to reconcile to their fate. It is a firm view of the government that if any technology can create new opportunities to bridge the gap between haves and have nots in society in the present times, it is IT. With a view to give a concrete shape to this thinking, and recommend catalytic, pro-active and enabling steps to be taken by the government to convert this commitment into an operational mechanism, Government had constituted a Working Group on Information Technology for Masses on May 10, 2000. The Notification regarding constitution of the Working Group is given at Annexure I.
TERM OF REFERENCE
The perception of people with regard to terms Information Technology and Masses varies from person to person in the country. With a view to provide an appropriate context for these terms, the Working Group had deliberated on the scope of IT for masses before proceeding further with the steps to be recommended for this purpose.
For quite sometime, in conventional terms, Information Technology has been used as synonymous to computers. However, with the rapid advancement towards convergence of various information delivery systems such as Radio, TV, Telephone, Newspapers, Fax and of course computers and computer networks, it has now become feasible to offer IT services using conventional forms of information delivery systems. The last five years have seen phenomenal growth in the country with regard to spread of cable-TV network and mobile phones. Their integration with Internet has been a major facilitator of empowering people with information. Internet over mobile phones and cable TV networks has ensured that the power of information delivered to people through Internet is available even in the remotest places in the country and that too without necessarily requiring computers which have all along been the only devices to access Internet.
The Working Group, therefore, looks at Information Technology as a set of media, devices and services out of which proper solutions can be configured based on the needs and affordability of the target clientele in the country.
With regard to term Masses, the Working Group is fully conscious of the extreme variations in classes based on economic status of the people in the country. While 40% of nation's population on one hand continues to live below the poverty line, only about 20% belong to higher and rich classes in the country. The remaining 40% form a large middle class in the country. Irrespective of such class based divisions in society, there are sections of people such as women and senior citizens across all classes who are not able to actively participate in economic activities of the country. The Working Group believes that while the needs of higher middle and rich sections of the society can be taken care of by emerging markets, there is an urgent need to examine catalytic and enabling role to be played by the government to ensure that while on one hand 400 million strong middle class people, who provide a very large domestic market for IT products and services, get the benefits of IT in their day to day lives, on the other hand for 40% of the people who are living below poverty line, government has to take steps so that IT could provide new opportunities for these people to be able to move above the poverty line.
Working Group had held six meetings since the first meeting on May 23, 2000 to deliberate on various issues related to facilitating the reach of IT to the level of masses. In addition, three meetings were held with senior officers of the Ministry of Information Technology (MIT) and National Informatics Centre (NIC), and representatives of industry. During these deliberations, Working Group had organized presentations by representatives of five ministries/ departments of central government and ten state governments. Inputs from other ministries and states were received through respective NIC representatives. Details of these deliberations are given below:
The first meeting of the Working Group was held on May 23, 2000. This meeting was planned to be a brainstorming session to freely elicit and discuss the views of the members and invitees to the meeting on various issues related to the theme of IT for masses. The minutes of this meeting of the Working Group are given at Annexure II.
Various Divisions/ Groups and associated organizations of Ministry of Information Technology (MIT) have been engaged in number of programmes in collaboration with different Ministries/ Departments of Central and State Governments with a view to facilitate the setting up and utilization of IT based services in the country. Accordingly, to seek larger participation of these Divisions / Groups and associated organizations of the ministry, a meeting with senior officers of MIT was held on May 24, 2000. In this meeting, senior officers of the ministry had participated and expressed their views on the approach to be followed by the Working Group as well as gave a brief overview of various programmes/ projects being undertaken by the ministry in this direction. The minutes of this meeting are given at Annexure III.
NIC is the largest provider of IT Services in the government at different levels in the country such as ministries / departments of Central Government, State Governments and District Administrations. Besides building IT Infrastructure in the government, NIC has developed large number of applications and services in various areas. With a view to elicit views of NIC, a meeting with Heads of Divisions and State Informatics Officers of NIC was held on May 26, 2000. The minutes of this meeting are given at Annexure IV.
Working Group, in its second meeting on May 31, 2000, had studied various suggestions received at the above meetings and finalized a Background Report based on inputs received till then. It was also decided at this meeting that a web site would be set up by the WG to disseminate its proceedings to the public over Internet and also invite suggestions from the public. The Background Report was subsequently put on this web site. The minutes of the Second meeting of the WG are given in Annexure V.
The third meeting of the Working Group was held on June 26-27, 2000. At this meeting, WG had interacted, through Video Conferencing, with the IT Secretaries (or their representatives) of Delhi, Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan and U.P. The Working Group had also invited representatives of the Department of Telecommunication, Department of Administrative Reforms, Ministry of Agriculture, Department of Education, Ministry of Rural Development, and Supreme Court of India to present schemes being pursued by them with regard to induction of I T in their citizen related activities. The minutes of this meeting are given at Annexure VI which also detail various applications of I T as presented by these States and ministries/ departments.
Chairman of the Working Group had organized a meeting at Pune on July 4, 2000 with the representatives of IT industry and academics. Minutes of this meting are given at Annexure VII.
The fourth meeting of the Working Group was held at Mumbai on July 6, 2000. At this meeting, Secretaries (or their representatives) of the Departments of Education, Information and Publicity, IT and Rural Development of Maharashtra State government made their presentations. Representatives of M/S Hathaway and Skumars.com also presented their plans to the Working Group during this meeting. Minutes of the meeting containing brief details of these presentations are given at Annexure VIII.
The fifth meeting of the Working Group was held at Delhi on July 11, 2000. At this meeting, Secretary (IT)'s of AP, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu had made their presentations. Representatives of 'Apnamail.com', an Indian language based email service provider, and the ISP Association of India had also briefed the Working Group on various issues related to mass scale spread of Internet in India. A presentation was also made by Member Secretary of the erstwhile Working Group on Citizen-IT Interface set up under the National IT Task Force. The first draft of the Report of the WG was discussed by the Working Group at this meeting. The minutes of this meeting of the Working Group are given at Annexure IX.
Some of the major IT projects in Central Government developed by NIC are given at Annexure X followed by some of the major IT projects in States at Annexure XI.
The Working Group had also carefully studied the recommendations made by the Working Groups on Citizen-IT Interface; Content Creation and Content Industry; and IT-Human Resource Development which were constituted as a part of Prime Minister's National Task Force on Information Technology and Software Development. Number of recommendations made by these Working Groups are relevant to the theme of the present Working Group. Hence, the recommendations of these Working Groups have been included at Annexure XII, XIII, and XIV respectively.
The Recommendations and the Report of the Working Group was discussed and finalized at the sixth meeting of the Working Group on July 20, 2000. Minutes of this meeting are given at Annexure XV.
For Information Technology to act as a major facilitator and catalyst for overall speedy economic growth in the country, it is necessary to identify and remove all forms of impediments on the path of growth of IT-based industry, businesses and services. The issues related to such a growth have been classified by the Working Group in the following four categories:
Some of the major issues, which require to be addressed in these areas on priority, are given below:
If the benefits of IT have to reach the common man, it is obvious that the common man should have access to IT Services in the remotest part of the country. With the convergence of various forms of information delivery systems, such as TV, Radio, Newspapers, Telephones, PC and Internet, into one unified environment, it is now becoming possible to enable common man to have access to IT services. The present level of such facilities in the country as given below is, however, highly deficient in enabling reach of IT services to common man:
Provision of access to IT infrastructure and services to common man consists of the following three major components:
Some of the major issues, which require to be handled in these areas, are as follows
Government and its numerous agencies are the largest service providers in the country. It is obvious that in order to have a visible impact of the benefit of IT on people, government must select major services at different levels such as Ministries/ Departments of Central Government and State Governments, District Administrations, Municipal Services and services related to local governance at Block/ Panchayat level, and re-engineer them through extensive use of IT.
While over the years, there has been considerable progress in the use of IT in government services, most of these applications have been confined to back-office computerization. As a result, the improvement in quality of service to public has not made sufficient impact. It is, therefore, necessary that each one of the government agencies involved in providing citizen-oriented services should identify at least one area and use Information Technology in a highly intensive manner so that all aspects of delivery of service to people should transform into an IT based service. While doing so it would obviously be necessary that for sustainability of good quality of service to citizens, back-office component of the concerned agency for the identified application is fully computerized. However, the approach for computerization and IT induction should be from front-office applications to back-office and not the other way. This will ensure that there is sufficient pressure on the government agencies from public to sustain the quality of service using IT. Back-office computerization alone, which has very little impact on the public interface, is not sustainable in the long run due to lack of such public pressure.
The issues related to education in the context of IT may be divided into two categories:
Use of IT for Education and Literacy
While IT education and training will form the foundation for growth of IT industry in the country the use of IT for education and literacy provides a major opportunity to address the age-old problems in this area. Some of the issues, which need to be addressed on priority, are as follows:
A common man in the country continues to be largely unaware of potential of Information Technology in day to day life. This slows down adoption of IT tools and services by people in the country. There is a need to initiate a mass campaign for creating awareness with regard to benefit of IT in the country.
Over the years, Ministries/ Departments of Central and State Governments as well as number of associated agencies have been taking active interest to induct IT in various citizen-oriented services being offered by them. With the establishment of Ministry of Information Technology in the Central Government in October 1999, the pace of such initiatives in the Central Government has considerably enhanced. Most of the State Governments have also established separate Departments of Information Technology. State Governments have been giving emphasis on taking pro-active steps to attract IT industry to their respective states on one hand and beginning to implement Electronic Governance methodologies, on the other hand, to improve the administration and services being provided by the government. Number of state governments have already announced such initiatives in the form of IT Policies. While emphasis and methodologies being followed by various governments differ from state to state, it has become quite clear that most of the state governments have realized the potential of IT for better economic development of their states. On its part, Central Government has also taken number of legislative, (de-) regulatory and promotional measures to facilitate various issues related to corporate, financing and taxation matters. With regard to E-Governance, various ministries/ departments of Central and State Governments have developed IT based solutions in different areas. The Working Group during its deliberations had interacted with various Ministries/ Departments of Central and State Governments to understand the level of induction of IT in the process of governance in the government sector throughout the country.
Some of the major initiatives taken by Central government ministries/ departments are given below:
Some of the major initiatives taken by State Governments are given below:
Andhra Pradesh government has taken a major lead in the past few years to develop IT industry in the state on one hand and use IT in a major way in the process of governance particularly in citizen oriented services. Some of the major projects/ schemes launched recently by the state government include the following:
This system enables the Registration department to complete registration deeds and return the documents to public just in one hour. One million documents have been processed by the system till now.
TWINS has been implemented as a single-counter integrated citizen service packaging 18 types of services and networking six departments of the state government. This service is being replicated at 285 counters on Build, Own and Operate (BOO) basis.
Government of Delhi is in the process of releasing its IT policy with a clear target of evolving Delhi into a Cyber City. IT kiosks are being set up in Delhi to enable common man to interact with the government. These kiosks will be set up at public places such as airport, Railway station and even in slums. Delhi government plans to provide subsidy to PCO owners to convert them into cyber café.
State government has invited private participation in providing computer education at school level.
State government has initiated a scheme to train students through ITIs on nominal fee with expenses being borne by the government.
Government plans to establish 1500 Information Kiosks in collaboration with a private company. Transport department has started using smart card for driving license. Computerized weighbridges are being implemented at Check Posts.
Baroda district has been identified to act as a model district using IT.
Haryana government has planned to have total E-governance by 2005. It has set up a High Powered Committee under the chairmanship of Chief Secretary to oversee implementation of E-governance plans.
The government plans to invite private sector to set up IT Kiosks.
Some of the major initiatives include Treasury computerization, Excise tax, and Local bodies/ municipal committees. The government is planning major initiative for IT literacy including government employees.
Karnataka government has launched an ambitious IT policy, called Mahithi, to take the benefit of IT to masses. Mahithi is a two fold initiative to grow IT industry and develop E- Governance.
The Bhoomi project is a major scheme of the government to computerize 190 lakh land records concerning 60 lakh farmers.
State government has given right of way to 7 companies to establish high-speed network in the state.
Kerala government has launched following three major initiatives with regard to E-governance:
This is a Rs. 43 crore project to be implemented in 1300 'panchayats' in the state. Software for the project covering most of the transactions at panchayat level has been developed. Applications have been divided into three areas: certificates such as birth-death, caste, ration card etc; social welfare schemes such as Pension, housing schemes, etc.; and subsidies and incentives.
This is on the lines of TWINS project of Andhra Pradesh providing single counter based services for seven departments, including acceptance of payments. The service is available 7 days a week during 9 AM to 8 PM. Forty-one kiosks are operational at Thiruvananthapuram.
This portal will provide comprehensive information on housing schemes, availability of financing, architectural walk-through, and construction technologies.
Gyandoot is a lead project of M.P. government under which 21 rural cyber cafes, called 'Soochnalayas', have been established. Each soochnalaya provides service to about 10 to 15 gram panchayats, 20 to 30 villages covering 20,000 to 30,0000 population.These are located at block headquarters, haat bazaars, villages and bus depot centres. The services provided by these centres include commodity/ mandi marketing information, issues of copies of land records (khatauni and map), on-line registration for issue of income, caste, domicile certificates, Hindi email etc.
Maharashtra government aims to use IT as a means of empowerment of people across socio-economic and geographic boundaries.
Some of the major projects include registration and stamp duty, Sales tax and Transport departments, and Treasuries.
District Collectorate, Pune, has implemented a service providing one-point service to citizens on various functions performed by the collectorate. Revenue department has conducted a detailed exercise to reduce number of forms for various requirements of the department.
Maharashtra has launched a very innovative scheme of training of government employees and providing computer education at schools.
State government believes that IT services should be outsourced to the extent possible and gives priority to establishing IT infrastructure for email and voice connectivity.
Geographic Information System (GIS) is being planned with basic parameters like village data base, road network, irrigation and canal network, power network and information regarding each department in the form of layers.
The government is also considering scheme for incentives to employees working on computers.
In a major departure of strategy compared to many other states, Rajasthan government has decided to implement most of the E-governance initiatives on its own without banking upon private sector.
An information System for 'mandis' connects 236 'mandis' on-line providing daily rates of all the 'mandis' by 4 PM.
The emphasis of the government is on using low cost solutions and making full use of existing infrastructure and resources.
Tamil Nadu government had announced IT policy as early as 1997. It has given lot of emphasis on IT services being provided in local language. An international conference on standardization of Tamil code and keyboard was organized by state government.
With a view to establish broadband network infrastructure, government has already given right of way to three companies.
On education front, Tamil Nadu has targeted to make all students IT literate. State has tendered to invite private participation in providing computer science education at all the 1198 higher secondary schools.
UP government plans to achieve 100% IT literacy of government employees by 2002. It has decided to introduce computer education in 100 Intermediate schools.
On the IT infrastructure front, 70 out of 83 districts have optical fibre connectivity. VSATs are planned to be used for hill districts.
Government plans to introduce a separate channel on cable network in Lucknow to disseminate information related to government plans.
While lot more work is required to be done in the government sector to ensure availability of information and transparency of the process of governance, Working Group believes that information related to extensive work already done in the government has not been widely publicized to the public. As a result, benefit of existing level of IT induction itself has not reached the people in the country.
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