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Towards E-Governance Initiatives, Impacts & Issues in the Indian Subcontinent

Dr. Bhisham Kapoor Associate Professor Faculty of Commerce and Business Administration MMH College, Ghaziabad bhishamkapoor@gmail.com 9910776451

Suksham Rani Aneja Assistant Professor Global Institute of Management & Technology Plot No. 1, Sec. 62, Noida 201301 suksham_aneja@live.com 9810735607

Abstract
In the era of modernization & globalization the electronic dependency and utilization of sources through electronic media has been emerging as one of the driving forces towards economic growth and development. This scenario may not be an important point of attention for developed economies but it is an important area to focus upon in developing countries like India in various fields such as education, governance, commerce, administration, public welfare, licensing and so on. Since India has been emerging as one of the ICT giants in the world, the time has come to consider the e-governance and the related issues for analysis. This paper discusses three Is Initiatives, Impacts and Issues pertaining to e-governance in India. Keywords: India, E-governance, ICT, E-administration, E-services, Transparency, NeGP, E-democracy, G2C,
G2B, G2G, G2E.

Introduction
Year by year Union Budget is boosting the social sector spending but the results so far have been hard to measure and often disappointing. The biggest question that 120 cr. Indians are asking is about how the government actually proposes to deliver these services. For all the talk about egovernance, is it really taking off in India? So far, governments have mostly been using technology for projects where public support is likely to be strong and opposition low: putting information online, simplifying tax administration, and sprucing up a country's image. Few have even started to tackle the really big task: reshaping government in order to take advantage of the immense possibilities that technology now permits.

Defining e-Government
E-Governance is slowly becoming a buzzword in the corridors of power. Simply stated, the use of Information and Communication Technology in governance may be termed as E-Governance. It has radically defined the way a government provides service to citizens, businesses and other arms of the government using the following delivery models: Government-to-Citizen (G2C) Government-to-Business (G2B) Government-to-Government (G2G) Government-to-Employees (G2E) The term E-Governance has different connotations: E-Administration Use of ICT to modernize the state; Creation of data repositories for MIS, Computerization of records. E-Services Provision of online services to bring the state closer to the citizens. E-administration and E-services together constitute E-government.

E-Governance Use of IT to improve the ability of government to address the needs of society which includes publishing of policy related information to educate the citizens and attaining development goals of the government through the use of IT for strategic planning. E-Democracy Use of IT to facilitate the ability of all sections of society to participate in the governance of the state emphasizing transparency, accountability and participation e.g. online disclosure policies, online grievance redress forums and e-referendums.

Initiatives Transforming service delivery system


Evolution of e-Governance in India has steadily started from computerization of Government Departments to initiatives that encapsulate the finer points of Governance, such as citizen centricity, service orientation and transparency. Initially there were lots of failures and improvements have been made on the basis of lessons learnt which have played an important role in shaping the progressive e-Governance strategy of the country. Now the efforts are being made to adopt a program approach to speed up e-Governance implementation across the various arms of Government at National, State, and Local levels, guided by common vision and strategy.

National e-Governance Plan (NeGP) Keeping in mind the various positive impacts of e governance; in May 2006, the Government of India approved the National e Governance Plan (NeGP) with the following vision: "Make all Government services accessible to the common man in his locality, through common service delivery outlets, and ensure efficiency, transparency, and reliability of such services at affordable costs to realize the basic needs of the common man" (National eGovernance Plan). The NeGP currently consists of a series of Mission Mode Projects (MMPs) and Support Components which are being implemented at the Central, State and Local Government levels. These include Projects such as Income Tax, Customs & Excise and Passports at the Central Level, Land Records, Agriculture and e District at the State Level and Panchayats and Municipalities at the Local Level. There are also a number of integrated MMPs like e Procurement, Service Delivery Gateway, etc. where delivery of services envisaged in the project entail coordinated implementation across multiple Departments of the Government. For this, a common service delivery platform is being created. The three important elements that form the basis of this effective service delivery framework are A. State Wide Area Networks (SWANs), B. Front end outlets for the service delivery i.e. Common Service Centres (CSCs) and C. State Data Centres (SDCs). InDG (India Development Gateway) initiative offers the much required content and services in local languages that makes the difference in the lives of the rural people by bringing the benefits of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) at the last mile to ensure transparent, timely and hassle free delivery of citizen services. (e-Governance in India, 2011)

Impacts of e-Governance How Indians Benefit?


How is e-governance important in the context of India? The answer may be found in the following lines quoted from Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam, the former President of India, Delivery of services to citizens is considered a primary function of the government. In a democratic nation of over one billion people like India, e-Governance should enable seamless access to information and seamless flow of information across the state and central government in the federal set up. No country has so far implemented an e-Governance system for one billion people. It is a big challenge for us. (Barman, 2009) 1. Government Transparency Government transparency keeps the common man informed about what the government is working upon as well as the proposed policies they are trying to implement. It will give insight to the public on how decisions are made and hold elected officials or public servants accountable for their actions. The public could become a direct and prominent influence in government legislature to some degree. 2. Simplification E-government helps simplify processes and makes access to government information more easily accessible for public sector agencies and citizens. In addition, the processes of data collection, analysis and audit are simplified, and become less tedious. 3. Democratization Another cherished goal of e-governance is greater citizen participation in the governance of the country. True democracy can be established with the proper application of e-governance which will lead to greater citizen participation. Through the internet, people from all over the country can interact with politicians or public servants and make their voices heard. Blogging and interactive surveys will allow politicians or public servants to see the views of the people they represent on any given issue. This helps voters better decide who to vote for in the future or how to help the public servants become more productive. 4. Environmental bonuses: Paperless office With increasing concern about the environment, e-governance has an important benefit. Online government services would lessen the need for hard copy forms and thus produce significant savings in paper, contributing to a greener planet! 5. Speed, Efficiency, and Convenience E-government allows citizens to interact with computers to achieve objectives at any time and any location, and eliminates the necessity for physical travel to government agents sitting behind desks and windows. Improved accounting and record keeping can be noted through computerization, and information and forms can be easily accessed, equaling quicker processing time. On the administrative side, access to help find or retrieve files and linked information can now be stored in

databases versus hardcopies stored in various locations. Individuals with disabilities conditions no longer have to be mobile to be active in government and can be in the comfort of their own homes. 6. Public Approval: e-participation Recent trials of e-government have been met with acceptance and eagerness from the public. Citizens participate in online discussions of political issues with increasing frequency, and young people, who traditionally display minimal interest in government affairs, are drawn to e-voting procedures. 7. Records of Criminals Although internet-based governmental programs have been criticized for lack of reliable privacy policies, studies have shown that people value prosecution of offenders over personal confidentiality. Ninety percent of United States adults approve of Internet tracking systems of criminals, and fifty-seven percent are willing to forgo some of their personal internet privacy if it leads to the prosecution of criminals or terrorists. (e-Government) 8. Helps in Fighting Corruption Corruption hinders public welfare and social development. According to political scientists, nontransparent institutions, low paid public servants, and a shortage of independent and wellfunctioning market mechanisms are antecedents of corruption. On viewing corruption from an economics of crime perspective, it is seen that e-government has a lot to offer. In the traditional work environments, auditors and anti-corruption officials access to official records is cumbersome. Moreover, paper records are hard to archive, maintain, and retrieve. In contrast, electronic records can be maintained safely for a long time, and these are amenable to automated procedures, which includes data-mining. So, e-government helps by facilitating audits, preventive checks, and ongoing investigation of corrupt acts already detected. 9. Government-to-Business (G2B) Benefits G2B is the online non-commercial interaction between local and central government and the commercial business sector. (Government-to-business). E-business enables a large number of firms to transact with each other efficiently and effectively thereby improving the overall performance of buyers as well as suppliers. Just as businesses do not expect customers to deal separately with finance, logistics and sales departments, someone registering a newborn child should not have to worry about the way in which the tax authorities, social-benefit administration, health service, education system, census department and local government may use the information. A good egovernment scheme starts off from the citizen's eye view, not the bureaucrat's one. An increase in the performance of individual firms will result in an increased aggregated national wealth. Hence, greater usage of e-business will increase the productivity of the nation, leading to an enhanced economic performance (Srivastava & Teo, 2010)

Issues

"e-Governance, however, is not really the use of IT in governance but as a tool to ensure good governance. eGovernance does not mean proliferation of computers and accessories; it is basically a political decision which calls for discipline, attitudinal change in officers and employees, and massive government process reengineering, Ravi Kant (Special Secretary, IT, Govt. of West Bengal) explains. (e-Governance Challenges)

What fails e-Governance in India? The essential culprits that fail most of the e-governance projects in India include improper conceptualization and implementation, beside domain knowledge. Strangely, in the country which boasts of being the IT service provider of the world, people who understand government do not know IT, and not many who understand IT have the necessary domain knowledge of how government works. Major issues include: 1. Tendency to resist the change in work culture All implementers and drivers of e-governance initiatives agree that the biggest challenge of deploying e-governance is not technology but change management. Change management is important not only in terms of cultural change but also in terms of changing operations and processes workflow that the automated environment will introduce. 2. It's all about processes According to Aman Singh, joint secretary to the CM-Chhattisgarh and CEO, CHIPS, "As a country, we need to understand that there are primarily three components of e-governance - People, Process and Technology, strictly in that order. Unfortunately, majority in the country are obsessed with technology, often at the cost of people and processes." Technology has never been a problem for implementation of e-governance projects, given the country's pre-eminence in IT. However, the problem lies in understanding the intricacies of implementation of meaningful e-governance projects, as rightly put by Ravi Kant, Special Secretary (IT), and West Bengal: "Technology is a small piece of the puzzle. Execution is the key. Governments need an innovative agenda - not an IT agenda."

3. Community: The missing link Any e-governance project should always keep the 'Citizen' at the core, which has not happened so far. "Most of the projects in India have so far been made by bureaucrats sitting in an office and looking at a department's computerization efforts, forgetting the central person CITIZEN," said Satish Kaushal, country manager, Govt (SWG), IBM. Citizens' expectations are dramatically different from what the bureaucrats think. Moreover, government does not do much for Capacity building. 4. Think beyond RoI Last year about $1.2 billion was spent on e-governance initiatives in the country and most of the projects so far are based on a return on investment (RoI) matrix. Any e-governance project would allow cost reduction to the government, but the important question is will it enhance the operational efficiency? Will it bring in higher revenue to the government? Will it bring better citizen satisfaction? Experts suggest that all e-governance project needs to be judged on a performance matrix based on certain parameters - not just RoI. 5. Inaccessibility An e-government site that provides web access and support often does not offer the potential to reach to many users including those who live in remote areas, are homebound, have low literacy levels, exist on poverty line incomes. 6. Digital mistakes Digital mistakes can be much more serious. In November 2007, for example, the British government managed to lose two discs of data containing the (unencrypted) personal and financial details of 25m households. In the hands of fraudsters and identity thieves, the sort of data that a government can collect by law could be misused with disastrous results. 7. Hyper-surveillance Authoritarian government Increased contact between government and its citizens could potentially lead to a lack of privacy for civilians as their government obtains more and more information on them. In a worse case scenario, with so much information being passed electronically between government and civilians, a totalitarian-like system could develop. Technology may have given citizens a bit more information about government, but it has given government a lot more information about them, for good or ill. (The good, the bad and the inevitable - The pros and cons of e-government, 2008) 8. Interdepartmental collaboration Lack of Integrated Services Most of the e-Governance Services being offered by state or central governments are not integrated due to lack of communication among different Departments. So the information that resides with one department has no or very little meaning to some other department of Government.

9. Population: This is probably the biggest challenge. Apart from being an asset to the country it offers some unique issues, an important one being Establishing Person Identities. There is no unique identity of a person in India. Apart from this, measuring the population, keeping the database of all Indian nationals & keeping it updated is some other related challenge. 10. Different Languages This challenge is due to the diversity of the country. It enforces the need to do e-governance (up to certain level) in local languages, which is a big task to achieve. 11. Cost Although a prodigious amount of money has been spent on the development and implementation of e-government, some say it has yielded only a mediocre product. The outcomes and effects of trial Internet - based governments are often difficult to gauge or unsatisfactory. According to Gartner, Worldwide IT spending is estimated to total $3.6 trillion in 2011 which is 5.1% increase from the year 2010($3.4 trillion). (e-Government) 12. False sense of transparency and accountability Opponents of e-government argue that online governmental transparency is dubious because it is maintained by the governments themselves. Information can be added or removed from the public eye. To this day, very few organizations monitor and provide accountability for these modifications. Even the governments themselves do not always keep track of the information they insert and delete.

Conclusion
In principle, there is not much argument about the desirability of putting government online. Technology helps to make public administration more open, more responsive and cleaner. Taxpayers save money. Citizens get better services. Democracy is revived. Rich countries already have the broadband penetration, computer literacy and skilled bureaucrats needed for sophisticated e-government, but poor countries may gain even more: technology may allow them to vault into the modern age, shedding the wasteful, incompetent and corrupt public administration that is often the greatest barrier to their development. In spite of some reservations and potential negative implications of implementing and designing e-governance, including disintermediation of the government and its citizens, impacts on economic, social, and political factors, vulnerability to cyber attacks, and disturbances to the status quo in these areas, e-governance can radically change the face of governance, especially in a big country like India and provide its citizens, an interface to get better and more efficient government services.

References
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