Time to Think Boldly

Karan Bajwa

Having learnt from the experiences in the past seven years of National e-Governance Plan, the next phase should be to 'consolidate,refine, standardise.

The journey of the National e-Governance Plan has been fascinating. It’s been a great learning as we have gone from infra to apps, from State to State, and from department to department. Over the last seven years, we have spent about 25 per cent of the total plan outlay, and of the 31 MMPs conceived, 14 are delivering full range of services while nine are delivering partial services. From the very beginning it was clear that it was not going to be easy, given the diverse nature of our country, our decision making as well as our governance structure. Thus, many lessons have been learnt on the way. The learning has been for the policy makers, for the government at different levels, and for the industry – we have the State information highways, the State data centres and a fairly wide range of deployed citizen services.

In instances where we have done scale deployment, we have clearly realised the benefits. In cases where we have done pilots, we have realised that scale is the key. We have gathered enough intellectual assets on technology, implementation hurdles, procurement methodologies, business models, etc. We have seen the players and providers change and we have seen the pros and cons of that. It was never going to be any other way in a country as diverse as ours.

The key for us is how we go forward from here. The next phase should be to ‘consolidate, refine, standardise, replicate and share’. For scale, speed and impact, it is critical we first ‘consolidate’ all that we have done and learnt over the last seven years. We need to ensure that we do not start from the beginning of the learning curve every time we implement a framework across multiple environments. The process and the learning have to override the individual. The early stages need a lot of innovation, and the individual plays a key role, but after a while, the process has to override for scale execution.

Once we consolidate all we know, we need to ‘refine’ it based on the learnings – refine the workflows, the implementation procedures, the procurement guidelines – with a clear view of the outcomes we desire. This will need bold thinking.

Once we refine, we need to ‘standardise’. It is imperative for a country as diverse as ours that we standardise to the extent possible. It will never be 100 per cent, but we need to go as close as possible. If we take legacy processes and just wrap technology around them, we would have lost the opportunity. Clearly, there is a need to standardise. How different can a citizen service delivery be from one State to another, or how different it should be, language and culture notwithstanding.

As we get to scale implementation, it has to be about ‘replication’, rather than re-creation. Till now, there have been re-creations based on individual interpretations and maybe they were needed for learning. But now, in order to achieve the end goal of inclusive growth, we will have to look at mass replication.

In all of this, what role does the technology play? The answer is that of an ‘enabler’. Technology is a platform that enables you to achieve what you intend to. It is time now to look at technology partnerships versus technology selection. We have implemented all forms of technology and we have learnt from them. Now the mindset has to move from choosing a vendor for e-governance to a partner for e-governance. The industry seeks that level of engagement and it is better for all the players in the industry. Technology is at a stage, where almost anything is possible. The four big trends in the technology industry – cloud, mobility, social and big data – impact governance as much as any other domain. They are equally relevant in government as in banking, IT services, manufacturing, telecom, retail, etc.

The cloud today presents a unique way to look at infra-build and application services delivery. In a public, private or hybrid cloud model, we are today able to drive cross departmental collaborations and resource sharing. The silos, however, will have to break. These are not technology silos, but thinking silos. We will have to bring down the barriers ultimately and economics will force us to do so. Healthy paranoia is needed as we adopt these transformational technologies.

To make governance responsive, mobility plays a very key role. Services offered through mobile devices enable the government employees to access systems from any location, thereby improving productivity and responsiveness. This is a key attribute of Smart – as in Simple, Measurable, Accountable, Responsive, Transparent – governance. Enterprise Grade Mobility devices today offer that in a secure manner. Clearly, it is time to take big bold bets.

Karan Bajwa is Managing Director, Microsoft Corporation (India)

(The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of INCLUSION. Comments are welcome at info@skoch.in)

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