IT Taskforce
Basic Background  Report
9th June 1998


 

XI   IT IN GOVERNMENT

Computerisation in Government to viable limits should be systematically completed in the next five years.

Information Technology plans to be intrinsic to the planning process.

The objective of government Information Technology applications should be to deliver services as close to citizens as possible, with minimum intermediation and at affordable cost.

Each department/agency in government should be required to prepare an Information Technology Plan with a time perspective of three to five years. This is necessary for planning out applications systematically while keeping in view the fact.

We can not have massive use of computers, and IT unless Government also uses extensively computer technology. This is possible only at least 2% of the budget of every ministry or deptt is earmarked to apply IT in that deptt. This will include not only investment in the machines but also training.

Frameworks Contracts

Institutional arrangements will have to be made to guide the process of change in individual government ministries, departments and agencies. The process of securing expert advice from outside government given existing procedures and guidelines, coupled with lack of inhouse capability to evaluate, is found to be a tedious and difficult one.
We would therefore, recommend that the National Informatics Centre at the national level and the Technology Service organisations at the state level should, on the lines of the CCTA in the UK, immediately establish ‘Framework Contracts’ with reputed suppliers to provide a wide range of IT consultancy, specialist services and IT products to government agencies. The evaluation of private sector firms could take into account factors such as financial stability, track reocrd and experience, available resources, quality systems, fee rates, discount structures and administration and management systems.

To illustrate, in the case of CCTA in UK, ‘Framework Contracts’, currently cover the following service categories:

1. IS strategy development.
2. Programme and project management
3. IT architecture design, including networking and communications
4. Requirements specification, system acceptance and implementation.
5. Contractor support services, i.e.body shop supply of IT specialist personnel
6. Advice in electronic commerce, EDI, multimedia and INTERNET/Intranet service.
7. Advice on computer and communications security, systems auditing, contingency planning and disaster recovery.
8. Advice on out-sourcing, market testing and PFI.

As it will be difficult to train a whole lot of Government servants in IT quickly, the private sector computer companies must be called upon to provide equipment as well as services. This could be optionally on a lease basis so that the Government is not stuck with the old legacy systems. There will also be no delay in disposal and the problem of disposal of old equipment will not arise. Government can thus ensure that it always has the latest IT system.

Top

Participation in international projects

There are a number of international projects relating to electronic government that are currently being piloted or implemented. Examples of international organizations include the International Council for the use of IT in Government Administration (ICA), the Commonwealth Network of IT for Development (COMNET-IT), the OECD, the Asia Pacific Information Infrastructure initiatives and the Global Information Infrastructure Commission (GIIC). It would be useful for India to participate in international projects so as to both learn from experiences of others, as also contribute to the global experience in planning and implementing Information Technology projects.

It is suggested that the Government of India should consider participation in the Government on-line (GOL) Project originally launched in 1995 by ministers from the G7 countries. The GOL permits participation by non-G7 countries. Countries like Sweden, Australia, Hungary, Israel, Malta, Switzerland, South Africa, Brazil, Czech Republic, Egypt, and Korea are non-G7 members of the project. The city of Rome became the first municipal level government to participate directly in the project. Some of the sub-projects being taken up under the Government on-line project include:

• Directory Services led by Canada
• Reuse of Government information within national boundaries led by the UK
• Developing `single window’ government led by the US
• Improving customer service with kiosk technology led by the US
• Permits and licenses led by Japan
• Delivery of government information electronically led by the UK
• Locating government information electronically led by the UK
• Charging for services led by Israel
• On-line formal transactions led by the UK
• Compendium of government on line activities and interests led by Canada and
• On line support for democracy led by Sweden

Telecommuting

Telecommuting is becoming increasingly popular in the West. In Los Angeles an 18-month study of 400 telecommuters concluded that, for each individual, employers saved $8,500 annually, 4000 kilowatts in energy, and 30 percent in office and parking space. Moreover the general public benefited from lower pollution levels, less traffic congestion, and lower energy consumption.

A systematic exercise should be carried out by government departments for identifying those tasks that can be effectively done through telecommuting. An option can then be given to employees to accomplish their work through telecommuting. An option can then be given to employees to accomplish their work through telecommuting. The introduction of workflow concepts in government will begin to make telecommuting viable for a large number of employees.

Standardisation

Since the future will witness large-scale integration of a wide range of applications both within and outside government, the country needs to initiate standardisation of basic data. It is necessary to recognise the strategic nature of Information Technology in Government and to ensure consistency, connectivity and inter-operability. Most of the time, data is captured in an adhoc manner. A data item like Citizen name and address is captured by a host of government agencies in different ways.
Such non-standardisation makes it difficult to integrate and co-ordinate usage of data by different agencies, though the same data item may be required for multiple government services like vehicle registration, tax payer identification, state economic assistance and voter registration. Standards can help create predictable architecture ensuring the manageability, portability and interoperability of systems.

The Singapore approach of setting up data management committies focusing on each category of shared data namely people, land and establishments is worthy of emulation. The categorisation of shared data around the people, land and establishment hubs is a practical means of organising data and ensuring a mechanism for data standardisation.

In this context it is suggested that the Government of India should set up a Central Repository of data elements in government. The Repository could perhaps be set up with the National Informatics Centre. Each data element should be owned by a single agency. The Revenue department in each state could own for example data on Citizen name and address. Each agency should provide a comprehensive listing in the Central Repository of its captured data elements, and the platforms and databases where such data elements reside. This will help all agencies to refer to the Central Repository while developing their own applications, thus ensuring standardisation across government. This will also help in achieving reduction in duplicated data collection, unnecessary form filling besides providing improved data quality and convenience to the public.

Top

Geographic information infrastructure.

Geographic information can be very useful in integrating, modelling, analysing, and visualising different types of data. Geographic information can be of strategic advantage for a number of applications, including spatial planning, command and control systems, environmental protection, utility management, traffic regulation etc.

The Survey of India under the Department of Science and Technology has been conducting topographical surveys on 1:2,50,000 scale, 1:50,000 and 1:25,000 scales. Survey of India has started creation of Digital Cartographical Database of topographical maps on scales of 1:2,50,000 and 1:50,000. These digitised based maps will be made available for applications development, for planning and for Geographical Information Systems purposes. Individual states have also set up agencies like the AP State Remote Sensing Applications Centre in the case of Andhra Pradesh which are engaged in the development of digitised base maps.

There is no common standard for reference systems, scales, degrees of accuracy, formats and data structures for developing base maps across the states. It would be useful to define the standards for such parameters at a pan-Indian level. While defining the standards, care should be taken to adopt international standards so that data can eventually be shared at regional and at global levels.

Currently there are restrictions on making digitised Survey of India maps available for public use. The restrictions have been imposed in view of the reservations of the Ministry of Defence, Ministry of Home and the Survey of India in making such data easily available. In the present scenario when high –resolution satellite systems are easily available for electronic surveillance there is a need to have a rethink on this policy so that digitised geographical information is made readily available for development of Geographical Information Systems and for use in value added applications.

The Survey of India should make available digitised base maps with a threshold scale, free of charge and free of copyright restrictions. This would stimulate the market for development of value added applications and create new products and services. Similarly the National Remote Sensing Agency should also make available remote sensing data for easy access by the public. With the development of the INTERNET in the country, both the Survey of India and the National Remote Sensing Agency, should use this medium for transferring appropriate digitised geographical information to the public domain. The committee of Secretaries under the Cabinet Secretary set up a sub-committee on this under the chairmanship of DG, NIC, and their recommendations were approved by the Committee of Secretaries. Notification by the Ministry of Defence is pending for more than six months. This has to be expedited.

Training of government employees

There is a distinct need to reorient the civil service for meeting the challenges of the future. Training can and must play an important role in improving the skills and quality of the civil service. Employees should be encouraged to make learning into a highly self-motivated activity for the acquisition of new knowledge and skills.

There is a perceptible trend world wide, towards flatter and leaner organisations. The future will not be a mere extension of the past or the present. The Information Age will present qualitative discontinuities and the typology of the civil service will witness a shift from the earlier command and control structure towards on characterised by staff empowerment and team working. There is also greater requirement for inter-disciplinary teams, as the task of administration becomes more complex.

Some of the important areas for training of government employees should therefore include:

• Project management
• Numeracy skills for quantitative analysis
• Management of technology
• Change management
• Team work
• Business Process reengineering

Top

Training for adoption of Information Technology in government

For achieving a high level of informatisation in government it is important that a comprehensive and co-ordinated approach to training be adopted. The training programmes could focus on different skill levels that will be required in government. At the lowest end these skill levels could include basic awareness and understanding of the uses and applications of information technology. At the next level, use of office automation software and off the shelf software packages such as email, word processors and spreadsheets, could be taken up. In respect of more complicated process specific applications for various agencies, application specific training will have to be provided to the employees. The highest level, there would be a need for IT managers, systems administrators and maintenance staff within government. This category would require detailed operational training programmes that can meet the individual requirements of identified employees.

The INTERNET will be one of the most useful of mediums for managing and disseminating government information and consequently exclusive training will be necessary for setting up and maintaining web sites.

The skill requirements in government in the filed of IT are shifting towards a mix of technical, management and communication skills from purely technical skills as programming. It is necessary to have staff with domain knowledge who can help architect systems that are practical and effective in delivery of services to citizens. On the technical side there will be increasing requirements for distributed systems architects, security specialists, and successful systems integrators. It is therefore necessary to invest in government employees for developing an IT community within government that has the skills and resources to provide quality services to government and citizens.

Training programmes will have to be an ongoing feature in government especially in the light of rapid changes in technologies and applications.

Computerised inventory of trainers

A computerised national inventory of trainers pertaining to different areas of specialisation should be maintained. Such an inventory should include resource personnel not only from within government but also professionals from the private sector and from the academia. Some trainers may be willing to provide training support over computer networks and consequently may be located anywhere in the world.

Computerised inventory of Government best practices

The Institute of SMART government could develop a computerised inventory of government best practices for electronic access. Case studies and examples should be decumented in this context and made available for use in training programmes.

Computer literacy as necessary qualification for employment in government

Government may also consider imposing IT literacy as an essential requirement for all future public sector and government employment.

Changing paradigm of governance

With the fast pace of technological change it is becoming important for government to review its existing structures, hierarchies, policies and procedures. The entire paradigm of governance in the `Information Age’ will necessarily be different from what it is at present. Consequently a large scale retooling and restructuring of government will be called for. Governance in the next millennium will inevitably be very different from what it is today. Digital government will entail flatter organisational hierarchies and more personalised delivery of citizen services. Government will have to be reoriented from separate and overlapping functional and territorial hierarchies to a sharp focus on the citizen. Such a paradigm of governance would require radical departures from the past.

National Institute for SMART Government

It is necessary that a specialised national level institution be set up for addressing the challenges and opportunities in the `Knowledge Society’. A National Institute of SMART Government in this context should focus on all issues concerning governance in the future. The institute would be required to conduct research, and impart training, apart from providing consultancy support to government departments and agencies. The Institute should showcase effective use of information technologies for better service delivery to the public. For instance an Institute of Electronic Government has been set up by IBM in Washington, focusing on this aspect. The Institute of SMART Government would also identify, document, and promote best practices for improving quality in government.

The Institute could also have tie-ups at the international level with similar institutes in order to ensure that it keeps pace with international developments and becomes a centre of global excellence.

Strengthening of State Institutes of Public Administration

On analogous lines, State Institutes of Public Administration have to be re-engineered to help bring about SMART State Governments.

Top

Back to BR-1

Home