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A Great Help

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VoicenData Bureau
New Update

Government is one of the biggest verticals in terms of ICT spending. Not only are we seeing traction in terms of mission mode projects, but also PSUs and defense sector which have increased their spending to compete with their respective counterparts. PSUs in the banking, insurance, and oil & gas have increased their spending to compete with private players whereas defense sector has been gearing up to ride on the ICT bandwagon. The government departments are also upgrading and increasing their capacities to streamline their operations so that all these benefits can be passed on to end citizens.

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The national e-governance plan (NeGP) provides huge cost saving by sharing core and support infrastructure and also by enabling interoperability through common standards. The NeGP can be divided into 3 mission mode projects (MMP)-central, state, and integrated. The central MMPs include: Banking, central excise & customs, income tax, insurance, MCA21, national citizen database, passport, immigration, visa and foreigners registration & tracking, pension, and e-office. State MMPs include: Agriculture, commercial taxes, e-district, employment exchange, land records, municipalities, gram panchayats, police, road transport, and treasuries. Integrated MMPs include: CSC, e-biz, e-courts, e-procurement, EDI for e-trade, national e-governance service delivery gateway, and India portal.



Challenges

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On the MMP side, central government projects have done well, but the state government projects are slowly picking up due to fund deficit and lack of political will, be it from the chief minister's office or minister's office. All this has led to delayed projects and non-utilization of citizen service center infrastructure. Some of the states have done extremely well as senior officials are aware about ICT deployment in their respective state and its impact with respect to state GDP and citizen service delivery is excellent, but some of the states have failed badly.

The government projects are complex in nature so is its implementation. Even the implementation varies from state-to-state or district-to-district as there is no common process and everyone wants to go their own way. One has to see that wherever automation happens, it needs to create value for the existing processes. A lot many times automation happens, but business process re-engineering remains the same. Some times there is a slight modification in the process and sometimes the same process is implemented which was practiced earlier. All these processes need to be corrected to suit current automated projects and also eliminate data errors and smooth functioning of the overall system.

A major challenge in the government departments, specially state governments, is the lack of manpower capacity in terms of handling complex projects. This is true for majority of projects, be it project ideation, writing request for proposal, processing the RFP, implementing the order, testing for commercializing the project, and operations & maintenance. Majority of the government departments do not have internal capacity to handle all these activities. Even if they give these projects to a consultant they are not able to handle it, as they are good only in technology but not good in government processes. Sometimes even consultants are also not up to the mark as they send junior resources to take care of complex projects which makes things difficult. This results in bad modeling leading to bad RFP and its cancellation leading to project delays and cost overrun.

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So, there is need for people who can conceptualize the project, design the complete architecture, and prescribe parameters, so that the project can be evaluated on the basis of prescribed parameters after deployment in public-private partnership mode. All this is not easy, as one needs to know both technology, government processes, and best practices both nationally as well as internationally. Such trained manpower in a common pool can be advantageous for all the government departments (both central and state) and they can hop from one department to the other after completion of the project. All this will help in lot of value addition to the government projects.



Solutions for Government

The support from political bosses definitely helps in faster deployment of projects, so politicians need to be convinced about how these ICT projects will be helpful for them both in the short-run and long-run. Once they are convinced it becomes easy for the department to deploy these projects. To convince political bosses, there has been lot of study tours organized by progressive states where politicians talk about their project in detail and this has been a good learning experience for others.

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Business process re-engineering for government vertical definitely adds a lot of value to project head and department of IT. NeGP has come out with an excellent program whereby project heads of MMPs come together to share their experiences with one another. This is a 5 week course and in the last week, all the participants visit developed economies to see how they have implemented their projects. So, this is a good exercise to do capacity building and DIT should continue to have more of such workshop.

On the lines of financial adviser, the government should create a pool of ICT experts who will have the capability to undertake large scale complex projects. This would be very helpful to take care of manpower and expertise issue in government departments which is a big issue in the government departments.

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Lot of state governments and central government departments have done projects which can be replicated or can be commercialized on a large scale. Government should look at all these projects and see how these projects can be replicated, thus saving a lot in terms of manpower and project cost. It will also help in timely delivery of projects as RFP needs to be floated, evaluated, and then commissioned.



Future Technologies

The government departments should look at cloud computing and e-procurement in a big way as this will help in lot of cost savings.

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For example, currently all urban local bodies in India are following a stand-alone approach for offering same set of services which is leading to different flavors of the same solutions. The reason for it being that as per the guidelines of the ministry of urban development every municipality has to offer minimum 8 services.

This diversity is likely to create serious human resource issues since many employees of ULBs do get routinely transferred across different ULBs within a state and it would not be possible to manage it in the long run. Even getting technical resources at district level to manage IT resources for ULB is not an easy task. Even things are going to further complicate when 5,000 ULBs across India will get automated.

To make things simpler, all ULBs in one state can deploy centralized application hosted on cloud and it will offer numerous benefits over the stand-alone model. Cloud computing is evolutionary in nature and is enabled by a number of existing technologies, such as virtualization, automation, and self-service portals.

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The public sector is one of the biggest purchasers of goods and services in the Indian economy and e-procurement will help in saving a lot across all departments, be it state or central government. Even if there is a 10% benefit in the overall process India can save a lot. So, within first year, the country can pay itself for creating e-procurement infrastructure.

Not only this, the procurement of products through e-procurement can help in reducing timelines for purchase of equipment and can also lead to curb corruption in purchase of products for the government departments. All this can lead to reducing corruption as departments are trying to eliminate manual intervention with the use of ICT technologies and are also trying to provide services to citizens and enterprises in a time bound manner.

E-procurement is identified as a mission mode project under NeGP and the objective is to transform public sector purchase activity from labor-intensive paper based to efficient e-procurement process. E-procurement is the use of ICT by the buyer (in this case the government) in conducting their procurement processes with supplier for the acquisition of goods (supplies), works, and services. Use of ICT promotes the aims of open, non-discriminatory, and efficient government procurement through transparent procedures.

The factors driving the adoption of e-procurement are: Reduced purchasing cost and improved efficiency, standardized purchasing processes across the organization, reduced administrative costs with better effectiveness, significant reduction in the procurement cycle, and reduced discretion. E-procurement involves a set of technology solution which concentrate on different key areas of procurement such as: E-tendering, e-auction or reverse auction, e-catalogue/purchasing, e-market place, and e-invoicing.

So, things look rosy for the government vertical, but the government needs to look at capacity constraint and business process re-engineering, so that the benefits of automation can be passed on to end citizens.

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