Monthly Archives: April 2010

Keynote Address by Rajendra Joshi at Microsoft India, NGO Connection Workshop, Jaipur 15-16 April, 2010

Keynote speech:

The most powerful weapon on the earth is public opinion [Paul Crouser]

Governance encompasses not just government, but also the civil society and the corporate sector. It includes, the systems, the procedures and processes in place for planning, management and decision-making. Fostering sound public judgment through informed and thoughtful debate is one of the key aspects of the Good Governance. The growing use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) tools is creating knowledge based societies and providing more options for informed citizens to participate in the development process. Provision of ‘Anytime-Anywhere Access’ to government information and services through Internet has been an important facilitator of Good Governance.

  • Quality of governance is a global concern
  • Aspects that are emphasized are: transparency and accountability
  • There are institutions that track quality of governance through different sets of indicators
  • Participation is one of the indicators of quality of governance
  • It is expected that the state, proactively, create enabling environment through institutional arrangements, legislation and capacity building
  • Right to Information is one such legislation in the direction of will of the state to follow ‘good governance” practice

The concept of Government to Citizen to Government (G2C2G) is opening avenues for direct participation of individuals in the governance processes. This model fully exploits the potential of ICT/Internet and leverages it for greater participation, efficiency and transparency in functioning of the government as well as savings in time and costs relating to decision-making.

In order to provide seamless integrated of information and services, Government of India launched National Portal of India two years ago as a Mission Mode Project under the National e-Governance Plan (NeGP).. One of the mandates of the National Portal of India is to provide a platform for encouraging Citizens’ Participation in the process of governance in the country.

Governance without participation/ with Participation

An enabler, the Right to Information has increased the participation of common man, Civil society and even past and present Government Staffs, to get information which was otherwise not accessible under one or the other disguise like Official Secret Act.

One study was done in Kerala wherein impact of NREGS was studied after regular RTI by activists. The observations are

Before RTI After RTI
Staff was lethargic Staff has become active
Staff did not have any fear Fear of RTI Act
The staff was not regular and punctual in their duties The staff has become punctual and regular
The payments were being delayed Prompt payment is made to NREG beneficiaries
No responsibility was on staff Staff feel responsible due to the Act and its enforcement
The staff members were not conscious towards their duties The staff members have become conscious towards their duties
Authorities were not alert Authorities have become alert
Not much response was given towards addressing grievances Grievances are being addressed swiftly

The situation is such that now the Delhi High Court has given judgement that all the judges including that from the Supreme Court has to declare their assets in the public domain, unfortunately this is being challenged by the SC registry

  • Right to Education is a recent step to express commitment to the betterment of the future citizens of India, and targets the children, and accountability is fixed.
  • But still there is an information gap that prevents large section of society from participating in process of governance (decision making, protecting interest, seeking explanations- more information, availing services, benefits, etc)
  • Information is used by selected group to further their vested interest and keep others at disadvantageous position, such a situation results in differential development opportunities, leading to two distinct categories of “have’s and have not’s”
  • Ensuring that information will reach to the intended audience is the first step for participation of that group of people in making choices related to their life
  • Challenges are: do we have required infrastructure, institutional arrangements for sharing of information and also receiving the information in real time so that necessary actions can be taken?

IT as an enabling tool for participation in the process of governance

How government is using it

  • Government of Gujarat, Rural Development Department, has an published the BPL list which can be accessed by all as it in public domain on their website.
  • Computerization of all the land records including the signatures which is being digitized. This information can be accessed now by the concerned parties by using IT which can track the digitized transactions at the click of mouse,
  • NGO portal by the Union government.

How Corporates are using it

e-chaupal by ITC

Before ITC introduced e-Choupal, the farmers were restricted to selling their produce in the local mandi. They had to go through intermediaries and prices were low. ITC trained young farmers to manage the Internet kiosk and they became the e-Choupal Sanchalak in their village. Today they belong to a community of e-farmers with access to daily prices of a variety of crops in India and abroad – this helps them to get the best price. They can also find out about many other important things – weather forecasts, the latest farming techniques, crop insurance, etc.

By providing them with farming know-how and services, timely and relevant weather information, transparent price discovery and access to wider markets, e-Choupal enabled economic capacity to proliferate at the base of the rural economy.

e-choupal Now
States covered 10
Villages covered 40000
No of e-choupals 6500
Farmers e-empowered/ participating 4 million

What requires to be done, way forward

Why has IT/e-government failed?

  1. Proper support is not provided by Govt. Officers, many times it is due to lack of training and orientation and many a times plain apathy.
  2. Time consuming work and lethargy in govt. facilities.
  3. Lack of information in villages, as the usage is often limited to political person or government functionaries like representatives of Sarpanch and Patwari (Revenue officials)- E gram vishwagram by Government of Gujarat
  4. Proper technology in not available in villages and future maintenance costs not budgeted.

Recent success stories in usage of ICT/e-governance in villages:

District Collector complaint centre is the Successful example in Jhansi dist.

Why is it successful?

Due to seriousness and strict administration lead by the district collector, the head of bureaucracy

What needs to be done?

  1. Enabling policy in place where there is accountability fixed on people, that may be government functionaries, private sector and civil society for ensuring participation
    1. Recent examples are RTI and Right to Education
  2. Proper infrastructure in place, that includes, man and material both which reduces the gap in communication, time taken to address grievances and maintenance of the same
    1. Recent example is the district collectorate, Jhansi, wherein once the grievance is logged then within the stipulated period it has to be addressed. It is also two way wherein the person who have registered the complaint also get to know the progress through regular updates and then a feedback on the action taken
  3. Make the technology user friendly
    1. Example is usage of sms or a no charge call in place of internet for registering complaints or getting right answers.
  4. Political will to establish, run and sustain a system which uses IT as an enabler as we have seen corporate like ITC using it to sustain and increase their business through local participation wherein more and more people/villages are using it as a powerful tool to access information which was not available to them otherwise.