Should PMO become the main driver of e-Governance
Should the Prime Minister’s Office become the driver of e-Governance projects in the country? The answer to this question can only be ‘yes.’ When there is a visionary and hands-on Prime Minister like Narendra Modi in office, anything entrusted to the PMO will have a very high chance of getting executed in a timely and efficient manner.
R Chandrashekhar, former IT Secretary to the Union government, and present President, NASSCOM, has been quoted in The Economic Times saying, “The Department of Information Technology (DIT) is basically an advisory body and cannot enforce things.”
“PMO can exercise a high level of intervention and therefore e-Governance under it is highly recommended,” R Chandrashekhar added.
Many people who are concerned about the state of e-Governance in the country are dissatisfied with the lack of progress in this area during the last 10 years. Many of the initiatives taken by The Department of Information Technology (DIT) are not giving the desired results. The work on key e-Governance infrastructure like State Data Centres (SDC) and State Wide Area Networks (SWANs) has still not been completed in many of the states and union territories. Even in places where such infrastructure has come up there are issues regarding lack of capacity utilisation at the SDC, and quality of connectivity through SWAN.
However, to blame solely the DIT for lack of visible progress in area of e-Governance would not be right. Many other departments in UPA led government failed to perform during the last 10 years, so if there was lack of adequate performance from DIT, it should not come as any surprise. The failure of the UPA has also been attributed to the weak PMO in that government. But under NDA there is a PMO that is strong, visionary, and determined to take brave decisions in the interest of the country.
The National e-Governance Plan (NeGP) was started by BJP government in 2003, but in 2004, the UPA came to power and e-Governance became an empty slogan instead of a priority for the government. Even though India is regarded as a software superpower, the country is at least 15 years behind nations like the US and UK, which is a significant gap considering the pace at which technology is changing. Now that BJP is back in power, this time with a complete majority of its own, it should take complete ownership of the NeGP. This is the time for the BJP to fulfil the vision with which the party had conceived the NeGP in 2003.
The key problem in implementation of e-Governance projects is that even the smallest project can need the consent of many ministries for effective implementation. Lot of time can get wasted in getting the necessary permissions and regulatory approvals from various ministries involved. If an authoritative body like the PMO gets involved then there is better scope for inter-departmental cooperation and major e-Governance projects can be executed unilaterally. The e-Governance projects that have to be launched on a national level require the approval of State governments and here to the role of the PMO would be vital.
The issue of reforms is also very important. The e-Governance projects undertaken during the UPA government have mostly failed to improve the efficiency of the the departments because there was no attention paid to simplifying the regulations and removing processes that were obsolete. Governance reform, which means simplification of regulations and getting rid of the unnecessary bureaucratic red-tapism has to go hand in hand with incorporation of Information Technology systems, only then effective e-Governance can be there in the country.
The good thing is that the Modi government understands that without reforms, e-Governance cannot succeed in this country. If the PMO decides to play an active part in the area of e-Governance, it will be a good thing not only from the point of view of Information Technology but also for governance reforms.
– Anoop Verma