The pro-people agenda of e-Governance

Susanta Majumdar
Secretary, Information Technology & Electronics
Department, Government of West Bengal

“All our major procurements are done through an e-procurement portal run by NIC.If an administrator is too swayed by technology he won’t be able to deliver to the common man. A balance is essential,”
says Susanta Majumdar. In conversation with Nayana Singh

Today IT is considered critical not just for the growth of economy and employment generation, but also for governance. What is your vision for the State’s IT department?
In the new ICT Policy 2012, the vision of the IT department is clear on two aspects of ICT based development in the State. First is to become one of the top three leading states in IT/ITeS and Electronics hardware sector by 2020, which will be driven by our strategies for growth of IT and Electronics hardware industry. Second is to enable West Bengal to transform into a knowledge-driven welfare society with extensive use of IT and ITeS in Governance and in the daily lives of the people of the State, which will be achieved through our initiatives in the area of e-Governance. Tell us about the initiatives that your department is taking to bring about growth in the State’s IT industry. The multi-pronged strategy of the IT & Electronics Department, Government of West Bengal, consists of geographical expansion of IT infrastructure development in Tier-II and Tier-III cities, boosting of local entrepreneurship & MSMEs, developing an eco-system for growth of electronics hardware industry and harnessing existing strengths and talent pool of the state in industry verticals such as Animation & Gaming, Life Sciences, Banking and Finance, and Engineering Design Services. Our new ICT Incentive Scheme 2012 has provided a number of fiscal incentives to support these strategies. With an eye on electronics hardware sector, we have already identified land at two locations for electronic clusters at Falta and Naihati. Our plan is to set up 26 IT Hubs and Incubation Centres, at least one in each district. Work is already in progress for setting up such hubs at Siliguri, Asansol, Durgapur, Barjora, Purulia, Kharagpur, Krishnanagar, Bantala and Rajarhat locations.

Your State has taken many new initiatives in e-Governance? How would you rate the State’s performance in this area of e-Governance?
The Chief Minister of West Bengal is very pro-active in this area. I would like to inform you that today all our major procurements are done through an e-Procurement portal run by NIC. The State has decided to digitise all departmental and records of Collectorates. It is a web-based Document Management & Archival System. This is already under operation in Darjeeling District Magistrate’s office on a pilot basis. Work is going on for the Home Department. West Bengal’s success in e-Governance in major areas like Land Records, Registration, Commercial Taxes, Panchayat and Rural Development has attracted everybody’s earned attention of all. Now, Financial Management System of the state is another area where there will be huge progress in a year to come. With the thrust of the NeGP, the Government is taking full advantage of the e-Governance Revolution and the Information Technology & Electronics Department is playing active role in overseeing the implementation. In terms of setting up of core infrastructures, West Bengal has always been one of the leaders.

West Bengal Electronics Industry Development Corporation Limited
Webel, headquartered in Kolkata, is the nodal agency of the Government of West Bengal for developing Information Technology, Electronics and ITES industries in the State and creating value for the citizens. Webel facilitates the growth of the industry by a host of measures such as developing infrastructure in the form of land/buildings for the investors and facilitating processes of clearances that are required to set up business, ensures last mile connectivity, assists the government in all its e-governance projects and brings tangible benefits to citizens in the field of health care and IT education.

Please provide us with an overview of the Common Service Centres that have been opened in West Bengal.
In our state, the Common Service Centres were commissioned since April 2008. SREI Sahaj was appointed as the Service Centre Agency (SCA) as the Private Partner and Panchayat and Rural Development Department (P&RD Dept.) as the State Designated Agency (SDA). Over the years, both the parties have worked closely to make the project a success in the state. The project was commissioned with a target of 6,797 CSCs in the entire state. In terms of number of CSCs, the SDA along with SCA has been able to setup 6,209 CSCs in the entire state of West Bengal which is almost 90 percent of the target set for the state. Hence it can be said that the progress has been reasonably good.

What kind of services is now being provided at the CSCs? What new services will be launched in the future?
Although CSCs are being setup as the front desk for major G2C services of the Government of West Bengal, the VLEs of the CSCs have been able to provide B2C/Utility services to the citizens in the rural areas of the state. The VLEs have gained confidence among the citizens in providing utility services like payments of electricity bills/ booking of railway tickets/ train ticket booking, mobile top-up etc, which involve cash transactions in the remotest part of the state. Until recently, the G2C services delivered through the CSCs was not very encouraging. However, with the e-District Rollout and other e-Governance projects shall increase the effectiveness of the CSCs in the State.

What kind of response are the CSCs getting from the common citizens of the state?
Frankly speaking, we need to travel miles before we can say that we have been able to create an impact. Let’s wait for the statewise rollout of e-District. Once that is done, the real benefits of CSCs will become obvious to everyone.

What are the main challenges in the implementation of e-Governance projects?
The biggest challenge in the implementation of e-Governance is the Government Process Reengineering and Change Management without which the desired results will never be achieved. The Departments are very sensitive in approving the GPR. We have been facing this challenge during the implementation of e-District project. Change management is important not only in terms of cultural change but also in terms of changing mode of operations and processes workflow that the automated environment will introduce. The state is also discussing the Electronic Services Delivery Bill that would bring the desired changes in redefining rules and procedures in the Government.

What could be the possible solutions to these challenges?
The government departments should have a dedicated Project Monitoring Team (PeMT) as has been stressed in the NeGP. You see, the continuous monitoring of projects on a regular basis is very important. Only this can ensure the success of the projects. Lack of technology experts is a drawback in handling of projects and in the monitoring of the SLAs. Security of data is also a major concern in making them available to the general public. Capacity Building is also crucial in overcoming many of these challenges.

According to you what are the main e-Governance projects of the state that have been immensely successful and have the potential to be replicated?
Though an MMP under NeGP, the progress in Commercial Taxes, Land Records and Registration services have been excellent. In fact, I would say that there are a number of state specific e-Governance projects that have been successful. For instance, there is the e-Governance project that allows location specific SMS service for Disaster Management Department. Our e-Governance project of Employment Bank is a great success. It gets lakhs of hits. Another success area for us is our Hospital Store Management Information System. This system is bringing a lot of efficiency and transparency.

In your opinion what kind of experiences and sensibilities should an IT Secretary bring to his job?
People who are posted as Secretary to a Department are experienced in Public Administration. Every Department has its own uniqueness, and so has every individual. However, an IT Department one should be willing to learn new things everyday. IT is a highly dynamic and a fastchanging field. The technologies that we consider high-tech today might be regarded as obsolete in a matter of few weeks. But if an administrator is too swayed by technology he won’t be able to deliver to the common man. A balance is essential.

SHARE