The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) on 22nd May 98 appointed a National Task Force on Information Technology and Software Development to formulate the draft of a National Informatics Policy. The Task Force is chaired by Shri Jaswant Singh, Deputy Chairperson, Planning Commission and co-chaired by Shri N. Chandrababu Naidu, Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh and Dr. M. G. K. Menon, Former Union Minister of State, Science & Technology. The committee submitted its first report on 6th July ’98. And just 20 days after the report came out, the president of India ordered that all the 108 recommendations of the IT Action Plan, submitted by the Task Force, be notified by all the Ministries and Departments of the Government and necessary instructions and amendments to the laws be issued expeditiously fully reflecting the spirit of the recommendations.
Out of the recommendations, which broadly touch nearly all segments of the IT sector, there are some recommendations, if implemented in their spirit, can lead tremendous growth of the GIS application in the country. Here are the recommendations which directly relate to GIS. The complete text of the Task Force recommendations is available on Internet at .
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 applicaions 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.
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 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 record 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:
- IS strategy development.
- Programme and project management
- IT architecture design, including networking and communications
- Requirements specification, system acceptanceand implementation
- Contractor support services, i.e. body shop supply of IT specialist personnel
- Advice in electronic commerce, EDI, mutimedia and Internet/ Intranet service.
Advice on computer and communications security, systems auditing, contingency planning and disaster recovery 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.
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 organisations 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 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) Projectoriginally launched in 1995 by ministers from the G7 countries. The GOL permits participation by non GF7 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 Governemtn 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 licenceses led by Japan
- Delivery of government information electronically led by the UK
- Locating government information electronically led by 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
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, 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. The introduction of workflow concepts in government will begin to make telecommuniting viable for a large number of employees. Standardization
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 coordinate usage of dara 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 approacgh of setting up data management committees 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 setup 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 the Central Repository of its captured data elements, and the platforms and databases where such data element reside. This will help all agencies to refer to th eCentral Repository while developing their own applications, thus ensuring standardisation across government. This wil also help in achieving reduction in duplicated data collection, unnecessary form filling besides providing improved data quality and convenience to the public.
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 contral systems, environmental protection, utility management, traffic regulation etc.
The Survey of India under the Department of Science and Technology has been conducting 1:50,000 and 1:25,000scales. Survey of India has started creation of Digital Cartographical Database of topographical aps on scale of 1:25,000 and 1;50,000. These digitised base maps will be made available for applications development, for planning and for Geographical Information Systems purposes. Individual states have also set up agencies like AP State Remote Sensing Applications Centre in the case of Andhra Pradesh which are engaged in the development of digitised maps.
There is no common standard for reference systems, scales, degreesof 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 maps available for public use. The restrictions on making digitised Survey oIndia 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 need to have rethink on this policy so that digitised geogrphical information is made readily available for development od Geographical Information Systems and for use in value addad applications. The Survey of India should make available digitised base maps with a threshold scale, 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 developmnt 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 informatin to the publicdomain The committee of Secretaries 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 that six months. Tjhhis has to be expedted.
Training of government employees
There is a distict need to reorient the civil servicefor meeting the challenges of the future. Training can and must play an important role in improving the skills and quality of 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 learner organisations. The future will not be a mere extension of the past or the present. The Information Age will presentqualitative discontinuities and the technology of the civil service will witness a shift from the earlier commandand 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
Computerised inventory of Government best practices
The Institute of SMART government could developm a computerised inventory of government best practices for electronic access. Case studies and examples should be documented 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 as essential requirement for all future public sector and government employment.
Changing Paradigm of governanace
With the fast pace of technological change it is becoming important for governmentto review its existing structures, hiearchies, policies and procedures. The entire paradigm of governance in the ‘Information Age’ will necessarily be differentf rom what it is at present. Consequently a large scale retooling and restructuring of government will be called for. Governance in the next millenium will inevitably be 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 ooportunities 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 governemnt departments and agencies. The institute should showcase effective use of information technologies for better service delivery to th epublic. For instance an Institute of Electronic Government has been setup 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 internatiopnal level with similar institutes in order to ensure that it keeps pace with international developments and becomes a centre of global excellence.
Strenghtening 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.
Citizen IT Interface
Freedom of Information Act:
- We must aim at democracy on line. The blueprint for the Freedom of Information Act is ready. The Act should be pased at an early date. All the information available with the NIC network should br made available to the publicexcept those which have a bearing on security. The Cabinet decision which was taken some time ago that NIC should be enabled to make this information available to the public should be implemented by additionally empowering NIC to do so with out waiting for the clearance of the Departments concerned.
- Enpowering people through the use of IT and information availability Decentralised Planning and Implementation
- DISNIC-PLAN programe should b made widespread and the database updated online should be made available to the public, The Panchayats among others.
- * COURTIS, PARLS, CRISP and other such databases should be updated online over NICNET and access to public facilitated along with E-mail entry into the Grievances/suggestions database.
- Electronic Governance and Citizen Charter for Effective and Responsve administration
- * Specific decisions have been taken for earmarking certain percentage of budget of various government Departments/ Ministries for Government computerisation and other IT uses.
- * Concrete Citizen Charter for effective and Responsive Administration in terms of time-bound service to public need to be franmed and implemented.
- * A suitable coordinating and monitoring structure may be set up to oversee and guide the implementation.