Digitization of government services under the e-governance umbrella has brought many benefits to the user. According to government sources, the Digital India program has been formulated with the objective to “transform India into a digitally empowered society and knowledge economy.”
The e-governance initiatives in India has a chequered history. It started with a focus on harnessing ICT to benefit citizens. Initial measures included railway reservation computerization, land record computerization and the like. All these measures focused on streamlining the information system.
Despite a multitude of citizen-focused e-governance projects, the impact on the people was much short of the desired, mainly on account of inherent structural difficulties, such as the non-existence of good infrastructure (uninterrupted power supply, Internet, modern telecom cable networks, etc.).
This was because the systems were not integrated and they functioned in isolation from one another. This obstructed the successful implementation of e-governance and necessitated comprehensive planning and implementation to ensure the creation of sound infrastructure.
Along with this, interoperability issues were also seen. Interoperability is the attribute of different information technology systems and software applications being able to communicate, exchange data and make use of the data thus exchanged among themselves.
The Digital India program
Digital India is an e-governance initiative of the Government of India to bring the government departments and people under a single communication umbrella. The key objective is to ensure that government services are available to citizens electronically, with minimal paperwork. The new initiative also includes a plan to connect rural areas with high-speed Internet networks.
Time-frame for Digital India
The new initiative is expected to be closed by 2019. The project is being handled under a public-private initiative. Restructuring of the National Informatics Centre is one of the goals of the process.
The three core components of the Digital India program include digital infrastructure, delivering services digitally and digital literacy.
E-governance initiative entails the creation of infrastructure. This includes high-speed internet as well as enabling of mobile phone and bank account to encourage participation in digital and financial fields. It also requires easy-to-access Common Service Centre, creation of private space on the public cloud platform for sharing, and ensuring safe and secure cyberspace.
Under this initiative, government services will be available online across departments in real time, across devices. All citizen entitlements (old age pension, pension for the sick, financial assistance for weaker sections, and so on), will be put on cloud platforms. To do business easily, the various services will be digitally transformed, and the Geographic Information System (GIS) will be used for decision support and development. The plan also includes making financial transactions electronic and cashless.
Digital literacy seeks to empower people digitally. To realize this objective, digital resources toned to be made available from any part of the world. All documents/certificate would have to be available on the cloud, and all digital resources (services) will need to be available in all official Indian languages.
Further, the initiative includes creating collaborative digital platforms to make governance more inclusive, and ensure portability of all entitlements through the cloud.
In an emerging country like India, providing government services to all citizens is a major imperative for the government. However, the government is likely to face numerous challenges, such as lack of effective laws, fear of civil liberties being abused, absence of an e-surveillance system, absence of intelligence related reforms, lack of cyber security and absence of privacy. However, if the authorities work concertedly on bringing appropriate changes to plug the aforesaid loopholes, the Digital India program would be a grand success in realizing its objectives.