e-Governance in India

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Awareness for NeGP

The Department of Information Technology has already taken following efforts towards awareness campaign for NeGP. ( Even though according to Planning Commission note awareness is responsibility of DARPG )
* Communication Need Assessment Exercise
* NeGP logo for branding
* NeGP awareness stalls at key events and conference across the country
* Ads in TV, Radio, Press
* CSC awareness through personal contact and van based activities
* Publicity films on subjects like e-District, MCA21, CSCs etc
* Support to Conferences and Workshops

While acknowledging the efforts by DIT the author has following feedback to offer:
* The efforts like NeGP logo, Cups, Notebooks with NeGP logo are important from branding prospective. But the important part is that the branding is being done in those limited set of people who are already aware of NeGP and are following e-Governance Developments in the country.
* The participants in conferences and workshops are also same set of people with minor additions/ deletions and the awareness through these workshops and conferences whether organized or funded by DIT therefore is limited. It is also important that majority of the speakers in these conferences are same set of people with the same presentations. Therefore the sponsorships in conferences or stalls at these events serve little or no purpose.
* As regards the Ads in TV, Radio, Press are concerned the message in these ads is generally about NeGP. Common man has no relevance or understanding of NeGP, for them what matters is the facilitation in services as achieved. The message has to be about the projects and not about NeGP.
* The website as quoted in various print ads www.negp.gov. in is non functional and redirects the observer to DIT website. It creates an impression that such an important program of Government of India is not having its own website despite a separate domain name. The content under various MMPs on DIT website is also old and needs updation
* The publicity films as mentioned are also played to a limited set of audience or senior officials who are already aware of NeGP. I had been following NeGP since 2002 and I have not seen even a single such video, therefore I have enough reasons to believe that such videos have not trickled down to the common man.
In my submission the following efforts may be taken by the Department
* To identify the target audience in each Mission Mode Project and then follow up with awareness campaign. From citizen prospective Mission Mode Projects are more important then NeGP as a programme
* The awareness campaign should not be limited to NeGP and should spread across e-Governance projects so that cross awareness of projects not under NeGP lead to overall awareness.
* A repository of e-Governance initiatives may be proposed which archives all e-governance initiatives for reference of the practitioners. Egovdatabase was one such effort in the past.
* A collaboration with academia may be proposed and DIT in collaboration with some leading institutes may introduce courses on e-Governance. Executive courses in one institute serve a limited purpose.
* e-Governance workshops may be organized in specific Ministries specially of the projects being implemented by the Ministry for the whole staff. While giving lectures at ISTM I have noticed that none of the participants is aware of the e-Governance initiatives of their Departments and their knowledge is limited to the departmental website. Further during filing of RTI applications for various projects officials in MHA were not even aware that the Police MMP falls under whose domain and the RTI request was forwarded from one official to another.
* The Department may also come up with a compendium on NeGP for reference by all stakeholders. Also the reports/ RFPs as funded by DIT may be made available on DIT website
* The Department may also tie up with various ground level NGOs and take benefit of schemes like Bhagidari of the State Government
* Citizen participation during conceptualization of projects is also important to ensure that the solution provided is according to their requirement. It happens that the discussions take place only with the stakeholders/ officials of the Government
* Any RFP prepared for a MMP may be put for public scrutiny as well as scrutiny of various stakeholders like the private companies. It is important that the RFP or the project conceptualization report may be audited by another consultant to ensure there are no gaps in the system.
* Instead of the messages on NeGP, the videos prepared on various MMPs may be shared with the citizens. The past success stories like the Railways , Banking may be highlighted and the efforts on new initiatives may be communicated.
* National Campaigns with local follow ups may be introduced. The lessons learned from the RTI experience may be replicated.
* The population must be separated on meaningful groups and targeted accordingly.
* Public opinion surveys may be conducted which will help to analyze if positive results are achieved out of various efforts.
* Participation and sensitization of elected representatives is more important than the Government officials.
* A newsletter on NeGP may be launched which gives regular updates of various projects rather than fragmented updates as available on DIT website currently.
* Media relations may be strengthened and the consultants within the Ministry may be encouraged to contribute regular articles in newspapers. The Government must look beyond the PIB and national channel for the such collaboration. Proactive interviews through MOS, Secretary, AS may also be encouraged
* Officials of EGPMU may be kept updated on all projects and not just their domain through a dedicated intranet.
* At a later stage a toll free inquiry services may as well be introduced for various stakeholders.
* Lessons may also be taken from countries like UK which launched full awareness campaign. However we may have to be realistic in our goal as in UK also such campaigns gave limited results.
* The why, which, whose, what, who of the messages may be analyzed before any message.
* Various philanthropist, activists who may be critical of various initiatives may be made partners in the process. Once such individuals are consulted their view points will change within short span of time. They may be critical initially but the criticism will vanish once they understand the prospective of the other side.
* The rural population, youth, women, differently- abled individuals may be specifically targeted.
* Buses in AP carried the web address www.ap.gov.in ; such innovative techniques may be used to spread the message.
* Cell phones as medium of awareness campaign may also be explored.

In nutshell the Department of Information Technology should not waste resources on inconsequential media campaigns,conferenc es, branding exercise and creating awareness amongst the same set of individuals

Viewpoint 1 – Income Tax Mission Mode Project

Viewpoint 1 – Income Tax Mission Mode Project

(Ref: F.No. RTI/01/2009-10/3845 )

The Income Tax Mission Mode is spearheaded by the Directorate of Income Tax (Systems) under the leadership of Director General (Systems) as the Mission Leader. The project aims at enabling the Tax payer to meet their normal tax obligations in a convenient manner without visiting the income tax office. The project has already achieved the following landmark achievements:

1.Availability of taxpayer information on tax laws, rules, circulars, notifications etc ; Procedures for PAN, TAN,eTDS returns, AIR and BCTT;
2.All statutory and non statutory forms are available online (including return forms, challan forms, PAN/ TAN application forms)
3.PAN / TAN applications can be submitted online
4.Online Tax Calculator
5.Online return preparation software for annual tax returns ; Online return preparation utility for TDS returns along with Return validation utility
6.Tax can be paid online through select banks if the taxpayer has net banking facility
7.Website and Aaykar Sampark Kendra (ASK) based tracking of status of application of PAN/ TAN
8.Website and Aaykar Sampark Kendra (ASK) based verification of PAN/ TAN
9.TAN can be searched on the basis of category of deductors / State / Name
10.Online facility of downloading Challans 280/281/282 and 283 for payment of taxes
11.Online verification of PAN numbers submitted by third parties with bulk verification facility for banks
12.Directory of TIN facilitation centres; Deductor's manual to help preparation of eTDS returns ; Status of TDS return filed by deductors and facilities for deductor / deductee on TIN website
13.Compulsory online filing of returns of corporate assesses covered under 44AB
14.E-filing through authorized intermediary and direct e-filing under digital signature
15.Challan status enquiry to enable taxpayer check if the tax paid is properly accounted to their number.
16.Tracing the status of return and refunds online through PAN numbers (logging through onee's PAN and assessment year)
17.Online information on Tax laws, rules, notifications, forms, data structures etc related to Annual Information Return (AIR)
18.Online AIR return filing facility
19.Online filing of grievances and redressal

The Income Tax MMP is focused more on online delivery of services and establishing Ayakar Sewa Kendras (front end) and not the back end part. The following are para wise observations:

1.Even though the Department of Revenue has put all tax laws, rules, circulars, notifications etc online a greater effort is required to resolve the ambiguity in tax laws and procedures. The complex laws and procedures have led to litigations, encouraged large-scale evasion and therefore need to be simplified. The Department has also attempted a direct tax code bill as available on http://www.incometaxindia.gov.in/archive/Direct_Taxes_Code_Bill_13082009.pdf but it is also a 256 page long document which may be beyond the comprehension of common man. The Income tax is not only subject to the Income Tax Act and Rules but also to various circulars brought by Department of Revenue. The same is also affected by the Finance Act every year.
2.The forms as available on the website has its on set of issues. Firstly there is no clarity amongst the multiplicity of forms / challans. The forms are available at the following links : http://law.incometaxindia.gov.in/TaxmannDit/DisplayPage/formspg.aspx ; http://law.incometaxindia.gov.in/TaxmannDit/DisplayPage/formspg.aspx?smd=3 (under international taxation – but no clarity as to difference in international forms or not) Then forms are also available under the download section http://incometaxindia.gov.in/download_all.asp and http://incometaxindia.gov.in/allforms.asp . Further the most important forms like the New Income – Tax Returns forms (for assessment year 2009-10 ; 2008-2009) etc are not opening http://law.incometaxindia.gov.in/DITTaxmann/IncomeTaxRules/pdf/itr62Form1-8(New).pdf
3.The credit card payment on the UTISL website for applying for a PAN card was not working ( http://www.utitsl.co.in/utitsl/uti/newapp/newpanapplication.jsp ) and it was suggested to pay by DD / Pay order. The whole purpose of submitting an online application form 49A for PAN card was lost there and then. Further the PAN card application in case of individuals required submission of photographs, however there appeared no provision of the same on the website. The online forms for TAN as available on the link https://tin.tin.nsdl.com/tan/servlet/NewTanApp had some restriction on filling which may be chacked.
4.There is no link to the tax calculator on the main page but the link http://law.incometaxindia.gov.in/TaxmannDit/xtras/taxcalc.aspx just calculates the tax liability based on a single mathematical formula when the net income is already mentioned. A complete range of values have to be specified for calculation of net income which are missing.
5.The online return preparation software https://incometaxindiaefiling.gov.in/portal/index.do
is a step forward. The method in both cases, digitally signed documents and non digitally signed documents is easy. However the same offers limited convenience to those who are not internet savvy. They have to take the services of an intermediary for their returns. However knowing the complexities of the return this is the maximum that the Department could have offered in current circumstances. However submission of CD/ floppy for eTDS may help the Department to avoid data entry but has limited utility to the stakeholder. It may be explored if the TDS and income tax returns can be collected at the ASK Cebtres.
6.The online payment of TDS is also a step forward, however only thirty banks are authorized for same. And as per the website only Net Banking facility can be used and use of credit cards has not been explored.
7.Multiple fields are asked in case of tracking of the PAN / TAN. In case of PAN UTITSL asks for information like Application Type, Application Number, Coupon Number, Applicant Name. However a good search facility should track it down on just one field.
8.The know your PAN also requires multiple fields like the First Name, Sir Name, DOB (first level) and Father's Name , Father's Sir Name (second level). Generation of the PAN number after providing multiplicity of fields is a difficult task.
9.The facility to track TAN is quite helpful
10.The challan forms are just the pdf versions of challan forms which have already been highlighted in para (2)
11.A b2b service available to limited few and therefore no feedback.
12.The link http://tin.nsdl.com/Downloads.asp is not working, however the link in FAQ section is http://tin.nsdl.com is working. The directory of TIN facilitation centres is avaailable online.However the website was not so helpful from information prospective as the deductor's manual to help preparation of eTDS returns was not traceble; Though the filing and tracking of application for TAN/ PAN; filing of eTDS was available the author could not find the ways and mean to know the status of TDS return filed by deductors and facilities for deductor / deductee on TIN website
13.Though the compulsory online filing of returns of corporate assesses covered under 44AB is mentioned however the faacilitation provided to them by the Department are not available.
14.E-filing through authorized intermediary and direct e-filing under digital signature
15.The link for the challan status enquiry to enable taxpayer check if the tax paid is properly accounted to their number was not easily traceable at the link http://www.tin-nsdl.com/sitemap.asp . It appears that the link https://tin.tin.nsdl.com/oltas/servlet/QueryTaxpayer is working for same.
16.The links to tracing the status of return and refunds online through PAN numbers (logging through one's PAN and assessment year) were not available on the websites (or were not easily traceable) of Income Tax Department. However with great effort a link was traced to http://tin.nsdl.com/panregistration_viewtax.asp
17.The Online information on Tax laws, rules, notifications, forms, data structures etc related to Annual Information Return (AIR) has already been discussed in para (2) and is a repeated achievement.
18.Online AIR return filing facility was available at http://tin.nsdl.com/stepstoe-AIR.asp ; however the same could not be verified
19.Online filing of grievances and redressal is a common phenomenon adopted by all Departments and may not be considered an e-Governance effort anymore.

The Income Tax Department with facilitation of TAN, PAN, AIR and online returns has claimed that the Income Tax Mission Mode Project has completed. Even DIT and private consultants have given a stamp of approval and the project has won many awards. But the fact remains that there are multiple errors that still exist in the delivery of these services. It is not know that a certificate of completion was taken from STQC or not. There are no efforts made to ensure that a the Law, Rules and procedures are simpled. The Department also have multiple circulars released every year which have a bearing on the income tax. Above that the Finance Act every year makes the process more complex. The Income Tax MMP has not made any efforts to reduce corruption and bring in transparency. The MMP has lead to no effort to reduce corruption in the Department.

The only difference the MMP is able to create is that the documents which were filed in paper form in past are filed in digital format. There is no adequate information and accounting systems introduced to verify those records and the data collected in a digital form is not even being converted to information. The MMP has made no effort to bring in the large informal sector into its ambit and to break the culture of non compliance. Even after the implementation of the project the tax administration system has remained ineffective.

No effort has been made to conceptualized an integrated approach by linking various projects like the
Central Excise and Customs , Banking, MCA21, Unique ID, Commercial Taxes, Pensions which could have made the system more fool proof. Even the BPR study also gives ornamental suggestion in form of customer facilitation through Facilitation Centers, ATMs, SMS, Call Centers etc. The suggestions were strange to the extent it mentioned about facilities like waiting lounge, drinking water, hygienic toilet, etc in ITD rather than substantial suggestions. The only important suggestion appears to be of segregation of Bulk Operations Division (BOD),( handling routine and repetitive activities not requiring the exercise of discretion in individual cases) and a Compliance Operations Division (COD)
( to carry out specialized activities for a smaller number of taxpayers) (BPR synopsis -
http://www.incometaxindia.gov.in/BPR.html#7 )

However the author believes that in order for effective implementation of the MMP in Income Tax Department the functioning of the various Director Generals / Members (CBDT) need to be integrated. These include:
Director General of Income Tax (Administration)
Directorate of Income Tax (PR,PP &OL)
Directorate of Income Tax (Inspection & Examination)
Directorate of Income Tax (Audit)
Directorate of Income Tax (Recovery)
Directorate of Income Tax (TDS)
Director General of Income Tax (Systems)
Directorate of Income Tax (Systems)
Directorate of Income Tax (Organisation & Management Services)
Directorate of Income Tax (Infrastructure)
Directorates of Income Tax (Vigilance)
Director General of Income Tax (Training)
Director General of Income Tax (Legal & Research)
Director General of Income Tax (Business Process Director
Director General of Income Tax (Intelligence)
Director General of Income Tax (Investigation)
Director General of Income Tax (Exemptions)
Director General of Income Tax (International Taxation)

Efforts are required to create an intelligent system for sharing of information amongst the Members (CBDT), DGITs, Directors, Additional/ Joint/ Deputy/ Assistant Directors of Income Tax, the Tax Recovery Officers (TRO) and Accessing Officers. Efforts are also required for sharing of information amongst the different Directorates. A true Mission Mode Project in Income Tax Department will be study of the above BPR of all directorates and then developing a software for same. The current level of completion of MMP is nothing but a myth. Each directorate should be able to share information with the other directorate in a digital format and increase the income tax collection and possible evasion. It is suggested that a complete BPR study may be constituted for the same.

(With thanks to Sh. Neeraj Kumar, CPIO & Joint Director of Income Tax for providing current status of the project)

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Inclusive Development - Nasscom for extension of STPI scheme for SMEs

It is an excellent thought that Nasscom is looking forward to an inclusive growth and is looking forward to development of SME sector in the country. Even though it is felt by various people (including myself) that the extension of STPI scheme further will jeoardize the various other development schemes like IT SEZs, ITIR (IT Investment Regions) etc.

But Government should also be empathetic towards the concerns of the SMEs. Therefore in view of concerns of President Nasscom , the Government must give extension to the STPI scheme but with the rider:

1. 100% tax exemption to companies which fall into definition of Small enterprises in the IT Sector.
2. 50% tax exemption to companies which fall into definition of Medium enterprises in the IT sector
3. NO tax exemption to Large companies which fall into definition of Large scale enterprises in the IT sector.

The parameters to look like Number of Employees and turnover figures for the companies (already available with STPIs ) may decide if a company falls under the definition of Small or medium enterprise. However a blanket extension of the STPI scheme will have no takers for IT sezs or ITIR. The non equitable treatment to exports in other sector and preference to only IT industry does not also reflect that the Government is truly inclusive. The Finance Ministry must identify such export units operating as SMEs (and not from SEZs) wherein the Government may want to extend such tax reliefs beyond the IT sector.

Looking at Government and NASSCOM's commitments for inclusiveness for SMEs, it will be a great idea if Department of Information Technology may set up a separate division for promoting SMEs in the IT Sector with a view to support them to get IT projects from abroad and so on.


Sameer Sachdeva

Nasscom wants to partner govt for 'inclusive' growth

BS Reporter / New Delhi June 3, 2009, 1:14 IST

Nasscom, the apex body representing the Indian Information Technology (IT) industry, today proposed that it would like to work closely with the government “to drive an inclusive (which benefits all sections of society) economic growth agenda”...................

“While large IT players can move their business into special economic zones (SEZs), it is the SMEs who will be hurt the most. To facilitate their continued growth, the government should extend the STPI Act benefits which will end in 2010,” said Mittal.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

e-Governance or creation of private monopolies ?

e-Governance or creation of private monopolies ?

In quest for e-governance are we creating private monopolies in some way. In quest for better services through the private sector have we created monopolies which will be the foundation of future problems? A few perceived or real monopolies in e-governance are discussed below:
1. CSC - Regional Monopolies of Private Companies investing in infrastructure
2. Issuance of Passports - TCS
3. MCA21 - TCS
4. e-Biz - Infosys (expected media news infosys is L1)
5. ESIC - Wipro
6. Income Tax - NSDL, UTISL
7. SeMTs - The private consulting organization to be selected in each state
…and many more. Will be glad if someone can suggest some safeguards which the Government has taken to avoid the private sector monopolies.

Sameer Sachdeva

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

MHRD resisting NKC recommendations ?

Government of India has established the National Knowledge Commission to bring out reforms in area of education and create a knowledge society.

The NKC headed by Shri. Sam Pitroda has seven members. The other members are Dr. Ashok Ganguly, Dr. P. Balaram, Dr. Deepak Nayar, Dr. Jayanti Ghosh, Shri Nandan Nilekani,Prof. Amitabh Mattoo and Dr. Sujatha Ramdorai. The Commission started functioning from 2nd October 2005 initially for a period of 3 years. The tenure of the commission has been recently extended by Hon.Prime Minister till 31st March, 2009.The core of NKC recommendations relate to institutions of learning, particularly at the higher level. Supplementing this core are recommendations for revitalizing associated sectors like libraries, creating a digital broadband network interconnecting all research and education institutions, and promoting
a vibrant translation industry to create better access for all groups. Recommendations were also made by NKC on enhancing systems of knowledge creation. These included suggestions on creating a better environment for innovation in the country, a robust intellectual property rights regime, incentivizing research in universities, promoting traditional health systems and creating a better framework for delivery of government services to citizens through a citizen centric e-governance programme (extracts from NKC report to nation 2007)

However it was really disturbing to note the observations of Sh. Sam Pitroda recently that various Ministries are just sitting on the recommendations of NKC and no action is being taken. A few of the press coverage on the issue are listed below

1. Ministries resisting our recommendations: NKC
Posted: Jan 20, 2008 at 2321 hrs IST
The National Knowledge Commission (NKC) has said it is concerned that there is still resistance to new ideas, experimentation, process re-engineering, external interventions, transparency and accountability due to rigid organisational structures. “As a result, the real challenge lies in organisational innovation with new regulatory frameworks, new delivery systems, new processes,” it says.
In a terse statement issued on Saturday after it presented its second report to the Prime Minister, the NKC came down heavily on the resistance shown by Union ministries—from Education, Health, Science and Technology and Law—towards its recommendations when it came to their implementation.

2. Some people are against Education Reforms: Pitroda ?
chennai: The National Knowledge Commission on Thursday accused the human resource ministry of “sitting” on its various recommendations relating to improvement in quality of education in several universities across the country.
“The HRD ministry is sitting on the projects,” Commission chairman Sam Pitroda said when asked about the status of the NKC's recommendations which has advocated setting up of about 1,500 universities in the country to increase the “gross enrolment ratio”.
Asked where actually the problems lie in implementing these proposals, he said, “one is bureaucratical and the other thing is people don't want change. When the country is thinking of a generational change, some people are against it. (Any guesses who is against this change and development ?)

3. Quality education still a far cry: Pitroda
Mar 19 2009, 2205 hrs IST , New Delhi Bookmark/Search this post with:
India is still a long way away before taking any pride in its quality of education, the National Knowledge Commission (NKC) said in its 240-page final report submitted to the government on Thursday. “I may not be lucky to see the results of the recommendations … it will take a long time to materialise,” said Sam Pitroda, chairman, NKC, which was set up in 2006 as part of the vision of prime minster Manmohan Singh. It was entrusted with the responsibility of recommending measures to meet the challenges of the country.

4. NKC questions appointment of VCs of new central universities
New Delhi, Mar 19 The National Knowledge Commission (NKC) today took exception to the way the government appointed Vice Chancellors for 15 new Central Universities in the country."We do not agree with the way vice chancellors have been appointed. We have also expressed concern over certain provisions of the Central Universities Bill,"NKC chairman Sam Pitroda told reporters here. The government on February 28 appointed vice chancellors for 15 new central universities which have been created under the Central Universities Bill 2009.The NKC had earlier held that the Central Universities Bill 2008 vests"overwhelming control"with the government and demanded reformulation of the legislation with provision of more autonomy for the institutions.

It is quiet evident that nothing is happening at the ground level on the recommendations of the National Knowledge Commission. It is said that Ministers within the current Government are resisting the reforms in education sector and creating a structure which is giving overwhelming powers to the Government.

Actions Speak Louder than Words...


Sameer Sachdeva

Saturday, March 21, 2009

CBMC - Good Intentions Faulty Implementation ?

CBMC - Good Intentions Faulty Implementation ?

The Planning Commission in March 2005 in consultation with Department of Information Technology brought out the Guidelines for Capacity Building and Institutional Framework for e-Governance under NeGP. These are the few extracts from the document shared for the purpose reference of all:

1. "Keeping in view the enormous task of driving NeGP in line with the overall spirit of service orientation most states are inadequately equipped in terms of personnel and the skill-sets needed to handle the host of issues involved. Many states do not even have an IT/e-Government department or have a skeletal department that is not designed to deal with the complexity of issues involved. For NeGP to achieve its goals, this is the first gap that needs to be addressed.To facilitate the State administration and to carry out the groundwork for the above, prepare project proposals, implement the projects and oversee O&M thereafter, adequate support through a dedicated, professional team need to be in place with appropriate skill-sets and aptitude at two levels:
a. Programme level (i.e. at State Level)
b. Project level (i.e. at Department Level)"

2. "It is important to note that this Capacity Building is for building an internal capacity of the Government. The internal capacity addresses tasks like – preparation of scope of work, preparing RFPs,making internal note-sheets for getting approvals/sanctions, selection of external agencies, managing and getting the best out of external agencies, internalising the outputs/reports of the external agencies, quality assurance, doing cost-benefit analysis amongst various technological and other policy options etc. It should be noted that this team will also directly handle file work, examination of issues etc. on file and no separate examination by a conventional secretariat set up thereafter is envisaged. This team will work directly under the designated Secretary (typically IT Secretary) of the State Government and subject to his overall guidance and administrative control."

3. "Capacity Building by the State Governments should be undertaken through an appropriate
combination of the following two options :
a . From sources present within the Government or PSUs or any state agency or central agency, with required background and experience. In such cases, where required, posts may be created in the concerned department or State Nodal Organisation identified as a vehicle for setting up the capacity and personnel would be taken on deputation. For domain expertise in PeMT, re-employment of retired personnel could also be considered, whenever appropriate.
b. From outside the Government set-up - by engaging Consulting agencies having requisite skill sets mentioned in this document and eligibility criteria, as mentioned in Annexure II. The consulting agencies are required to provide the skilled manpower having the skills, experience and expertise specified. While doing so, the state would follow appropriate selection process. Alternatively the state could avail of the advice and assistance of NISG to undertake this task on their behalf. However such support would be under the overall direction of the State Government. Additionally, if considered necessary and with the concurrence of Planning Commission & DIT, contracts could also be entered into with individuals."

4. "Both in SeMT & PeMT, where a consulting agency is selected for providing the services, due care should be taken to avoid situations of conflict of interests – perceived or real."

Now it is learnt that after four years (March 2005 to March 2009) Department of Information Technology, GOI is all set to form SeMTs and PeMTs in all States. It is learnt that DIT, GOI has shortlisted consulting organizations like ILFS, Wipro, PWC & 3i and reffered the names of these consultanting Agencies to the States for their appointment.

However there are following issues in the above outsourcing of SeMTs:

1. The formation of SeMTs as observed by the Planning Commission was for building the internal capacities of the Government. Planning Commission has categorically observed that the SeMT/ PeMT teams in States will directly handle file work, examination of issues etc. on file and no separate examination by a conventional secretariat set up thereafter is envisaged. In such a case will the ousourced agencies as recommended by DIT be equally liable under Officials secret act, RTI Act, Prevention of Corruption Act, Audit and other statutory requirements as are applicable to a Government Officer.

2. Planning Commission has also observed that the SeMTs have to be right mix of people on deputation, re-employment after retirement, fresh employment through creation of Posts in Department, employment through nodal IT agency of the State, Manpower through NISG and outsourced agencies. However it is not clear that why Department of Information Technology has just recommended an outsourced model ?

3. Further the Planning Commission has also observed that there should be no conflict of interest percieved or real ( pl. notice the word percieved) where a consultancy organization is selected. However it is a matter of record that IL&FS is the NLSA for CSC project, then in case it forms a SeMT in any state the team will monitor implementation of its own project (CSC in this case) through SeMT. Further all other three consultants i.e. Wipro, 3i and PWC are implementing projects in almost majority of the states. Does that mean that these consultanting organizations will quit from those projects in case they form a SeMT in that State ? or do we land up again in a position of conflict of interest where the SeMTs formed by these consultanting organization will monitor their own work in the various projects.

It is therefore suggested that in order to avoid the conflict of interest the recruitment for SeMTs/ PeMTs may happen through NISG or State IT agencies only. In the long run the Government of India may seriously debate the creation of Indian IT Services in consultantion with States .

Thanks and regards,

Sameer Sachdeva

Friday, March 20, 2009

Common Service Centers (CSCs) - an update

There are claims that the CSC scheme of current Government will create 400,000 jobs. After reading the press coverage I thought I will look into the details of the above scheme and therefore I thought I will refer to the most authentic source of information. There was very little or no information available on the MIT website (graphics of current status of implementation). Therefore I shifted to another authentic source which is the Press Information Bureau or the PIB. I could lay a number of Press releases by Department of Information Technology. A target of 110,000 CSC (100,000 rural and 10,000 urban) which was to be achieved by end of 2007 has been now shifted to March 2010 and the 10,000 urban CSC has been left out, it appears. I really have doubts when the scheme will be implemented and when the said jobs will be created. This is just the analysis of one Mission Mode Project, if time permits I will send the analysis of other projects . (and I have as yet not discussed the proposal of Panchayati Raj Ministry on Village Knowledge Centres . Here is a brief analysis of CSC project:
1. In Oct’ 2004 the then IT minister mentioned that DIT is considering a CSC scheme
2. In Dec’2004 the same consideration was mentioned in the year end review
3. In the whole year 2005 I could not lay my hands on any press release on the CSC scheme (there are things that may not meet even my eye  )
4. In Feb’2006 plan to establish 110000 CSC (one lakh rural and 10000 urban) to be implemented by year 2007
5. In Sept 2006 – Cabinet Approves the Scheme for 100000 rural CSC (urban CSC forgotten? ) ; The date for implementation shifted to March 2008 (from end of year 2007)
6. In Dec 2006 – Proposals of 11 states approved
7. In Sept’ 2007 – Broadband connectivity to 1 lac CSC proposed
8. In Dec’ 2007 – implementation under 26 states and UTs
9. In June’08 - 8000 CSC established; 60000 to be established by March’09 (rest when ?)
10. In Oct’ 08 – implementation date shifted to July’ 09
11. In Oct’08 – SDC which will support CSC to be completed by Dec’09 / March 2010
12. In Oct’08 – Total number of CSC established 17,775
13. In Nov’08 – Implementation date shifted to 2nd quarter of 2009
14. February ‘2009 – 35000 CSC by March’09; implementation target March 2010


Wednesday, October 20, 2004
SWAN policy announced
Shri Maran said that DIT is currently considering various options for facilitating establishment of Common Services Centres (CSC) across the country particularly in rural areas.

Thursday, December 30, 2004
Various options for facilitating establishment of Common Services Centres (CSC) across the country particularly in rural areas being considered

Friday, February 17, 2006
Common Services Centers across India
1. A Scheme to build an enabling environment for establishment of 110,000+ Common Services Centres
2. Target - by the year 2007.
3. Services - Government Services, Education, Entertainment, Telemedicine, Information Exchange, Market Linkages, Vocational Training, Micro-credit,
4. 100,000 Rural CSC and 10,000 Urban CSC (for financial incentive to SCAs)
5. Model - VLE, SCA, SDA and NLSA
6. Financial Model -
a. Revenue support based on delivery of e-Government Services (first 4 years) as against a Capital Subsidy support.
b. one-time cost of setting up the infrastructure to be shared between SCA and VLE
c. NLSA to underwrite the funds which need to be leased through market borrowings
d. No Government support for Urban CSC

Sep 21 2006
Union Cabinet approves setting up of 100,000 rural Common Services Centres
1. Union Cabinet approval for setting up of 100,000 rural Common Services Centers (CSC)
2. Total cost - Rs. 5742 crore ; GOI - Rs. 856 crore, State Governments - Rs 793 crore ; Private Sector - Rs 4093 crore
3. The CSCs are proposed to be rolled out in 18 months i.e. by March 2008.
4. Services to be offered -
a.high quality and cost-effective video, voice and data content and services, in the areas of e-governance, education, health, telemedicine, entertainment as well as other private services.
b. Web-enabled e-governance services in rural areas, including application forms, certificates, and utility payments such as electricity, telephone and water bills
c. Remote consulting for healthcare, e-enabled vocational training, market and supply chain linkages, rural BPO, agricultural price and weather information etc.
5. 3-tier structure
CSC operator (called Village Level Entrepreneur or VLE);
the Service Centre Agency (SCA) - responsible for a block of 200-500 CSCs;
State Designated Agency (SDA) identified by the State Government
6. Jobs - one lakh direct jobs/ 2-3 lakh indirect jobs.

Friday, December 22, 2006
NeGP approved to establish 100,000 CSC
100,000 Rural and 10,000 Urban CSC
CSC proposals from 11 states have been approved for implementation and Rs. 109.71 crore, which is 25% of the approved outlay share of DIT, has been released to these states

Thursday, March 01, 2007
20 Million broadband connections by the Year 2010
Broadband connectivity to one lakh Community Service Centers (CSC) covering 20000 CSCs by ADSL by September 2007

Wednesday, December 05, 2007
Participants - Sh. D.Raja, Dr. Shakeel Ahmad, Shri Raosaheb Patil Danve, Vanlalzawma, Sanat Kumar Mandal, Sita Ram Yadav, Kunwar Rewati Raman Singh, Datta Meghe, Prof.Ram Deo Bhandari.
Highlights on CSC
1. To establish 100,000 rural kiosks across the country
2. Actual quantum of financial support to the private entities would be determined through a competitive process.
3. Under implementation and proposals of 26 States and UTs have been sanctioned

Thursday, June 26, 2008
Swan to provide connectivity to government offices
More than 8,000 of these kiosks have already been established through a PPP model and it is expected that more than 60,000 CSCs would be established before the end of this financial year (March 2009 )

Tuesday, October 07, 2008
18000 IT-Enabled Service Centers set up in rural areas
1.About 18,000 Common Service Centres (CSCs) have been set up
2. over 1 lakh scheduled by July next year
3. Roll Out Completed in Jharkhand and Haryana
4. The other states where a number of CSCs have already become operational are West Bengal, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Assam, Orissa, Meghalaya and Tripura. In several states, agreements have already been signed with the selected Service Centre Agencies (SCAs) for setting up of about 76,000 CSCs. A maximum of 17,909 CSCs are proposed in Uttar Pradesh followed by 9,232 in Madhya Pradesh and 8558 in Orissa. 8,463 CSCs are to come up in Bihar and 6,626 in Rajasthan.

Friday, October 17, 2008
DIT approves state data centres in 27 states
Through State Data Centres, the Government seeks to create a common secure IT infrastructure to host state level e-Governance applications/Data to enable seamless delivery of Government to Government (G2G), Government to Citizen (G2C) and Government to Business (G2B) services. The entire exercise is expected to be completed by December 2009/March 2010.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Progress in e-Governance Projects - Lok Sabha
CSC Scheme
Total No. of States/ UTs Sanctioned 27
Total No of CSC in these States / UTs 108363
Total Amount Sanctioned 1603.08 Cr
Total amount Released (DIT Share) 198.03 Cr
No. of CSCs Set -up 17,775

Tuesday, November 25, 2008
CSC RFPs have been issued for 25 States /UTs. Of these, 23 States / UTs have completed the Service Centre Agency (SCA) selection process covering 1,02,827 CSCs. Of these 23 States / UTs, 21 States have signed the MSA with the selected SCA uptil October, 2008 covering 1,01,682 CSCs. As of October, 2008, a total of 20,558 CSCs have been rolled out in 14 States. In the remaining States UTs, action is also progressing well. The implementation of this massive project, which is unprecedented globally, is likely to be completed by end of 2nd quarter of 2009.

Friday, February 20, 2009
1. Government is planning to set up by March 2010, as many as 25195 Centres have already been set up with another 10000 in the pipeline which would become operational by the end of this March
2. By the end of 2008, RFPs (Request For Proposals) have been issued by 25 States for 1,06,275 CSCs and Master Service Agreements have been signed for 1,02,851 Centres in 23 States. Significantly, the states of Haryana, Jharkhand and Sikkim have completed 100 per cent roll out.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

From Reforms to Innovation

,From Reforms to Innovation
"The first Department to Change within Government of India should be Department of Administrative Re-forms” *
--- A contributor at yahoo group India-egov
In an era when governments worldwide are focusing on Ministry of Future and Department of Innovation, India still is trying to reform the Government. The word reform itself brings a negative connotation. A Department where some change may be initiated by DAR & PG will develop a resistance because the employees will feel that there is something wrong in my Department that is why Government of India is reforming it. Whereas innovation creates positive energy and all employees will be enthusiastic that out of all Departments, Government of India has selected their Department for innovation. Even the word Process Re-engineering brings a negative connotation as the employees will start questioning as to what is wrong in our processes that Government wants to change it. If you want to change the Government, implement successful e-Governance than the right words are innovation and creativity and not reforms or re-engineering.
The Department of Administrative Reforms exists to solve yesterday’s problems, rather than capitalizing on to-day’s opportunities to effectively confronts the issues of tomorrow.
But as Gandhiji said, “Be the Change, you want to see in the world”. The Department of Administrative Reforms have to sphere-head reforms within itself in order to be-come a change agent for other Departments. A brief strat-egy to lead this change is as suggested:
• Separate Public Grievances from Reforms
• Rename the Department as Ministry of Innovation.
• Vision for Department – Innovation in Governance
• Hiring of Creativity, Program Management and Process experts
• Re-visit the Manual of Office Procedures (MOP)
• Identify officers responsible for each Ministry and State
• Constitute a high level committee of Secretaries on Innovation in Government headed by Cabinet Secretary
• Constitute Institutional Framework for Innovation in Government (like NISG for e-Governance)
• Develop a National Innovation Plan (NIP)
• Identify e-Governance Projects beyond Mission Mode Projects (MMPs)
• Do a ABC analysis of Grievance received by Citizen and based on same prioritize Departments for Inno-vation
• Restructure Department (instead of divisions like e-Governance the Department should have a process innovation division)
• Department should not foray functional areas of other Departments (like IT implementation is a func-tion of DIT) and restrict to improvements in Gov-ernment Process.
• Have a Cabinet Minister In charge of Innovation Ministry
• Bring out necessary law / amendments empowering MOI (Ministry of Innovation) to bring process im-provements
• Make a database of National and International Best Practices
• Constitute an institute for capacity building in Gov-ernment Process Improvement
• Provide Creative environment within Department for officers to foster change
• Recognize Change Agents
• Identify Change Sponsors in each Department
• Sponsor Students for Process Study in various De-partments
• To have a Department of Future (for visualizing pol-icy interventions for future scenario) within Ministry of Innovation
• To have a Department of Creativity within Ministry of Innovation
• To implement paperless office initiative in Depart-ment
• Choose experts as Advisors (like in planning Com-mission)
• The Department should also attempt to integrate / re-group certain Departments which have a common agenda. The Departments must be grouped from ser-vices to citizen prospective and not Government pro-spective
• The Department must also build on internal capaci-ties for Change.
• The Department must breakaway from the hierarchical function of DS, Director, JS, AS, Secretary but should attempt to establish a flat organization like the corporate world
• The Department must benchmark international Gov-ernments and Businesses to improve.
• The focus of Department should shift from rules to outcomes.

BJP's IT Vision - An Analysis

At the outset I wish to compliment the Key opposition party of India to give an IT Vision for India. Infect if look back the foundations of a planned approach to Information Technology started with the National IT Action Plan formulated by a committee headed by Sh. Jaswant Singh. The next step was formation of the Ministry of Information Technology (though by just changing the name of Department of Electronics to Ministry of Information Technology was not of much help). The IT Act as brought by Sh. Pramod Mahajan within a short time was an achievement which the BJP IT Vision document has ignored as well. And we all know the time taken and the citizen feedback (if any) taken about the Amendments to IT Act. The next achievement was the conceptualization of the National e-Governance Action Plan (NeGAP now renamed NeGP) under the then IT minister Sh. Arun Shourie. Another achievement of the same was formation of the Empowered committee with special reference to e-Governance under the then Deputy PM, Sh. Advani. The IT vision document now proposed will go a long way for progress of e-Governance in India. I presume the IT Vision document is a discussion document and the party will definitely consider the feedback of the e-Gov community before implementing the same. I therefore am presenting in brief my views on the document:
1. NeGP – Even the website for National e-Governance Plan has not yet been formed, this despite the full page advertisements in major national dailies about the National e-Governance Plan with the website www.negp.gov.in. I myself got the domain registered two and half years ago. The current domain is still a forward to the link http://www.mit.gov.in/default.aspx?id=115
2. MNIC – I do agree with the Vision Document on the website http://mnic.nic.in which despite the pilot project under implementation since November’03 is still under construction. I would further like to bring to the notice that the link http://www.mit.gov.in/default.aspx?id=859 about the MNIC project gives a conflicting view about two projects UiD and MNIC. It further says that an empowered group of Ministers is formed to oversee the implementation of the project and resolve issues of UID and MNIC. Information about the Unique Identification Authority of India is also missing from the DIT link. This despite that the link has been validated on 17th March'09. I think the first step in the above regard should be clarify that we need Unique ID or National ID or Multipurpose National Identity Card. The UID is to give a unique identity to people. National Id is about giving Identification to Citizens of India and MNIC is focused on elimination of multiple IDs. I think for success of e-Governance in India, MNIC is the way out (though I may be wrong). We have to probably discuss and debate the various citizen id cards that have to be eliminated by MNIC. I request the members of the forum to give their feedback on same. The figure of coverage under MNIC on page 10 is not conveying much. Though the BJP vision document talks about Citizenship Regulatory Authority of India (CRAI),National Register of Citizenship (NRC), Citizen Identification Number (CIN) but it is silent on issues of privacy of Citizen information and the security issues related to same. I think the same have to be addressed at equal importance. I think the next logical step after The IT Act, the RTI Act (FOIA Act renamed) is the Privacy Act for Citizens followed by an e-Governance Act. With regards to MNIC project, I will like to risk at least my single vote for the promise that the MNIC project will be implemented within three years.
3. The Digital Highways or the broadband with 2 mps link with 1:1 connection ratio is dream of every web enabled individual. However the more important is that the power of internet must reach all individuals. The party must also take a view on multiple SWANs (State Wide Area Networks) which have been achieved with different PPP Players without any application. The front end or the 100,000 CSCs appears to be another PPP which has lead to no results at ground level, as the backend for delivery is still not there. The various delays in the establishment of digital infrastructure i.e. SWAN, SDC and CSC is also a key cause of concern. An analysis is must to understand the impact assessment of all the three initiatives. The idea of converting the Post Offices to Multi-service outlets and conversion of telephone booths to internet kiosks is a welcome move which will help avoid duplication of resources.
4. The Vision Document also talks of a paperless office. The e-Disha or the paperless office project as already implemented by Government of India appears to have shown no impact. Even the SKIMS / SMARTgov project of Government of AP (only the name changed) has also seen a downward trend in its implementation. It is said that Sh. Chandrababu Naidu refused to clear various files unless they came through the route of paperless office and now the ground situation can be told only by officials in AP Government. In case of Government of India (after failure of e-DIsha) a less paper office(e-Office) initiative is again getting conceptualized. But my question is why not was it conceptualized in the first place and what was the haste to give the project without any conceptualization. The new Government must take learning from the pitfalls of the less paper office project. I understand even in the Department of Information Technology the Green Sheets move till date, why cannot we have a paperless office in DIT at-least or the minimum in the e-Governance Programme Management Unit (EGPMU)
5. The promise of 1.2 Crores IT enabled jobs in rural sector though just looks like a vision statement. If the party would have substantiated the same with the data of jobs created in the party ruled states, the same would have sounded more authentic. However the intent is very noble. The party may also propose a law to protect the employees of IT/ ITeS companies from pink slips at the drop of hat. While promoting globalization we must see the future of the employees as well. I think the definition of labor under the Industrial Disputes Act needs to be reviewed to include the employees of IT/ ITeS sector.
6. The idea of DTI (Duty to Inform) is really path-breaking thought. But the implementation of RTI is also not achieved in proper form in the current Government. I will not go beyond the Department of ARPG (Department under the nodal Ministry for implementation of RTI Act) and the hurdles one faces to request / and get information from there. I surely can write a paper on how to get information from the said department. (infect now I have already tried my hands with CAG and CVC and plan to test the same with DITs in all states). I must compliment the office of CVC which is handling all requests to information in a professional way. I think the credit goes to the Record Management System in CVC which is still missing across various other Departments. I do not know if Government Officials heard of a project called Training on Record Management under the World Bank Project. I think the party may also look into the replication of Bihar’s project on RTI through e-governance across India.
7. The leaky pipe-line concept is well appreciated. But there as well the Action Speaks louder than words. We have to have an institutional mechanism to check the leaks in the system. I think even planning commission may not have a list of various schemes implemented by various agencies of Centre, State and Local Government delivered through the District Administration. I am told that a complete book has already been written which lists the various schemes of the Government. I think a “Scheme Management System” is the need of the hour to ensure that the benefits reach the people for whom they were planned for and that no one gets a double benefit.
8. The Advaniji’s dream of Swaraj to Su-raj has to detailed further. The same has to include Administrative Reforms (atleast reforms in Department of Administrative Reforms, GOI) , Electoral Reforms (negative voting / right of re-call), Education Reforms, Economic Reforms, Legal Reforms (nothing has been done on the outdated laws identified by the previous Government), Institutional reforms, Sectoral Reforms – health, agriculture, education. (Education and Health are not even part of NeGP). The idea of a 24 * 7 line for speaking to the Member parliament is a welcome move, but the real challenge will be its implementation and take-away. (How many MPs will respond to such calls ?)
9. I may not be able to comment on e-Gram project as I have not seen its implementation/ achievement. Request if someone from Gujarat may bring that insight.
10. The standardization of open source & open standards and use of open source operating system in the 10000 laptops is clearly mentioned in document, but I could not see that the Vision Document anywhere mentions that the party is against commercial software anywhere. Promotion of one technology is fine but I could not see anything related to banning of commercial software anywhere contrary to claims in many forums and press releases. Standards body on lines of BIS is a long awaited move. I suggest that such a body should also validate the content on various Government Websites for its accuracy and up-dating.
11. The e-Banking project as mentioned by the Vision Document is also crucial. There is no update of the Banking / Insurance Mission Mode Project by the current Government available. Trust they are in some process of implementation/ Conceptualization.
12. Under the e-Development initiative a comprehensive project for Agriculture needs to be conceptualized. There are multiple projects which are getting implemented but the integration of these projects is crucial. The National Skill Development Mission, Green Technology, commitment to Millennium Development Goals all are steps in right direction, but it will help if the focus of the party and its strategy is clarified further (As in case of MNIC it is available)
13. The detailing in case of e-education is impressive (Core2Duo processor with 2 GB Ram  ). We surely need web based open source learning, IT enabled teaching, knowledge networks between institutions and a national repository of Best Lectures. Infect a National Mission Mode Project on Education as part of the NeGP should also be introduced. The promotion of Software in all 22 official languages will help the non English speaking population. (Trust me people in interiors like Bhatinda in Punjab where I was requested to make my presentation in Punjabi will really benefit from such a move. IT will reach beyond the English speaking population. )
14. As in case of education, health also needs to be included under the National e-Governance Plan as a Mission mode project. The ideas of connecting the PHC to telemedicine project, computerization of health records, Mobile diagnostic vans are very encouraging idea. I think beyond this the party may also look into providing inclusive opportunities in education, healthcare and employment for people with visible or invisible disability.
15. The concept of e-records appears to very comprehensive (official records of government, land / property records, citizen records, manuscripts records, geographic records). However the party must ensure that digitization does not mean just scanning of documents. The data needs to be captured in digital form and then converted into usable information, scanned documents just means documents dumped in hard-disks and therefore are of limited use. The two MMPs Passports and MCA21 are focusing just on scanning of documents. The focus must be widened now. The use of GIS for planning is a welcome and much awaited move.
16. With regards to e-Justice we first need a process reform in Judicial System. AS we all know justice delayed is justice denied. The party must ensure reforms for speedy justice whether with or without computerization. However the current initiatives are clearly based on automation of processes and digitization of records with very little focus on comprehensive process reforms. A comprehensive Mission Mode Project on e-Justice should be evolved which links judiciary with investigating agencies, updates MNIC in case of conviction, allow various authorities like RPOs, Employers etc to have a background check online. And to link various regulatory agencies and NCRB for data records of criminals. An effort to eliminate the outdated laws is also important.
17. The use of IT for a disaster management is a must. Even the National disaster helpline is currently accessible only in Delhi (with code 011) and the definition of Disaster is very limited. The concept of Public safety answering points and national unique number in emergency is welcome and long awaited.
18. National Cyber Security Plan appears to be comprehensive. However the party may also think of proposing the Cyber Crime as a Centre Subject may be thought of, as the cyber space has no state, national or international boundaries and various police stations in far flung areas may not be able to train their manpower. Let the Central Cyber Police station look into all cases of cyber crime and implementation of IT Act.
19. The concept of Digital Sovereignty is very important and one country should not dominate the names of various websites.
20. Despite a comprehensive nature of the IT Vision document, the same lacks on following:
a. Integrated Government
b. View point on establishment of Indian IT services (A separate cadre)
c. Revisiting of NeGP
d. Creation of a repository of e-Governance initiatives
e. Issues on Privacy
f. Issues on Freedom of Expression Online
g. National e-Governance Act
h. Institutional Framework for implementation of e-governance (SeMTs / PMUs / NEGA etc ??)
i. Capacity Building of Government for e-Governance
j. Reality check on e-governance so far
k. To check corruption in name of e-Governance
l. Issues of interoperability
m. Multiplicity of Front End Centres

I hope the party includes the above issues in its refined drafts. Kindly apologize me for cross posting as I am sharing the e-mail through india-egov, bytesforall and india-gii.