All Indian states are moving towards increasing e-governance, but some states are moving faster than others. Among the most proactive are the neighbour states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.
On December 20, 2014, six months after Telangana was hived off from Andhra Pradesh, the N. Chandrababu Naidu-led government in Andhra launched its ambitious E-office project. The objective was no less than to render every single government file in digital form, making government offices totally paperless. It is a massive work in progress, with daily updates on the number of files thus converted available at http://core.ap.gov.in/CMDashBoard/Index.aspx.
Starting with 20 departments, the project has rapidly expanded, with the current number of digitized files standing at 9,78,376 (on December 21). Files of at least two districts, Krishna and West Godavari have been completely transferred online. "All ministers and concerned officials can access the files at any time, even on their iPads, even when they are on tour," says J. Satyanarayana, Chairman, Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) and Advisor to the Andhra Pradesh government. "They can then act on them right away. This ensures both greater transparency and faster disposal of files." The complete project, expected to cost around Rs 15 crore, has been created and is being managed by the National Informatics Centre (NIC), but is customised for Andhra Pradesh. A government order (GO) issued in November has directed that a Single File System (SFS) must be employed, so that as files are digitised, the entire picture relating to any particular subject is available on just one file.
A second crucial initiative is the CM Office Real Time Executive (CORE) dashboard, started in August 2014, on which the progress of government schemes is reflected on a regular basis. "It is driven by management guru Peter Drucker's famous maxim: 'What gets measured, gets managed'," says Satyanarayana. "The progress is updated either in real time or on a monthly basis, depending on the urgency of the project." The CORE dashboard provides, for instance, details of the power position of the states, or the water levels in canals, with data collected using sensors. Starting with six to seven schemes, now it provides the details of more than 100 schemes. It was set up in collaboration with APOnline and cost less than Rs 1 crore.
It is estimated that around Rs 200 crore has been spent by the state government on e-governance projects in the last two years. While E-office and CORE are backend initiatives to keep the government better informed and enable faster decision-making, there have also been several projects designed to improve the citizen-government interface. "There are many examples, such as the public distribution system (PDS) using biometric identification linked to the Aadhaar number to authenticate beneficiaries," says Satyanarayana. "There is also complete clarity on stocks - how much has reached which fair price shop and how much has been distributed to consumers." The Aadhaar link eliminates bogus claims for welfare schemes like never before. "Be it scholarships for poor students, or pensions for the aged or monthly ration under the PDS, digitisation and the Aadhaar link have ensured that false claims are easily spotted and the entire process streamlined to make service timely and efficient."
Internet connectivity requires reaching optic fibre to distant corners. Instead of laying underground cables, the government has teamed up with Cisco to use electric poles to carry optic fibre as well. Optic fibre has reached 9,000 gram panchayats across the state.
The Telangana government launched its ambitious Digital Telangana programme on July 1, 2015, with a host of e-government initiatives on both the supply and the demand side. The former includes the Hyderabad City Wi-Fi project, to provide free Wi-Fi at 3,000 major locations in the city by the end of February 2017. So far, about 300 areas have been covered. Like Andhra Pradesh, it also has a Fibre Grid project to cover the entire state. Optic fibre cables will be laid underground, in parallel with the Telangana Water Grid project which aims to provide piped water to every household. So far 2,500 km of optic duct have been laid.
The state's e-Seva and Mee seva centres, the first a one stop centre for paying utility bills, getting relevant certificates and permits and much more, and the second - meaning 'at your service' in Telugu - where land records, registration records and more can all be accessed, have seen 70 million transactions since their launch soon after the new state was created in June 2014. "In citizen services like e-Seva and Mee seva, we are No. 1 in the country in terms of number of transactions per capita," says K.T. Rama Rao, IT Minister. On the demand side, there is TS-CLASS, begun in November this year and aimed at providing online education at all government funded schools in the state by June 2017. Every school will have its curriculum loaded on its computers, which teachers and students can both freely access. Around 3,000 schools - or half the total number - have been covered so far. Efforts at taking digital education to every village and setting up a digitally controlled disaster management system are also underway.
A showpiece of Telangana's digital achievement is its road transport department's mobile wallet, or m-Wallet. "It is not an e-governance initiative per se but an app launched by the department which has seen huge success," says Rama Rao. Launched on March 30 this year it has had over 1.2 million downloads so far and has impressed the Centre enough to want to replicate it at the national level. m-Wallet does away with the need for motorists to physically carry their vehicle registration certificates and other documents with them while driving - they can all be stored instead in electronic form on the motorist's smartphone using the app. The app even enables documents of multiple vehicles owned by the same person to be stored together.
To set up these initiatives, the Telangana government has largely used the services of start-ups, eschewing the big IT companies. "Start-ups are more agile, being led by young minds," says Rama Rao. m-Wallet, for example, was set up by a Hyderabad-based start-up called Radikal Tribe.
How effective have these e-governance initiatives been? "There is a perceptible change in the way work is getting done in both Andhra Pradesh and Telangana," says G.V. Prasad, Co-chairman and CEO, Dr Reddy's Laboratories. "The digital initiatives have seen faster clearance of files and greater transparency." There were others, however, who felt that human interaction between government representatives and citizens should not be totally done away with. "Data can certainly be filed online, but still, at times, it is becomes necessary to meet officials," says an entrepreneur who does not want to be identified.
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