GN Bureau | January 27, 2010
Technology can help improve governance only if efforts are made to bridge the gulf between the policy-makers and the masses. Distinguished participants highlighted this pressing need at a lively debate at the launch of Governance Now magazine and web portal in New Delhi this evening.
“Governance in the Connected World”, the theme of the first Governance Now Forum, elicited passionate responses on both the possibilities of the use of technology and the failure to use it to its full potential.
Arvind Kejriwal, prominent RTI activist
People casting vote does not make India a democracy. “True democracy is one where people have a say in the daily activities of governance,” said Kejriwal.
He gave the example of an experiment in two municipal wards in Delhi where people conduct mohalla sabhas to decide how the money in the councillor’s fund should be spent. Each municipal ward has been divided into 10 mohallas where people meet every week. Three days before the meeting, the councillor writes to all the families in the mohalla inviting them to attend the meeting.
This is a forum where people can directly interact with the decision makers including the councilor and representatives from civic agencies such as the Municipal Corporation of Delhi, Delhi Jal Board and Central People Work Department.
Earlier there was a situation where the government was spending the money irrespective the needs of the people. But now, the fund is utilised in a way people want it to.
“The idea is make the people realise that the babus are actually public servants and its not a big deal if they do the work without demanding bribe,” said Kejriwal.
He cited a recent example where the fares of Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) buses were raised. “We do not want the DTC to suffer losses. We are demanding that the profit and loss statement of the DTC should be made available to the public,” he said.
R.S. Sharma, CEO, Unique Identification Authority of India
Complementing Governance Now, Sharma said a magazine in this domain is the need of the hour. “Though we talk of governance and public services, we lack a concerted effort in this direction. I am sure Governance Now will fill in the gap,” he said.
Sharma emphasised the role of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) tools in governance stating it has immense potential to change governance. He gave the example of the railway reservation system. “Today one can get a railway reservation done anytime anywhere without having to stand in a long queue,” he said. However ICT tools have not been leveraged as they should have, he added. Land records for example should have been digitised all across the country.
“We need to leverage the tools of ICT for better delivery of services a. it will not only improve accountability and transparency but it will also help in attitudinal and behavioural change,” he said.
Speaking about the benefits of the unique identity project he said it will help an individual get access to government services without having to produce a number of certificates. “I can imagine a labourer from Bihar getting an account opened in Delhi without any hassles after the UID project is implemented,” he said.
Under the project, he said, 600 million identity cards will be issued in about four years and the first set of these will see the light of the day as early as November this year.
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