Technology + data analysis = good governance

The Modi government wants to bring in more governance and less government through the extensive use of real-time technological solutions

Rajendra Pratap Gupta | August 5, 2014




The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its allies fought the 2014 Lok Sabha elections on the plank of good governance and development. The country gave the party an overwhelming mandate and people believed in the vision and Narendra Modi’s promise of better quality of life and a better tomorrow.
Today, there is no denying the fact that India is not in the best of financial health. The country is passing through a trying time and navigating it will require a visionary leadership. The strength of the leadership that has won on the promise of pulling the country out of the big mess will also be put to test.
So, what exactly can we expect in terms of governance model?

Given the state of economy, the new government’s top priority should be to take quick steps for economic revival – curbing inflation and corruption, giving impetus to agricultural growth, boosting manufacturing, creating more job opportunities and ensuring an easy policy environment for investments and for doing business in India.

The overarching theme of governance should be to ensure that the government proactively reaches out to the people directly. This can be achieved by focusing on four things: genuineness in governance, authenticity in administration, performance and a citizen-friendly approach.

Getting IT right
Governance also requires that underprivileged are provided the required facilities by properly channelising time, money and energy for social sectors. The outcomes from this framework of good governance can be achieved through participatory democracy that the BJP internally refers to as Jan Bhagidari. This will help create awareness among the public for their rights and obligations will be established.

Jan Bhagidari will also help in actively engaging people in policy formulation and evaluation. One of the radical changes that the party has mooted is to open the government to expertise from industry and academia. This approach puts people as ‘active drivers of development’ rather than as ‘passive recipients’.

As is evident from the BJP’s manifesto as well as from numerous examples of technology interventions in Gujarat that have helped improve delivery of citizen services and driven government process re-engineering, the new government at the centre is also likely to rely heavily on e-governance to drive its good governance agenda.

In fact, the BJP has always considered technology as the backbone of good governance and would like to pursue a mission mode project –  National Rural Internet and Technology Mission – for providing telemedicine and mobile healthcare facilities, pushing in real-time information to farmers, and integration and networking of self-help groups. It will also be a boon for retail trade and MSMEs and rural entrepreneurs.

The focus on technology will help prioritise digitisation of all government work and records, to reduce corruption and delays. A critical component of this approach would be to proactively engage the people through social media for participative governance and for grievance redressal. The new government, as announced in the manifesto, also has plans of making WiFi available in public areas to encourage usage and set up high-speed digital highway to unite the nation.

The common thread
One of the key goals of the Modi administration would be to simplify procedures and processes in order to remove ambiguities and corruption. To achieve this goal, responsibility and accountability will be an integral part. Government agencies would be made accountable to the people and there would be a time-bound delivery of services. This will ensure that good performance is rewarded.

This would also mean that every government programme and scheme will be subject to performance review, as also social and environment audit. These administrative reforms will be implemented directly under the supervision of the PMO. In fact, the BJP manifesto mentions that “a common thread will run across all our ideas and initiatives” and technology will certainly have a big role to play as this catalyst.

Education is another major area that the new government would be focusing on. The effort would be to make all institutions and schools e-enabled in a phased manner so as to reduce the burden of books on children. Besides, the party has also promised to set up a national e-library. Technology will be used to launch massive open online courses (MOOC), and digital learning and training would be used extensively. Autonomous technology transfer organisations will be created as associate units of universities and national laboratories to transfer the know-how generated by them to the university. Specifically, there will be an extra push to establish institutes of technology focusing on rural development.

As part of the judicial and police reforms we can expect a comprehensive national e-library, empowering lawyers, being set up. This is based on the assumption that by making the legal system more accessible to the common man the government will be able to address the issue of high pendency of cases in the judiciary.

The BJP has also committed modernisation of the police force and hence we can soon expect police stations across the country to get networked for intelligence sharing and crime control. Equipping police with the latest technology would also be part of the agenda. Besides, the government is also looking to set up a national e-health authority to extend mobile healthcare facilities and telemedicine.
As far as small trade and businesses are concerned, the government seems to be keen to integrate MSMEs and retailers with a common digital platform that will offer a variety of open-source software and services. Mordenisation of railways through IT and communication tools is another goal on the agenda.

The other things on cards are the use of IT to protect India’s priceless cultural and artistic heritage, including digitisation of all archives and museology. Besides, technology would be used to reduce transmission and distribution losses in the power sector and to push e-banking and mobile banking for financial inclusion.

While the list of promises is long, the journey of delivering good governance has just begun for the new government. Only time will decide how well the performance outruns the commitment.

Gupta is a leading public policy expert and was responsible for creating BJP’s election manifesto under the chairmanship of Dr. Murli Manohar Joshi.

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