When we started work on the Goods and Services Tax (GST), we never thought of cloud. We just said we had to share. You have to start thinking and collaborating in terms of applications. Collaboration should happen at the level of governance.
We said we will now share a common set of forms and procedures across states. Then we said ‘let us define the common form. Let states get together and decide on the form’. So it’s a purely governance matter. Then we said ‘okay, we have created an application which is a portal’. Now how do we change the back end systems which are linked to this? Every state wants to change this. They say: ‘where is the test environment for us to develop that change?’ Since they are already talking to one another, automatically this thing came up: ‘why don’t we share a test environment?’ So the need has come from governance, not the technology. Today we are going to cloud. Cloud is not searching for a solution, the solution is instead searching for a cloud. And that’s made cloud relevant.
While states are willing to share, there are concerns: like ‘I don’t mind keeping somebody else’s data, but my data should not reside elsewhere’. For such concerns, we thought of a solution. We thought ‘let us create an entity which is owned collectively by all of you’. And that’s why we came to the concept of the National Information Utilities which was announced by the finance minister in the last budget speech. So behind shared infrastructure, it has a combined ownership, which ends the debate between ‘us’ and ‘them’. You need to create institutional structures where they have partnerships. If that happens, it a complete win-win for all sides. It took us 18 months to create that entity in GST.