Hari Ranjan Rao serves as the Madhya Pradesh information technology secretary and the secretary to the chief minister. A 1994 batch IAS officer, Rao is working on providing adequate manpower for overseeing e-governance in the state. In an interview with Pratap Vikram Singh, he talks about his plans for restructuring IT in the government.
What is your vision for a digital Madhya Pradesh?
The vision is to make services available to citizens at their doorstep with utmost regard to transparency and accessibility. To realise this vision, we are implementing a couple of projects under the national e-governance plan (NeGP), the state service delivery gateway (SSDG) and e-district. From the state’s side, the public service management department has made services delivery electronic, under the Madhya Pradesh Lok Seva Adhiniyam (LSA), 2010. The public services management department will open around 400 lok seva kendras (LSKs) – a services delivery centre with three to five terminals, run by an entrepreneur at the district level.
Even after the law on time-bound services delivery, touts still rule the roost. How will LSK help?
At the moment, services are being delivered manually. LSKs are an institutional arrangement in which the applicants will be provided with an acknowledgement and a unique application number, which can be tracked by the applicants and the higher-ups within the department. A pilot has already been conducted in five districts. e-District will facilitate backend automation and re-engineering, which will reduce the processing time and ensure timely delivery of services. This way we will have a common data repository (CDR) in the SDC. As soon this is rolled out, people can access 52 services.
Can you elaborate on the CDR?
We want to emulate the technology in use in developed countries like the US where capturing an offender is quite easy. And that is possible only when you have a good data repository.
This will be a database through which the officials can punch in name of a person and check his identity and other details. For example, if a person has come for BPL card registration, he will be required to provide his UID number.
The system, through a repository, should be able to cross-check various databases. For example, if a window pops up, saying that this fellow, as per the database of transport department, has bought a new car recently, then he certainly doesn’t belong to the BPL class. That should be possible only when we have a data repository, and when these repositories are talking to each other.
What are the other projects, besides the LSA and e-district link-up, where one can see convergence, which is rare among the line departments?
The state government has set up a Samaj Suvidha Karyakram, which aims to provide a single window system for delivery of all social security schemes. We are bringing convergence in the delivery of services to the beneficiaries. For example, if a student is from a scheduled caste, is a wage earner and also a disabled, she/he becomes eligible for all the relevant social security schemes. She/he has to go to different departments to access the benefit. With convergence and integration of back end databases of the departments, the beneficiary has to come just once for collecting the benefits.
We have a population of seven and a half crore. Forty percent of them or three and a half crore population falls below the poverty line. We plan to integrate unique identification (UID) with this scheme where we will issue a unique social security number to these people. The social justice department, the nodal agency for implementing the social security convergence programme, is being headed by a mission director from the IAS.
What is the progress in NeGP implementation in MP?
The state wide area network (SWAN) has been set up. We have SWAN connectivity in all block headquarters. Currently, we have 900 POPs (point of presence). Most of the network is being accessed by the departments of treasury, commercial tax and excise. We plan to scale it up to 5,000 POPs. All officials from the public service management department will have access to network. In the treasury, the new integrated financial management information system (IFMIS) will enable a drawing and disbursing officer (DDO) to generate bills and receive payments online. In the next six months, Madhya Pradesh state electronics development corporation will procure and deploy computers at all DDO offices.
We have also integrated applications which were already hosted on NIC Net (a satellite-based communication network set up by the National Informatics Centre) at district level with SWAN.
Under the common services centre (CSC) project, 6,000 centres have wireless internet connectivity. For robust connectivity, we are banking on the national optical fibre network (NOFN). In terms of viability, we try and give data entry related work with the government to the CSCs. Recently we conducted Patwari recruitment exams through the MPOnline portal which was accessed by a large number of CSCs. The government received 18 lakh online applications for the exams. The farmer registration for procurement of wheat, too, was done through MPOnline with the help of CSCs.
In the policy context, the model of one CSC for six villages and vendors’ expectations with the project had their own limitations. Perhaps, we need to have another look at this. We need to get more and more business for the village level entrepreneur (VLE). Right now, they have no business and so many of them are not functional.
As a solution, we want to bridge the capacity and skills gap at the VLE level. The entrepreneurship skills in the VLEs should be honed. In the government, there is a lot of data entry work which can always be given to the VLEs. There are a number of government schemes like Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority wherein the VLE can act as an agent. I want the SCAs to conduct training exercises at regular intervals which might give exposure to VLEs. During the training, we plan to invite banks, insurance companies, MPOnline Ltd and successful entrepreneurs from other states.
What is the annual spending on e-governance projects in MP?
Our budgetary allocation for 2011-12 was Rs30 crore. It is Rs70 crore for 2012-13. However, most e-governance projects are funded by the respective departments. For projects like SDC and SWAN, most of the funding comes from the department of electronics and information technology (DeitY).
You have a plan for setting up a separate IT cadre. How did this idea evolve?
Before 2002, the IT department was part of the commerce and industry department. As soon as the IT Act 2000 came into existence, the government decided to have a separate department for IT. Now, we plan to have a separate IT cadre, akin to NIC. The cadre will hold positions at district and block levels and in line departments. Applicants must have experience of working for an IT company or as manager on an e-governance project.
We are already recruiting for the district e-governance society for programme management of NeGP. We are going to conduct online exams in October. There will be massive training for these recruits. I don’t want them to write codes. They have to monitor the functioning of IT infrastructure in their district and block offices. A few days back, a treasury department official from a district reported problem with his computer. When the department sent a person to rectify it, he found that the computer wire was unplugged! The new managers will be our trouble-shooters as well.
We will appoint chief information officers (CIOs) and chief technology officers (CTOs) for line departments from the IT cadre. The recruitment of IT cadre will be done after approval from the cabinet. This might take a couple of months. The coming five-six months are going to be a crucial time from the e-governance perspective.
What is this finishing school you are planning to set up in Indore?
We need finishing schools nationally. The school will train and groom engineering graduates and ready them for e-governance. We have invited people from Pune and Bangalore. We are providing space at cheap rates. People are already going to Bangalore and other cities. Why not bring them here?
Can you talk about the virtual classrooms initiative which is under conceptualisation?
Presently, we are deploying virtual classrooms by leveraging the SWAN, connecting 313 schools and setting up a video conferencing facility. Initially, this will be available at the high school level. Once the infrastructure is there, only then content has to be prepared.
How do you plan to leverage the geographical information system (GIS)?
We have decided to set up a GIS cell. It is in process. We are already discussing this with the planning department. We might create a society, which would be the nodal agency for integrating GIS with e-governance projects of all departments.
What is the progress on computerisation of land records?
We have not been able to do computerisation of land records yet. We don’t have a dedicated team which can work on the project. MAP _IT will eventually have to play a bigger role. It will act like NISG to the line departments in the state. As of now, we have gross inadequacy of manpower.
Why didn't the modernisation of land records succeed?
I personally feel lack of business continuity and a project management team have been the major challenges.
What are the key challenges you face in implementing e-government?
Sometimes decision making takes a little longer. But I think in the present context, it is not taking time. The biggest challenge I face is the lack of adequate man power. And that is exactly our focus area.
Where do you see the state ten years down the line in e-governance?
I think ten years down the line IT department will become irrelevant. Everything should become fully automated by then.