Gaken Ete, IT secretary, Arunachal Pradesh talks about the state's progress in e-governance, the National Optical Fibre Network and the challenge of implementing the Aadhaar scheme in the state.
Pratap Vikram Singh | October 31, 2013
As secretary to the government of Arunachal Pradesh, Gaken Ete is holding charge of two departments: information technology and water resources and development. When he joined as the IT secretary in 2012, Ete meticulously planned the execution of e-governance and telecommunications projects. In the past, the IT department had run into trouble for allocating work of few e-governance projects to vendors on nomination basis. Ete is ensuring that such practices are not repeated in the future. In an interaction with Pratap Vikram Singh, he discusses the challenges and opportunities with ICT projects in the state. Excerpts:
Why were state wide area network (SWAN) and state data centre (SDC) projects given on nomination basis?
It was a mistake by the department but not an intentional one. The Bangalore-based public sector unit, KEONICS (which was awarded the projects) had informed us, wrongly, that the work could be allocated to the PSU without tendering. So the government awarded it the project. KEONICS itself had come with a proposal – now we have terminated both contracts.
Why did the department of electronic and information technology (DeitY) raise objection in 2011 if it didn’t do the same in 2008, when the projects were given out?
DeitY was informed soon as the e-governance apex council, headed by the chief minister, decided to award the project on nomination basis. Some officials (also) came and visited the Itanagar facility.
What is your next course of action?
For SWAN, we were planning to give the project to the national informatics centre (NIC) but some concerns have come up (now). I will first meet the joint secretary of DeitY and then decide how to go about it. For the SDC project, we will soon issue the RFP (request for proposal). SDC will not take much time.
What are you doing for connectivity, which is a major challenge in implementation of IT projects in Arunachal Pradesh?
We are very concerned about connectivity. The problem is aggravated by lack of power – even if we have connectivity, we need power to make it 24x7 (operation). We are focusing on solar energy; my department is requesting the Centre to fund it (solar-powered projects).
How about national optical fibre network (NOFN)?
They (department of telecommunications) have done the tender work and the geography has been divided. Laying out optical fibre is very costly, more in our hilly terrain. We are requesting BSNL to help us and have also signed an MoU with BBNL, the nodal agency for NOFN implementation. They have assigned it to RailTel.
If things go as planned we may have connectivity till panchayat level in another two to three years.
BSNL is also mulling the right technology options: VSAT, DSPT and microwave. They have submitted a proposal for right of way and I am examining it.
Has Aadhaar enrollment started in Arunachal Pradesh?
The state is being covered by national population register (NPR). For Aadhaar, we floated a bid for selection of enrollment agency but no agency turned up. The compensation per enrollment was too less. There are places which doesn’t have road connectivity. You have to raise the compensation (but) as of now nothing is happening.
How much is your annual spending on e-governance projects?
Funding is not a problem. It should be around Rs 5 crore.
How do you look at common services centre (CSC) projects?
The centre adds convenience to lives of people. If someone wants to buy an air or a railway ticket, he/she can now go to the CSC and do that instead of coming (all the way) to Itanagar.
But how about delivery of public services that do not exist at present?
I think once the e-district project is rolled out, the issue will be addressed…. We will be able to roll out the project in another six months.
DeitY has stopped funds to the IT department because utilisation certificates have not been submitted (this was done in accordance with finance ministry’s guidelines that make it obligatory for departments to submit these certificates for all projects. Otherwise funding would stop). What’s your view?
I think the Centre should have special provisions for states in northeast India. The funding for one project shouldn’t be linked with the utilisation certificates of another project. It shouldn't be done in a combined manner, otherwise this will have subsequent effects. Because of projects that are not working – like SWAN and SDC in Arunachal Pradesh’s case – the project which are progressing well – for example, e-district – shouldn’t suffer.
The Centre has to understand that most IT service providers are reluctant to come to Arunachal Pradesh; there are issues of insurgency and (the state has a) difficult terrain. Such a policy should not be enforced till the time we have local IT entrepreneurs.
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