"With NII 2.0, we want to change the game"

DeitY secretary J Satyanarayana in conversation with Governance Now

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BV Rao | June 25, 2013




J Satyanarayana is a 1977 batch IAS officer of Andhra Pradesh cadre, currently heading the department of electronics and information technology (DeitY), government of India. Satyanarayana is a pioneer in e-governance domain, having introduced ICT in the Andhra Pradesh government in the 1990s. The National Institute of Smart Governance (NISG), which was set up in 2003 to provide consultancy services to government agencies on e-governance, is his brainchild. In his present role as secretary, DeitY, he is trying to consolidate the work done under the national e-governance plan (NeGP) and is also conceptualising the formation of national information infrastructure (NII) 2.0. In an interaction with B V Rao and Pratap Vikram Singh, he shares his perspective on NII 2.0 and the tasks he wishes to execute before completing his term at DeitY. 

Given the fact that NeGP has completed seven years, how do you assess the progress in e-governance?
I think the progress made has been reasonably satisfactory. The central mission mode projects (MMPs) have done well – there is a single line of command in decision-making in case of central MMPs. In case of state MMPs, the implementation has been happening at 35 different places. Some states are advanced in technology and are naturally ahead of others in implementation. Around 17-18 have done well. But the pace of development has to be increased.

Many NeGP projects are progressing towards the end of the first contractual time period. What is your strategy for the second phase?
There are two types of projects – one is infrastructure and other is services. As far as infrastructure is concerned, the original sanctioned term of the state wide area network (SWAN) and state data centre (SDC) projects is over. We have been extending it from time to time so as to complete the ongoing work. I think in the current financial, we will complete the SDC and SWAN implementation in the remaining states. Going forward should we repeat the same thing or should we look at (introducing) something bigger in terms of infrastructure – the next generation infrastructure – that is under active consideration. We are calling it (next generation infrastructure) national information infrastructure (NII) 2.0.

What is NII 2.0?
The concept is that when we design it, it must serve us for the next 10 years at least. A road map is being prepared in this regard. We have constituted an expert committee under professor S Sadagopan, director, IIIT-Bangalore, on NII 2.0. The committee will submit its report in the next four months. They have met already and have formed sub-committees on various aspects – infrastructure, services and capacity building. It is a combined concept on information infrastructure.

We want to change the game by making it ‘plug and play’ for states. They do not have to worry about data centres, network, connectivity, etc. You pay as you use so that they could focus on their core domain – service delivery, business process reengineering, capacity building, implementation and monitoring SLAs. The working group is working on technology, road map and business model for it. The concept of cloud will also be leveraged. There will be transition to NII 2.0. This, however, will not be a unitary but a federated structure.

How much investment will be required to set up NII 2.0?
The working group will come up with how much is required for the implementation.

How much money has been spent under NeGP out of the total allocation?
We have spent almost Rs 10,000 crore, out of the total allocation of Rs 46,000 crore. It is roughly 25-27 percent of the original outlay which was approved and has been spent in the last six to seven years. A majority of spending has happened in the e-district project.

Will the unutilised funds under NeGP be used for setting NII 2.0?
This is a matter of detail, which the committee will consider.

Have you fixed any targets for completion of e-district project?
Our target for the current year is to operationalise 200 districts. Last year, we operationalised 100 e-districts. We recently had meetings with state information technology secretaries at Manesar and Hyderabad. By 2015, we will operationalise 600-plus districts across the country.

Will you continue with the CSC project, given the poor state of centres in terms of availability of services and viability?
I agree to the fact that those CSCs operational in the periphery of cities have attained viabilities and those located in rural areas are running short of footfall. We need to consolidate. We need to create more awareness. On May 18 (the day NeGP was introduced in 2006), we launched a one-minute video clipping on the common service centre (CSC) and NeGP. This was to inform people to approach the CSC in their village to get a service and in case they do not get it, they can move to the block or district headquarters. We have some very vibrant CSCs. Some of the CSCs have done 20,000 to 30,000 transactions for a month. We have looked at the reasons of failure. It is because of location, applications and lack of entrepreneurship.

We have not seen line departments like health and education using CSC network to reach out to citizens.
Yes, they need to be orchestrated together. That’s why I am saying when electronic delivery of services start happening under the e-district project, this will take care of most of challenges CSCs are facing today as this will ensure a minimum number of services and footfall (in the CSCs).

Don’t you think there is need for revising the roles and responsibilities of the national informatics centre (NIC)?
The need for redesigning and reinventing roles of NIC is an agenda with us. We have had two-three meetings with state informatics officers (SIOs), the officials heading NIC teams in states, through video conference. Everyone has welcomed this idea. We have also identified areas which need change, starting with re-skilling NIC personnel. We have come up with a re-skilling plan which was launched in April. For senior and middle managerial levels, we will be training 1,100 people – right from DDG to SSA levels. Another 1,145 will get trained next year, so this way we will complete at least the top tier of the NIC. For training, they will be sent to different institutes with the help of a public-private partnership. This (training) will be a short exposure for one to two weeks. Redefining the role of NIC – what it should do or what it should not do is also being looked at. There are vacancies which are being filled. We also need more people at the district and block levels.

One more important thing is how we optimise our efforts. How do we develop a product instead of an application? If we only develop application for birth certificates and if it can be used in five-six states, then it will save a lot of time and effort. The same NIC in 35 states (and UTs) have 35 land record, registration applications, among others! So we have taken this conscious decision of collaborative working instead of silo-based working.

Can you comment on the cyber security policy, which has recently been approved by the cabinet?
It is a comprehensive policy which includes identification of vulnerabilities, prevention, emergency response, investigative powers. On all four fronts the policy identifies 26 initiatives. Out of this, DeitY will be embarking on 15 initiatives and 11 other will be taken care by MHA, NTRO and other agencies. The policy not only encompasses government (cyber) space but also citizen space.

Are you also making other departments aware about NeGP?
Yes, we are having one-on-one meetings with the departments on this. 

What are things you would like to achieve before completing your term at DeitY?
In the e-governance area, setting up over 300 e-districts will be one of my prime goals. We will soon be launching a national e-transaction dashboard (electronic transaction aggregation and analysis layer, e-Taal) to measure the progress – to aggregate all transactions and put them in one place. ‘If it is measureable then it is manageable’ is a fundamental management principle. I also wish to put NII 2.0 on the table. 

Don’t you think every ministry is required to have a chief information officer (CIO)? How about a national CIO?
According to the report of the Nandan Nilekani-led committee on human resource for e-governance, each ministry should have a CIO. But the report is under the consideration of the government. We have sent it to all states for consultations. As soon as consultation is completed, we will take it forward. The CIOs can be recruited from the market or from within the government.

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