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|February 9, 1998||
The Vittal game planA review of the status of computerisation in government shows that though much work has been done in introducing computers, much more needs to be done to increase their availability and use.
Organisational and human resource development
The ministries need to be more involved in the process. To some degree, this can be achieved by ensuring that they have a five-year plan for information technology. A specific provision for computerisation must be made so that there is a clear goal and the resources to achieve it are available.
They can have more formal control of the NIC staff working under them through a system in which a nominee of the chair of the NMCC in which the NIC officer is posted writes a section of the ACR of the NIC unit head.
Similarly, the head of the NIC unit will avail of leave only with the concurrence of the nominee of the NMCC.
Spreading IT awareness:
In order to increase the IT awareness in every department there have to be wide ranging workshops and seminars involving all levels of administration from the highest to the lowest. Preferably, this must happen in the model of vertical integration courses as in the IAS.
This will help in demystifying IT, identifying the real needs of IT, using IT profitably and also to create an atmosphere which will be friendly and conducive for inclusion of an IT culture.
Such an effort has never been made and that is one of the reasons why the progress of IT in the Government of India is not as it should be in spite of the massive efforts of the NIC.
Increasing availability of computers:
In order to spread the IT culture, restrictions regarding the level at which the computers can be permitted should be removed.
Some departments restrict the use of computers to officers of a certain level and above only.
In fact, computers should be available to any government servant who is interested in IT. Employees should also be permitted to install computers in their homes if necessary so that the culture of computers will grow.
As this will involve a major expenditure on the part of the government if it has to pay up-front, the strategy of getting the computers on lease can be explored.
In order to bring down the lease costs, the income tax rules may be amended so that any investment made in computers and IT systems becomes eligible for 100 per depreciation in the first year itself. Such a concession given in the case of wind farms has resulted in wind farms being available through leasing companies at 12 per cent interest.
A similar exercise would help not only in reducing the government outgo but also indirectly catalysing the IT revolution within and without the government.
Changing recruitment qualifications:
Certain changes in the qualifications for recruitment of employees so as to employ persons with keyboard skills combined with the required levels of computer training and a system of incentives would go a long way in ensuring that employees have the requisite skills for effectively using computers.
Secretaries of ministries must identify suitable persons with an aptitude for computers who can perform the role of leaders and mentors in spreading the culture of IT not only in the ministry but also in subordinate organisations.
The government should freely allow officers of the level of deputy secretaries and above to have computers at their residence too. These computers should be networked so that an effective intranet within the government grows.
Issuing indicative guidelines:
In order to ensure that the money meant for computerisation is effectively spent, it is necessary that suitable indicative guidelines are issued so that officers can understand the procedures to be followed in the acquisition of hardware, maintenance contracts etc.
But these guidelines should be clear and simple to implement.
With the increasing use of information technology, it will be necessary to make appropriate amendments in existing laws so that obsolete laws do not negate the advantages of the technology.
Encouraging IT use in states:
The state governments also need to be encouraged to increase the use of IT as without computerisation in the states this technology cannot be used to improve the delivery of services and improve the responsiveness of administration.
Personnel management systems
A review of the status of computerisation of the personnel management systems has shown that it is necessary for a small group of officers to be constituted in the department of personnel and training to design the specific databases which could form a comprehensive but modular 'personnel information system'. This could be used for personnel management across cadres and levels.
The issues of confidentiality and privacy would have to be suitably addressed.
Each ministry and its departments must allocate 2-3 per cent of its budget for spending on IT so that there is an increase in the availability of funds for training in IT and acquisition of hardware, software as well as for the development of software and maintenance.
Delivery of services
The long-term objective should be to provide an electronic one-stop-shop for government services available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Government services provided to the public should be charged for from the beginning as introducing charges later may create difficulties.
The delivery of services could be implemented in three phases. In the first phase, the delivery would be in the front offices of government departments. In the next this could be through information kiosks, manned public access terminals located in remote locations such as post offices, railway stations, hospitals and milk booths. In the third phase, the points of usage could be extended to PCOs, which could ensure 24-hour operations. They could provide value-added services such as Internet access or email.
For operationalising this it would be necessary for the government departments to build up computerised information bases which can be inter-connected. These could be on an intranet, which would not only facilitate access within the government but also enable easy connectivity to enable others outside the government to gain access to the information.
In order to avoid misuse there would have to be appropriate security safeguards.
Access in local languages:
It would be necessary to provide access in the local language.
Laying down standards:
Since information would be sourced from various departments and may be linked to autonomous or private agencies, it would be necessary for appropriate standards to be laid down.
The Bureau of Standards with the involvement of other government and non-government agencies concerned could do this.
There would be three underlying principles for the use of the technology. These are: a. Interconnectivity by which all systems/networks within the government can access each other in order to avoid duplication of information. b. Interoperability by which information systems in different departments can communicate with each other for which standards must be laid down right from the beginning. c. And universal access so that citizens have equitable access to the information.
It would be important to establish a high speed and reliable Intranet backbone. This would help in the establishment of the National Information Infrastructure, which is critical for ensuring that there is adequate capacity to cope with the exponential growth of data/information traffic.
The private sector could be involved in the setting up of the standards. It could also play an essential role along with non-government organisations, autonomous and decentralised bodies in the operation of the points of usage.
It could contribute to the content available to increase the availability of information.
In the report, a number of suggestions have been made for increasing the finances available for IT providing a scope for initiatives by the different departments for using IT and also optimising the resources of NIC. The committee is of the view that a high-powered committee under the chair of cabinet secretary should be set up to improve administrative efficiency by using information technology in government.
It will be necessary to lay down a timeframe within which the recommendations made in this report are implemented.
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