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|January 29, 1999
Everything has a beginning, middle and end. But if you are dazzlingly brilliant, people may not notice. Like is the case with the short stories of Somerset Maugham.
Electronic government and its market
In a presentation that had the audience all ears, Chandrashekhar explained the initiatives taken by the Andhra Pradesh government to move towards electronic governance.
He made a case for the electronic government in a society that is getting increasingly networked. "There are a few driving factors that have convinced us that it is not a passing fancy. There is an increased demand for better quality services because of greater awareness among the people and the media pressure. There is greater fiscal pressures and quality of services cannot be improved without recourse to an electronic government," he pointed out.
As this argument gained momentum the overhead projector slid to a bulleted list:
He revealed that the Andhra Pradesh government will sign a BOO (build, own and operate) agreement with United Telecom Limited on February 5. The agreement is to put up a state 'wide area network'.
The backbone network over 2 MBPS fibre optic lines will link Hyderabad and all the district headquarters. It is expected to be operational by May this year.
The government also plans to enter a joint venture with a Singapore consortium that comprises NCB, SNS and NCS corporations. This joint venture will offer value-added services over the wide area network.
The project involves capital investment of Rs 1.5 billion over eight years.
The joint venture, which is to be called APVAN.com, has already been approved by the state cabinet and an agreement is to be signed with the Singapore consortium on February 23.
The Andhra Pradesh government and the consortium would hold an equal stake in the venture. The equity of each party is expected to be $3.5 million.
Chandrashekhar explained that eight core applications, including utility bill payments, land registration, commercial taxes and employment exchanges would be incorporated into the network.
Chandrashekhar told Rediff that the AP government is planning a database on the basic information of citizens. The database will be implemented in collaboration with the Centre for Development of Advanced Computing. It will use C-DAC's PARAM supercomputer architecture. The Department of Electronics and the state government would jointly fund the Rs 30 million project.
"All citizen-based applications like those for ration cards, caste certificates and school admissions will use this database. The database would be in public domain but we would be framing laws soon to decide the extent to which this information should be available to others," he said.
The next presentation by Malaysia's Masduki explained how the nation is planning a 'Multimedia Super Corridor' that would make their electronic government a reality by 2021.
IT opportunities in financial services market
Central Vigilance Commissioner N Vittal, who is also the biggest evangelist for IT in government, released a paper on 'Information technology and software industry working capital finance' in the post-lunch session.
K Kannan, chairman and managing director, Bank of Baroda, explained some of the problems in computerisation of banks and financial institutions. "We had installed three ATMs at Peddar Road. Yet the transactions on those three ATMs were probably two or three. Now to guard those ATMs over the night we had to have three watchmen. I would rather have an extra cashier at the bank if this is the kind of response I get to computerisation."
This anecdote summed up the tone of the rest of the session. Is IT earning its keep in the banking sector? Kannan pointed out that "There is no method to calculate the financial returns on IT investment in banking." He joked that the only visible benefit of computerisation that Bank of Baroda employees can feel is the air-conditioning.
This sparked Vittal into demanding that the National Association of Software and Service Companies come out with a paper on what the return on investment in IT has been. He even set them a deadline of a month.
Actually, Vittal did an extempore charter for NASSCOM, here are the remaining points on it...
Vittal also revealed that he has convinced Securities and Exchange Board of India Director D R Mehta to issue an order by March 31, 2001, making it mandatory for all listed companies to make their payment of dividend and interest electronically only. This, he claimed, would encourage adoption of information technology.
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