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July 27, 1999


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Hiccup, hitch, glitch, delay, setback... This time, it is the election code of conduct that has put Andhra Pradesh's e-governance on ice. Shireen in Hyderabad

Andhra Pradesh's electronic governance initiative called APSWAN, the Andhra Pradesh State-Wide Area Network, has been put on hold.

This means that now construction of both the e-governance networks are back on the shelf.

Email this story to a friend. The reason for pausing the APSWAN venture is the Election Commission's 'code of conduct' that comes into force the moment an election is announced. The code has to be put in place to provide a check against ruling parties that might be tempted to use their government offices in gaining unfair advantage during campaigning.

Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu's e-governance initiatives seem to be all good intentions but their implementation has not been a happy story thus far.

The first victim of Naidu's pet projects on e-governance was APVAN, the Andhra Pradesh Value-Added Network. APVAN was to give private parties the power to interface between the government and the public. People could have gone to information kiosks to check up on government records for a small fee.

APVAN was shelved when state government staffers protested fearing redundancy.

Now the impending elections have cast a shadow on APSWAN that is supposed to link several levels of government to the state secretariat.

APSWAN provides facilities for videoconferencing between the state secretariat and all the 23 district collectorates and 7 municipal corporations. The network was almost ready for commissioning. Even test runs were conducted a couple of days ago.

But the formal launch of APSWAN has been now postponed till after the elections are over in September.

A factor that might have added to this decision is the Election Commission's objection to the teleconferences held daily between Chief Minister Naidu and the district collectors.

The Rs 220 million project has created a statewide information infrastructure in the form of a multi-service wide-area network.

This facilitates application of IT tools for economic development in addition to supporting IT solutions for the government. It constitutes the backbone network for data, voice and video communications too.

In the first phase, the state secretariat had been linked to all the 23 district headquarters through 2 MB optical fibre links supplied by the Department of Telecommunications.

Later, the network was to be enhanced to encompass all the 1,100 'mandal' offices spread over the state. This would enable speedy interaction between the state capital and districts as well as easy inter-district communication.

The APSWAN thus would act as a closed network spread over the entire state.

Operationally, the network envisages providing data linkage by connecting the LAN at the district headquarters to the LAN at the secretariat.

Voice linkages are established by interconnecting the PABX exchange at Hyderabad to the exchanges at the district headquarters through a linked numbering system.

APSWAN facilitates videoconferencing from the capital to any of district level officers on a one-to-one basis and on a broadcast mode from one-to-many.

The APSWAN provides a facility for direct online audiovisual and digital conferencing from any of the 42 departments at the state secretariat and the 23 districts.

Any department can access any collectorate round the clock. Besides, the government departments and other state agencies such as the AP power utilities, transport department, health institutions and universities would be linked.

Further, virtual private networks within the user groups of the government would be created.

The network has been installed by the Bangalore based United Telecoms Limited under a build-own-operate scheme.

The expenditure on infrastructure, maintenance and operation, including staff, is the responsibility of UTL, which has signed an agreement with AP Technology Services Limited.

As a consideration for provision of services, the state government / APTS has to pay Rs 11 million per quarter to the UTL over five years.

Some of the key services that are being made available include hotline, voice conferencing, voice broadcasting for various tiers of the government.

On the data front, there will be email, bulletin board services, data broadcasts, broadcast of various government orders to various government offices, online transactions and processing.

Internet gateway access will be provided at Hyderabad to make this facility available to all officers of the government and thus pave the way for community Internet services across the state.

The 2 MB optical fibre dedicated line connects the conference hall in the 'C' block of the secretariat where the chief minister's office is located with collectorates and cities of Tirupati and Vijayawada.

The line, being a dedicated one, will be available throughout the day and it can be used like a hotline. Secretaries and other heads of departments can book time-space to interact with the collectors or other subordinates at the district level on matters relating to their departments.

The Department of Telecommunications has agreed to provide the 2MB bandwidth free of cost for the first two years.

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