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eGovernance - A quick starter guide

I. INTRODUCTION

Now a day eGovernance occupies the topmost position in the agenda of almost all Governments in the world and lot of public money is being pumped to eGovernance initiatives. Therefore very intelligent planning is required to produce desired returns.

eGovernance can be defined as ICT assisted Good governance. Therefore eGovernance initiatives necessarily should have all the components required for Good governance.

This quick starter guide is neaither a solution nor a proposal, where as it is a brief compilation of best practices that can ignite eGovernance discussions.

In the area of eGovernance, the shortest method to get realistic inputs for planning is study of failures. Some of the most common reasons for failures are listed below:
  • Absence of proper system study
  • Absence of proper documentation
  • Absence of proper organization structure
  • Absence of committed involvement by the top management in the process, especially in
  • he three crucial steps as listed 1 to 3 above.
  • Absence of proper administrative reforms
  • Absence of uniform operating system
  • Absence of standards for data, tables, forms etc
  • Absence of interoperability
  • Absence of proper networking strategy and data center facility
  • Absence of proper procurement procedures
  • Absence of proper maintenance procedures
  • Absence of proper data security policies
  • Absence of participation by employees (internal consultants) in the planning and implementation process (the entire process is being carries out by external consultants)
  • Absence of proper awareness among the public and resultant lack of support from them.
The first four items in the above list together produces the remaining causes of failure. Therefore the above list can be taken as crucial fixes.
II. POLICY REQUIREMENTS
For making an eGovernance Movement successful following policies would be requiring
  1. Administrative Reforms Policy – This will announce government’s ambition for a citizen centric service delivery improvement , in accordance with the world standards, through necessary reforms in the existing system
  2. ICT Policy – This will announce the mission, vision, objectives and broader ways through which the already announced reforms policy can be made sustainable with the aid of ICT.
  3. Service Delivery Policy: This will set standards for the already announced ICT assisted administrative reforms and service delivery improvement. This will also include notification of Citizen Charters etc.
  4. Right to information policy: All the three above together will facilitate access to information very easy to the public. Right to information policy will lay down broader principles for the public to seek information and the officials to deliver the same without bureaucratic chaos. It will also initiate the setting up of governing rules, authorities and appeal mechanism for the same.
The eGovernance initiatives should find its strong foundation in the clear vision, mission and objectives that are stipulated in the above policies.
III. ORGANIZATION

III.A ORGANIZATION BASED ON Administrative Reforms Policy
A High Level Body for Administrative Reforms: Actually the outputs from the above activities will be the direct inputs for the eGovernance initiatives. Therefore the administrative reform activities should take the lead. The High Level Body for Administrative Reforms may also form administrative reforms committees in each wing of the government to study and propose reforms in a time bound manner. These committees may include Administrators, ICT Practitioners, and the people who are familiar with both Administration and ICT to act as some sort of middleware.
III.B ORGANIZATION BASED ON ICT Policy
III.B.1. eGOVERNANCE MISSION CONTROL: The Mission Control may have the following functional units.
i. Standardization of Controls Unit (SCU)
The SCU will
  • Develop and maintain a Web portal for the country
  • Maintain a web based repository for existing Government Software
  • Make available Free & Open Source Operating
  • Develop and distribute standard codes/structures for data (for instance: What should be the coding pattern for government offices?) , application & forms etc as envisaged in the policy.
  • Work with High Level Body for Administrative Reforms for simplification and standardization of procedures for the development of standard structures as given above.
  • Provide standard configurations for hardware depending on the nature of requirement.
ii. Project Management Unit
The PMU will

  • Facilitate planning of projects
  • Monitor implementation through a web based Project Performance Management System (PPMS)
  • Assist the development of project implementation rules/ guidelines in respect of new projects ensuring application of web based PPMS
  • Give proper advise and assistance to Project Implementing Officers/ Units
iii. Information Security & Policy Audit Unit (ISPAU)
The ISPAU will
  • Develop necessary Information Standards, Information Security and Audit Measures by studying the best practices.
  • Ensure that projects are being implemented in accordance with the Government Policies through periodical IT Audits/ Tests
  • Ensure that eGovernance systems are maintaining approved Information and Security Standards.
  • Enforcement of IT related rules/ orders.
  • Develop procedures for digital signature.
iv. Network and Data Centre Management Unit (NDCMU)
This unit will provide
  • Maintain federal information backbone
  • Standard Networking Architecture and its customization for the use of different units of Government
  • Data Centre Management including hosting support (co-location as well as shared hosting)
v. Regional Level Country Co-ordination Units:
Regional Level Coordination Units will co-ordinate the activities of all Departments/ Functional Wings of the Government in a Region of Suitable Area.
vi. Department/ Functional Wing Level Co-ordination Units:
Department/ Functional Wing Level Coordination Units will coordinate the eGovernance activities within a Department or Functional Wing
III.B.2 DIGITAL SIGNATURE ISSUING AUTHORITY for Government Officials:
The Digital Signature Issuing Authority for Government officials will issue digital signatures to the government officials observing the procedures.
III.B.3 REGISTRAR OF GOVERNMENT WEBSITES:
Registrar of Government sites will allot domain names for the websites of various wings/ departments of Government and regularly monitor such sites to see that the statutory regulations are being observed.
III.C ORGANIZATION BASED ON SERVICE DELIVERY AND RIGHT TO INFORMATION POLICIES
(i) Department Level Monitoring Arrangements
Complaint handling mechanism for the successful implementation of Citizen Charter etc
(ii) Right to Information Authority
For overseeing the implementation of Right to Information

IV. DEVELOPMENT OF LEGAL ACTS SYSTEM

Following actions are suggested.
  1. A proper ministry of the Government may issue comprehensive ICT Rules incorporating all the above including, registration of Government websites, Information Security, digital signature etc.
  2. Procedures for IT Procurement and maintenance including e-tendering etc
  3. Framing of a right to information rules based on the policy, clearly listing what category and type of information can be made public through government websites. And what kind of information can be made available to applicants personally. What are the procedures? How the failures by the authorities in delivering the information can be dealt with. This will also require extensive consultations.
V. SOME GENERAL SUGGESTIONS

V.A INCREMENTAL DEVELOPMENT
Application software that are required by different departments may be developed in an incremental way. That is developing the applications software as different modules that can be tested independently so that in the worst case of failure only the failed module needs to be replaced. More over the people and government will be getting the benefit of the project right from the beginning, without very long waiting for completion of the entire application. It will also give sufficient time for testing each module of an application.

V.B OVERCOMING OF DEPARTMENTAL SENTIMENTS
Some departments may hold the view that existing procedures are very crucial for upholding that department’s importance and they may try to stick on it. Therefore necessary awareness and participations of departmental officials should be ensured right from the beginning of the reform activities.

V.C PRIORITIZATION OF INITIATIVES
Prioritizing of initiatives for commencement of implementation is vital. Items that would have popular utility and less legal and technical complications, while making online, may be selected for first phase implementation.

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