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Governance 2.0: ICT to transform citizen-government interaction

May 25, 2017

Governance 2.0: ICT to transform citizen...

The effective use of information and communication technology (ICT) in a country can bring significant improvements in the level of governance and help save time, energy and resources. ICT can help speed up the flow of information from the government to citizens, transforming the way the two parties interact and communicate. In government organisations and utilities, IT adoption brings greater efficiency in business processes and improves the ability to meet the needs of citizens more effectively.

In India, the government has launched the Digital India initiative to transform the entire public services ecosystem with the use of ICT. An important aspect of this programme is e-governance, which is an IT-enabled route for end-to-end delivery of services.

According to Gartner, the Digital India initiative will drive IT investments in the government sector, primarily in the provision of access to government services on mobile devices and the expansion of broadband services. The IT spending of the Indian public sector, comprising the central government, the state governments and local governments, is expected to reach $7.8 billion in 2017, an increase of 9.5 per cent over 2016. This will include expenditure on internal services, software, IT services, data centre systems, devices and telecom services.

The software segment includes enterprise resource planning (ERP), supply chain management, customer relationship management (CRM), vertical specific software and other application tools. This segment is expected to grow by 15.7 per cent in 2017 to reach $1 billion.

Meanwhile, IT services such as consulting, software support, business process outsourcing, IT outsourcing, implementation and hardware support are expected to grow by 14.6 per cent in 2017 to reach $2 billion, making it the largest segment within the IT spending category.

Key enterprise applications

Most of the government organisations and utilities in the country have upgraded their legacy infrastructure to establish a robust IT and telecom system. The key applications being used by them are ERP, CRM, supply chain management and supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA). An enterprise-wide robust ERP solution ensures that the various departments of a government organisation are well integrated and function together to meet the business objectives. Since many government organisations have offices and branches in remote areas, the deployment of enterprise-wide mobility software applications has enabled the employees to access real-time information and manage transaction processes across the organisation in a time-efficient manner. Moreover, mobility applications have facilitated communication among consumers through email, web portals and social media.

In addition, the deployment of ERP solutions helps government departments provide better services to their customers. For instance, the National Handloom Development Corporation, which implemented ERP for its commercial activities in 2015, runs all its business processes such as indenting, purchase order generation and invoice generation through the ERP system. This has reduced the lead time and increased transparency. Any delay in the supply chain can be identified by the weavers, as well as all the other stakeholders. The elimination of paperwork has improved the efficiency and responsiveness of the supply chain. Further, procurement, inventory management and demand forecasting have improved, resulting in high quality customer service. Meanwhile, SCADA systems, which are computer-based industrial control systems, play an important role in monitoring and controlling industrial and infrastructure processes, including power transmission, civil defence, communications, air conditioning and space systems, which function round the clock.

IoT

The internet of things (IoT) is also finding application across multiple public enterprises. The business use cases and adoption rate of IoT by government agencies vary according to the service domain and the programme mission. According to the draft IoT policy released in 2015, the government will set up projects using IoT, which will reduce the customs duty or even allow full exemption on the import of raw material required for such projects.

The government’s Smart Cities Mission and Digital India programme are also likely to fuel demand for IoT products and services. The various initiatives proposed to be taken under the Smart Cities Mission would be based on IoT. These include smart energy, intelligent transport systems, waste management and smart lighting.

Cloud solutions

By adopting a cloud-based IT strategy, the government can fundamentally change the way IT services are delivered and consumed. This will also result in operational and financial benefits such as reduced costs, improved organisational agility and efficient service delivery. According to Cisco, government agencies using cloud computing can optimise their legacy IT infrastructure while adding new services, decrease software/application maintenance, project roll-out time frame and administrative costs, and improve asset utilisation by up to 60-70 per cent. A cloud-based environment enables seamless collaboration across different agencies and provides real-time response to the increase or decrease in workload.

Therefore, the use of cloud frees up resources, which can be invested in mission- critical applications and services, and shifts the focus from asset ownership to service management, thus improving citizen engagement and the quality of service delivery. In India, cloud computing can be a major boon as it will speed up project execution in cities and towns lacking technological infrastructure.

Government agencies can consider several cloud deployment models depending on their needs and overall IT strategy. Two prevalent models are – the “public cloud” model where applications and storage are available to the general public over the internet, and the “private cloud”, where organisations and agencies develop or procure their own standardised cloud computing environment and allow the various line departments to use the shared, secured, and automated cloud-ready infrastructure. The latter can be adopted by organisations that are more concerned about information security and loss of control. Hybrid cloud models are also gaining traction. Under these, an organisation can use the public cloud for some functions such as basic business applications or non-sensitive data processing, and the private cloud for sensitive functions such as data storage.

The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) has launched a project called “GI Cloud” to enable the government (both at the centre and the states) to leverage cloud computing for effective delivery of e-services. To this end, it has prepared a multi-pronged strategy to adopt cloud computing and has set up a GI Cloud Task Force and a Cloud Working Group.

Social media

Over the past three years, social media, especially Twitter, has become the central government’s vehicle for information dissemination, in line with its “Open Government” initiative. Several government departments are using social media for making citizens aware about the key policy measures taken by them, and for redressing public grievances. Moreover, to help government organisations engage more fruitfully with stakeholders using the various social media platforms, MeitY has released a framework and guidelines for the use of social media by government organisations.

The use of social media by government agencies has yielded significant results. The Andhra Pradesh government effectively used social media for disaster management during cyclone HudHud. The Ministry of External Affairs used Twitter to help the Indian citizens stranded in Libya and the Middle East. The Delhi government used social media for effective traffic management during the “odd-even” scheme.

The central government’s MyGov platform, a first-of-its-kind participatory governance initiative launched in 2014, has now become one of the world’s biggest crowdsourcing and citizen engagement platform. Today, MyGov has more than 1.78 million users who contribute their ideas through discussions and also participate in the various earmarked tasks. In addition, the platform gets more than 10,000 posts per week on various issues that are analysed and put together as suggestions for the concerned departments, which then try to transform them into actionable agenda.

The intensive use of social media by public departments in recent years can be attributed to the fact that it helps spread the message to a wide audience in real time without any substantial costs. Moreover, it offers interactive capabilities apart from a wide range of audio, video and other in-built services.

Going forward, government institutions should further leverage social media by exploring areas such as open consultation with the public to drive policy; collecting data and individual views for research; receiving key information inputs from citizens to enhance operational performance; promoting public services and specific delivery channels; and forming cross-linkages with related government departments or private bodies.

Key challenges

While government enterprises are stepping up their investments in ICT, managing issues such as network downtime, lack of qualified IT staff to oversee day-to-day IT operations, integration of multiple technologies, need for timely upgradation of systems and increasing cost of technology can be quite challenging.

A major challenge that government entities face is the threat to information security. Since government enterprises store information that is typically more sensitive than that of any private sector organisation, it is imperative for them to invest in the security of their information systems. The threat to information security is a prime concern related to cloud adoption among government enterprises as they do not want their information to be hosted outside the country. To fully realise the benefits of cloud computing, governments need a high level of confidence in virtualisation and cloud computing as a service delivery strategy. Government agencies need assurance of a secure and reliable cloud computing strategy to manage user and citizen information before they commit to the change.

 
 

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