Communication remains an integral aspect of emerging technologies: Sanjay K Das, Jt Secretary, West Bengal

In the newly introduced 'Candid Conversations' series of Express Computer, Sanjay Kumar Das, Joint Secretary, Department of IT, Government of West Bengal, talks about how the state government is trying to improve and strengthen governance by using next gen technologies. He says some phenomenal results have been achieved by various departments of the West Bengal government by adopting advanced technology tools. Das also says that the state has been involved in using modern technologies such as 5G, drones for collecting data, and other services like medical facilities and logistics. Excerpts:

Q) Please brief us about the policies released by the Government of West Bengal, with respect to emerging technologies for improving governance in the state.

Emerging technologies is not something which belongs to the future, rather it is something to do with the past; as we are already engulfed in advanced technologies. In today’s fast paced life, there is greater need for technology, and with technology comes the simultaneous demand for employment and related opportunities. 

Since 2016, the West Bengal government has not exchanged a single dime for cash. There is not even one government office in West Bengal which uses a physical cash book nowadays. From January 2018, the entire state government activities went online as far as processing is concerned. The use of e-File became prevalent in the state and even the efficiency improved significantly. When we talk further about emerging technologies, communication remains an integral aspect of it. We have been involved in using modern technologies such as 5G, drones for collecting data, and other services like medical facilities and logistics. The government brought a number of policies such as; public transactional data sharing policy and data centre storage sharing policy, Information Technology and Electronics Policy and blockchain technology promotion policy and AI technology promotion policy. And there is an entire list of policies undertaken by the state that comes under the gamut of West Bengal State Broadband Policy. And, if all of these policies are exercised and utilised properly, the citizens can avail great benefits.

Q) What are the challenges that your department faced initially while starting to use the advanced technologies?

In the initial days most of us were unaware about the 87 new technologies. But gradually everybody picked up and learned from their own mistakes and experiences. Most of the people will answer by talking about awareness, upskilling and other factors responsible for the challenges faced. But for me, these aspects remain very basic and they keep on changing with time. Adoption of technology should come from the very top core of an organisation going downwards to all to allow the real public transactional data so that we can prove results.

Q) As a seasoned bureaucrat what were your challenges with respect to adoption of technology or any other challenges that you faced when you were a young bureaucrat?

As a bureaucrat you are always in a position where people look up to you and you serve them in return with your knowledge and service. And if by chance you are not able to address those people with proper solutions or information then that becomes a challenge. 

In my entire 24 years of experience of fulfilling a bureaucratic job; during my first tenure as a Block Development Officer, we neither had proper supply of electricity nor had a telephonic connection in the premises. The only blessing that we had was that the generator worked for eight hours. So, I bought a desktop computer and a photocopy machine, for which I was later asked for explanations by my superiors. But something interesting happened; one of the staff employees from my office started using the desktop and the photocopy machine. And soon he became remarkable with his knowledge of technology. And as of today, he manages the entire information services of a district in West Midnapore district. 

So, my job is basically to bridge the gap. I am nothing but an activist in the garb of an officer. 

Q) You have served as an Assistant Central Intelligence Officer with the Intelligence Bureau, Ministry of Home Affairs of the Government of India from 1994 to 1997. Can you share some of the learnings?

Unfortunately, I will not be able to talk about the entire list of activities as I am prevented by the oath of secrecy of that department. However, whatever I did was in the best interests of my country, and I am extremely proud and happy to be a part of it. 

Also, from my service days as an Assistant Central Intelligence Officer, I was required to be physically active and due to which I could work long shifts, especially during election activities. I also received mountaineering training, which I relish even today, when I go for outings in mountains. During my service, we also got an opportunity to learn various languages due to different postings in heterogeneous areas.

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