Himachal Pradesh has started using emerging technologies like the blockchain and cloud services for the monitoring of smart city project.
The information was shared by Rajneesh Kumar, Secretary, Department of Information Technology, Himachal Pradesh government, who recently participated in a virtual fireside chat titled, “Citizen service delivery in the age of changing technology landscape” organised by Express Computer in association with Oracle.
He said that Himachal Pradesh’s two cities are part of the Centre’s Smart City initiative and an Integrated Command and Control Centre (ICCC) has been set up. Initially, the department had decided to have a separated ICCC and then it decided instead of having two separate entities, the department should have one entity to provide common software solutions to these two cities. “In ICCC, some of the components had to be located at the city level then most of the software and processing part we should have it common,” he mentioned. For the ICCC, there were two basic requirements, one was the data centre and other was cloud computing. “We had decided to have cloud computing backing the ICCC so that we are utilising the state data centre for data storage but for processing of information we will be using cloud computing,” Kumar pointed out. He averred that Himachal Pradesh is quite receptive to emerging technologies and a number of modern technologies are being considered by the government for the people’s welfare in the mountainous state.
The IT Secretary remarked that the cost of infrastructure has been very high in Himachal Pradesh as it is a mountainous state and the cost of service delivery in physical mode has also been on a higher side. The government started working one and a half decades back on digital initiatives and with the Govt of India funding, HimSwan was initially set up and then the state realised that IT can be utilised to the optimum to efficiently deliver services to the citizens.
He informed that the state has an e-district portal, having 66 citizen services, which are being rendered online. “The government receives 4,000 applications on a daily basis. IT has been an enabler for efficient delivery of citizen services,” he added.
Experience of the lockdown
While sharing the Himachal Pradesh’s experience of the lockdown, the IT Secretary remarked that last year when the state went for the lockdown, health instructions had to be issued and communicated to the districts and to the people in general almost on a daily basis. He agreed that it was a major challenge which was not anticipated by any one of the government officials. “In order to regulate and monitor the movement of people within the state, and how to bring them back to Himachal, we wanted to have an efficient system and the idea was to not create chaos. At that time, we developed an in house IT system wherein anybody wanting to come to Himachal could register himself,” he stated. The system generated massive data within 5-6 days of its introduction. It helped the government identify how many people from different states wanted to come back to Himachal at the level of Talukas.
Challenges in adopting modern technologies
Rajneesh said that the biggest challenge is the mindset of the government staff with respect to technology adoption. “When we came up with IT interventions, many people had a fear of technology in the initial stages. Earlier, people didn’t want things to be moved digitally as it takes away the discretion. The moment one takes away the discretion, the system becomes transparent,” he mentioned, adding that sometimes one finds challenges pertaining to implementation of digital initiatives. He believes that if the idea is to make an impartial, neutral and transparent system to bring efficiency, the government usually succeeds.
He also spoke about e-office which is being used in the Government of India. “When I came to Himachal, I was surprised to see a lot of physical file movement was happening. Then I thought of making the file movement across Himachal Pradesh Secretariat completely digital. Initially, there was resistance from senior and junior officials but multiple trainings helped us remove doubts of the concerned officials and staff,” he remarked.
He said that the e-office system would soon be implemented on a major scale in Himachal Pradesh within April. Over eight lakh documents or files have been scanned, he informed. “Not only the files but all policy decisions will be made online and it would also be monitored digitally,” Kumar said.
Debapriya Nandan, Senior Director & Head, Public Sector, Business Development, Oracle India Private Limited said that Oracle has conducted a pilot with Apollo hospital of tracking illicit drugs by using Blockchain and it was implemented and done along with the Niti Aayog.
He said that one can scan the data at the back of a medicine strip to find whether it is counterfeit or genuine. The software uses Blockchain, IoT, analytics on Cloud and it was a runaway success, he said. The Niti Aayog strategy paper on drug management came out in 2021 recommends implementation of Blockchain and IoT.
Oracle has recently conducted a Hackathon with the National Informatics Centre, MeitY to help conduct online classes and exams which could be taken with all seriousness, he said. It demonstrated several used cases as to how AI can be used to ensure online exams are conducted perfectly, he informed. Deb cited another example of Oracle’s second hackathon where a soil testing were done with consideration of the environmental parameters and it suggests to a farmer what crop he should cultivate the next season. We also suggested what kind of seeds should be used, Deb said. The software also tells a farmer whether the seeds received by him are real or counterfeit.
He talked about the third used case where one can remotely monitor the health of a motor vehicle. Instead of physically checking the vehicle, one can check it digitally, he said. Deb highlighted that these are forward looking technologies and Oracle is encouraging the MeitY and various States to work with the firm which is providing them with cutting edge technologies. “We have urged them to evaluate various possibilities of having collaborations with Oracle. We also did a pilot paper on how to ensure honey which is reaching the market is not adulterated through AI,” Deb said.
He further said Oracle has an ‘Oracle Academy’ which is a CSR initiative under which the firm adopts technical colleges, non-profit educational institutions under the government and provide them with all Oracle technologies free of cost to students on their devices. Oracle trains the teachers on how to do work on latest technologies, he said. He said it has been a great success across the country and there are several States like Odisha and Jharkhand who have adopted this initiative. Students of technical colleges have got jobs through this initiative, Deb said.