The 25th edition of India’s premier e-governance forum, Express Technology Sabha, kicked off on February 14, 2019 at Le Meridien, Kochi with a special keynote speech by M Sivasankar, Secretary, Electronics & Information Technology Department, Government of Kerala. The two-day conference, held from February 14 to 16, 2019 witnessed leading IT decision-makers from the government sector deliberate on various facets of e-governance. In his address, Sivasankar provided an overview of e-governance in the state. While highlighting the importance of technology intervention in the government space, Sivasankar said that Kerala has undertaken tremendous work under the Akshaya project for improving e-literacy in the state. He advised that different states should learn from each other on the implementation of technology as every state has some unique projects that have shown exemplary results on the ground.
“There is no need to reinvent the wheel again, we can learn from each other and implement technology for the people,” he said. Talking about the future roadmap of the state, he said that the government is looking to imbibe emerging technologies like AI, machine learning and blockchain, among others to take the government service delivery to the next level. He stated that young startups have bigger role to play in the proliferation of new technologies in the government.
Tech in governance
During his keynote address, Dr Sanjay Bahl, Director General, CERT-In, Government of India, touched upon various issues related to cyber security in the age of Digital India. Highlighting the emerging nature of modern day technologies, he stated that both cyber and physical are merging closely, creating cyber security challenges that have never been witnessed before. Dr Bahl said that with the proliferation of e-governance, a huge amount of data is generated everyday which can become an asset if the country can meaningfully use it for creating conducive policies for social good.
According to him, however, this could be misused by anti-social elements, therefore the privacy and security of data must be key priority for both governments and corporates across the world. Citing a report of EU, he said value of data will be huge in future, so the privacy of this data will become a huge concern. He emphasised that the Government of India is committed to provide world class cyber security to India’s IT infrastructure. To enable this, he said the government is constantly partnering with private companies and international organisations to share threat reports.
Speaking on the topic, ‘RFP3.0: Differentiating procurement approaches in the governments for statewide large technology projects’, Sanjay Gaden, Head, State e-Governance Mission Team (SeMT), Gujarat, stated that government organisations face lots of challenges while procuring products and when the products or solutions are procured. The department has to ensure optimal usage and accountability.
According to him, this challenge could be addressed if a proper and modern procurement best practices are incorporated in the system while procuring products or services. Giving the example of the Gujarat government’s RFP3.0, which is the advance version of rate contract or earlier version of procurement software, he said , “RFP3.0 has fully automated the procurement process in the state, leading to improvement of efficiency and de-duplication of the work. The state government is using the RFP3.0 to place order from small to large projects in the state inducing state Wi-Fi and other key e-governance related projects.”
In his session titled, ‘Use of Emerging Technology in CPC TDS 2.0’, Sandeep Bandhu, Commissioner, Income Tax, Nagpur, explained the existing CPC TDS system and provided a holistic view on how the income tax department is mulling to take big steps in imbibing emerging technologies like AI, machine learning, and blockchain, among others. He said, “Every year, the number of tax payers is increasing significantly. About 100 crore rows of tax details and roughly one crore of CPC TSD are processed every year. Since the beginning of CPC TDS, the compliance has also increased. But now, we are moving to the new version of CPC TDS, because as the technology progress, there is also redundancy in technology, so we need to opt for new technologies that can offer us more visibility and allow us to learn more. The new version of CPC TDS 2.0 will give an enhanced experience to tax payers and our commitment of non-adversarial and non-intrusive service oriented tax administration.”
The e-Pragati initiative of the Andhra Pradesh government has set a benchmark e-governance in the country. Sharing the vision, strategy and achievements of e-Pragati, N Bala Subramanyam, CEO, e-Pragati Authority, shared a story about an old woman from Anantpur who had to walked 76 kilometres to the district magistrate office to prove that she was alive to get her old age pension. He said it was completely inhuman. Hence, in 2016, Andhra Pradesh rolled out a digital platform which ensures that old age pension goes to the doorstep of the citizens. He said that Mori became the first AP village to get this facility.
He informed that the government has delivered `4.3 million pension across the state at the doorstep of citizens. Bala Subramanyam also shared that until 2016, it is used to take 79 days to get the vehicle registered and the person had to visit RTO office with numerous documents, but that has been changed with the help of technology. Now they can do eKYC with Aadhaar. Sharing about the
e-Pragati platform, he said, “e-Pragati has been setup to take many of government services online and provide integrated services to citizens. This digital initiative is helping connect the citizens to 34 departments, 336 autonomous organisations and over 745 services.”
Elaborating on how technology is transforming governance in Telangana, P Srinivas, Joint Secretary (eGov), ITE & C Department, Telangana, said the department is working with all heads of the departments to ensure that government services are delivered on time and smoothly. He said different platforms and applications have been built to enable this. Giving an example of the police department, he said that there are many technology driven projects like CCTNS, e-Challan, Hawk Eye, Cop Connect, Veryfast and integrated traffic management system, among others. Srinivas said that, similarly, other departments are implementing various technology projects. Giving an example of e-Seva, he said that this project has successfully delivered large number of government services to citizens and have eased the pain of citizens.
The vision of AP State Fibernet is to provide highly qualitative and affordable digital services to households, government offices and private agencies on demand. In a session titled, ‘AP State Fibernet’s triple play, the present and future’, A S Dinesh Kumar, Managing Director, AP State Fibernet, said this endeavour can truly transform Andhra Pradesh as ‘Digital AP’ in the direction of realising the dream of Digital India.
He said, “APSFL aims to promote digital inclusiveness by providing affordable, high-speed broadband connectivity to households, deepening the reach of internet in rural areas. The project throws immense possibilities for enhancing the quality of life of the people. The services from AP Fibergrid System can effectively be utilised in education, health, agriculture and allied sectors and also open up new vistas in e-governance and enable delivering citizen-centric services in an efficient and transparent way. So far, 6000 household have been reached and the government wants to reach 10 million households with this project.”
Transforming governments and the public sector
The panel discussion on ‘Technology for transforming government and public sector’, broadly covered the various opportunities offered by emerging technologies like cloud, artificial intelligence, mobility solutions for government organisations and how states are leveraging them. In his opening remarks, Srikanth RP, Group Editor, Express Computer and CRN India, asked the panellist how they are using technologies like AI to improve governance.
Participating in the panel discussion, Sourabh Gupta, DDG, NIC, said that as far as AI is concerned, Uttar Pradesh has developed a complete configurable dashboard for monitoring various schemes of the government. As many as 238 services have been directly integrated in the system and this is helping in improving monitoring.
Sharing his views, Pankaj Dikshit, Senior Vice President (IT), GSTN, said that 37 states and union territories and the central government had different methods of collecting commercial taxes, so when GSTN was envisaged, the challenge was that there was not business rule to follow. He said, “We created a 400-page RFP and put business rules in it as per the best of our ability. Since its beginning, GSTN was envisaged in such a way that it can scale as per the need. There was not too much attraction to big names of the world of storage, ERP. Our complete stack is open-source, barring a couple of tools. It has a scalable architecture which has really helped us.”
Golok Kumar Simli, Chief of Technology, Passport Seva, Ministry of External Affairs, said that MEA is now focusing on CX aspect of Passport Seva. He stated, “We have shown how government service delivery could be completely overhauled. We are looking at improving the user experience by implementing new technologies and processes and taking it to our global offices for the Indian diaspora across the globe.”
Agreeing with Simili, Vikrant Sethi, Country Leader, Presales – India, HPE, said that Passport Seva has completely brought the a ‘wow’ factor in government service delivery. Sethi said that technologies like AI will play a defining role in how government services are delivered to citizens in the future.
Tech talks by leaders
Another panel discussion titled, ‘Tech talk from leaders who have set the benchmarks for e-governance’, focused on the social facet of technologies and how it can be used for social benefits. Participating in the panel discussion, N Bala Subramanyam of e-Pragati Authority said that there are only about 600 staffs who are processing 30,000 applications everyday at RTA. Such a mismatch in manpower increases the workload, so the staff must be supported by technology.
Sharing his views, Sandeep Bandhu said that even for the Income Tax department, it is important to have the right technology and right data in place to serve the people. “There is no point of asking details from a tax payer, if it is already available with any government organisation. An architecture that enables this will improve efficiency and people’s experience with the government,” he stated.
Agreeing with Bandhu, Sarvesh Singhal, Special Secretary, Department of IT, Government of Jharkhand, said that government organisations need to understand the nitty-gritty of technologies before implementing them. “A large number of government projects is unable to fetch the anticipated outcome, because those are not properly planned. To make a technology project improve people experience, we must put efforts end-to-end,” he said.
While sharing his experience of technology adoption in Uttar Pradesh, Dr Rakesh Varma, Special Secretary, IT & Electronics, Government of Uttar Pradesh, said, “All types of technologies are available, but we need good collaboration between government organisations and private companies who are implementing the project on the ground. Many a times, it was found that people assigned for government projects were not upto the mark, leading to either delay or non-performance of the project.”
Speaking on building smart IT infrastructure, Joel Sequeira, Technology Specialist, SUSE India, highlighted the top technology trends for 2019. He said that every organisation is looking at what these technology trends can do for their businesses.
He emphasised, “Whatever technology you may choose; if you carefully analyse, most of them are open source-based. This shows that big technology innovation is coming from the open source community. With millions of open source innovations going on, the question is what you are going to choose and why you are going to choose. You have to ask how and where do you start. What do you leverage from the open source community for your organisation to achieve its business outcome. Businesses must also ask if these are enterprise grade, and what would be the five-year roadmap for that open source technology.”
GJoel pointed out that SUSE is known for its enterprise-grade software based on open source.
He informed that now SUSE has completely transformed itself beyond operating system. “We try to build infrastructure that is software defined. We make sure that it is consistent with existing IT environment as the world of IT is going to be hybrid,” he said.
Highlighting the various achievements of Avaya over the years, Naga Subramanian, Sales Engineer, Avaya India, in his session on ‘Transforming Government for the Digital Age, informed that the company is the market leader in unified communications (UC) and contact centre (CC) management space. He said that Avaya is working with large number of government organisations across the country in their journey of digital transformation. According to Subramanian, state governments such as Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, among others are using Avaya technologies for distress and emergency calls management. He said that with the evolution of emerging technologies like AI and machine learning, the company has embedded these futuristic technologies in all products to offer next-gen services to customers.
In a session on ‘Intelligent Storage’, Vikrant Sethi, Country Leader, Presales – India, HPE, focused on the importance of Intelligent Storage and new experience for data centres. He said that huge of amount of data is being created by different sources and with the proliferation of IoT devices, this will be further increased significantly. According to him, there is need for processing, storing and making sense of this data in a meaningful way. He said that data could only become a vehicle of digital transformation if insight could be drawn and action could be taken on the basis of it. He informed that HPE offers cutting-edge storage and data centre solutions that can provide government organisations an intelligent edge to understand, evaluate and make sense of the data. He informed that HPE solutions and platforms are AI-ready and government organisations can used it as BI-as-a-service.
Ashok Srinivasan, Director, Technical, India and SAARC, Commscope, in his session titled, ‘Smart Connectivity – Meeting the Needs of Today and Tomorrow’, said that there has been immense focus on AI, machine learning and other technologies and applications, but they all need connectivity to function. He said, that is what Commscope focuses on. He informed that Commscope is focusing on four market areas including data centre networks, commercial building networks, wireless networks, and wireline networks. He said in all these areas, the company has been a pioneer and now it is doing exemplary work in the area of 5G. During his presentation, he explained the benefits of two solutions including powered fibre cable system and automated infrastructure management. He said that these solutions are industry-ready and packed with intelligent technologies that both government and enterprises can useto catalyse their digital journey.