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Connecting Odisha with fiber grid

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Odisha has been successful in implementing e-governance initiatives like the integration of the paperless office system. Today, all the government offices and secretariat are paperless and the state plans to adopt the upgraded version of the paperless office system. Similar steps have been taken in the area of land records digitisation. From registration of land to updating to mutation, today everything is being done online. In an exclusive interview with EC’s Mohd Ujaley, CJ Venugopal, Principal Secretary, Electronics & Information Technology Department, Government of Odisha speaks about the focused efforts of connecting all panchayats with the fiber-grid, to enhance inclusiveness.

How has been your experience with technology projects in the government. What are the key, successful e-governance projects in the state?
I have worked in the multiple departments. In each of these departments, the requirements were different. As far as technology interventions are a concern, the things have completely changed over the years. Most government departments are using some technological tools for their day-to-day work. In fact, technology has become a force multiplier for the government organisations. The improvement that you notice in government to citizen interaction has been possible primarily due to technology.

Our state has been very successful in some of the initiatives, such as the integration of the paperless office system. Today, all the government offices and secretariats are paperless. We are now going to adopt the upgraded version of the paperless office system.

Similarly, our endeavour of e-registration for the government services has been very successful. All the land records details such as registration, updating and mutation are being done online. Also, we have a concept of e-municipality in which municipal services are being provided through online portals and mobile applications. On the administration level, we have HRMS (Human Resources Management System) for managing the employee engagement. These are a few programmes which have shown tremendous success.

States like Odisha, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh have significant tribal populations; in what way is your state using technology to address their unique challenges?
The government is very conscious of the development of tribal and backward areas in the state. Special emphasis is being given to these regions. For improving the transport connectivity, these areas are now being connected with districts with pakka roads. Once, we have this basic infrastructure in place, we will be able to roll-out the various services through. In addition, electricity and water supply are also being developed for these villages. This is leading to inclusiveness and increasing their participation in various social activities. Adding to that, once we have the fiber-grid connectivity in those areas, we will be able to provide services online. Currently, most of the online services are urban-centric.

At what level is the fiber penetration in the state?
As far fiber penetration is a concern, in the first phase, we have completed about half of the panchayats, which is around 3000 panchayats and the second half of the panchayats will be covered in the next couple of months. We are confident that by the end of this financial year, all the panchayats will be connected, including the tribal areas. Our next goal would be to take this connectivity from the panchayat to the village level. At the moment, we are in the process of preparing the Detailed Project Planning (DPR) for this activity.

What are your immediate plans for IT projects?
The foremost plan is to complete the fiber-grid across the state. We are of the view that this will enhance inclusiveness in the state. The second, we are focusing on establishing data centers in Odisha. This will be set up both by the government and private companies, under the public-private-partnership (PPP). This will enhance IT infrastructure in the state. Thereafter, we plan to set SOC (Security Operations Centers) and NOC (Network Operations Center) as they will be needed to maintain huge IT infrastructure that we are building.

With this, we will be giving more emphasis to cybersecurity. Already, we are working on the roadmap of cybersecurity in the state. We are trying to institutionalise cybersecurity. In addition, we are working with different government departments to increase the government to citizen services for people.

How soon will you able to complete the project such as fiber-grid and establishing of SOC and NOC in the state?
We are expecting that in the next one year, the fiber-grid and data center upgradation will be completed. Going forward we will be creating more data centers which will be demand driven. A state-level policy on this is being framed. In addition, we are looking at increasing the investment in the state, especially from BPOs, ITeS and ESDS sectors. In this regard, we have developed IT parks and proper incentives are being offered to companies.

What challenges do you face when it comes to technology intervention in the government?
One of the key challenges is that technology is changing very fast. It is creating a high-degree of obsolescence. How to cope-up with this obsolescence is a big challenge. On the skilling part, we do have skilling programmes at different levels but the technological change is so fast that we are unable to match. The new areas like IoT, Blockchain, AI, machine learning need different skills-sets. For example, in IoT, we are going to have different platforms, tools, and sensors from a different ecosystem on a single platform – we need experts who can manage this complexity. For these things to succeed, the government needs to create a robust architecture. The state of Odisha is working on enhancing the focus on skilling and upgrading our existing curriculum.


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