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Odisha is becoming a digitally empowered knowledge economy: CJ Venugopal

1988 batch IAS officer, CJ Venugopal, who is posted as Additional Chief Secretary with the Odisha government opens up about improving governance via ICT in conversation with Express Computer. He says Odisha government is improving civil infrastructure in the KBK region, which is a tribal dominated region with the help of technology. Healthcare and education are two main focus areas of the government in the Koraput-Bolangir-Kalahandi (KBK) region. Edited excerpts:

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Technology has played a phenomenal role in improving governance across the country. Many States are using modern technologies to create digital infrastructure and improve governance. What has been your experience of using technologies in your department?

Technology has a huge impact on citizen service delivery mechanism. IT enabled solutions to improve service delivery, as an intervention, is a very effective tool and it can help in getting desired results. I am associated with different departments and the infrastructure is one of them where we used to have monitoring of the physical and financial work of the state government. Each asset was linked through Google Earth for monitoring and an asset register was also created. This is an example where technology was used to bring in higher transparency to create infrastructure for the citizens. It also ensured timely completion of the infrastructure projects. Hon’ble Chief Minister of Odisha Naveen Patnaik is also laying emphasis on ‘Vision 5T’, which is team work, technology, transparency, transformation and time limit.

Similarly, technology tools are being used in the healthcare, education, public works, local administration among others. Energy is one key sector, where technology is being extensively used to upgrade software and infrastructure. Technology has played a key role in social welfare schemes like mid-day meal to ensure transparency and better efficiency and it is having great impact on the people’s lives.

You also happen to be the Chief Administrator of the Koraput-Bolangir-Kalahandi (KBK) region. We have seen the districts lag development over the years because of several reasons and the government has been laying thrust to improve governance. Please help us understand about various initiatives that the Odisha government is taking to uplift the status of people living in the region via adoption of various technologies?

The government is having a special focus on the KBK region for overall infrastructure development. Lot of roads are being made under various programmes in the region and in some districts, we have already achieved the target of laying black tar roads and thrust has been given to construct roads in the remote village areas. This improved road connectivity is a great achievement for the government in order to bring the region to the mainstream. We also have a massive programme called ‘Biju Setu Yojana’, under which a lot of bridges are being built in the rural areas which has huge impact in improving connectivity. We are also making efforts to improve electricity infrastructure in the region to improve the availability and quality of supply of power. One must be aware that the KBK region in Odisha is predominantly a tribal region and the government wants to create healthcare and education infrastructure with utmost priority. The terrain is challenging and it is tough to develop the region but efforts are being taken to overcome the challenges.

The administration is giving thrust on agriculture, horticulture and ecotourism in the KBK region and we have got many success incidents where tourists are participating in such activities. We want to involve local people in the progress of the region. Technology has become an enabler in the KBK region which can be understood by the fact that the farmers can now apply for agriculture seeds and equipment dealerships.

Odisha has used various cutting edge emerging technologies like AI, ML, data analytics, blockchain for various welfare schemes as well as to put up a fight against Covid-19. What is your opinion on the use of emerging technologies for the overall betterment of the citizens?

Technology is changing very rapidly and we need to have tech and software tools which are adaptable and resilient and this is something we need to constantly apply in any governance applications. AL, ML and blockchain are emerging areas for which the state government has set up a Centre of Excellence for new and emerging technologies. We are trying to adopt these technologies for improving governance in the state. Blockchain has been successfully used in Public Distribution Scheme in Odisha. Similarly, Odisha’s entire revenue records have been digitised. People can do updation of records of rights, land registration online. With these initiatives we are moving towards a digitally empowered knowledge economy. Cybersecurity is also a matter of concern for the government and steps have been taken to strengthen the cybersecurity mechanism to protect data.

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