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Tech Sabha 2022 – Day 2: Focus on innovation & collaboration to improve eGovernance

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After an enthralling Day One of Technology Sabha that witnessed the likes of Babul Supriyo, Minister for IT, Electronics and Tourism, Government of West Bengal; Dr RS Sharma, CEO, National Health Authority, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Government of India; and many more dignitaries, the Day 2 of ‘Sabha’ opened on a high note.

As the first speaker of the day, Binod Kumar, Municipal Commissioner, Kolkata Municipal Corporation took to the stage and emphasised the core agenda of the corporation. He said, “Our endeavour is to eliminate the physical interface as much as possible so people can avail most government services from the comfort of their home through online modes.” Further addressing how technological advances are bolstering e-governance in Kolkata, he highlighted that the city has its own data centre. Online payment gateways and other civic services have been integrated with the centre for better and more efficient service delivery. The corporation has set up facilitation centres to help people from sub-urban areas or outskirts who face challenges in availing of e-services. 

During the pandemic, when people crowded government healthcare centres and hospitals, the KMC started leveraging the WhatsApp chatbot to schedule vaccination appointments for the people.

One of the major functions of a municipal body is to sanction building plans and associated processes. “We provide a common application form that is sent to all the respective authorities for approvals and within 35 to 38 days the entire sanction work gets completed,”  he added.

The corporation has also launched a mobile application through which people can avail of various civic services. Also, in case required, people can book a water tanker online to fulfil their additional requirements.

Taking over the dais, Arvind Kumar, Director General, Software Technology Parks of India (STPI), Ministry of Electronics and IT, Government of India highlighted that “the first two things required for innovation are collaboration and integration.” 

Speaking about STPI he said that it has 25 state-of-the-art startup centres across the country that are industry-specific. These centres provide an apt platform for young innovators and entrepreneurs for experimentation and innovation. Startup India has brought a big change in India which is evident in how the technology has reached tier 2 and tier 3 cities as well. “We’re tapping startups from tier 2 and tier 3 cities and providing them funds to boost innovation and development in their cities,” he added.

Emphasising the need to create and develop a startup ecosystem and handhold these innovation-driven solution providers, Kumar called out to state governments saying, “Governments should be supportive of young innovators. These might not have strong revenue models but have innovative solutions to address critical issues.”

Gurinder Singh, Manager, Sales Engineering- India & SAARC, Netskope addressed the forum on the significance of cybersecurity solutions and the adoption of a zero trust framework. He said, “When an organisation opens doors to cloud the threat vectors certainly rise and to address these issues what we need is a zero-trust framework.”

He sighted the pros and cons of perimeter security solutions, firewalls, and more. Cloud-to-cloud transactions are not secured by perimeter security solutions. Therefore, to prevent the risk of data breaches and fortify applications zero-trust frameworks have come into existence, he added.

Shedding light on what a ‘zero trust framework’ is and how it poses an effective cyber security solution, Singh mentioned, “Zero trust framework is basically where an organisation adopts multiple security controls to enhance resilience and improve risk mitigation. Moving from a traditional VPN solution to a more modern and secure VPN solution is another facet of adopting a zero-trust framework.”

He highlighted that adopting high-end and expensive cybersecurity solutions does not guarantee prevention from cyber attacks or data breaches. Therefore, adopting layers of security solutions and getting the basics right is the key.

Dr. Antriksh Johri, Director (IT & Project) and Chief Information Security Officer (CISO), Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) opened his address by saying, “We have developed many IT systems to cater to a large number of applications for our students, teachers, institutions, and other stakeholders. Moreover, we have a state-of-the-art online system SARAS that we use for the online affiliation process. The system enables us to have a virtual inspection of the institutions.”

Sharing insights on what aspects should be taken care of while developing technological solutions, Dr. Johri said that one should develop agile systems to keep them flexible for re-engineering based on future requirements. With the help of GIS-based applications, we are able to assess the location and nearby areas of schools as a part of the virtual inspection.

Amit Agarwal, Head – Sales & Business Development, Yotta Infrastructure, elaborated on how the digital gap in the country is closing in and how the rapid digitalisation is reshaping the future of India. Sharing facts on this he said, “IT spending in India is estimated to reach $114.9 billion in 2022 which is a 7.7% growth over 2021. Meanwhile, India’s e-commerce market is estimated to grow to $188 billion by 2025.” 

“It is no longer bridging the digital gap. We have already done that. Now we’re trying to ‘velocitize’ digit India and the digital world,” he added.

Addressing the rising demand for the adoption of cloud solutions, Agarwal mentioned that smart cities are major contributors to the growing cloud market in India and it is expected to generate the most demands for cloud solutions in the times to come.

Speaking on Yotta’s upcoming centres, he mentioned, “We have started operations in Navi Mumbai. We are about to begin operations in Delhi and we will be launching our data centre in Kolkata soon.”

The first panel discussion of the day was themed ‘Innovation and Emerging Technologies in Government – Keys to Success’. Angiah Santhanasamy, Director & Head Public Sector Business Development, Oracle, moderated the discussion. He delivered a brief introductory address to set the tone for the discussion and welcomed the speakers in the panel.

Dr Saibal Sarkar, Deputy Director General & State Informatics Officer, National Informatics Centre, West Bengal, said, “At the State Informatics Centre in Kolkata we are working in tandem with the city police to effectively implement technology solutions and enable the police for smart traffic management.”

Commenting on how the upgrades in technology have been helpful in effective risk management, Lily Prasad, Chief Technology Officer, Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) said, “We are leveraging AI-based technology solutions and automation to develop automated risk management systems that can generate alerts automatically based on the risk identified.” Predictive analysis has helped in making improved and data-driven decisions. 

Addressing how IT solutions have transformed present-day education across the state of Kerala, Anwar Sadath, CEO, Kerala Infrastructure & Technology for Education (KITE), Government of Kerala said, “We took the curriculum and pedagogy as the core element and developed technology solutions around it. We are using open-source software to build our applications.”

While speaking on monitoring and quality management of technology solutions being leveraged to improve e-governance, Uma Chauhan, Scientist G, e-Governance Group, Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology, Government of India said that the Ministry has developed audit criteria for SaaS services and the same will be rolled out soon.

P Prakash, Inspector General of Police (IGP), South Zone & Nodal Officer, Cyberdome, Kerala, highlighted that many government bodies tend to adopt technology solutions by choice without actually recognising the need for it. He emphasised that the technology solutions, though an enabler, can also syphon out funds without actually benefiting if not implemented based on the needs of the organisation.

On the other hand, Dr. Uma Shankar S, Excise Commissioner & MD West Bengal State Beverage Corporation Ltd. stated, “We are leveraging geo-tagging wherein we calculate and track every unit produced. For this, we are leveraging an NIC-developed system. This has been helpful to ensure the authenticity of the products and allows us to sell genuine products.”

Santosh Y Kulkarni, Country Manager, Smart Solutions, Vertiv India, commenced his address by saying “We believe in ensuring infrastructure scalability while minimising the CAPEX.” 

Further, he elaborated on the solutions that Vertiv offers. He said, “We offer UPS systems for all types of customers from those who have one rack server to large-scale customers as well. The products we offer are modular and allow the customers to upgrade technologies with time without going for a complete infrastructural upgrade. One of our crucial innovations is that we have developed a data centre for enterprises in just a rack. Our system utilises 30 percent less power making it more sustainable than most solutions in the market.”

The conference next witnessed a fireside chat with Manoj Kumar Pattnaik, CEO, OCAC, Government of Odisha, and Debpriya Nandan, Senior Director & Head – Public Sector Business Development, Oracle India, moderated by Srikanth RP, Editor, Express Computer and CRN India. 

Manoj Kumar Pattnaik said, “Most of our government-to-citizen (G2C) and government-to-business (G2B) services were already available online and therefore, during Covid we were able to cope up easily. We developed a state dashboard that used data analytics to bring forth real-time statistics and predictive analysis. During the Covid times, predictive analysis came in handy for us to manage the scenario and take effective decisions to control the pandemic.”

Adding to technology developments in Odisha, Pattnaik highlighted that ‘OdishaOne’ is one such project under which the state government has made around 400 services online. Such initiative adds to the state’s laurels and makes the government proud. “We are looking forward to inducting blockchain more in our applications to ensure better collection and management of data,” he pointed out.

While keeping the perspective of Oracle India on Odisha, Debpriya Nandan said, “Oracle has been privileged to work with Odisha for a number of leading e-governance initiatives. The state is a leader in leveraging technology to improve the quality of services and accessibility to social welfare schemes.”

OdishaOne and Mo Seva Kendras are excellent examples of how technology can make a huge difference in making citizen services available in a transparent and time-bound manner, he added.

Taking over the stage was the next speaker. Govind Singh Chauhan, Executive Director – Business Development, ABM Knowledgeware Ltd. Citing the example of ABM Knowledgeware and laying emphasis on how emerging technologies, especially automation is transforming the way organisations used to function, He said, “We use Robotic Process Automation (RPA) tools to manage a high volume of repetitive tasks. The RPA saves human effort, improves efficiency, and cuts down the possibilities of human error.”

Speaking on the company’s offerings, he mentioned that ABM Knowledgeware offers IoT-based solutions like ‘Gandhved’ , a solution that automatically detects odour. This solution is built for keeping public toilets clean.

“We are heavily focused on improving urban services and we have tied up with multiple municipal bodies and smart cities to contribute to resolving the issue,” he added.

The next on the dais, sharing his perspective on the present-day scenario of the education sector was Sanjeev Banzal, Director General, Education & Research Network (ERNET), Ministry of Electronics and IT, Government of India. He said, “Digital education platforms can be leveraged to plug the gaps to address the issues like lack of teachers or compromised quality of education in rural areas and remote corners of the country.” The digital divide in the education sector needs to be bridged to improve students’ performance, develop a competitive edge, make learning more convenient, and enhance students’ learning experience.

“We have connected over 300 colleges with Eduroam which is a secure worldwide roaming access service. We have multiple training centres wherein we provide skill training in emerging technologies. Also, we are providing WiFi and LAN-based services in colleges and university campuses to improve accessibility to the internet,” he added.

Rakesh Maheshwari, Senior Director, Ministry of Electronics and IT, Government of India took over the podium and elaborated on the IT policies in the country. He shed light on the SPDI Rule, 2011 which contains a privacy policy that addresses – the type of personal or sensitive personal data, retention period, details of disclosure to the third party, and precautions taken by organisations to protect data.

He said, “With DP Bill, 2021,  the scope of personal data and its protection requirements significantly expanded. As per the DP Bill, 2021, the government organisations will become data fiduciaries and data processors and will have to fulfil the obligation as defined for them.” 

Sharing a piece of advice he said, “Those government organisations looking to promote their accounts must use separate machines for liking the posts from their official accounts otherwise the account could get blocked.”

The next speaker Dr. Prashant Narnaware, Commissioner, Social Welfare, Government of Maharashtra brought into frame how technology solutions posed an enabler for the government bodies to effectively function even during the lockdown. Citing an example he said, “During the Covid time, we developed an online pendency disposal system through which we were able to dispose of over 40 lakh letters resolving people’s grievances in a timely manner. Covid pandemic proved to be a learning experience and we could explore various applications of technology during this period.”

Addressing the developments in the state, he mentioned that the Government of Maharashtra came up with the first-ever housing scheme for transgenders. Moreover, the government is working to develop a transgender portal to cater to the people, their grievances, and issues effectively and timely. 

Highlighting another area where technology solution is aiding the citizens in Maharashtra, he said that the state government has implemented APIs and linked it with the state portal and tehsildar office to ensure a seamless and convenient process for the people who want to get caste certificates.

Bringing cybersecurity in the spotlight and sharing solutions from Utimaco, Manish Gupta, Country Manager, India, Utimaco said, “We are the leading and the largest OEM for hardware security modules. We provide encryption based high-security solutions and compliance.”

While giving a presentation, he said that Utimaco is providing solutions to smart cities, government bodies for projects like smart grids, financial institutions, and more.

Sharing his perspectives on data security and ensuring data integrity he mentioned that key factors like PKI/ certifying authority, time & stamp, and e-sign services ensure data integrity. Whereas, factors like encryption & decryption, tokenization, authentication & authorization ensure data security.

KD Vizo, Principal Secretary – IT, Power & Chief Minister’s Office (CMO), Nagaland focused his address on e-governance initiatives and developments in Nagaland. He said, “Today, the terms e-governance and good governance go hand in hand. Nagaland has taken a number of initiatives to make governance transparent and accessible.”

Adding on to the developments in the state of Nagaland, he said, “All our departments have dedicated websites and the data is stored on the state data centre. Nagaland has tremendous investment opportunities in various sectors including the IT sector which needs to be explored. We do want to make Nagaland the next IT Destination of the country.” 

Emphasising on good governance, he said, “The government, private players, and the society, are the three key components of Good Governance Mechanism.”

“Aadhar is the key that empowers the delivery of government services as this digital identity of the people is linked with the government,” highlighting this, Sumnesh Joshi, DDG, Joint Secretary, UIDAI, Government of India took over the dais and shared his vantage points on how Jan Dhan, Aadhar, and Mobile (JAM) trinity has given a makeover to the e-governance in India. 

JAM Trinity has transformed the transactions between the government and the citizens. And, as far as the integrity or authenticity is concerned, Aadhar is the only identity that one can verify offline. The Aadhar not only establishes identity through the citizen’s personal data but also through fingerprints, retina scan, and facial recognition.

He said, “Government services should be focused to innovate, to solve the issues of the people at the grassroots level. The aim of creating registries and digital identity is to ensure that there is no need for the people to reach out to government offices to avail services.”

Parul Gaur Mittal, Special Secretary, State Council for IT & e-Governance, Department of IT and Communication, Arunachal Pradesh opened her address sharing challenges that hilly states like Arunachal Pradesh faces. She said, “Arunachal Pradesh faces a lot of connectivity issues. Topography is one of the major reasons for the lack of proper infrastructure.”

Sharing a success story of strengthening connectivity in the state, she said, “Our team airlifted the VSAT equipment to Vijoy Nagar to set up a connection in the area. This was a success story as Vijoy Nagar is surrounded by Myanmar from three sides and also does not have motorable roads.”

As far as technology adoption is considered, the Government of Arunachal Pradesh has implemented e-office in most of its offices across the state. Also, the state secretariat is operating in a paperless manner. e-Cabinet is another successful e-governance initiative taken by the Arunachal Pradesh government. Moreover, for the convenience of tourists and visitors, we have made the process of availing the inner line permit for non-residents completely online, she added.

The second panel discussion of the day was themed on ‘Strengthening the Organisational Cyber Security Posture’. Vijay Devnath, General Manager (GM) and Chief Information Security Officer (CISO), Centre for Railways Information System (CRIS), Ministry of Railways, Government of India, moderated the panel discussion. He delivered a brief introductory address to set the tone for the discussion and welcomed the panellists.

The first speaker in the panel, Sukla Mukhopadhyay, GM Information Security, Security & Governance, CISO, Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Ltd. highlighted “We need to spread more awareness among OT administrators on cybersecurity. Further, we need to secure our IT infrastructure with apt solutions as well.”

Anil Sagar, Director (Scientist F), CERT-In, Ministry of Electronics and IT, Government of India said “Organisations need to keep a track of their networks and systems so they can trace cyber attacks and deploy solutions accordingly. One needs to be aware of the vulnerabilities. So we need to have visibility to be prepared with mitigation measures.”

Sharing her perspective on the need for organisations to bolster their cybersecurity framework, Shital Jiwane, CISO, Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd. said, “Whenever we face any IT or OT security issue we run risk assessments as the first response.” 

Also, she highlighted challenges faced by large organisations saying, “We present over 250 locations across India. So it becomes difficult to track and monitor systems and networks to ensure cybersecurity.”

Piyush Somani, Founder, Chairman & Managing Director (CMD) and CEO, ESDS Software Solution Ltd. sharing his views on the subject said, “One doesn’t need big expensive solutions to secure networks and systems. Small and cheap solutions like OTP, SMS verification, CVV, etc. are effective solutions to enhance cybersecurity. A layered security model should be the preferred choice.” Citing an example, he said that RBI leverages multifactor authentication, a layered security model, to make the transactions further secure.

Throwing light on the behaviour of cyber attackers, he mentioned, “Cyber attackers don’t just attack once, they enter your network and they stay there to get a chance to penetrate through other systems in your network. They launch an attack once they are connected with multiple systems. This enlarges the impact of the attack.”

Technology Sabha also gave awards to various organisations for the remarkable work  they did or had been doing to strengthen e-Governance across sectors. The winners were chosen by the editorial team at Express Computer, The Indian Express Group. 

Here is the list: 

  • Nagaland Information Commission, Government of Nagaland under the Enterprise Applications Category. 
  • Kerala Infrastructure and Technology for Education, Government of Kerala under the Enterprise Applications Category
  • Government of Arunachal Pradesh under the Enterprise Applications Category
  • P. State Electronics Development Corporation under the Internet of Things Category
  • Police Department, Ananthapuram District, Government of Andhra Pradesh under 
  • Artificial intelligence Category
  • Kerala Police Cyberdome under Artificial intelligence Category
  • Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai under Unified Communication Category
  • Electronics and IT Department, Government of Odisha under eGovernance Analytics Champion Category
  • Software Technology Parks of India under Startup Champion Category
  • Chhattisgarh Infotech Promotion Society under Enterprise Applications Category
  • Bihar State Power Holding Company  under Internet of Things Category, 
  • Chhattisgarh Infotech Promotion Society under Enterprise Applications Category
  • Bihar State Power Holding Company  under Internet of Things Category. 

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