The biggest challenge for Rajasthan’s ICT department was to shed the stigma of ‘Bimaru State’ that has been attached to Rajasthan. Turning the odds of poor connectivity and providing digital services to the last mile, project RajNet – a multi-mode connectivity network, connecting Jaipur with all 9,894 Gram Panchayats and 183 municipal areas in Rajasthan – has changed the outlook of the state. Today, the state is poised to transform from Rajasthan to ‘DigiSthan’. Akhil Arora Principal Secretary, IT, Government of Rajasthan, shares interesting insights
What are the unique challenges for the state and what’s the potential of technology in solving them?
In my career span of 25 years, I have learned that if everyone works as a team and takes a challenge as an opportunity, change prevails. In our journey of transforming Rajasthan to ‘DigiSthan’, the vision of Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje was taken up on mission-mode by all the departments, field functionaries, public representatives, and most importantly, adoption of technology by people at large were the keys to success.
The biggest challenge was to shed over the stigma of ‘Bimaru State’ that has been attached to Rajasthan. One-third of our population resides in rural areas, and one of the biggest challenges we faced was creating IT infrastructure till the last mile. Spectrum available in villages is about tenth of the same in cities; this posed the biggest problem for us, but also the biggest opportunity. To solve the same, we launched RajNet – a multi-mode connectivity network, connecting Jaipur with all 9,894 Gram Panchayats and 183 municipal areas in Rajasthan. Today, IT infrastructure is expanded across all the districts, up to the the Gram Panchayat level through RajNet. We have also ensured that capacity of internet connectivity available in every Gram Panchayat is upto 1 Mbps. The state is also currently under the state-wide implementation of Wi-Fi. Now every nook and corner of Rajasthan will be Wi-Fi enabled.
Another challenge was the lack of digital literacy and familiarity in the state. Introducing e-governance initiatives at the city level would not bring the change we had in mind. To ensure the creation of a digitally viable state, we wanted our villages to become digital as well. We launched various programmes to undertake computerisation till the last mile offices to ensure electronic delivery of high volume resident-centric services at the district level. Rajasthan Knowledge Corporation was established to train the rural and urban population. Our agenda was to train the women of the family as we strongly believe that by teaching one woman, you teach the entire family. Skill training programmes, computer learning classes were started at the Gram Panchayat level to ensure digital literacy. Even in government departments, extensive capacity building and training of field level functionaries was conducted to ensure a smooth migration to electronic delivery of e-district services and phasing out manual delivery of services.
The people of Rajasthan were very eager and enthusiastic in accepting this digital transformation as they realised its potential to make their lives hassle-free; thus happier. They not only realised the importance of IT, but also implemented it to ease their daily lives. With ‘people first’ attitude, we have been able to embark upon a digital revolution; and with the continued efforts of our Chief Minister, government departments and residents, the dream of DigiSthan took a new flight.
What has been the impact of emerging technologies in key sectors like education, healthcare, infrastructure? Can you give us an overview of how IT is being used in Rajasthan?
Rajasthan has always strived for improving the life of the common man. Be it in increasing the happiness index of state’s residents or providing growth catalyst through digital revolution, we have overcome challenges and made it a possibility. Our team has worked hard to establish Rajasthan as the digital leader of the country. We have been successful in creating an integrated e-governance infrastructure, with an outreach till the last mile.
From running the biggest DBT scheme in the country that transferred more than Rs 19,000 crore directly in the bank accounts of over 5.70 crore members, to building 51,000 CSCs in the state that offer more than 400 government and non-government services; to establishing an online grievance redressal system that has solved 23 lakh cases till now or creating digitally advanced public distribution system that distributes products via Aadhaar based biometric verification of the beneficiary via PoS machines at more than 25,000 fair price shops. From improving safety and security of our state’s residents by starting six Abhay Control Command Centres to providing quality healthcare services to more than 21.7 lakh residents of the state, Rajasthan has proved to be the trendsetter in e-governance initiatives, ensuring the maximum ease to residents till the last mile in connecting with the government as well as getting benefits at their doorsteps.
We are the first state in the country to implement an integrated and unified e-governance framework, ensuring a world-class coherent environment of integrated platforms. Through this, we have maximised utilisation and minimised investment for the betterment of e-governance initiatives.
We run one of the biggest healthcare insurance schemes in the country. Bhamashah Swasthya BimaYojana has till now provided quality health-care services and insurance to 4.5 crore residents. By combining the strength of government hospitals with private hospitals, we have revolutionised healthcare in Rajasthan. For improving education is the state, my department has conceptualised Raj e-Gyan, which provides easy access to ubiquitous, updated and extensive repository of digital content to students. Through online e-learning content, we have been able to spread education in the most remote corner of Rajasthan.
How is technology being used by Rajasthan for boosting productivity and bringing efficiency?
We have not only adopted technology to ease delivery and execution of citizen-centric services, but also to achieve all-round growth of the state and its people. All of our IT initiatives are deployed to bring efficiency and boost productivity in the state. Bhamashah Yojana, the largest integrated DBT scheme run by any state in India, has revolutionised financial inclusion, benefit transfer and women empowerment in the state. The state has recorded more than 42 crore transactions, transferring more than Rs 19,000 crore directly in the bank accounts of over 1.5 crore families and 5.7 crore members.
With service delivery now becoming a priority for all the states, Rajasthan is already a ground-breaker, ensuring service delivery with more than 51,000 CSCs aka eMitra, extending the reach of government to practically every doorstep. We have penetrated eMitra centres in all 33 districts, 300 blocks and more than 1,000 Gram Panchayats. With our recent launch, eMitra+, we have ensured that technological advancements in e-governance offer unhindered service delivery for every citizen.
Rajasthan DigiKit is another such initiative that strives towards establishing high-end technological reforms that benefit the masses in easing day-to-day life. Rajasthan DigiKit comprises of Raj e-Vault, Single Sign On, Raj e-Sign and RajMail. All four services allow residents to have their personal digital space. Rajasthan has become the first state to offer e-mail addresses in Hindi to its citizens. This initiative will ensure maximum participation of people towards e-governance and also that maximum facilities are available in the vernacular language.
In addition to this, various other services such as CM Helpline, Electronic Public Distribution System, iStart startup platform, Abhay Command Centre, Rajasthan e-Gyan and many other are the best IT related policies and initiatives taken by any state for the betterment of its residents and the society as a whole.
By launching all these initiatives, Government of Rajasthan has ensured ‘Suraaj’ – a phenomenon of good governance that has taken a front seat in over four years of Rajasthan government. With the objective of ‘Minimum Government, Maximum Governance’, the state has witnessed a paradigm shift in governance, with IT being a key ingredient.
Could you share IT initiatives under implementation in the state?
Growth is never stagnant, and Rajasthan has always matched the steps with the exponential growth of technology. Our team has a think-tank cell apart from other specialised cells (such as quality, security and compliance cells), wherein we deliberate on new initiatives and projects to be launched. Currently, we are working on multiple schemes that will benefit all the sections of the society. We will soon be launching India’s biggest data centre – Bhamashah State Data Centre. The centre will be the only Tier 4 data centre in the country which will be completely owned, operated, managed and controlled by a government body. It will be uptime certified by third party and will not only provide services to departments in Government of Rajasthan, but also various other governments and third-party clients/vendors.
Aligning Rajasthan to the Smart Cities Mission initiated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, all the four smart cities in the state – Jaipur, Udaipur, Kota and Ajmer – have Abhay Command and Control Centres for taking care of internal security, disaster management and civic amenities management through IoT enabled technologies. Now Jaipur is also being converted into a 3D city. We are in the process of taking our GIS based implementation to the next level. This will make Jaipur the only city in India to have advanced technology LIDAR scanning, converted as a 3D module. End-to-end city surveillance with advanced technologies and detailed analysis of the team deployed, is currently underway. We have deployed multiple initiatives to not just ensure smart cities, but also smart villages, smart localities and a smart state altogether, expanding from rural, to districts, to cities. Soon, Rajasthan will become the fastest state to implement the smart cities mission not just in all its major cities, but also in rural areas.
Another splendid example is eMitra+ (Service Delivery ATM), the only model of electronic service delivery with zero manual intervention. With more than 8,000 eMitra devices live and deployed all across the state and another 5,000 to be deployed soon, the state is currently experiencing a revolution in service delivery. We have also created eMitra+ urban kiosks which will be placed in urban and semi-urban locations, ensuring service delivery as well as newly added features like PVC card enabled printing are available to the users in an automated fashion.
We are also developing our Big Data Analytics to be in-sync with the current technology. Already being the biggest big data cluster in the country (2 petabytes in size), it is now getting expanded to the next level with our additional initiatives. Similarly, SCADA and IoT based implementations are in the process to be launched. Affluent SCADA monitoring, environment SCADA monitoring, water SCADA and multiple such initiatives are in the pipeline. After ensuring video conferencing facilities across the state, we are now in the process of implementing state-of-the-art Telepresence across Rajasthan. This will up the ante in the field of video conferencing. Rajasthan will once again become the first state to deploy this facility.
With Abhay Command Centre already being the nerve centre for video surveillance, traffic control management, response management and many others, we are now building command centres for individual departments as well, for end-to-end monitoring of each sector. These command centres will be deployed in water, food and multiple other departments.
The vision of Rajasthan eGovernance and IT/ITeS Policy 2015 was to achieve Good Governance by harnessing ICT and evolving e-governance with improvement in the delivery of services. We have bridged the digital divide and created DigiSthan, by implementing multiple services and strengthening IT infrastructure across the state. Effective execution of these services is not possible without IT infrastructure penetrated till the last mile. With two-third of the total population of Rajasthan residing in rural areas, our government’s focus was to cover each and every area under the digital umbrella.
The Government of Rajasthan believes that technology is for all. We strongly adhere to the belief that IT has the power to change the way we work. Technology is the key to productivity, it is not a thing of future, but a present that we should all accept. Following the same, the state’s departments introduce and implement e-governance initiatives that are people-centric in nature. It has been mandated by the Chief Minister that all e-governance initiatives are to be first implemented in a manner that the people residing in far-flung areas are provided access, and not the ones nearer to the state HQ.
To ensure this, we launched RajNet, a multi-mode connectivity network, connecting Jaipur with all 9,894 Gram Panchayats and 183 municipal areas in Rajasthan. Today, IT infrastructure is expanded across all the districts, up to the Gram Panchayat level through RajNet. The state is also currently under the state-wide implementation of free Wi-Fi. Along with this, initiatives like Data Centre, Raj SewaDwaar and Single Sign On have ensured creation of a strong IT backbone. Raj Dharaa has ensured the making of Rajasthan as the first state to have its own integrated GIS platform – ensuring a highly futuristic Decision Support System for state. We have become the first state with a fully implemented Service Oriented Architecture and e-governance framework. This has been possible with our strong, robust and advanced IT infrastructure, which is penetrated even in the remotest corner of the state.
As the state provides opportunities to technology partners to showcase their strengths, and we deploy reusable components like Single Sign On, Raj eVault, Raj eSign, Single Interface, Raj eMail and common search; our costing is far below the usual cost for such projects.
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