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‘ICT is not only for economic growth, but also for solving socio-economic issues’

More than 33 MoUs of about Rs 600 crores were signed during Advantage Assam – GIS Summit 2018. The state is taking steps at every front to enhance the spread of technology, says VS Bhaskar, Additional Chief Secretary, IT, S&T, Agriculture, Cooperation Dept, Government of Assam

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VS Bhaskar, Additional Chief Secretary, IT, S&T, Agriculture, Cooperation Dept, Government of Assam

What is the overall objective and vision for Digital Assam?
‘Digital Assam’ is an initiative of the Government of Assam, in the line of ‘Digital India’, with the objective to transform Assam into a digitally empowered society and knowledge hub. Under Digital Assam program, Information and Communication Technology sector is considered as a major contributor towards the economic growth of the state. The program not only envisages improvement of existing e-governance infrastructure and automation of the departments but also deployment of digital technologies for resolving many socio-economic issues affecting the states.

The availability of reliable and quality broadband connectivity till the last mile is a major constraint and thus we have taken up Assam Fibernet Project to connect all rural households. Making government services and information easily available through digital devices to the citizens via CSC, Web and mobile services. Digital literacy of the rural population is crucial to avail the services through various digital platforms as well as to enhance the digital payments.

The creation of jobs in IT/ITeS and electronics manufacturing as well as skilling the local youths on various digital technology, for better employability and promote the culture of entrepreneurship in the state.

Which are the key components of Assam’s IT policy?
Assam IT and Electronics Policy, 2017 is effective from January 1, 2018 to December 31, 2022. Some of the components of the policy are:

  • E-governance across all the departments
  • Augmenting and creation of new ICT infrastructures for delivery of services including broadband connectivity
  • Digital empowerment including financial literacy to around 20 lakhs rural households by the year 2022
  • Attractive fiscal and non fiscal benefits for IT/ITeS and ESDM industries to set up their units in the state
  • Capital Subsidy (maximum of Rs 30 crores), rebate on the cost of land (max Rs 5 crores), power subsidy (max Rs 20 lakhs), stamp duty concession, lease/SGST reimbursement, patent assistance
  • Special incentives for e-waste, AVGC sector and differently abled persons.

Please enunciate about the initiatives undertaken under the Digital Assam program.
BharatNet project: About 1520 Gram Panchayats (GPs) are connected by BharatNet with 100 Mbps bandwidth. Government of Assam is preparing DPR for providing broadband, TV, voice services to each household in the
rural areas under Assam FiberNet Project.

Digital payments: Digital payments are adopted by all major departments and other private sectors players in the state. Various utility bill payments like electricity, petrol, gas, fair price shops, CSC, PFC, etc., have adopted various digital payments methods like PoS, BHIM, various eWallets, etc. Assam Power Distribution Company (APDCL) is brought under Bharat Bill Payment System (BBPS) for ease of payments by the consumers. Guidelines and Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) are prepared and sent to every department for promotion and adoption of various digital payments methods.

E-office: It is implemented at the Assam secretariat covering all 58 departments for tracking online movement of files/orders, etc.

Public WiFi: 500 GPs have been lit up under BharatNet project, and now CSC-SPV is implementing WiFi choupal in the villages. The Khetri gaon panchayat under Kamrup metro district is a fully WiFi enabled village.

State Data Centre (SDC): Assam has a Mini Data Centre being managed by AMTRON, (a state PSU) where all government websites, database, software are hosted. Data Centre Operator (DCO) for cloud enabled data centre has been selected and the work is in progress for implementation of the same in another six-seven months.

Network Operations Centre (NOC): ASWAN NOC is setup inside Assam secretariat campus and is operational with 188 PoPs across the district providing horizontal connectivity to DC, SDO, CO, BDO and other district level offices.

Disaster Recovery (DR) : For DR sites, a decision shall be taken once the SDC is completed. However, for all major projects like National Register of Citizens (NRC), CCTNS, etc., DR arrangements are being made by the individual departments.

State Wide Area Network (SWAN): About 188 ASWAN PoPs are operational across the districts. The major projects like e-District, NRC, taxes, etc., are leveraging the ASWAN networks.

Number of CSCs: More than 8603 CSCs are setup as of now, out of which about 3254 CSCs are fully active and providing various G2C, G2B services.

State Service Delivery Gateway (SSDG): This is active with 57 of eServices of various state departments. Recently, SSDG 2.0 project is initiated for upgrading the current platform to the next generation platform.

Update on Mission Mode Projects (MMPs): eDistrict and CCTNS MMP is being implemented and is now under operation and maintenance stage along with core ICT infrastructure like MDC, SSDG, ASWAN, CSC, etc.

Is Assam using the Government of India’s Meghraj cloud?
At this stage, the requirements are being met from Mini Data Centre (MDC), AMTRON wherein cloud infrastructure has been set up successfully and providing services to many departments. In due course of time, the state may use Meghraj Cloud of the NIC for DR and BCP services.

Initiatives in the area of GIS: The Government of Assam has notified Assam Remote Sensing Agency as nodal agency for all GIS related works of the state government. Assam Electronics Development Corporation Ltd (AEDCL) is one of the organisations which has got very good technical competence in GIS and they have been supporting all the major departments like forest, water resources, etc. Most of the departments today have got their digital maps of their assets across the states and it is now being used for decision-making.

Infrastructure built for cyber security: Assam Cyber Security Policy, 2018 is being drafted and CISO is appointed. Cyber Dome project has already been implemented by the Assam Police. Regular training of officials on cyber security is taken as priority by the IT department.

Security Operations Center (SOC): MDC at AMTRON has SOC for the management of various data traffic, etc.

Which government departments are the most active or have achieved the most in using information technology?
Adoption of IT in the government departments is very encouraging in the recent years. Departments like power, finance, land and revenue, transport, industries and commerce, panchayat and rural development, PDS, have achieved much in this field.

What is the strategy to partner with startups?
Assam Start-Up Policy, 2017 is notified for boosting startups in the state and gradually an IT ecosystem has been created in the state for encouraging the startups. IT Department has taken the initiative of setting up of a world class Incubation Hub at the Guwahati IT Park and foundation stone of the same has been laid on August 11, 2018 at Guwahati. The Industry Department is also planning to start its incubation hub at the heart of Guwahati city.

How was the response to the roadshow to attract investments in Assam in the IT and ITeS sector?
More than 33 MoUs of about 600 crores were signed during Advantage Assam – GIS Summit 2018. Many other investors who could not sign the MOUs during the Advantage Assam program now coming forward to invest in the state. Already two electronics manufacturing units have started their work in the IT Park, which we call as ‘Tech City’.

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