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Pushing tech aggressively in hills: Prince Dhawan, DC, Itanagar

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Arunachal Pradesh is known for its scenic beauty, but reaching there and staying connected is a challenge, however thanks to technology intervention, the state has significantly addressed this issue. Prince Dhawan, Special Secretary (IT) and Deputy Commissioner, Itanagar speaks with EC’s Mohd Ujaley about the huge potential in the state and the government’s efforts to attract private investments.

What kind of technology-related work is the Deputy Commissioner Office, Itanagar doing?

The DC office is very important in the district. It gets huge number of public footfall and affects the daily life of the people. So, our aim is to use technology to make life easier for people by making government service delivery easier. To achieve this, first, we have rolled-out an e-office and we have become the first DC office among the North East states to go completely paperless. For this initiative, we were also given the national e-governance award. Second, with the help of the IT department, we have digitised the Inner Line Permit (ILP), which is a mandatory document to obtain to enter into Arunachal Pradesh. Earlier, people use to visit the designated centres across the country to get the ILP but now they can apply online, make the fee payment and get the document as per their convenience.

Apart from this, we are aggressively promoting digital payments. So, a lot of our transactions are now being done online – through debit, credit cards or Aadhaar enabled payment system. For example, in the context of Itanagar, we have started taking payments online for issuing trade licence, birth and death certificates.

Also, Itanagar offers chopper services. So, recently the DC office has helped the Civil Aviation Department to accept digital payments for chopper ticket booking. Even in the market area, we are promoting digital payments by creating Wi-Fi zones and distributing Aadhaar enabled payment machines.

Another very important project that we are doing in the district is pushing technology in the area of sanitation. In solid waste management, we have taken two key initiatives – all our garbage vehicle and their fuel efficiency are now tracked by GPS. This is helping us to ensure that vehicles reach the right places and there is no pilferage of fuel. The route and time of the vehicles are fixed and we are doing very strict monitoring of this. For garbage collection, we have now implemented geo-fence attendance system for labourers, where each is given a small pocket device that contains the details of where the labourer is supposed to do the duty and at what time. When the labourer goes to that area, the attendance is marked on the system. So, it is a completely automated system with no manual intervention. This has been rolled out in 10 wards out of the 30 wards of the municipality and in the coming months, it will be rolled out across all wards.

After sales service is a challenge because most of the companies that do projects here, do not have a local office. How is the government looking to address this issue?

It is very true because Arunachal Pradesh is in the remote corner of the country. Although connectivity is improving, still it is a difficult area. So, a lot of firms do back out and the contract clauses are not enforced. But recently, we have come up with a new mechanism to enforce this – for instance, every participating firm, if given the work, will have to open an office in Itanagar. We are also keeping some portion of their payments due with us as a security till the time of completion of the full phase of maintenance. In addition, we have the Entrepreneurship Act in the state, which promotes local entrepreneurs. So, in case we have people based in the state or nearby places like Guwahati, we encourage them and it becomes easier for us to liaison with their firms for regular maintenances.

Does the government provide incentives to a company who set up an office in Arunachal Pradesh ?

The government is forward-looking in terms of attracting investment, especially private investment. Recently, we have opened avenues to offer land on lease to private companies. The government is also mulling further incentives to offer to companies to invest in the states. Any company which comes here they will get lot of work. So, there is a huge potential in the state.

What are your upcoming technology-driven projects?

In the future we are working on three-four very important technology-driven projects. One among them will be digitisation of the certificates beyond the one which has already been done. We have picked about 21 services, we will digitise them fully. Those will be integrated with DigiLocker. Around six services we have already digitised and another 21 services will be going live this year. In addition, we are going to roll-out these services through the Common Service Centres, CSCs are currently mainly focusing on the B2C services but we will bring huge focus on the G2G services.

The other project we will be working on is the GIS mapping of the entire capital. Because it will help in perspective planning whenever we get the funds for the development. It helps us in resource allocations as to which roads need development, which area needs lights, which area water drainage system needs to be improved. This GIS mapping that we are working on will be launched on a portal where all the details would be available and imagery regularly updated.

The third IT-based project we are working is mapping of every household and establishment using GPS based technology. This will help us in the collection of property tax and civic charges. Using this platform, we will be able to generate invoices and recover the charges more effectively.

Also, the e-office that we have rolled out, we will be extending it to other departments within the district so that inter-department communication becomes paperless. This will eliminate loss of documents and missing files. As you know the capital has also been selected as one of the smart cities, so as part of that we are working on the integrated command and control system as well as an intelligent transport system.

What are the major handicaps you face in completing these projects?

The key challenge that we face is change management. Whenever we roll out a new project, we need to train our existing staff. We need to get a lot of IT-based hardware. So the resource allocation has to be done accordingly. Initially, it may be a jump, but over a period of time it will actually turn out to be a saving, but requires some initial investment.

Another, major challenge that we have already discussed is the technology partners, they need to bring state-of-the-art technology and we need to have the people who are committed and passionate about these initiatives. Of course, there is a commercial angle to it but there has to be some commitment also to see the system go live and benefit the people.

The third challenge is hardware procurement. Nowadays, we are doing it with the Government e-Market Place (GeM) portal. It has been made mandatory in the state, especially in the capital, where internet connectivity is stable. Therein, we are facing some issue as you know GeM is all India portal. So, vendors who are participating from some other states are not able to meet the timeline at times leading to an inordinate delay.

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