With Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s focus on the Digital India programme, there has been spurt of e-governance activities across various government departments. Ministry of Road Transport and Highways is using technology to improve its efficiency
One of the key government ministries is the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways. Over the year, this ministry has increased ambitious target of building roads and bridges. There has been renewed focus on development and upgrade of national highways in the country.
Projects like Bharat Mala, connecting places of religious significance, port connectivity, making the North East more accessible, building thousands of new railway bridges and underpasses, enhancing road safety, efficiency and comfort, building people-friendly initiatives, have all started on ground simultaneously.
To implement such projects, it’s imperative that technology is used to facilitate projects during preparation and also through its various stages of implementation including monitoring. In order to achieve this goal, National Highways & Infrastructure Development Corporation (NHIDCL), which is a corporation under the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, has taken various IT initiatives which are showing results on the ground.
Ministry of Road Transport and Highways procures and uses the services of consultancy firms and other domain experts in various fields related to highways and engineering, called ‘key personnel’. The key personnel are deployed both for project preparation and supervision. The ultimate objective is to have an unerring selection of consultants leading to better quality project reports and timely execution of project works, thereby saving large amounts of public money and time.
INFRACON has been created as a web-based national portal for consultants and consultancy firms working for the infrastructure sector. INFRACON allows consultancy firms and key personnel to upload their credentials online and in the manner and form which enables automatic evaluation of their technical proposals. The portal has the facility to host firms and personnel CVs and credentials online with linkage to Aadhaar and DigiLocker for data validation and purity.
The portal also facilitates public agencies to receive technical proposals through INFRACON. This has been done to significantly reduce the paper work being done during bid submission, and also to bring in transparency and accountability in the process.
Already a large number of consultants and consultancy firms has registered. Over 1,500 projects have been bidded out through this portal and these numbers are growing continuously. In fact, NHIDCL has completed evaluation of many projects through the portal itself and it expects that over a period of time this would become a comprehensive national database for individual consultants and firms.
This IT initiative, in future, has the potential to become a common platform for both, service providers and clients. It would also open a window for professionals engaged in the infrastructure domain to showcase their experiences.
The project caters to a wide array of organisations and individuals, namely state agencies bidding out consultancy projects, and consultancy firms and individual consultants applying for such projects. Meanwhile, concessionaires and contractors may also make use of the portal to identify suitable personnel for their projects.
During the construction of highways, the lack of a common marketplace led to the formation of a segregated network of buyers, while at the other end of the spectrum, the suppliers still remained aggregated. This disparity paved way to cartelisation and inflationary pressures on pricing of cement and steel. INAM-Pro provides a common platform wherein buyers are aggregated, and volatility in prices is controlled and maintained within an upper ceiling price.
INAM-Pro has been developed as a platform for infrastructure and materials providers. With this platform, the aim is to free the infrastructure sector from external impediments like materials shortages, cost escalations due to material prices – some things that have historically plagued the field of infrastructure development. This portal has been envisaged to match the supply and demand in the infrastructure materials industry, by providing a platform for companies to float their demands before it occurs, and for suppliers to adjust production and prices accordingly. It acts as a common marketplace for infrastructure material providers – cement companies, infrastructure providers, Ministry of Road Transport and Highways and other stakeholders.
It facilitates contractors or cement buyers engaged in executing the central, state and local bodies funded infrastructure including roads and highways, bridge construction projects to place cement orders online with the registered cement companies that have decided to offer cement at competitive rates in the vicinity of project execution locations. As the cement plants and demand locations are geo-tagged, buyers are able to choose brands offering highest value proposition from the cost or logistics viewpoint.
This is a completely voluntary marketplace, offering its own value proposition and providing free and user friendly access to all those who are willing to join either as buyer or as seller. In future, other products, technologies and services required in highways construction may also become available on the portal.
With the Government of India envisaging the development of world class roads and highways as a crucial area of focus, the need of the hour is to keep pace with the multiple ongoing initiatives and integrate this multiplicity into an efficient and accurate system of data recording which brings together all project related information onto a single platform.
ePACE (Projects Appraisal and Continuing Enhancements) is an online integrated management information system (MIS) designed to monitor and improve the progress of highway development works, at the click of a button. ePACE provides instantaneous access to static and dynamic information for all these projects for ensuring their effective and real-time tracking.
The information captured spans the entire lifecycle of these projects and acts as a decision support system for the top management by helping them identify the projects that are lagging behind and also helps them mitigate the factors responsible for such lags. In essence, ePACE captures information from multiple levels and stages of project execution, and then collates it on a desirable single platform, ready for use by the top management for effective project monitoring.
All these three projects are scalable, customisable and easily accessible to the large spectrum of stakeholders. These systems would ensure transparency and provide information on the public domain in a dynamic manner, thus aiding in monitoring and expediting the pace of the projects.