E-governance: Initiatives and Challenges

E-governance is an emerging trend to reinvent the way the government works. The basic perspective of  e-governance is the use of technologies that both help the governing and the governed. So, we can define e-governance as the use of a range of modern Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) such as the Internet, Local Area Networks, mobiles, etc. by the government to improve the effectiveness, efficiency, service delivery and to promote democracy. This new model of governance would be based on the transactions in virtual space, digital economy and dealing with knowledge-oriented societies. Achieving success in e-governance will require active partnerships between the government, citizens and the private sector. Generally, four basic models of e-governance would be implemented: government to customer (citizen); government to employees; government to government; and government to businesses.

On its journey to improve services for citizens, the government has already undertaken several successful e-governance initiatives. These include MCA21 to improve the speed and certainty in the delivery of the services of Ministry of Company Affairs, online submission of tax returns and Passport Seva Kendra (PSK). Also, to start all the planned 1100 e-governance services by 2014, the government is making huge investments – up to Rs 40,000 crores. These investments will cover the cost of all kinds of hardware and software that will be required for capacity building.

‘At your service’ or MEE SEVA is the Andhra Pradesh government’s window to its citizens. Nearly 6000 MEE SEVA counters are servicing over 50,000 requests each day and are equipped to handle 100,000 transactions per day. The government of Maharashtra pioneered the MAHAGOV Cloud. Implemented in the State Data Center, it is being used by departments for application hosting. Out of 42 Government departments, 25 are already on the cloud that hosts 70 different applications.

When official policies and legislation are uploaded on the Internet, it will become easier for the general public and the analysts around the country to evaluate and debate government decisions. This participation of the citizens in political and government discussions will ensure a contribution of their own ideas and sharing of their own knowledge and information. So, it is evident that e-governance will guarantee a certain level of transparency and freedom of information.  E- governance will also effectively reduce the bureaucratic red tapes as digital information will move instantly from one liable government sector to another without the need to wait for paper documents.

However, one of the apparent demerits of the e-governance system is that the e-governance websites will be prone to attack from hackers. Thus, huge efforts on part of the government agencies are necessary to ensure the safety of the citizen’s personal data which may range from name, surname, home address to credit/debit card information and bank account numbers. Besides, to realize the dream of an effective e-governance system, all citizens or at least the vast majority would require accessing the Internet. In addition, the public sector agencies will need advanced servers and security systems to manage the vast amount of data and complex cyber threats. It is evident that all these requirements constitute a huge investment. Can India, with its not so developed economy, attain such heights of technology needed for a sophisticated e-governance system?

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