Easing e-governance

Globally, the advent of information technology has improved the way how government functions and interacts with its citizens. At present in India, one of the most significant phenomena affecting local governance system and service delivery is the revolution in information and communication technology and introduction of e-governance at all levels

Digital India initiative is a golden opportunity for the existing cities and upcoming smart cities to leverage technology in the local governance system to improve the quality of civic service being rendered to the citizens. The initiative that is intended to ‘digitise India’ by introducing several online services, improving internet connectivity, and capacity building of government officials and citizens has to address the governance issues and impediments local bodies are facing in operation and management of urban agglomerations.

The initiative has to play a crucial role in facilitating e-governance by improving the quality of internet services, reinforcing knowledge-based enterprises, encouraging coordination among users, adopting procedures based on international standards, and promoting the internet and introducing its education for masses. It has to have a system through which it can identify the appropriate forms of ICT necessary for better service delivery, to conduct training for generating IT awareness among government officials and to help state governments in implementing policies and reforms based on best e-governance practices world-wide. These are some basic requirements of the cities and towns in India if they look at the Digital India initiative.

Digital governance helps in accomplishing transparency, speedy disposal of grievances and accountability in governance at all levels.  It is the right time when mobile broadband subscriptions are expected to grow up to 5 billion globally by 2016. In 2011, global Smartphone shipments exceeded personal computer shipments for the first time in history. And, India is among the top countries if we talk about the number of mobile users. It gives an edge to the programs initiated by the central government but there is a need to bring down the cost of internet service charge on mobiles to make it affordable for one and all. It is expected that in a welfare state like India, the government can come out with subsidised plans for the needy however; there is still a debate over free internet.

While launching the digital strategy in the United States of America, President Barack Obama said that the Speed of digital information is such that when a 5.9 earthquake hit near Richmond, Virginia on August 23, 2011, residents in New York City read about the quake on Twitter feeds 30 seconds before they experienced the quake themselves. He added that to build for the future, the Federal Government needs a Digital Strategy that embraces the opportunity to innovate more with less, and enables entrepreneurs to better leverage government data to improve the quality of services to the American people. The trend of using internet aided services is picking up fast in all the countries. Online commerce, e-ticketing, online hotel bookings, online shopping, and banking are among some services which are already popular among the masses. But until now government services have stood out by their failure to keep up with the digital age and addressing their target. While many sectors now deliver their services online as a matter of course, the use of digital public services lags far behind that of the private sector.

It will help the government especially the cash-strapped urban local bodies to increase their revenue. In a report on unlocking tax-revenue collection in rapidly growing markets, management consulting firm McKinsey found that “electronic channels” such as the internet, mobile and ATMs “can increase the level of voluntary payments” and “reduce the length of queues at tax offices while also removing a barrier to compliance”.

Digital services are not only convenient but also quicker than conventional methods. The requirement is that the government must use digital technology to render better services and the lower costs involved in providing them to the masses.  Another step in the right direction would be raising awareness of their digital services so more people can use them, and look at ways to use incentives to encourage digital adoption.

The government has to also run extensive programs to make people digital literate as everyone is not connected to the Web. Through our digital inclusion and assisted digital programmes, the Government of India with state government and local government can help more people to use online services through assisted programs. Civil Society Organisations can play a crucial role in imparting training at the ground level. There are several organisations which have manpower and willingness to take up such a task.

One of the major advantages of implementing e-governance in cities is that it provides a platform to citizens to engage with the government easily. Monitoring of service delivery becomes convenient and easier for officials and municipal staff. They can easily find out the gaps and improve upon them. E-governance and mobile governance will harness the potential of the information and communication technology along with other innovations for the benefit of the public at large. The effective implementation of digital services will also bring transparency and accountability in governance even at the local level.

Digital services are not only convenient but also quicker than conventional methods. The requirement is that the government must use digital technology to render better services and lower the costs involved in providing them to the masses.  Another step in the right direction would be raising awareness of their digital services so more people can use them, and look at ways to use incentives to encourage digital adoption

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