Make e-Governance part of mainstream and not an add-on
On December 2, 2015, New-Delhi based non-profit Digital Empowerment Foundation organised the annual Manthan Awards at India Habitat Centre, New Delhi, to identify and felicitate digital innovators, who use ICT for the betterment of the masses, across Asia among an esteemed audience of likeminded professionals, innovators, sponsors, government officials and industry experts.
Over the years, Manthan Awards has created a repository of thousands of unique innovations. Now in its 12th year, Manthan Awards decided to be a little different and go the ‘unconference’ style at India Habitat Centre in New Delhi on December 2, 2015. Instead of a formal presentation from the stage to an audience seated in an auditorium, innovators were asked to talk about their e-initiatives in a village-themed environment, complete with a well, charpoi, kulhad wali chai, haystacks and bamboo shoots. Amid this set up, Finalists of the 13 awards categories gathered to share lessons, achievements, best practices, challenges and recommendations for the road ahead.
One of these 13 categories was e-Governance for which the Jury had shortlisted seven Finalists. Led by the Former Secretary of Information Technology under the government of Sikkim, Rajesh Verma, the session began with a friendly introduction, followed by each Finalist introducing the audience to their initiatives.
Demi Solutions has created a unique and innovative solution to capture, convert and cleanse data by utilising solid business process backed by a technology innovation called Data Digitisation. It is a process by which physical or manual records such as text, images, video, and audio are converted into digital forms in cost-effective and minimum time-consuming manner. Demi Solutions firmly believes that digitising information makes it easier to preserve, access, and share.
GIS-based Decision Support System for Encroachment Detection on Waqf Properties in the Waqf Management System of India Project is the initiative of the National Informatics Centre to protect such properties from vested interests. This Web portal provides updated information about Waqf properties, through GIS and decision support system, for detecting any encroachment.
TrackChild commenced by the Department of Women Development and Social Welfare is a national portal, designed for tracking and the ultimate rehabilitation of “missing” children. It maintains a Web-based child protection management information system and plans to develop an integrated and comprehensive live database of children in need of protection.
IChangeMyCity.com is an online platform conceptualised by Bengaluru-based non-profit organisation Janaagraha Centre for Citizenship and Democracy. The USP of this website is that it enables people to network locally to address common grievances, allows people to connect online which more often than not leads to offline civic engagement, which in turn influences civic agencies to respond, and works towards improving the quality of services and infrastructure right from the local neighborhood level.
An Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS) from Sri Lanka, Progress Tracker from Bangladesh and e-POS-Aadhaar enabled Public Distribution System from India were also appreciated for their efforts in the area of e-Govermance.
But it were Track Child and Data Digitisation that impressed the Jury with their unique, sustainable and impact-oriented approach and were, thus, announced Winners. IChangeMyCity and GIS-Based Decision Support System were given Special Mentions.
Improving lives at grassroots level
The interaction between the Finalists and the audience of the e-Governance category also saw a comprehensive discussion on various government institutions and units operational at the village level that have adopted the e-Governance system. The participants unanimously agreed that facilitating e-Governance through digital infrastructure can help ASHA workers in their intervention and advisory activities; local police can conduct investigation by cutting barriers of space and time; anganwadis can learn about the best practices in nutrition and hygiene; health workers can keep track of latest innovations in the field of medicine; doctors can treat patients, irrespective of geographical and commutation barriers; and panchayats can better manage law and order.
However, there is still a lot more that needs to be tackled. Several suggestions and recommendations came up during the discussion. These included:
- Establishing broadband or wireless kiosks at different locations
- Encouraging greater digital literacy
- Providing vocational training
- Developing special Web content for differently-abled individuals
- Promoting greater use of ICT tools at all levels — starting from the bottom most — in civic bodies and panchayats.
We hope people in the administration and the government are taking notes of these recommendations!