(Online Course) Contemporary Issues for IAS Mains 2012: Yojana Magazine - Broadening Base of E-Governance in India

Yojana Magazine

Broadening Base of E-Governance in India

Technological change shave certainly improved the living status of Indians. Broadened base of television and telephony services has filled the gap between the rich and poor in way of access and use of technological innovations. This technological advancement is, however, a little slow in the area of computer-aided services. It is because of two basic difficulties of this sector – first is the ready availability of computer system, which is still a costly affair for an average-income earning Indian and the second is ignorance and lack of information of available computer-aided facilities and their huge benefits over the conventional system.

Question : Give a brief description of the government’s initiatives to enhance e-Governance.

Governments today are also taking initiatives to provide basic amenities and facilities electronically. In this way, they want to reach closer to every citizen, provide easy access to government programmes and make it easy for citizens to pay their taxes etc. In e-governance, various facilities and functions of government are available to the public through web portals with the help of internet. Here, a citizen can access the services with the use of computer and internet and is saved the long waits in tedious queues. For example the filing of income-tax returns, registration of companies, applications for new or renewal of passports, and other similar services available through electronic system. In the sense of customer to customer (C2C) electronic businessmodule, e-governance is Government to resident (G2R)module, electronically connecting administrators with the remotest citizen for welfare of the society and Rs.ease in use’ purposes. However, in our country, e-governance services are, as of now, largely benefitting the urban and computer-savvy peoples, while their reach among the poor and rural people needs to be enhanced. In a country like India where internet penetration and usage are low, and there are a huge number of people who do not have any access to computers, e-services can expand only at the initiative of the government- the government has to reach each beneficiary even if the beneficiary himself finds it difficult to reach for and demand the service. It is only this approach that can ensure that the services are affordable and easily accessible, and hence feasible. It is in this context that the new Aadhar’ project is important for us - it can facilitate the inclusion of maximum possible population under e-governed state.

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Question : Aadhar is going to change the way India Works’. Discuss?

Answer: The UID project aims to provide a unique identity to every Indian resident including infants, through a 12 digit unique identification number. It would be voluntary in nature. Aadhaar will collect demographic and biometric information for the uniqueness of individual; and enable a universal identity infrastructure that any ID based application like ration card, passport etc. can use. UIDAI will only provide a confirmatory Yes’ or a nugatory No’ response to any identification authentication query to any other governmental authority. It will not provide its full data relating to the individual for such queries.

Making E-governance affordable with Aadhaar

It has already been discussed the biggest hurdle in implementation of e-governance in India is less number of personal computers, and less penetration of broadband services. It would be important to discuss that affordability can be measured from (i) government side and, (ii) User/cardholder side. From government side, the government has had to broad base its internet services for rolling out the UID project. It has also undertaken the development of error-free, hack-proof and reliable system on which UID system and its database can work smoothly and significantly. Government has already taken a lead in establishing network of optical fibres which are essential for broadband connectivity and is also trying to connect more villages with optical fibre networks by extending this work through National Rural Employment Guarantee scheme (NREGS). Again, with the constitution of UIDAI, government has taken another step forward to provide a system for better e-governance in coming future. Thus, with its investment on the UID project, the government is already expanding its infrastructural base for e-governance. The project also addresses the lack of access to computer systems. A beneficiary/ citizen need not have any direct access to a system, he simply has to take his UID card whenever he/ she visits a government office.

His/her information and other details can be retrieved by the officials there with their official computer system.With this idea, even an illiterate person or a person living below poverty line, can access the e-governance services. By providing the card, he will get ration for the month from computerised UID readable devices at Ration Shops, direct money can be sent to his bank account which is linked with his card and he can collect the cash by simply showing the card and fulfilling other formalities. So, the problem of affordability of computer system and prior knowledge of computer operations will not be required at cardholder’s end. Here we need
to train government officials for rendering computer-aided services effectively and efficiently. Making E-governance accessible through Aadhaar As the access point of services (simply an internet connected computer system) will be available at some specific centres, a poor and/or illiterate citizen can access such services from there. Accessibility problem can be removed with – (i) Access by government itself not by the cardholder, and (ii) Proper Advertisement.

UIDs can change this scenario by helping the government to reach every citizen with its services, even if he belongs to the remotest area.

E-governance through Aadhaar: Beneficial for All

It is suggested that a highly technical card having built-in microchip and a magnetic strip can have all the necessary information related to the cardholder and hence, even if a cardholder is illiterate, he may be benefitted with e-governed services. This facility will have something for everyone. For example, for a student, it will work as birth-certificate, address and photo ID proof for applying to various courses and colleges; for an unemployed, it can work as employment exchange number to get the benefits of job offerings and unemployment allowance (as was offered in U.P. in the previous state government’s regime); an employed person can link his PAN number, tax-filing options, pension details and other facilities with this card and a businessman will have linked TAN, PAN and other legalities with this card. The most benefited class will be the rural population. It will help them to get their quota of fertilisers, seed from agriculture ministry, monthly quota of ration through public distribution system (PDS), remuneration of work done under National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme
(NREGS), and loan waiver or other kind of financial assistance directly from the government. This will be a multi-purpose card which will help in accessing services not only offered by government but also from private sector as well. If a magnetic strip can be included in the Aadhaar card, it will help the cardholder to link his bank account with his card to use it for petty expenses and like an ATM card. However, there should be a cap on the maximum limit of such linked account to avoid any kind of fraud or misappropriation of cash by the use of that card.

There are however, some odds in implementing the unique ID project. India has never implemented any ID related project with complete accuracy, be it ration card or voter ID card. Even today we get many voter ID card as .Not fully correct’ or with incorrect entries in name, address or even in photo. Problems of securing the database, making the whole system hack proof and of privacy of data are some other concerns in implementation of e-governance through UIDs. Yet, despite these concerns Aadhaar’ is going to change the way India works.

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