E-governance in India: Existing context and possible scope for UNDP programing over 2013-18

July
2012

Table of Contents

Overall trends and developments in the area of e-governance in India

Brief history

National E- Governance Plan – achievements, and challenges ahead

Community level e-governance infrastructure – the fulcrum of possible transformation

NGOs and donor agencies

Recommendations for UNDP for project development over 2013-17

Mainstreaming ICTs and e-governance

Specialised and convergent approaches to e-governance

Innovative Project Proposals – 1: Decentralised governance

Moving beyond capacity building mode to ICT-based resource support system for elected representatives

Innovative Project Proposals - 2 : Accountability and transparency

Rajiv Gandhi Sewa Kendras as village information and knowledge centres enhancing transparency and accountability in governance (as part of NREGA scheme)

Innovative Project Proposals – 3: Implementing rights based programmes and access to entitlements

ICTs for Community Empowerment and Action by Youth

Projects that can serve as guideposts for UNDP project development -1: Decentralised governance

ICT-enabled decentralisation: The Ente Gramam and e-krishi projects of the Kerala State IT Mission

Digital systems for streamlining decentralised plan formulation and monitoring: The case of Sulekha

Comprehensive IT based solutions for panchayats: The case of Decentralised Rural Information Services & Technology Initiatives (DRISTI )

Projects that can serve as guideposts for UNDP project development -2 : Accountability and transparency

Digital systems for effective grievance redressal: The case of Lokvani

Information systems for transparency and public accountability : The case of the Andhra Pradesh Employment Guarantee Scheme

Projects that can serve as guideposts for UNDP project development -3: Implementing rights-based programmes and access to entitlements

Ensuring right to food through process computerisation: The case of Chhattisgarh's Public Distribution System

Networked governance for improving service delivery to marginalised groups: The case of Mission Convergence

Ensuring and monitoring rights and entitlements: The case of the Mother and Child Health(MCH) Tracking System

Using ICTs to empower women in accessing entitlements : The case of the Mahiti Manthana project

Projects that can serve as guideposts for UNDP project development -4: Making a difference to the persistently excluded and marginalised sections

Information and networks for community-based strategies towards empowerment: The case of Kutch Nav Nirman Abhiyan
 

Overall trends and developments in the area of e-governance in India

In all its sections, from assessing overall trends to providing recommendations for project development by UNDP, and suggesting specific project ideas, this document has avoided an approach focused on specific ICTs, or even on 'best practices'1. Throughout, it treats the area of e- governance at a systemic level, as a field integrated with other governance and development activities, and oriented to common goals.

 

Brief history

Among developing countries, India has been an early adopter of e-governance. The first wave can be considered to have evolved bottom-up. Some social entrepreneurs convinced district level officials of the wonders of new ICTs, especially in providing convergent services to remote areas, and improving transparency and oversight in this regard. The Gyandoot project in Dhar district, which begun in 2000, is considered the forerunner of what was to be a rash of projects that built a front-end in many village communities which was supposed to be serviced by a back-end mostly in the district collectorate. The idea and the effort was to create pressure from the community front-end for digitisation of back-end departmental processes. The latter was largely a localised effort, mostly dependent on the initiative and energy of the concerned district collector, often with some very spirited support of the district National Informatic Centre (NIC) staff. Perhaps the most organised and successful effort in this first phase of e-governance in India, roughly between 2000-05, was Rural e-Seva in West Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh. As for community level front end development two initiatives, N-logue and Drishti stand out, each of which at one time claimed to be running thousands of community telecentres across the country that could deliver e-governance services.

There is a generally tendency to classify these early efforts as failures. Indeed, around 2005-06, N-logue closed down and Drishti moved out of e-governance services. Rural e-Seva also was never scaled up. However, what is noteworthy is that in a relatively short time, these early projects created a lasting impression of new ICTs as a possible means to bring governance close to the people, and perhaps, also make it more transparent and accountable. To that extent, they had a very significant impact, even if these initiatives themselves could not survive, due to a variety of reasons which we cannot discuss in greater detail, here. (However, if we compare this situation with the burst of the dotcom bubble in the early part of the last decade, one can see some common factors.) They created the context for the very ambitious National E-Governance Plan (NeGP), especially its flagship project, the Common Service Centres, which was inaugurated by the Government of India in 2006.

Meanwhile, many independent department level digitisation and automation projects were taking shape. Digitisation of records of land ownership and transactions has been one of the key areas with considerable impact, since it a very important and vexatious area for rural India. In many cases, end to end digitisation was facilitated by significant changes in government rules, which provide some early instances of full-scale e-governance process re-engineering2. Some other automation activities like computerisation of government treasuries and financial transactions also have had considerable impact on the efficiency of governmental functioning, and represent largely successful and sustaining e-governance efforts. From very early days, efforts were also make to computerise work flow in government offices, like e-Secretariat initiatives in a few states. However, such initiatives failed to sustain because they seemed to conflict with formal and informal ways of functioning of the Indian bureaucracy. Any progress on such basic areas of governmental activity requiring significant behavioral changes, and also having very significant implications for greater transparency and accountability, would require strong legislative push.

National E- Governance Plan – achievements, and challenges ahead

The second phase of e-governance in India can be said to have begun with inauguration of the National E-Governance Plan (NeGP) in 2006. NeGP's flagship project sought to set up about 100,000 Common Service Centres (CSCs) across India, one for every six villages. Recently, the Department of IT declared that they have achieved this target. NEGP also consists of 27 Mission Mode projects, largely for back-end computerisation of different areas of governance activity. In addition, it seeks creation of a national e-governance infrastructure of State Wide Area Networks, State Data Centres, and National Service Delivery Gateways.

The infrastructural and technical support projects have mostly been working well. NeGP has been able to provide a common sense of urgency, mechanism and some funding support for large-scale adoption of e-governance by various departments of the central and state governments. Such a catalytic action, and perhaps creating a environment for competitive performance, was very much needed in the initial phase. It has been especially useful for states that are otherwise slow on the take, vis a vis e-governance, and they may also be the ones that most need governance reform. Department of IT gives technical support to e-governance initiatives of various departments at the central and state levels, including through listed consultants. They also ensure some degree of common architecture which is very important for interoperability, especially required when, at a later stage, across-the-government integration of operations and services may be sought.

One however notes that projects that focus on targeting the better-off sections, e.g. those related to passports and income tax, have produced the best results to date. On the other hand, Mission Mode Projects in areas like agriculture and panchayat computerisation, that most directly concern relatively marginalised sections, have been the slowest to take off. This may requires an re-assessment of NeGP with regard to considerations of inclusion, equity and social justice.

Although there have been a few hiccups, the Unique ID project, listed as a Mission Mode Project under NeGP, is also well underway. Recently, Department of IT has come up with a 'Framework for Mobile Governance' which lays out the vision and strategy for mobile governance. It envisions setting up a Mobile Service Delivery Gateway, Mobile AppStore for governance applications, mobile authentication and payment gateway, and APIs3 for different service providers. Department of IT has also notified a 'Policy on Open Standards for E-governance', and the work of notifications of open standards in various areas is underway. Last year, guidelines for use of social media by government agencies were issued by the Department of IT. Internal and stakeholder consultations on the opportunity and challenges for e-governance in a cloud computing environment are also underway.

NeGP has done very well in providing infrastructural and technical support for widespread adoption of e-governance in India. However, there seems to be a significant gap on the non-technical side, vis a vis governance process re-engineering4 architectures and the broad socio-political principles that need to be addressed though and in e-governance. It is to a good extent due to the NeGP that large-scale digitisation is taking place in most departments in the central and state governments. As the process of digitisation and automation (the early stage of e-governance) has proceeded at a steady pace across government agencies, it has produced substantial efficiency gains and some improvements on the transparency front. If greater gains in the area of transparency, accountability and community participation have not been attained, it is largely because e-governance in India has still mostly been conceived and implemented in a techno-managerial mode and without sufficient socio-political vision.

It may come as a surprise to many that for an area that not only involves funds to the extent of thousands of crores of rupees and also is so crucial to the future of governance in India, there has never been any dedicated e-governance policy in India. One would expect to have some kind of a detailed policy document based on due consultations with all stakeholders, which provides the vision for e-governance in India, integrating governance reform priorities like decentralisation, right to information, and improved community participation and monitoring. However, an examination of e-governance activities and trends in India bears testimony to the fact that e-governance in India seems to have proceeded largely on its own logic, or the absence of one. The dominant understanding seems to be that IT merely makes whatever is being done much more efficient, and therefore it may not be necessary to get into basic issues of examining ab initio 'what indeed is being done', 'what was supposed to be done', and 'how things can perhaps now be done very differently'. It is to be left to those running the respective systems to decide what they may want to do with various IT tools and opportunities. The NeGP seems merely to be there to provide technical support; this stance being often articulated by the concerned officials.

This had led to a situation whereby departments have mostly used an internal logic and considerations of internal 'interests' and objectives rather than primarily employ an external logic, of (1) the point of view of basic objectives of governance, and the specific role of their department in it, (2) need and possibility of government-wide responses to governance needs, and, mostly importantly, (3) needs and perspectives of the citizens. Mature models of e-governance worldwide proceeds from such higher level strategic considerations, before the nuts and bolts of actual departmental and offices level changes are worked out.

Such a techno-managerial approach has meant that e-governance in India has made no clear linkages with other areas of governance reform like decentralisation, right to information and community monitoring, while the fact is that process re-engineering through e-governance should primarily have been serving these substantive objectives of governance reform in India. This anomaly needs to be corrected through a national e-governance policy that casts e-governance within larger socio-political objectives and then proceeds to establishing such principles that should guide systemic process re-engineering through e-governance. These principles arise out of the generic techno-social possibilities made available by the digital or information society. Such principles should be able to account for and admit rapid technology changes, and further new opportunities opened by ICTs.

Decentralisation, right to information and community monitoring, as other three key areas of governance reform in India apart from e-governance, all aim at greater bottom-up participation, and accountability. They all did, however, require, and continue to require, strong central legislation and policy support. In fact, they could not have been attained without such push and support from the top, with a clearly articulated political vision and the directions. E-governance has to become more than merely applying technology to existing processes, and should be seen in its transformatory potential. For this, it must also be visioned and articulated in terms of the highest socio-political objectives of governance reform in India. These objectives then have to be translated into higher-level principles for process architecture of e-governance, which are sufficiently generic and flexible to be applicable to a range of governance activities and systems.

However, it is true that e-governance in India was established in an environment where new ICTs were taking the world by storm, and no one could easily prejudge what could be attained by employing ICTs in governance, and how. It was therefore required to go through a period of intense experimentation. It is a tribute to the early leaders of e-governance in India that they did not shy away from this imperative of investing into what were mostly time and resource-intensive experiments. However, it may be time now to consolidate our learning and begin to take a more strategic and systemic view of governance reforms in India. A clear vision and policy for this purpose may be a prerequisite. Such a policy should also assign relevant role to government agencies and departments who shall provide technical lead and support, those that will provide governance reform vision, and generic process principles and guidelines (like the Departments of Administrative Reforms whose role in e-governance efforts should be central, but has been rather muted till date) and the departments that actually undertake e-governance activities in their respective areas of competence and work. It will also align e-governance with overall thrusts of governance reform in India – chiefly, decentralisation, right to information, and community monitoring and social audits, whose objectives e-governance should primarily be serving. We need to move from procedural e-governance – which merely automates and digitises existing processes providing efficient gains, something that is almost a natural process in all organisations worldwide, to transform e-governance, that has its point of departure in specifically seeking to address the various governance challenges and reform processes in India.

A promising recent policy initiative is the Electronic Services Delivery (EDS) Bill which is with the Parliament at present. This proposed legislation makes it compulsory for all government agencies to begin delivering their services in an electronic mode. All services that can be provided electronically must be so provided. There is a provision for independent EDS Commissions at the central and state level that will monitor provision of electronic delivery of services.

This legislation is expected to put great pressure on various government agencies to quickly take on e-governance, and therefore is quite a positive move. However, the proposed Bill just further pushes agencies towards e-governance without telling them how to do it, and with what core objectives in mind. Will the need to comply with legislative requirements, for example, make departments inclined to quickly go for cash transfers that are much easier to do over ICT based outreach infrastructure, even when run by outside agencies on a commercial basis, even when a particular service may not be most suited to a cash transfer mode? Such a welcome push for quicker e-governance uptake, as the EDS legislation is expected to provide, makes it even more important to articulate an overall e-governance policy in India, which makes a detailed socio-political examination of new possibilities in light of the specific needs and current thrusts of governance reform in India.

Community level e-governance infrastructure – the fulcrum of possible transformation

In many ways, the CSCs constitute the central component of NeGP and it is also often officially described as such. It was evident to India's e-governance planners that government departments will only begin to take the e-governance opportunity seriously if there indeed was an outreach infrastructure available that can service all parts of India, however remote. This is especially true with regard to governance services that are most pertinent to rural areas, certainly a priority for the Indian governments. It was further expected that once such an infrastructure was in place, and the opportunity demonstrated, a demand-side pressure from the community will accelerate, as well as help design, the most appropriate e-governance changes upstream, at the level of the internal functioning of the line departments(or at the backend). Both the logics are sound.

The CSC scheme seems to have taken its cue from the N-logue and Drishti kind of initiatives where village based entrepreneurs ran telecentres which could deliver a variety of governance and commercial, services. The convergent service delivery platform was facilitated by a service agency that connected to various government and non-government service providers. It was perhaps felt by our e-governance planners that the model adopted by these two initiatives was basically sound. If they failed, it may have been only because there were not enough e-governance services yet available for them to earn enough revenue. With the launch of NeGP, it was expected that in a relatively short time enough such services would be made available. However, since development of such services could still take a few years, and in any case it will perhaps depend on availability of delivery front-end (making it a 'chicken and egg' problem), it was decided to offer viability-gap funding for operational expenses for up to five years to those who set up CSCs. Private companies, termed as Service Centre Agencies, were allowed to bid (in form of negative bids for least subsidy) for setting up CSCs in a few districts each, and were responsible for complete implementation of the project at the community end.

While it not possible here to go into an extensive review of how CSCs have fared on the ground, this much can be acknowledged that it has been a very mixed experience. Great enthusiasm has been seen among potential village level entrepreneurs to set up CSCs, both in the hope of a viable business opportunity and for the lure of being a kind of 'government agent' in the community. However, most companies who took up the role of Service Centre Agencies have since withdrawn from the field. A good number of them were large corporates who sought to leverage the CSC scheme for opening up access to rural markets for a host of commercial products and services. Many village entrepreneurs today find themselves left in the lurch, not being able to either leave (having invested considerable resources and time) nor continue in a sustainable manner in their CSC business. Others have managed to figure out adequate business models. However, availability of governance services remain uniformly low. A good part of Department of IT's effort lately has focused on providing CSCs better avenues for delivering commercial services, for instance, in financial areas, like selling insurance and becoming banking correspondents.

While the CSC model is still expected to emerge as a useful vehicle for delivering governance services of a simple transactional nature like bill payments and getting various kind of certificates, its role in more complex governance services, especially those targeted at the weaker sections, is not clear. Even less clear is how CSCs can help citizens realise their rights and entitlements. A purely revenue-based model may find it difficult to fit into a rights-based approach to governance, which is otherwise increasingly the mainstream approach in India. CSCs can however address parts of the process requirements for these complex governance challenges – for instance, at some places, CSCs have been used to make applications for entitlements, and to receive documents and records, like ration cards. They are also being used to deliver entitlements in cash through 'banking correspondents' service. The problems arises when it is attempted to fit everything in governance into the CSC model – from development communication to citizen participation.

It may therefore be necessary to separate the kind of governance services that can be made available through CSCs and those that cannot be; for instance, ICT-based local community knowledge and media processes, and improving citizen/community participation in governance. For these kinds of governance activities, a different community-level ICT infrastructure may have to be conceived. Department for Rural Development (GoI) is setting up ICT-enabled Rajiv Gandhi Seva Kendras which will act as Knowledge Resource Centres, facilitate social audits, provide ICT support for various community activities etc. Karnataka Knowledge Commission has also recommended the setting up of Community Knowledge Centers with a similar range of functions.

In reaching governance services to the people, the CSC structure also seems to be bypassing the vision and processes of decentralisation. The CSC structure is anchored at the state level with very little connection if any, to the district administration, the key node of the Indian governance system, and even lesser at the panchayat level. Often line departments who have services to deliver to rural areas have felt that the CSC model is too commercial in its outlook and functioning for it to become 'the' ICT based channel of government service delivery and engagement with citizens. It is worth noting that the two states that have the longest history of community level e-governance activity, Kerala and Gujarat, have both opted out of the basic CSC model and follow their own models, respectively, Akshaya and eGram. In both these models, while there still is a village level entrepreneur, (1) the mediating corporate entity, the Service Centre Agency, has been dispensed with in favour of a dedicated new government agency, and (2) close relationships have been established between the ICT-based service delivery mechanism and the panchayati raj system. As an ICT based delivery model begins to be taken more seriously by line departments, such tensions vis a vis the overtly commerical nature of the CSC model are likely to arise in other states as well.

There is an effort, alluded to in an earlier section, of the technicalisation of government service delivery in the CSC model,thus suppressing its socio-political content. It must be understood that reforming governance is a keenly political process, something which, for instance, is quite evident in the areas of decentralisation, right to information and community monitoring.

If an exercise is undertaken to understand and list out areas of governance activity which are mostly to be undertaken through the CSC model, and those which are not so well suited, it will both strengthen the CSC initiative, by removing its many schizophrenic confusions, and also serve to help focus attention and effort on how an complementary community level ICT infrastructure needs to be built to address the full range of governance objectives.

CSCs should be further strengthened by focusing them on providing the following kinds of services (1) governance services of a simple transactional nature, like bill payments, providing various certificates, cash transfers etc, (2) crucial support services like banking, and (3) a host of other sundry commercial services that rural India can be now be better provided through ICT enabled aggregation and remote delivery techniques (ranging from mobile recharges, to agriculture-related services and goods, and even, white goods). This is apart from the role of CSCs as a public ICT services provider on the lines of the very popular public telephone booths in India.

For obtaining the full potential of egovernance to bring about 'governance systems (that) are more inclusive, accountable, decentralised, and [make] programme implementation more effective for the realisation of rights of marginalised groups'5 it may be required to formulate a new community-owned/oriented ICT based infrastructure at the community level which is different from, and complements, the CSC infrastructure. CSCs should focus on providing such governance services that can easily and adequately be provided on a fee-per-transanction basis and also making various commercial products and services available to rural India through aggregation and online facilitation. Another programme, probably rooted in the departments of rural development, is needed to develop community-owned, non-commercial ICT based infrastructural systems that will attend to the needs of wider governance activity, as for instance, pertaining to (1) citizen's rights and entitlements (2) citizen's participation, including through community monitoring and social audits, and (3) community's knowledge and media processes.

This document has mostly dealt with the NeGP for presenting and analysing e-governance in India. This is owing to the fact that NeGP is an umbrella programme for e- governance in India, and sets the general directions. However, there indeed have been very noteworthy efforts independently taken at the line department levels which have had transformational impact and/or have provided very important insights and best practices for e-governance projects. A good example of transformational impact comes from the digitisation and process re-engineering in the MNREGA project in Andhra Pradesh which enabled a very different, more transparent and efficient, approach to implementing this important programme in the state. Significantly, it also enabled a path-breaking process of effective large-scale social auditing. Two other indicative examples are; computerisation of border check posts in Gujarat, which had an immediately strong impact on corruption levels, and the Child Record Information System in Madhya Pradesh, which provided a strong means for ensuring child rights. Together with many lesser known but yet quite impactful projects all over the country, such initiatives do paint a promising picture of the future of e-governance in India. If this document has taken a somewhat critical perspective, it is just to enable various involved actors to revisit the lessons from the current efforts in order to chart a more effective and tranformative strategy for the future, which can provides us with more inclusive and socially just governance.
 

NGOs and donor agencies

In the section on brief history, it was described how some NGOs and social enterprises were key in the initial phase of e-governance in India, especially at the community end. In fact, these agencies also tried to drive back-end computerisation, at least at the district level. Many NGOS like DHAN Foundation in Tamil Nadu, Abhiyan in Gujurat and Alternatives for Development (AID) in Jharkhand have been doing pioneering and very impactful work. These NGOs have worked on generic community level ICT infrastructure and systems (AID in partnership with the CSC scheme, the only NGO directly involved in the same). There are other NGOs that have done very significant work in specific sectors like health, development communication, women's empowerment etc.

However, in the absence of a larger systemic vision and e-governance policy framework these efforts have often not been successfully upscaled and/or integrated with mainstream governance systems. It is important to note that one of the most significant generic impacts of ICT-based systems is through larger networking and upscaling of different efforts. However, such integration, networking and upscaling of governmental and non- governmental efforts requires a very new kind of policy approach with the right mix of standardisation and flexibility, and with appropriate co-ownership of different government agencies.

The role of donor agencies in terms of e-governance in India has been quite interesting to examine and learn from. In the first part of the last decade, ICTs for Development was a kind a rage and funds were easy to come up in this area. Suddenly, as the hype seemed to be disproved by what was seen as stark failures on the ground, the whole sector seemed to suddenly evaporate from donor's minds and funding portfolios. The new approach was called mainstreaming, and it was left to different substantive sectors within the agencies to do what they may, in relation to ICTs and development in their respective areas. Since, these sectoral personnel, as expected, often did not substantially know much about the expanding real opportunities in this area, and were in any case overcautious because of the perceived failures of ICTD, they seemed to have done precious little. Even if the concerned programme officers were really knowledgeable and even ready to take the required risks, there was this real problem that ICTs often provide an adequate and sustainable cost-benefit ratio in cross-sectoral applications, which is really not something within their respective purviews.

The sudden withdrawal of many donors from the field of ICTs for development was perhaps with good reason. This area had begun to emerge as something of quite an autonomous field of development, with a sharp disconnect from other, traditional, fields, whose objectives it should have been serving. It was evident to the discerning that the field of development needed to preserve its historical continuity while looking at all possible avenues of innovation, which largely caused the donor step-back from ICTs for Development.

While attention got rightly re-focused on substantive areas and objectives of development, on the downside, the generic and integrative (meaning, cross-sectoral systemic) opportunities may be getting lost in the new scheme of things. The earlier section on NeGP discusses two of these generic and convergent areas – broad common principles and approaches pertaining to core objectives of governance reform that should uniformly inform e-governance process re-engineering, and some kind of convergent community level socio-technical infrastructure that can leverage the best opportunities provided by ICTs for 'empowering communities'.

 

It is useful to clarify here, what is meant by a systemic and integrative approach to e-governance, especially in relation to a mainstreaming approach. ICTs have been called 'constitutive technologies'; they get into and rebuild social systems. In this process, they also breach boundaries between existing systems (and sub-systems) that constitute the social architecture, recreating new patterns. It is in this sense that the impact of ICTs on governance has to be seen in a systemic and integrative (across erstwhile system/ sub-system boundaries) way. The integrative aspect is also sometimes called convergence, which term only partially covers the meaning and implications of 'integration'. The term 'mainstreaming ICTs' accordingly, does not capture the understanding and practical requirements for making the best use of ICTs opportunities in governance and development, in its entirety.

 

 

In some ways, the paradox here is similar to that with gender-mainstreaming. In e-governance or ICTD area too, mainstreaming strategies should be informed adequately by specialised policy and convergent programmatic approaches. This can be the defining quality of what may be seen as the third phase of e-governance and ICTD. The first phase was pre-NeGP, and the period when ICTD was one key standalone area of donor support. The second phase can be described as the period of NeGP till now, and on the ICTD side, the period of mainstreaming ICTD. A third phase can be envisaged now whereby, on the e-governance side, what is needed is (1) a broad e-governance policy based on convergence of e-governance with other areas of governance reform in India, and (2) a ICT based community infrastructure that compliments the commercial platform of CSCs. On on the ICTD side, in this third phase, a mainstreaming ICTD approach is supported and complimented by overall convergent/ specialised ICTD strategies of developing (1) 'broad common principles' of how ICTs enable new empowering development processes, and (2) community level common socio-technical infrastructures.

 

 

Phase 1 2000-2005

Phase 2 2006-2012

Phase 3 (proposed)

2013 -

E-governance

Pre-NeGP (National eGovernancePlan)

National eGovernancePlan

Improved NeGP with an national e-governance policy that (1) converges e-governance objectives with those of other areas of governance reform, chiefly, decentralisation, RTI and community monitoring, and, (2) at a programmatic level, aims to develop a complementary community-owned ICT infrastructure to the CSC's commercial one

ICTD

ICTD as standalone area in donor frameworks

ICTD mainstreamed by donors

Convergent ICTD and e-governance policy and programmatic support and action to compliment mainstreaming strategies; with focused policy level advocacy, and a Resource Support Unit/ Group for projects employing ICTs in innovative ways.

Recommendations for UNDP for project development over 2013-17

For the programme period 2013-17, UNDP set its overall objective in its 'democratic governance' line of work as follows;

Governance systems are more inclusive, accountable, decentralised and programme implementation more effective for realisation of rights of marginalised groups, especially women and children.”

It has chosen to focus on three broad areas of (1) decentralised governance, (2) accountability and transparency, and (3) implementing rights based programmes and access to entitlements.

Over the next five years, UNDP also specifically plans to give great importance to innovative uses of ICTs in its various programmatic activities, as a cross-cutting thematic focus.

UNDP sees its comparative advantage, inter alia, in supporting “innovations that promote inclusion of marginalised communities, especially those that have been persistently excluded from development processes”. It sees itself as “an impartial convener to ensure participation of all stakeholders, particularly those belonging to SCs, STs, Muslims and other disadvantaged groups”.

E-governance in India has, in general, grown at a steady pace. However as discussed earlier, it is still struggling to form clear connections with overall governance reform objectives of the kind listed as UNDP priority areas in 2013-17. It also has, for the most part, not done much headway to directly impact social inclusion and articulate a rights-based approach. There is a need to focus on use of ICTs specifically to improve accountability to, and participation of, marginalised groups. At present, e-governance efforts in India seem to take a trickle down approach, hoping that finally, the marginalised sections too will be benefited substantially. UNDP's engagement with the area of engagement can orchestrate a reverse pressure, focusing primarily and centrally on the interests and priorities of the marginalised sections, in a systemic manner. To some extent, this may require bringing a different perspective to the very thinking and architecture of e-governance in India today, from a higher political/ policy level.

It is a hallmark of a techno-managerial approach that socio-political objectives and concerns like inclusion, participation, decentralisation, rights, marginalisation, community monitoring etc., which otherwise dominate the discourse of governance in India, are not clearly and strongly articulated in the e-governance arena. UNDP's involvement and efforts should seek to correct this imbalance, seeking to make these objectives and concerns express, and central to e-governance.

In keeping with the above, the overall thematic focus and scope of UNDP's engagements in the area of e-governance should consider the following as its two points of departure;

 

  1. Aligning e-governance policies and programmes with the objectives and activities of other thrust areas of governance reform in India, like decentralisation, right to information and community monitoring, and, in general, promoting rights based approaches, which more or less correspond to the three key areas of thematic focus under the 'democratic governance' theme.

  2. Putting a primary focus on the rights of the marginalised sections; specifically how they can, participate in, and benefit from, e- governance, and also influence the designing of e-governance initiatives/projects .

Such an approach should suitably inform the e-governance activity currently underway in India. It can thus positively influence the emerging architecture of e-governance, which in fact should be considered as the emerging architecture of governance at large. In this formative period of a new ICT-enabled architecture of governance, it is important to intervene in a manner that clearly articulates the key objectives of governance reform in India, and specifically, how the interests of the marginalised sections can be best served. Such an approach will also help shape and focus UNDP's direct efforts in various programmatic areas which may involve innovative uses of ICTs.

Such an approach has to be implemented at two levels;

  1. Strengthening and better focusing UNDP's effort at mainstreaming ICTs in its programmatic work.

  2. Articulating convergent approaches regarding e-governance/ICTD both at the policy level, and at programmatic level, that can suitably inform and support mainstreaming activities in different sectors of UNDP's work.

In providing inputs and suggestions for project development by UNDP, this document takes a classificatory or 'category of projects' approach rather than just provide a list of alluring ideas and innovations. The outcomes of ICT application are often very immediately attractive, when can lead to an instinctive method of innovation/project selection. However, the specific 'attractive' outcomes of ICTs can as quickly lose shine, if they are not adequately rooted in local development processes and do not become co-terminus with them. E-governance and ICTD has often been a story of such extreme swings, rather than a considered analytical approach. It also requires a well-thought out implementation strategy situated in the 'where and how' an ICT innovation is applied or tested, and what process and/or substantive benefits can really be expected in short-, medium- and long-term.

Mainstreaming ICTs and e-governance

Since 2005, UNDP has shifted from a thematic approach to ICTD, to a mainstreaming approach. This was part of general trends around that time which has been discussed earlier. UNDP has identified three focus areas under the 'governance' theme, and is working on framing outcomes and outputs under each. With a commitment to prioritise innovative use of ICTs, it is expected that effort will made to encourage projects under each focus area that explore innovative use of ICTs. Such encouragement can be made at different levels of use of ICTs, and with different project objectives. The following four-way framework is suggested in this regard, which can help develop a common understanding among all the involved actors vis-a-vis the manner and objectives of mainstreaming ICTs in different projects. Such mutual understanding enables configuring of appropriate hopes and expectations from projects with ICT mainstreaming components, and, thereupon, most effectively employ the outcomes of these projects for large-scale systemic change. These two – mutual expectation management and upscaling – are often the greatest challenges in projects that seek to employ ICTs in innovative manners.

Choosing ICTs for clear outcomes and outputs: In many projects there is a relatively clear understanding of why and how an ICT element will be used to achieve specific project outputs and outcomes, together with other elements of the project. In such cases, generally, the ICT element that is being employed is relatively mature with regard to the demonstrated social/ developmental outcomes, for instance, use of sms-es to send automatic messages at defined process points, or use of locally-made instructional videos. The challenge is to integrate it with other (social) processes being employed or developed by the project. It involves shifts in personal and social habits around technology use, and appropriate initiatives have to be taken in this regard. However, the cost of such changes should not be disproportionate to the direct benefits from employing ICTs.

Prior to taking up such possible innovations, it may be required to enhance the capacity of project leaders through exposure, training and developing best practice kits. New projects that are funded can be asked to choose at least some such uses of ICTs, in a manner that fits contextually with their overall plans. However, the final choice and commitment must come from within, by project proponents themselves, with a high enough level of confidence of applicability and plausibility of the concerned ICT element or ICT based process to their project. Very often, such is the currency of the involved ICT elements that project proponents would themselves be looking to employ them, and may only be looking for some ideational and/or technical support. Such projects are ideal candidates for gentle prodding into. It is important to assert that use of ICTs is not at all the central objective of the projects under this category, and they remain rather incidental to the complex of general objectives and activities.

An exercise to list relatively mature ICT uses in development sector, that projects should be encouraged to employ innovatively

Sms alerts

Websites publishing extensive information, especially such that is contextual and locally relevant

Local participatory videos, for highlighting community issues, collaborative pedagogy etc

e-lists, that develop local issues based networks

Geographic Information Systems, to map local realities and enable participatory local action

Information centres, as hubs of locally relevant information and knowledge

Digital knowledge management practises

Online applications, providing acknowledgement, grievance redressal, ...

..........................

.............................

(The list can be developed through an initial group consultation)

Experimenting with ICT possibilities: Even within mainstreaming strategies, such is the newness and the fast-changing nature of ICTs, that a certain degree of experimentation remains necessary, especially to understand the implications of new ICTs in specific conditions of development projects or governance activity. At least some of the projects that will be supported by UNDP must be allowed such experimentation, as an express feature of the project. In conditions of experimenting, costs of using ICTs may significantly out-weigh any immediate or even short-term benefits. The real benefit is in the terms of overall learning for that specific kind of developmental activity, or generally for the field of development. Even failures may contribute valuable learning, and are therefore accounted for in any experiment. However, experimentation should be done vis-a-vis a set of techno-social processes6, i.e. ICT-mediated new development processes, that bear a seamless continuity with non-ICT processes, and not just about new ICTs by themselves. (The ICTs that would be piloted will only be those which have been amply demonstrated their utility and relevance; development may not be the space for cutting edge technology innovations.) These techno-social processes should be completely embedded in a larger 'development situation', and be conducted with regard to broader development/ governance objectives, whose successful achievement concomitantly would certainly require other, non-ICT, process innovations. Therefore, it is not that the whole project is an experiment; some experimental ICT elements would be embedded in a larger project, which alone will ensure the validity of learning.

There may not be always be a clear-cut distinction between this kind of 'experimental approach' to mainstreaming ICTs and the one previously discussed involving use of mature ICT applications for relatively clear outcomes. There is always some degree of experimentation in e-governance and ICTD projects, and, at the same time, some level of clear governance or development outcome/outputs need to be associated with any experiment. However, it is useful to appreciate the difference of primary focus between the two approaches in developing a project portfolio, and in laying out expectations from different projects.

Such experimental projects need not focus only on a specific ICT, or a set of ICTs. They could as well be focused on some generic governance/ development process and look at how different kind and mixes of ICTs can produce different outcomes. For instances, how a set of ICTs can transform possibilities of community monitoring and/ or social audits, say, in the area of health; how, a set of ICTs can produce such an information-rich environment in the local community that its capacity to engage with governance is significantly enhanced, for example, with regard to effectiveness of gram sabhas.

An exercise to identify possibly useful ICT innovations that still need significant experimentation in development situations

GIS for micro-planning

sms for p2p networking

sms for information networks

mobiles for data collection

inexpensive tablets as personal devices for video based learning and capacity building

voice based e-lists accessed through mobile phones

social media for networking, capacity building and information exchange

participatory videos for p2p learning and networking

Community Knowledge centres for community knowledge management

Community ICT hubs for community empowerment

….........................

…...................................

(The list can be developed through an initial group consultation)

Integration and convergence: Even when any e-governance or development project has shown successful outcomes using ICTs, the challenge remains to integrate such new techno-social processes with the activities of partners locally, within a particular development/ governance sector. Development processes do show considerable inertia even in face of demonstrated benefits of innovations, and with regard to use of ICT based processes there can be significant discontinuity beyond project and/or organisational boundaries. Some UNDP supported projects may need to be specifically designed/ supported that seek to take a demonstrated e-governance/ ICTD process outside a project or organisation to be adopted by a whole set of local partners in a supporting or complementary relationship with regard to particular development/ governance sector. To give an example, sms based information networks immediately add up in value if a larger set of partners, say, all of them working locally in the area of education, join in, both for receiving smses and contributing them. Similar network effects can be seen, for instance, with locally made videos on women's empowerment issues.

ICTs also enable convergence across sectors, and most ICT based innovative processes can fruitfully be employed by different sectors of governance/ development sectors, giving huge network or convergence gains. This can make the ICT based innovations quite cost effective with respect to the huge multiplier effect across different sectors, since ICT based processes typically have relatively high initial costs but very low marginal costs. To cite an example; ICT enabled community monitoring capacities developed in the area of health, can easily also be employed for education, agriculture support, NREGA etc. Similarly, ICT facilitated information centres catering to social protection related information may also serve community information needs in areas of health, youth mobilisation etc. Projects may be planned that extend proven and working ICT-based processes developed in one sector for convergence across sectors, especially at the community level. However, such convergence is also possible upstream (e.g. common smart cards, payment gateways, mobile applications, etc).

 

An exercise to be undertaken for classifying different kinds of existing ICTD/ e-governance project (which helps to develop understanding on how to make a roadmap going ahead)

Projects with ICT innovation

Generic ICT mediated processes that has been developed/proved

Avenues of integration/ convergence

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(This exercise can be done by groups in a workshop setting)

Upscaling of ICT-based innovations: For an e-governance or ICTD innovation to be upscaled across a large area of application, geographically and/or population-wise, it requires considerable standardisation, economies of financial and other resources, and integration across a very broad set or processes and activities. It also often requires processes of quick capacity building and considerable initial hand-holding. Very often the upscaling process requires stripping down of some features of the innovation, in order to accomplish the necessary integration with existing processes, which may seem to considerably change the original innovation, and along with it, the expected outcomes. A call has to be taken on the comparative costs and benefits of possible alternative upscaling avenues. Very often innovations may need to ride on large-scale government programmes, which may have a different focus than that of the innovation(s) in question, even if there are certain areas of alignment. One illustrative hypothetical example is, an ICT based monitoring innovation developed in a community-based health project that is sought to be upscaled through the National Rural Health Mission, which is likely to have required making significant changes to the original innovation, both at the level of ICTs and the corresponding social processes. UNDP may want to support such upscaling possibilities after making a careful assessment of alternative ICT based innovations, and of appropriate government programmes that may be able absorb and benefit from them.

 

An exercise to be undertaken (Pick up a proven innovation and look for good candidates among large-scale programmes for upscaling, or take a programme in a specific sector, and scout for a set of proven ICT innovations that it can consider)

Proven ICT innovations

Likely programmes that can benefit from them

 

 

 

 

 

 

(This exercise can be done by groups in a workshop setting)

Specialised and convergent approaches to e-governance

As has been suggested at the end of the last section, an exclusive mainstreaming approach can result in us losing sight of the big picture. ICT based changes often impact at a systemic level. Over time, they can significantly transform the whole architecture of governance. Such a systemic change can work for what may be the highest, politically articulated, objectives of governance reform – like decentralisation, a rights based approach, right to information, community monitoring etc. – or can work in the opposite direction. What may look like greatly improving efficiency may centralise power rather than decentralise it. New modes of service delivery that reduce costs may in fact be causing significant exclusion. Community may find services available at their doorstep, but, at the same time, processes of participation and monitoring may vanish or become even more remote.

E-governance is as political a process as any other area of governance reform, its techno-managerial 'neutral' projections not withstanding. At every step, it may involve political trade-offs and therefore e-governance decisions should be guided by clear principles and policies, and subject to wide stakeholder consultations, and community monitoring and social audits at every stage. Decisions that have a very far-reaching impact on our governance systems are currently being taken, which can largely get hardwired in the near future. This will greatly constrain subsequent maneuverability with regard to our governance architecture and systems. Avoiding such an eventuality requires articulation of a clear e-governance policy, which is lacking at present.

ICTs enable convergence and can serve as a networking platform. Mainstreaming projects, that work from within narrow objectives and possibilities, are normally not able to leverage the highest levels of transformative potential of innovative use of ICTs. Also, any such networking and convergence possibility has often to be first experimented with, in a cross-sectoral manner. However, a mainstreaming approach leaves such cross-sectoral experiments as 'no one's baby', whereby some most important e-governance opportunities can get missed. This is another area of very significant gap with regard to e-governance in India which may be attempted to be addressed by UNDP's efforts.

With regard to its e-governance efforts for the 2013-17 program period, UNDP should consider developing an appropriate convergent approach to support and compliment its mainstreaming efforts, in the following two areas:

  1. Broad principles and policy level coherence for e-governance in India, and

  2. Programmatic level networking and convergence opportunities.

Principles and policy level coherence for e-governance

In the Approach Paper for the XIIth Five Year Plan, the Planning Commission avers that “government programmes need a new architecture: greater localisation, break-down of silos, feedback from citizens, and mechanisms for learning and sharing of best practices” It also highlights the need for “greater devolution and empowerment” in face of “a strong demand from all sectors of society to improve implementation, accountability and service delivery”.

E-governance is a potent means to provide a new architecture for government programmes, and in general, for governance, in India. However, any change of architecture requires an articulation of foundational principles for a such a changeover. Piece-meal changes here and there, which is the current pattern of e-governance in India, does not make for a good 'new architecture' that is in conformance with the objectives that made such a change necessary. The above quotation lays out some of these objectives, which are also the goals of major thrust areas of governance reform in India like, decentralisation, right to information, community monitoring, a rights-based approach, etc. Process objectives like 'greater localisation', 'breakdown of silos' and 'mechanisms of learning and sharing' can also not be met without convergent and broad principles-based approaches to governance reform, which include e-governance. This section deals with coherence and convergence at level of policies and principles, and the next section with convergence at programmatic and implementation levels.

The first requirement is to develop an overall e-governance policy, at central government and state government levels. Such a policy should primarily cast the objectives of e-governance in India in terms of general objectives and directions of overall governance reform. These objectives should then further be seen from the prism of generic new process re-engineering possibilities that ICTs can enable. The overall governance reform objectives will have to be defined in terms of general principles that, as appropriate, may be applied to all e-governance activities in India. Since, the e-governance policy framework is not meant to be technology-centric, and will focus on objectives and areas of reform and architectural change, it would not constrain experimenting with new ICTs as they evolve around us. At appropriate time, however, the policy may need necessary amendments as rapid technology progress continues.

It is accepted that in the very early period of e-governance, ICTs were only beginning to show their paradigmatic promise, and the possibilities they offered in the area of governance were not well understood, even at a generic level. At this time, it may have been considered as counter-productive to apply a policy framework, which can become constraining rather than enabling. It may be for this reason that India is yet to develop an e-governance policy. However, that early phase is past now, and generic possibilities of ICTs for governance reform are largely known and understood. Also, widespread architectural change in Indian governance system is already well underway, even in the absence of a clear set of objectives and road map. It is time therefore that India comes up with an e-governance policy, through wide public consultations. The process should, however, not be led by technologists but by actors involved with the broader governance reform agenda.

Meanwhile, agencies like UNDP can begin to develop broader principles that cast the general governance reform objectives in the clay of new ICT based possibilities that have emerged. These principles should be developed through wide public consultations, and a thorough survey of most transformative impacts that e-governance may have shown worldwide. However, to be really useful, these principles should be very much rooted in the distinct flavor of the current governance reform movements in India. These principles will respond to questions like; does e-governance process re-engineering centralise or decentralise power and decision making, and does it further the objectives of decentralisation? Is ICT based process re-engineering devoted to making attempts at a new bottom-up architecture of governance? Does such process re-engineering employ 'citizen's right to information' as a core design principle in all new governance processes Are the possibilities of community monitoring and feedback systemically included as new ICT based processes are designed? Does the new architecture use ICT possibilities for empowering the front-line worker? Are horizontal and peer-to-peer learning possibilities configured in new system designs?Are duplicate processes being weeded out to improve efficiency? Have the best opportunities for convergence and networking been explored?. And so on.

Just relying on departments to do e-governance in incremental ways means that the best transformational possibilities are not harnessed, as departments work from within their narrow internal logic, and probably, from narrow internal 'interests'. E- governance re-engineering has to proceed from citizen's interests and point of view, and the need for governments to give a coordinated response to citizen's needs and demands. This imperative requires articulation of an e-governance policy and implementation principles and guidelines under it.

In this regard, in the next programming cycle, UNDP may want to undertake two clear sets of activities.

  1. Advocate with governments, both at the central and state levels, to develop an e-governance policy, and align the objectives and activities of e-governance with those of general governance reform movements in India.

  2. Set up an E-governance Resource Support Unit/Group within UNDP to develop appropriate overall principles for e-governance activity in India, and guide its own (UNDP's) work of mainstreaming e-governance.

The advocacy for an e-governance policy, and key principles based coherence in nationwide e-governance activities, should be aimed at both the Departments of IT and the Department of Administrative Reform, in addition to involving all other key government departments, especially those dealing with service delivery and self governance (as being focus areas for UNDP).

The proposed Resource Support Unit/ Group should not be filled with technology specialists but consist of experts in innovative approaches to governance reform. The effort is to guide e-governance effort away from a technology-focus to a wider focus on systemic governance reform.

This E-governance Resource Support Unit/Group should (1) help evolve larger principles for e-governance based process re-engineering, (2) regularly assess innovations possibilities and upscaling opportunities as per the four-way mainstreaming approach suggested in the an earlier section, and (3) provide on-ground advice and support to projects willing to take-up ICT innovations, or scaling up.

Programmatic level networking and convergence opportunities

Some of the most transformational possibilities offered by ICTs are in the area of networking and convergence. A simple mainstreaming approach, where ICTs or e-governance are used from within the logic of a sectoral programme can obviously not appropriately harness these transformational possibilities. It was suggested earlier in this document how, even within a mainstreaming approach, it is useful for UNDP to keep the issue of larger convergences and networking in mind. However, it will also need a different specialised approach that focuses first and foremost on the elements of convergence and networking using ICT and e- governance opportunities. This again is a conscious new direction that UNDP may want to take in terms of development of its new programme, with respect to the area of e-governance.

Convergence opportunities are available both at the community level and upstream in the governance architecture. Governments have lately been quite active in exploring the upstream convergence opportunities, like UID, smart cards, common payment gateways, and, at times, though less frequently, even sharing of data and applications. These upstream convergence processes too will need to be informed by overall e-governance policies and principles, ensuring congruence with larger governance reform objectives, as discussed in the last section. However, apparently, as sufficient activities are already being undertaken by governments, especially by their technology agencies/departments, UNDP may not need to directly undertake or support projects in these areas. (It can however continue to work in terms of specific applications of some such technical convergence activities to key areas of governance in its 'mainstreaming work', like the project supported by UNDP regarding smart cards for MNREGA).

The greatest gap in terms of convergence and networking is at the community level. We have discussed earlier, how the Common Service Centres scheme addresses only one part of the need for community level convergent e-governance infrastructure. There is a great need to undertake projects for community-level convergent e-governance infrastructures that can support decentralisation, community monitoring, rights based approaches, people's right to information, social audits, empowerment projects etc. These can initially be in the form of pilot projects linked to large-scale government programmes. There is already a growing awareness among, and activity by, governments in this area; like the MNERGA Seva Kendras, the proposed Information Centres under PMO's Public Information Infrastructure initiative, state level initiatives like Akshaya in Kerala and Mission Convergence in New Delhi, information and service centres proposed under various legislations like the Unorganised Workers Social Security Act.

The current UNDAF document lays great stress on 'empowering communities' with the aim that “vulnerable and excluded women, children, adolescents and men are empowered as active agents of change”. The document proposes that “strategies for empowering local communities, especially the marginalised and vulnerable, both in rural and urban areas of India, need to be continuously designed, applied and evaluated for their effectiveness”. UNDP specifically seeks to “work with organisations of marginalised groups and equip them with capacities to claim their rights and entitlements”.

In the background of such lofty ideals and objectives, the direct question that must be addressed while designing a new program by UNDP is; what ICTs, which are said to have great potential for empowerment and for transformational systemic change, can do to empower communities, and enable them to engage with the governance systems. The generic answer is; explore ways to develop a community-based and community-owned ICT infrastructure that can empower communities, enable them to assert their rights and claim entitlements, ensure their right to information, support micro-planning, provide support for community monitoring and social audits, and enliven the processes of gram sabha, the most important yet the most neglected tier of decentralisation and self-governance.

What is promising is that ICT-based local social processes can provide a cost-effective convergent support for most, if not all, of the above desired community based activities. What is needed is to build an ICT-based infrastructure of local information centres, community ICT hubs, community radio, participatory video, GIS capabilities, sms and social-media-based local p2p networks, and so on. Providing some of these capacities within 'mainstream projects' and sectoral verticals does offer important learning, but is mostly not effective and sustainable vis-a-vis various resource requirements. However, while initial costs (of funds, human resources, skills, habit change, system resistance, etc) are very high, the marginal costs of running community ICT infrastructures are rather low. Therefore, such community-level ICT possibilities are best applied in a convergent manner, whereby if initial costs are suitably shared among different schemes, everyone benefits greatly in the mid- to long-term. At the same time, suitable community use of such a range of ICTs will allow real empowerment of communities, who can then begin to take governance into their hands.

UNDP should support pilots that are independent, as well those working with with some of the government programmes mentioned above, to build convergent ICT infrastructures that are community owned and seek to empower communities. Through well designed projects, by focusing energies in a few project areas, considerable impact can be shown across many areas of governance work, and in domains of development like health, livelihood support, women's empowerment etc. these can then be offered for upscaling especially to government agencies that focus on convergence like departments of rural development, directorates of social audit and agencies dealing with women's empowerment, youth mobilisation etc.

All of our 'innovative projects' recommendations for project development by UNDP for the period 2013-17 consist of approaching the community-owned ICT infrastructure imperative from different angles; providing resource support to elected representatives (for the 'decentralisation' theme), village level complete process transparency and accountability in MNERGA and other programmes (for the 'accountability and transparency' theme) and mobilising youth to employ ICTs for 'community empowerment' (for the 'rights and entitlements' theme). While as pilot projects they will primarily be addressing their respective project objectives, any community owned infrastructure that will be set up can finally be used for all these objectives, and many more. This is the power of convergence and 'network effect', and the huge economies of cross-sector implementation, that a convergent community-owned ICT infrastructure brings about. For this, however, effort has to be put into building viable models from the scratch, something that UNDP may want to address in the forthcoming programming cycle.

Summary of recommendations for project development by UNDP over 2013-17

1. Strengthen mainstreaming of ICTs in UNDP's work across different sectors

Focusing on the three areas of (1) decentralisation, (2) transparency and accountability, and (3) rights and entitlements, take a strategic approach, distinguishing between projects that;

  1. use mature ICTs for direct project related outcomes

  2. largely, experiment with ICT possibilities for possible innovative practices,

  3. are devoted to exploring post-innovation integration and convergence, and

  4. aim specifically at upscaling successful innovations.

Undertake an exercise to select projects and innovations in each category. Include all the above kinds of projects in its portfolio with careful classification, aimed at due discrimination between relevant kinds of project objectives and outcomes.

2. Develop a complementary convergence strategy for e-governance

 

  1. Advocate with governments to develop e-governance policies that place objectives of e-governance within the larger governance reform agenda.

  2. UNDP should undertake an exercise of developing broad principles that should guide the new 'e-enabled architecture' of various large-scale programmes of governments.

  3. Set up a E-governance Resource Support Unit/ Group to develop principles for e-governance process re-engineering, and to guide mainstreaming activity, including support to interested project level actors.

  4. Undertake pilot projects, both independently, and within large-scale government programmes, for developing community-owned convergent ICT infrastructures that empower communities, and enable them to closely engage with governance activities.

  5. Advocate with agencies involved with large-scale government programmes that are aimed at developing community level ICT infrastructure, for purposeful use of ICT opportunities; for instance with;

 

  1. Department of Rural Development, and other departments/ agencies like those dealing with women's empowerment, youth issues etc, which have cross-sectoral mandates across areas of development;

  1. Department of IT (for its Common Service Centre (CSC) scheme, and other community oriented ICT activities/ programmes);

  2. State government initiatives of a similar kind; for instance, eGram in Gujurat, Akshaya in Kerala, and various state adoption of the CSC scheme;

  3. PMO's Public Information Infrastructure initiative;

  4. Department of Telecommunications's Universal Service Fund's program to provide fibre connectivity to all villages in two years;

  5. Directorates of Social Audit, for supporting ICT-based infrastructure at community level for ongoing community monitoring and social audit.

 

1'Best practices' are indeed something to learn from, and thus, normally, there is nothing wrong in listing them. However, the current e-governance discourse overly relies on a 'best practices' approach often considering such 'practices' in isolation from their situated context, which can lean towards techno-centricism. We attempt to correct this imbalance by proving disproportionate emphasis on the contextual as well as social-systemic and integrative aspects of e-governance.

2The Bhoomi project of land records digtisation stands out in this regard.

3Application Protocol Interfaces

4Taking from the e-business term 'business process re-engineering' that was very prevalent till aroiund 2006.

5The overall objective set up by UNDP for its 'democratic governance' line of work, for the program period 2103-17

6The term 'techno-social' refers to new social processes that are mediated through technologies; for instance, email is a technical process, however, a group regularly using emails as e-lists to effectively organise and coordinate some kind of civil society action would be considered an employing a techno-social process.

What We Do
Resource Type
Project