"e-governance, however, is not really the use of IT in governance but as a tool to ensure good governance. e-governance does not mean proliferation of computers and accessories; it is basically a political decision which calls for discipline, attitudinal change in officers and employees, and massive government process re-engineering,"Ravi Kant (Special Secretary, IT, Govt. of West Bengal) explains.
All implementers and drivers of e-governance initiatives agree that the biggest challenge of deploying e-governance is not technology but change management. Change management is important not only in terms of cultural change but also in terms of changing operations and processes workflow that the automated environment will introduce.
"It's important to educate people at all levels about the benefits of technology. The various benefits and advantages of e-enabling the system should be communicated clearly right at the beginning to ensure popular support which will lead to greater chances of success," explains Dr G D Gautama, Secretary, IT, Government of West Bengal.
It is important to explain to people that the introduction of IT will not take away existing jobs but will make them easier, and if less manpower is required for operations the staff can be re-deployed elsewhere with no threat to their career growth path.
The key challenges with electronic governance are not technology or internet issues but organizational issues like
- Redefining rules and procedures
- Information transparency
- Legal issues
- Infrastructure, Skill and awareness
- Access to right information
- Interdepartmental collaboration
- Tendency to resist the change in work culture
Other obstacles are geographical distances, lack of trained human resources, and lack of ICT penetration in remote areas. For instance, a good e-governance application will not benefit anybody in remote areas if there is no supporting infrastructure such as electricity, computers and connectivity. Many pilots have been successfully implemented in almost all areas of e-governance, but, says Ravi Kant, "Rather than having an obsession to undertake pilot projects, we should capitalise on the existing successful examples in the country and customise them for our use."
The challenges of connectivity have also reduced over the years with the falling prices of bandwidth and increased reach of connectivity service providers. Major VSAT service providers already have established large footprints in India, and telecom service providers have stepped up their leased line offerings even in previously unrepresented territories. Many state governments have developed state wide area networks (SWANs), customised applications, and data banks. But the interconnectivity of the servers is an issue which calls for the establishment of state data centres. The NIC, which is promoting e-governance in the country, has established VSAT connectivity in all the districts of the country. There remain however issues such as standardisation, inter-operability, security, and propriety vs. open source.
The other set of challenges lie in extending the reach of e-Governance services to 70% of Indian population that lives in villages. These include:
- Assessment of local needs and customizing e-Governance solutions to meet those needs
- Content (local content based on local language)
- Building Human Capacities
e-Governance Challenges Specific to India
We list down some of the challenges which are specific to India - (Some of the inputs are taken from an officer from NIC).
- Lack of Integrated Services: Most of the eGovernance Services being offered by state or central governemets are not integrated. This can mainly be attributed to Lack of Communication between different Departments. So the information that resides with one department has no or very little meaning to some other department of Government.
- Lack of Key Persons: eGovernance projects lack key persons, not only from technological aspect, but from other aspects as well.
- Population: This is probably the biggest challenge. Apart from being an asset to the country it offers some unique issues, an important one being Establishing Person Identities. There is no unique identity of a person in India. Apart from this, measuring the population, keeping the database of all Indian nationals (& keeping it updated) are some other related challenges.
- Different Languages: A challenge due to the diversity of the country. It enforces need to do governance (upto certain level), in local languages. Ensuring eGovernance in local language is a big task to achieve.
- According to an officer from NIC, success factors of e-Gov projects -
- 10% Technology
- 60% Process
- 20% Change Management
- Rest is luck
|Summing up the key challenges facing e-Governance and a realistic vision of the solutions||-||Provides information about developing scable applications for e-governance challenges|
|The E-Gov Challenge||-||An article on different views of e-governance and its challenges by different officials|
|Engineering eGovernance Solutions||-||Provides engineering solutions for e-governance challenges|
|Technology Challenges in e-governance||-||Information on technology challenges in e-governance|