The government is the biggest spender on technology, and so can be the biggest beneficiary of the Rs 5,000 PC (5KPC) Ecosystem. In India, for example, it is estimated that 70% of the package software revenues come from the government. (Of course, what this means is that enterprises and home users are the biggest purveyors of piracy!) Governments are typically strapped for funds, and yet are expected to provide a wide variety of citizen-centric services. Many of these efforts now go under the name of eGovernance.
There are two types of uses of technology by the government organisations: one is for internal use, and the other for providing eGovernance services. In the internal usage scenario, providing a computer for every (or most) government employees can help speed up processing of information and decision-making. The days of pushing files need to be replaced by clicking on files. Given the sheer numbers involved, it is imperative for governments of emerging markets to use lower cost technologies and yet achieve the same effectiveness.
For eGovernance, there are two aspects: the first is the backend computerisation, and the second is the front-end access. First, Here is a definition of eGovernance from BanagaloreIT.com: E-governance or electronic governance may be defined as delivery of government services and information to the public using electronic means. Such means of delivering information is often referred to as information technology or ‘IT’ in short form. Use of IT in government facilitates an efficient, speedy and transparent process for disseminating information to the public and other agencies, and for performing government administration activities.
In fact, the Ministry of Information Technology of the Indian Government has gone further and outlines what a few ideas on what it would like to do:
Government should have an intranet for ensuring smoother flows of data, communications and access to information by different Ministries and Departments. It should be made mandatory for all Ministries and other Departments to put as much information as possible on to the intranet but in a manner in which searches can be made easily.
Transactions between various departments of the government of India and other Government organisations should be networked so that a substantial part of transfer of files and paper can be replaced by an intranet within the Government.
All departments & agencies to ensure that they operate web sites which provide up-to-date information, forms, leaflets etc.
E-mail to be incorporated into the normal range of contact methods and departments & agencies will implement arrangement for rapid response to e-mail queries.
There should be a single web based front-end for all government services to the public.
On the backend computerisation, the use of open-source software can help dramatically reduce costs. Linux, rather than Windows, should be the operating environment. Databases like PostgreSQL and MySQL could be preferred over Oracle and Microsoft SQL. We will discuss the second part in greater detail when we talk about telecentres and how a distributed network of computing and communications centres can make for universal access to information and transactions.
In fact, the government, through its influence on IT decisions, can play a positive role in the promotion and buildout of the 5K PC Ecosystem. We will look at some ideas on what he government can do.
Tomorrow: Government (continued)
TECH TALK The Rs 5,000 PC Ecosystem+T