TECH TALK: Transforming Rural India: Intelligent, Real-Time Governance

A Government is very much like a large, multi-locational Enterprise. If we think of intelligent, real-time enterprises, we can also apply the same ideas to enable intelligent, real-time governance.

A real-time enterprise, as Ray Lane says, is a company that uses Internet technology to drive out manual business processes, to eliminate guesswork, and to reduce costs. The key feature of a real-time enterprise is spontaneous transaction flow.

In other words, think of a real-time enterprise as having the following characteristics:

Computing and Communications available to every employee
Superior Information Availability across the Value Chain
Streamlined Business Processes using the Web
Lower Inventory through improved Analytics
Data entered only Once
Single Interface to all Applications

This is exactly how governments need to think of themselves. It is about creating a corporate atmosphere with a social bias.

The villages are part of the real-time governance supply-chain. A supply chain is only as good as its weakest link. Today, isolated villages are the equivalent of unconnected small and medium enterprises in supply chains. The TeleInfoCentre and Village InfoGrid bring the villages into the governance network, enabling a two-way near real-time flow of information. They form the endpoints, the spokes, the front-office if you will. They need to be complemented with the automation of the back-office the heart of the government which lies in the state capitals and district headquarters.

What governments need is a four-step action plan to move towards the vision of architecting an intelligent, real-time information flow architecture:

  • Messaging and Internet Access for all employees: Every government employee should have an email ID and access to Instant Messaging. Each of the government locations should be networked. There should be integration of the messaging infrastructure with cellphones to enable delivery of real-time alerts.

  • Computing for all: Every government employee needs to have a computer on their desk. The same ideas that are applicable for a TeleInfoCentre (low-cost computers, server-centric computing, open-source software, and support for English and local languages) can be used to build out the computing infrastructure. Computer training and usage must be made mandatory for salary raises and promotions. The monthly cost to make computing available to every employee will be no more than Rs 500-700. If employees and government processes can be made just 5% more productive, the investment will pay back immediately.

  • Collaboration and Knowledge Management: Once the computing and messaging infrastructure is in place, the next step is to make people individually more productive and make teams work together more efficiently. This can be done via the use of workflow software and tools to aid decision-making. Every employees computer desktop should have a Digital Dashboard a single screen of information which shows the key indicators and events that need attention. Tacit knowledge within government employees should be harnessed through the use of enterprise weblogs.

  • Business Process Automation: The essence of governance is about managing money (think of it as accounting) and interacting with citizens and businesses (akin to customer relationship management). The focus needs to be on the core business processes, creating an event-driven architecture with the focus being not on routine information management but on handling exceptions. The OHIO (only handle information once) principle should ensure an integrated backend database. One of the first places that governments can begin using Internet and Web ideas is in eProcurement.

    The result of building out the government as an eBusiness will be to enable the creation of an Emergent Democracy.

    Tomorrow: Emergent Democracy

    Transforming Rural India+T

  • Published by

    Rajesh Jain

    An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.