If e-governance means getting your building map approved by a mere click of the mouse, then e-governance is certainly a distant dream. But the picture is not bleak either, at least for those living in the state capital, who can now pay their house tax and power bills online.
Indeed, government departments need to pull up their socks to become more accessible and people-friendly, but few can deny that the use of Information Technology has made life a wee bit easier in certain spheres. Ventures like e-seva, e-suvidha, and Lokvani may not yet have struck a chord due to lack of awareness, but they can and are in some cases laying out the roadmap for development.
“The State Service Delivery Gateway (SSDG), the government portal connected to the common service centres (CSCs) and Lokvani centres, is still in its nascent stage. There will be birth pangs,” said a senior IT department official.
People’s response across the state has shown that the idea of submitting applications for government services online has many takers. The IT department official said that e-applications have started being processed by several departments but results would take time as the backend infrastructure is inadequate.
Just as one swallow does not make a summer, the government’s e-initiative requires a collective and coordinated effort to succeed. Those at the helm of IT-based citizen-specific services are yet to pass this litmus test.
With the exception of few cash-rich civic and development agencies, the majority of government departments in the e-loop lack not only the required infrastructure but also trained officials to do the job. The initial hiccups in providing 26 services online under the ambitious e-governance project had also forced authorities to scale down their plans.
E-services are being provided in Lucknow at 142 common service centres across the district. But a spot check by HT confirmed that people were far from happy with the state of affairs.
“I filled my form for a domicile certificate two weeks ago. I was told to file an affidavit along with the form. For this I need to visit the tehsil office. I wonder what purpose e-governance serves,” said Abhinav Sharma, a city resident.
Similarly, many applicants have to visit tehsil offices to get their documents attested, which defeats the very purpose of online service. The idea of e-governance was to check irregularities, ensure transparency, and, most importantly, do away with the running around for official work. But the officials themselves give contradictory information. Applicants seeking e-services of the eight departments that are currently offering them were told that there was no requirement of visiting tehsil offices for getting birth, death, domicile, caste, income, and employment certificates, which could be procured from the CSC itself.
The district authorities concede to a possible ‘knowledge gap’ in the project.
In Lucknow, over 5,000 e-applications have been uploaded. Out of these, a little over 35% are said to have been attended to. “The facility is intended to reduce the interaction of end users with government officials. But there is a problem somewhere in the delivery process. We will try to track it down and make some changes,” said a senior district administration official.
Officials say that following complaints, the state government held two meetings to track down the problem. Chief minister Akhilesh Yadav himself chaired one meeting and the other was presided over by principal secretary, Information Technology. “Actually the services have almost done away with human interaction completely. Maybe there are some officials at various levels who are yet to adapt to the new system. A major disincentive for them seems to be the fact that it puts an end to their under-the-table income,” the official said.
But these are just minor glitches, says an IT official monitoring the venture. “The two key components for the success of a major programme are political will and administrative support. Fortunately, we have both in abundance right now,” he said.