India still faces a huge challenge in the application of e-governance to empower its citizens and for overall economic development, says British E-Government Minister Pat McFadden.
"India is no doubt developing its information and communications technology sector. But there is a huge challenge in terms of the poor not being able to access technology for their development," McFadden, who is on four-day visit to India, said in an interview.
"During my visit here, I have seen quite a degree of enthusiasm and interest in e-governance. But the main problem is to build it in such a way so as to empower citizens," McFadden, who is also the parliamentary secretary in Britain, added.
"I am here to share experiences of how technology can be used to improve service delivery and make life easier for citizens. Ministers in India dealing with the subject understand the situation and I am sure they are working on this."
The minister also visited several e-governance centres in India that are aimed at empowering the poor such as Sewa in Hyderabad and the ITC-promoted e-Choupal.
During his four-day visit in India, he traveled to Hyderabad and interacted with top government officials and Indian IT majors such as Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) and Infosys to explore and facilitate bilateral investment opportunities.
"This (investment) is a two-way street. There are many British companies which have outsourced their work here in India and same for Indian companies who have set up their operations in UK," McFadden said.
"Companies like TCS employ over 2,000 people in the UK, Infosys has about 1,400 staff in the UK and HCL employ around 1,800 people in the UK," McFadden said. "About 60 percent of India's investment to Europe comes to the UK and over 500 Indian companies have operations in the UK in sectors like ICT, automotive components and pharmaceuticals."
McFadden, who is also Minister for Social exclusion, also visit several NGOs in the national capital including the Salaam Baalak Trust, which provides shelter homes to the street children, to understand the degree of poverty in India and how it can be eliminated with the help of technology. "We also intend to strengthen the trade tries between the two countries by deepening our relationship."
The minister also held talks with India's Minister of State for Communications and IT Shakeel Ahmad and representatives of the software sector lobby, National Association of Software and Service Companies (Nasscom).