The Modi government is planning to arm ministers and top bureaucrats with tablets or e-readers powered by a secure and encrypted app to make cabinet meetings paperless by moving them to an online portal called eCabinet.
Once implemented, eCabinet will eliminate physical file movements in any inter-ministerial consultation on cabinet proposals.
The intra-government portal will also create an e-record of official responses as opposed to the earlier practice of file notings.
The ministry of communication and information technology has already moved a note seeking the views of the law ministry on the proposal. If all goes to plan, the government should be able to fully migrate to eCabinet meetings in the next six to eight months. The move is in line with the Centre’s e-governance push to make decision-making faster and more efficient.
“It would help in conducting cabinet sessions more efficiently and keeping a digital archive of relevant documents for quick reference. Besides, the entire system will restrict access to data meant only for authorised personnel,” a senior official told HT.
Andhra Pradesh became the first state to initiate such a system last year with chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu holding a paperless eCabinet meeting in September 2014.
In addition to saving time, eCabinet will enable real-time inter-ministerial discussions on proposals and track “file” movements online.
Ministers will have to log into the portal with a password but will be restricted from sharing their details with anyone. Authorised users will also be able to access and share documents in eCabinet’s electronic cabinet document management system system.
The government, however, is still examining the system’s potential risks that include loss or theft of the tablet.
Cabinet secretary Ajit Seth is open to the proposal but wants extensive checks before migrating to the paperless regime, sources said.
“Cabinet notes are treated as secret. It is, therefore, essential to ensure that the e-mode has sufficient security features,” the official said.
The cabinet secretariat will also have to amend the transaction of business rules for cabinet meetings to make the e-portal a part of government procedure. Cabinet notes are already circulated both by email and paper, the official added.
“We will first test the system for safety before implementing it full scale,” another senior government official said.
Some ministers who are not computer savvy will have to be trained in the paperless system, he added. Andhra Pradesh had organised a special training camp when iPads were distributed to state ministers.