The flavour of last week in India was decidedly the hunger strike by Gandhian Annasaheb Hazare seeking a big push to the Lokpal (ombudsman) Bill aimed at ushering in accountability of public servants in a bid to fight corruption and bribery. There is a technology angle to this, which I thought I should dwell on in line with the mood.
E-governance has been a fashionable term for a decade now and India has been pushing forward quite well in this space. But much of the focus has been on two aspects.
First, by making offices paperless, moving digital files and executing signatures electronically, e-governance has lowered costs and improve speed and convenience in governance.
Secondly, citizen services are getting better. You can now track a passport application, pay a utility bill or file income tax returns online.
But beyond these lies a third aspect— that of public services that are not about individual convenience or government efficiency. This is about transparency.
There is growing push for transparency in governance and the Right To Information (RTI) law and activism surrounding it have helped unearth information aimed at holding officials accountable.
In this domain, IT service companies must work with civil society groups to set new benchmarks and improve what I call the Transparency Quotient (TQ) in governance. For example, when a road or a park is built or project is approved, from the stage of tendering to the final completion, there is a case to make the whole process transparent.
In the private sector, employees and partners have access to information on the progress of a project. In the government-administered public domain, a similar access to voluntary groups, opposition parties and citizens can put pressure on public servants to speed up projects, reduce red tape and offer opportunities to combat delays and secrecy that breed corruption.
In other words, we should make the information system within the government RTI friendly to make transparency the rule rather than an