Q&A with Shankar Aggarwal
Additional Secretary, Government of India, Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, Department of Information Technology
On the government’s vision of e-governance
India has been doing wonderfully well in terms of ICT, which means primarily the
private sector. The government realized that since such ICT expertise was available
within the country, why not make use of this technology for the benefit of our own
people, especially for the electronic delivery of public services.
This is why, in 2006, we thought of starting this in an organized manner under the
National eGovernance Plan (NeGP). The Plan has a vision to ensure that all citizens
of India have access to information and public services, irrespective of whether
they are living in rural or urban areas. The mission is also to make available these
services at the doorsteps of citizens in the most cost-effective manner.
On the status of the NeGP today
We are setting up data centers in every state and Union Territory, and today 12
data centers are in operation. We expect that by the end of this financial year,
all the data centers will be up and working. On the network front, 26 Wide Area
Networks are in operation as of now,6 and we expect the balance SWANs to become
operational by the end of this year.
Regarding the CSCs, our front-ends, we have already set up 94,000 CSCs, against
a target of 100,000. And according to the new target, we have to escalate to 250,000
CSCs, which means that ultimately, each and every panchayat will have a telecenter.
We are talking about giving access to everyone. Citizens can make use of the shared
infrastructure provided by the government. They can go to a PCO type facility, or
a kiosk, and access these services.
On the role of ICT in delivering critical services to citizens
Today, about 70 percent of people in India are living in rural areas and they do
not have access to computing facilities, to broadband connectivity—the Internet.
On the other side, they also do not have access to good quality education and good
quality healthcare services.
In the area of education, our idea is to expose our children to high quality local
content, because then, the sky’s the limit for them. Their only challenge is that
they are living in rural areas, and do not have access to good quality education.
Our plan is to make use of ICT to deliver high quality content in the local language. Suddenly there will be a transformation.
Apart from education, issues related to healthcare too can be addressed by ICT.
If you go to smaller towns and rural areas, healthcare services are not available.
It is here that telemedicine can make a difference.
The third area where ICT can play a role is in financial inclusion. With the use
of ICT, the costs of banking transactions can be reduced from Rs. 100 per transaction, to less than ten paise per transaction. A number of village level entrepreneurs
who are the operators of the CSCs, are delivering banking services in rural areas.
As on date, more than 600 CSCs are delivering banking services in rural areas.