Now Leverage Technology to build SMART Villages in country : Conrad Sangma

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New Delhi, August 8, 2019 : Union Minister of State (Independent Charge) for the Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region and Minister of State for Prime Minister’s Office, Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances & Pensions, Departments of Atomic Energy and Space, Dr. Jitendra Singh inaugurated the 22nd National Conference on e-Governance 2019 (NCeG), the first ever in North East region, in Shillong, Meghalaya today. Chief Minister of Meghalaya, Shri Conrad K. Sangma also presided over the event as Chief Guest. The Conference is being attended by senior government officers from across India, researchers and eminent personalities from IT industry.

Addressing the Inaugural session of the Conference, Dr. Jitendra Singh congratulated the State Government of Meghalaya for organizing such a elaborate and successful National Conference on e-Governance. 28 states and all Union Territories have participated in this Conference, which itself is a testimony of the commitment shown by state Governments across the country towards e-Governance, he said. He proposed that the Conference adopts a ‘Shillong Declaration on e-Governance’ so that the importance takeaways from the sessions may be referred to and developed upon, in the future.

Highlighting the importance of the citizen-centric approach in service delivery, Dr. Singh said that after the current Government first came into power in 2014, the Prime Minister of India, Shri Narendra Modi, in his early speeches, had urged to move beyond Vigyan Bhawan. We at DARPG have been religiously following PM’s vision and holding this Conference across the country. The PM had earlier defined e-governance as easy, effective, economical and environmental-friendly governance. The ease of governance would only be possible by ‘Minimum Government and Maximum Governance’, he said. Government of India, under the leadership of Shri Modi, has been focussing on this aspect especially in the remotest corners of the country, Dr. Singh added.

Talking about important reforms taken by Ministries/Departments under his charge Dr. Singh detailed different initiatives. He said that this Government did away with the need to certify documents by government officials, a legacy of British empire. By doing this the Government demonstrated the resolve that it trusted the youth of India, the Dr. Singh said. Over 1500 obsolete rules and regulations have been done away with, which makes government functioning efficient and citizen friendly. Under Prime Minister’s guidance, many initiatives have also been undertaken by Government of India and projects like IRCTC Rail connect app and UMANG app of Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) have been rolled out. Other initiatives like Jeevan Pramaan retired civil servant won’t have to travel to bank for submitting life certificate or common citizens can get to know about various schemes being implemented in their area through mobile app.

The Minister mentioned that CPGRAMS, the grievance redressal portal of DARPG, is witnessing a significant jump in citizen complaints from what it was five years earlier. This is not because people are not happy with the government, but it is the faith that the people repose in the efficient grievance redressal mechanism. The increase in efficiency of the Government can be analysed by comparing figures of disposal of grievances which has gone up to over 95%. This proves the responsiveness of Government, he said.

Dr. Singh highlighted the importance of increasing awareness among the common people about new citizen-friendly initiatives taken by the Government. Dashboards, portals and apps have been set up by the Government to establish citizen friendly governance. The most striking example is revolutionizing the format of Prime Minister’s Excellence Awards. Because of the adoption of new format, 682 districts across the country are competing for these awards. Also, PM’s Awards for Excellence in Public Administration became an occasion for a country wide competition, particularly among young Collectors of the country and has given a boost to implementation of various flagship programmes of the Government.

The Minister said that Ministry of DoNER is keeping up with the pace of digitization and service delivery through electronic means. It has constantly engaged itself with promoting e-governance initiatives that are being taken up by the North Eastern states. It has extended its support to various externally aided projects proposed by different NE States in the field of Health (Telemedicine), Education (Digitization of Classrooms) etc.

Further, the Minister added that for the last 5 years, the Government has made significant progress in the direction of achieving e-Governance mandate being discussed at the highest level. For making digital literacy universal, the Government has taken key initiatives like Aadhaar and Jan-Dhan Yojana and has laid down the target completion by 2022, i.e. the 75th Independence year of India.

Addressing the Conference, Shri Conrad K. Sangma described how application of technology is close to his heart and how important it is for achieving effective citizen centric governance. It is not the best technology that matters, but it is how best the available technology is applied for the larger good of the masses. Shri Sangma talked about the challenges of digital connectivity in the North East, especially Meghalaya. He thanked the Union Government for sanctioning new mobile towers for the State, which would help reducing the challenges of connectivity. Shri Sangma said that conferences like this facilitate pooling of great experience and best practices, that go a long way in addressing traditional challenges using new age technologies.

Shri Sangma also focussed on another aspect which is the data that the government collects for public service delivery. He noted that effective decision making depends upon the quality of data collected. It is a very important aspect of good governance. The kind of impact it can have at the grassroots is immense. He gave the example of the successful model of how technology is being used in Meghalaya in creating a database of expectant mothers, details of health infrastructure available and using that effectively to increase institutional deliveries in the state, without incurring a huge cost. This has gone a long way in improving the figures of maternal mortality rates in the state, he said. Shri Sangma also talked about the e-initiatives being initiated by the Meghalaya government for revolutionising the farming and entrepreneurship sectors in the state. Shri Sangma stressed on the need for focussing on villages and leveraging technology to make them SMART, in addition to creating SMART CITIES.

During his address, Shri Hamletson Dohling, Minister for IT and Communications, Government of Meghalaya noted that information and communication technology is a powerful tool to bring the Government and public together and ensure efficient public service delivery. He said that NCeG is an important platform to realise the huge potential of ‘Digital Dividend’ across the country. He enlisted the citizen centric initiatives taken by the Government of Meghalaya, like e-Districts; sponsoring students and local companies to increase digital literacy in the state, among others. He requested the Union Minister to continue providing Central Government’s support to realise the dream of Meghalaya establishing an IT hub in the North East.

Shri K.V. Eapen, Secretary, Department of Administrative Reforms and Public Grievances (DARPG), thanked the Government of Meghalaya for hosting the National Conference, a first in the North East. Talking about the importance of such large scale conferences, he said NCeG is a platform for Government officials, industry stalwarts and researchers to interact and share best practices in the field of e-Governance. Such conferences are a stepping stone towards the Government’s vision to bridge the Digital Divide, enhance citizen satisfaction and participation in service delivery and bringing in more transparency to reduce corruption. Shri Eapen added that digital literacy and data security are important constituents of achieving the above vision. This conference would deliberate on these important aspects besides the importance of convergence of the efforts of the Union and State Governments in achieving ‘Digital India’, he added. The Secretary also gave a brief overview of the e-governance initiatives being taken in DARPG.

Shri Ajay Prakash Sawhney, Secretary, MeitY gave a presentation on how public digital platforms have been utilised for value creation and how it has transformed the nature of Government public service delivery in the country. The presentation focussed on ‘Government becoming a Service Enabler from a Service Provider’. He gave the example of Direct Benefit Transfer saving about Rs. 1 Lakh Crore of tax payers’ money since its inception; how digital payments have been revolutionised by BHIM UPI App; how Government procurement has been made transparent by the Government e-Market (GEM) platform.

Shri P.S. Thangkhiew, Chief Secretary, Government of Meghalaya, during his address, focussed on binding Government programmes together by breaking the silos based working and using enterprise architecture approach. He stressed on the need of strengthening the digital backbone for achieving the vision of a digitally integrated service delivery architecture in the country.