|Demand of the question|
Introduction. Contextual Introduction.
Body. Vital factors that affect ICT based Programmes implementation. Government measures and measures needed.
Conclusion. Way forward.
The information and Communication Technology (ICT) is a part of good governance and it enhances its accessibility by bridging the gaps in governance. It not only enhance governance efficiency but enable citizens to enjoy various services with ease. ICT projects ensure speedy governance. But various factors hinders the effective implementation of ICT projects like digital illiteracy.
Vital factors that affect ICT based Programmes implementation:
- Infrastructure: The lack of necessary infrastructure such as broadband connectivity, continuous electricity supply, mobile coverage to support the ICT based projects has made governance elusive rather than making them inclusive. Often faced with issues such as poor connectivity it has resulted in people struggling in accessing the modes of governance.
- Digital illiteracy: Illiteracy rate in India is more than 25-30% and digital literacy is almost non-existent among more than 90% of India’s population. The lack of digital literacy has resulted in an increase in the number of intermediaries who lure the people for financial gains in the name of assisting them. As a result, ICT based projects rather than reforming governance has added another intermediary for the common man.
- Language Barrier: The ICT based platforms are often driven by English. Due to the efforts of central government Hindi has started to make some inroads in ICT. But other regional languages are still out of the ambit of ICT platforms. Even where they are present they are full of technical jargons which are non-comprehensive. This has made governance more alien.
- Cost of Data: Government banking of JAM (Jan Dhan, Aadhaar, Mobile) is promoting governance through mobiles. But the cost of data in relative terms is high in India. This financial burden has made people shying away from using the ICT platforms.
- Lack of technical proficiency: The government officials implementing such projects needs to be skilled enough to handle the technical challenges that may arise. Proficiency in the technology is a must. For example, government authorities overseeing E-passport seva must know how to solve problems faced by users.
- Non-inclusive nature of technology used: The ICT technologies are difficult for certain sections of society to understand. This need simplification of the process and make it easy to handle. For example, problems faced by senior citizens, differently-abled, illiterate persons due to complex design of ICT based solutions.
- Poor internet connectivity: Rural India suffers from poor internet penetration due to lack of electricity and poor network quality. This has led to difficulties in Aadhaar Enabled Payment Services (AEPS) and last mile delivery of services.
- Geographical and weather related problems: Population residing in difficult terrains like North Eastern hilly region, islands of Andaman and Nicobar and Lakshadweep are difficult to reach. Extreme weather events like cyclones, tsunamis, etc. can hamper key communication and mobile internet services.
Government efforts to address these factors:
- Digital literacy: Programmes like PMGDISHA aimed at educating people with low digital literacy must be taken up.
- Connectivity: Projects like BharatNet aimed at connecting all gram panchayats with broadband must be taken up with faster pace.
- Digitisation of services: The government has been spearheading radical digitisation to induce economic inclusiveness and social transformation, through initiatives like, ‘Digital India’, ‘Make in India’ and Skill India.
Measures for Effective Implementation
- Creating suitable infrastructure: Suitable infrastructure must be created for ICT projects. Increasing the number of Common Services Centres and addressing the connectivity issues should be the first priority.
- Increasing investment in human capital formation: The government must explore providing free internet packages to enable people to access ICT platforms. The government must develop model like basic Facebook wherein people would be able to access the government portals without internet charges. The government could offset the costs through Universal Service Obligation Funds.
- Changes in design and structure: Government websites should be made user friendly so that they can be used by differently abled and senior citizens.
- Digital literacy: Mandating digital literacy in school curriculum and co-curricular activities is important. By educating the children to access these platforms, they can serve as agents of change to adopt ICT platforms. One such example is IT Club ‘e-Kidz’ formed by students of the Government Upper Primary School at Koothattukulam in Kerala.
- Involving Private sector organizations: Corporates can be asked to spend their CSR funds in digital training and providing technological solutions for societal needs.
- Integrating Local Languages: The government must integrate local languages into ICT platforms to ensure the ease of use by population across the country.
- Plugging digital divide: The ICT programmes must not become ends in themselves rather they must be the tools of good governance. Due consideration must be given to address the issues of availability, affordability and accessibility while developing the ICT governance platforms.
Adoption of Information and Communication Technologies has proved to be a boon with its inherent advantages such as increased efficiency, transparency, and flexibility in operations. But their implementation also suffers due to certain shortcomings at the preparation level. In order to reap the benefits ushered by ICTs, India must address the above factors and be prepared to embrace the revolution.