RealTime IT News

Indian State Moves For Electronic Governance

Andhra Pradesh, run by technology savvy chief minister N. Chandrababu Naidu, has set the deadline of September 1999 for making the state the first in the country to have electronic governance.

The next few months will witness a flurry of activity and fast-paced changes in this direction.

According to a senior official in information technology, the forthcoming major events include signing of a number of agreements between a consortium of three Singapore companies and various departments of the state government for setting up the Andhra Pradesh Value Added Network (Apvan) which will start functioning from June, this year.

Prior to that, another major project, the Andhra Pradesh Statewide Area Network (Apswan), to be installed by the Bangalore-based United Telecom Ltd (UTL) is expected to become operational.

The state government signed the agreement with the company recently to set up the network which will link all government offices in the state in a phased manner through a 2 mbps fiber optic line.

In the first phase, six major centers in the state will be connected with the state secretariat by the end of March.

In the second phase, to be completed by June this year, all 23 district headquarters and the two major centers of Tirupati and Vijayawada will be covered.

In the last phase, 1,100 administrative blocks will be brought into the network, according to informed sources.

The network, to be set up at the cost of Rs 22 crore (US$ 5.15 million), will provide data, voice mail and video conferencing facilities, bringing the entire administration on-line.

The network will also provide about 100,000 e-mail connections to government employees.

Another telecommunication giant, London-based WorldTel, will spread a network of Internet booths throughout the state.

Sam Pitroda, WorldTel's chief executive and the man behind the telecom revolution in India, recently signed an agreement with the state government in AP.

The company will invest $100 million in the state in the next four years. "The Internet centers will become as popular and common as the STD and ISD telephone booths," said Pitroda.

The Internet centers and the electronic kiosks will be the most crucial and important link in the entire chain because they will be the point from where the end-user will be able to access government services and the offices," he added.

While Apswan will be the basic infrastructure or the backbone of the electronic government, Apvan will use this infrastructure to deliver the goods.

Apswan will link all the government offices, making government-citizen, government-industry and government-government interface possible.

Apvan, to be set up by the Singapore Network Services, National Computer Board and National Computer Systems, will initially focus only on six core areas of government activity -- transport, commercial tax, procurement, land registration, payment of utility bills and employment exchanges.

For using this value added network, which will ensure fast paced delivery of the services, the government departments will in some cases foot the bill while in others it will be the consumer who will have to pay the charges.

According to officials, Apvan will not only expedite the functioning of the system and enable the people to get better services but will also make the system more transparent.

Apvan, which will cost Rs 1.52 billion over the next seven years, will focus on high priority, high visibility areas where it will have maximum impact.

Apswan, on the other hand, will enable any citizen to access government offices from anywhere in the state.

As the success and effectiveness of this system is dependent on the quality of its functioning, strict conditions have been imposed by the state government on UTL.

Under the agreement, the company will have to ensure minimum up-time of 99.99 percent at the state headquarters and 99.90 percent at the district network center.

The government will make no payment to the company if the minimum up-time goes below 80 percent, officials pointed out.