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.

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