D Murali

IT in public governance…

| Updated on: Apr 24, 2011
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Effective computerisation of government functions makes government departments more efficient and transparent, and enables clean governance, thus increasing both public trust and satisfaction, observes Chary Mudumby, Vice-President, HTC Global Services (India) P Ltd, Chennai ( >http://bit.ly/F4TCharyM ).

Once the IT applications are available on the Net and integrated with social networks, maintaining data confidentiality and security assume paramount importance, cautions Chary, during a recent interaction with Business Line . “Compromising data may result in legal issues and the resultant lack of faith in the systems. So the systems need to be hack-proof and provide the confidentiality with required authorisations and access rights.”

Reminding that, as the IT applications get used, large volumes of data are collected over a period of time, Chary adds that the analysis and mining of these data will enable government departments to deduce necessary intelligence to optimise the processes, and improve the service levels and the overall satisfaction of the public. My conversation with Chary continues over email.

Excerpts from the interview.

What are the areas where governments can leverage IT to financial benefit?

Governments are like enterprises employing a large number of people with varying skills, operating under the umbrella of a holding company. While each of these units or enterprises or departments has tasks to perform in delivering services unique to the department, each has generic needs which, in common understanding, are mundane in nature.

These mundane functions are employee management, finance management, facility management, purchase management and sales management. The unique or specific needs are at least as many, if not more, as the number of departments in the enterprise called the government.

For instance, the Road Transportation Corporation requires IT applications to deal with vehicle registration, road tax, issuance and renewal of licences, traffic violations etc. The department of land records needs IT applications to maintain the sale deeds and register land. The Metropolitan Development Authority requires applications to manage construction guidelines, design approvals, site verifications, construction/ demolition approvals, etc.

The finance head in a government organisation, like in any other private sector enterprise, needs to ensure that the organisation is financially healthy and continues to provide services profitably. This brings us back to the mundane functions which are the core functions of an ERP (enterprise resource planning) system; every function specific to the department must interface with the ERP system, especially with finance management, and ensure that up-to-date financial information from all the government offices is available at the Accountant General's office, enabling them to monitor the financial pulse of these departments, as also alert and offer any course correction.

How can IT solutions help governments in achieving service levels?

As a general guideline in everything we do, what is measured may be improved and what is not measured may not be. Though we can improve upon the performance without being measured, such improvement tends to be subjective; that is, with no proper measurements, the improvements are subjective.

In order to monitor the performance or the service levels of a function, some generic data need to be recorded for the activities within the function. The date and time the service request has been made, service priority, person performing the service, date and time for start and end preferably at the activity level within the service are some of the data points.

Manual recording of such data is error-prone, and measurements are time-consuming. Automated workflow systems are better suited to record such generic performance data. From these data points, metrics such as the average time to fulfil a service request, the percentage of requests that are not completed within the service level and many more can be computed automatically. A causal analysis can be performed and processes can be bettered to achieve and exceed the service levels. Performance data recording makes it possible for the service organisations to be transparent.

In addition to automating the workflow, automation of the service activity itself (e.g. recording the driver's information, verifying the driver's test records, and printing the licence) greatly improves the efficiency and accuracy of the service. Thus, computerising the applications will make the service more effective, departments more accountable, and enable the departments to provide better service levels.

Let me cite a few examples.

a) ERP : While SAP and Oracle ERPs can run the business functions, most government organisations especially in India look for open source ERPs with low total cost of ownership. HTC's eBAP (enterprise Business APplication) is one such solution used in ELCOT and a few other government organisations in Tamil Nadu.

b) Grants lifecycle : Most government organisations issue grants to individuals or organisations to carry out projects, usually research-oriented, to help the social cause in fields such as childcare, education, and health. Grants management applications such as HTC's eGrAMS (implemented in Children's Trust Fund, Michigan, US) allow the governments to define a grant programme, invite and evaluate the proposals, issue the grants and monitor the project through completion.

What can be the right ecosystem to help reap the full advantage of the IT solutions?

Robust ERP systems, with workflow engine and applications to implement multitude of the services government provides, are all part of the IT solutions. These solutions need to be largely online and preferably run on the mobiles. These services need to take the social networks into consideration and should integrate or interface with them, provide similar look and feel as future consumers of these applications are today's young and the youth who are in schools and colleges.

This brings us to the most import ecosystem for an IT solution, which is the user base willing to institutionalise the system and contribute ideas to the improvement of such systems.

The upcoming generation is more technology savvy and more adapting to IT than those of the past and the present.

Training and awareness programmes to the employees of government organisations and to the public at large are the need of the hour to bridge the gap. Internet connections with large bandwidths, smart phones, tablets and other ubiquitous devices – all form part of the ecosystem. Thankfully, India and the other developing countries can embrace these infrastructural and technological advances easily, as they do not have the burden of legacy.

> dmurali@thehindu.co.in

Published on April 24, 2011

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