One reason why digital revolution in the government is only a partial success—despite the huge investment in computerization, is the multiple levels of government with their own flavors of computerization and there is no easy way to exchange data between them
Prime Minister Modi has spoken at length about the need to leverage digital technologies to improve governance. However, effectively delivering services and information to a huge populace across a vast country like India is daunting task. Inadequate and unreliable infrastructure only exacerbates the problem. And the woeful lack of skills and knowledge at the lowest tiers of the government that interact with the common man only makes things harder.
Information silos lead many other big problems
Why is the digital revolution in the government only a partial success—despite the huge sums of money that have been invested in computerization? One big problem is that of information silos.
Many levels of government have implemented their own flavors of computerization—so there is no easy way to exchange data and information between them. The second problem is the reluctance to cede control, and zealously protect turfs and create “information prisons”. This makes it hard to build services that need to aggregate and present a seamless interface to the user.
The third problem is that government organizations usually fail to anticipate sufficient use case scenarios—and often “computerise” an existing inefficient process without re-engineering it to benefit from available technologies.
Finally, public IT projects often have inelegant user interfaces, and dreadful usability. Their acceptance by the public is often a testimony to sheer desperation.
Proposed CIOs for ministries can help solve the problems
It is heartening to note that the government has recognized these challenges, and has proposed to designate CIOs for key ministries and organizations. This will help ensure government organizations prioritize IT initiatives better, formulate IT strategies that are better aligned to deliver on -governance, ensure adoption of best practices (both from the private and government sector), and hopefully accelerate the OpenGov initiative.
More importantly, the CIOs will need to initiate a significant cultural change in the organization, and implement new processes and procedures to deliver a truly “digital government” in partnership with innovative private sector companies. That will not be easy.