Digitizing India

Perhaps everyone who had faced the agony of getting the railway tickets reservation would have got excited with the facilities of reservation through Internet. The ticketing service of the world’s largest railway network showed the way. Today the railways’ ticketing site http://www.irctc.co.in is the busiest in the country that had a business of Rs350 crore ticket sales in 2007. Many other services are available today through the Internet.

A bunch of entrepreneurs are trying to replicate the railway tickets initiative in a bigger, and much more fragmented, travel market-long distance bus services. Some nine billion tickets are sold each year, in India, on routes connecting cities, towns and villages-about 50% more than the tickets sold on the railways.

Some NGOs are taking Internet route to help artisans to tap the potential of the global market, and the opportunities are in plenty.

India is trying to get digitized in a big way. With connectivity reaching the rural India, it will provide services and open opportunities for some employment too. It could be more widespread covering almost all services from the government as well as private service providers. Here are some areas where digitizing is taking place.

Police: The contact details of the police stations and officials across the country are now just a click away. The Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPRD has already uploaded contact details such as the postal address of police station with phone and fax numbers and residential phone numbers of station in-charges, the contact details of offices of Assistant Police Commissioners and Deputy Superintendents of Police of respective areas, and even e-mail IDs of some police stations of six states and four union territories on its website http://www.bprd.gov.in.

Gujarat: Gujarat has abolished paper files in 34 departments in the Gandhinagar secretariat. It meant speedier processing, better tracking and greater transparency. Plans are in hand to reach the district-level administration as well. Very soon the whole Gujarat government will be a paperless wonder. Interestingly, Nitish Kumar has taken up the e-governance quite seriously. His resident that was famous in Lalu’s days for the cattle of all varieties, are now the nerve center of the control room for the chief minister to be in contact with all the districts.

Union Ministry of Corporate Affairs: The union ministry of corporate affairs has digitised the records of 700,000 companies and made all filings and data retrieval on-line. Against a target of about 25 per cent of all companies expected to be filing their reports digitally in the first year, the achievement has been 92 per cent. And the site gets over 4 million hits a day. One can now register a company in three days, instead of 30.

VAT Administration: Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) has helped introduce a digital framework for the value-added tax programme in 19 states (including five in the northeast) – with a dramatic increase in revenue collection.

Andhra Pradesh introduced the idea of citizen-service kiosks It has 2,000 of them across the state -and the kiosks record a million transactions every month.

Bangalore has digitised its land records with equally dramatic results, and the programme is now to extend to all of Karnataka.

The Controller General of Accounts (CGA) will within months implement a monitoring system for assessing the expenditure on 27 central schemes entailing a cost of Rs 1 lakh crore annually with all the information regarding expenditure on government schemes in public domain through its website.

According to a survey by online research consultancy firm JuxtConsult India, a majority of 61% of online job seekers come from non-metro towns: 31% belonging to smaller non-metro towns and 30% from the larger non-metros.

Another revolution is waiting to happen with the use of RFID (radio frequency identification) technology. The defence ministry uses it to track files.

The Gujarat Co-operative Milk Marketing Federation is using RFID to tag buffaloes.

Remember those stories of the banks giving cattle loans. The banks can now track all the cattle and the cheats will now not be able to use the same cow as security for many loans.RFID will soon track the railway wagons, cooking gas cylinders, trucks and cars and fertiliser bags of fertilizers and grains going to farmers or to the fair price shop.

Naturally, the vested interests that benefit from the status quo resist the new technology. Technology seems as the only answer for dealing with corruption and inefficiency.

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