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IT in the mountains

There’s a young “techie” waiting outside the DC’s chamber.

She is staring intently at her outsized mobile; the familiar blue Facebook theme is visible as I sit beside her, watching her nimble fingers rapidly typing on the screen.

Can you think of an aspect in our daily lives which has remained untouched by Technology?”, I asked her intrudingly (out of curiosity).

After a long pause, “practically none”, she replied, without stopping her typing.

History has exhibited time and again that “Information is power”.

The time – honoured truth is that wars were won, empires ruled and rebellions crushed by those having control over vital information. Since the 1990’s, the world witnessed the marriage of Technology with Information - ushering in possibilities transcending human imagination. The internet invention brought about a revolution which led to democratisation of information. Information was no longer preserve of the few - those in control of resources and/or power, potentially changing the entire power equation.

As I sit on the wooden benches of the waiting hall, in the midst of sea of visitors, wondering at this extraordinary marriage which has revolutionized the world around, the girl finally looks up at me and adds, ‘Did you know about the Digital India mission?”

I hesitantly shook my head, attempting to conceal my ignorance.

“The Digital India Mission has the mandate of taking all aspects of governance through the IT route.”, she said.

“It means that soon we won’t need to sit on these hard wooden benches and wait for getting basic citizen services. We can do all this, sitting at home, on our computers or even mobile phones”, she added with a kind smile.

I imagined the consequences - A paradigm shift in how governments will run and how citizens will respond to this transformed environment. We hear of how both government and citizens benefits from such interventions.

“Do you really believe that’s possible? I mean, can this really happen in our State?” I queried with spontaneous scepticism.

Arunachal Pradesh too, like many other states, has taken up this mission. However, it will be unfair not to admit that there are bottlenecks, difficult though not unsurmountable. Our terrain - vast, rugged, forested coupled with the sparse population throws up challenges which needs to be tackled by thinking out of box”, she countered passionately.

She continued with optimism, “Having said this, a lot has already moved towards the direction of success of this mission. A robust fail free network, a sine qua non, for the success of this mission is under progress. As on date the state already has about 1300 KM of optical fibre cables laid and more than 5000 KM is being laid with a timeline of 2017. VSATs, Microwave Towers and other non-conventional means are also being deployed for both mobile telephony and internet. For the storage of information, a State Data Centre (SDC) will be put in place soon - a storehouse of information- practically all the data of the State.”

Amused, I replied, “All this technology confuses me. Tell me how can I sit at home and get my govt work done? Sometimes, I don’t even get proper network service!!!”

She also smiled and replied, “Rome wasn’t built in a day! The government is working on improving your network connectivity on priority. As for the citizen services (government issued documents, renewals, payment of utility bills etc) – these will be through the e-District and the State Service Delivery Gateway (SSDG) platform. This means that the citizen-government interface will be online and you need not come physically to each office personally.”

By now, even I was getting intrigued; “How will this happen? What do I need to do to make sure this happens? Do we common citizens need to do anything?”

Quickly typing something, the young girl (I hadn’t even asked her name!!) showed me her mobile screen. Something called AADHAR NUMBER with some instructions was on the screen.

“What’s that?” I asked.

“Aadhar Number is the next important tool because all govt delivered benefits must reach the right person and in correct measure. So far, 70% of the population have already been allotted with Aadhar numbers. Have you got yours? It’s very easy to do – I can help you or you can go to your nearest Centre and get registered. Do you want me to do it for you?” she asked.

Just then, a peon called my name and signalled me towards the DC’s chamber.

Smiling at her offer, I thanked her and queried as I was leaving, “What do you see when all this is done?”

Serenely she replied, “  I visualise an aged e-literate mother in a remote village smiling, while browsing a smart phone, seeing her daughter’s ST certificate, messages of her grandson’s education stipend and her old age pension credited in their bank accounts and her family’s PDS items’ delivery date – all mailed from the DC’s office”.

Smart Governance, I thought!!

[The writer is a career bureaucrat and this is a work of Fiction.]

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