E-Governance in India

Estimated Reading Time: 8 minutes

Introduction

In India, currently, there are around 700 million internet users. The number of internet users is increasing both in urban and rural areas, which indicates the growth in access to the internet.[1]This number shows a crucial role that the internet plays. The government of India, realizing the importance of Information Technology (IT), have stepped up and adopted the idea of e-governance by taking various initiatives.

Definition of E-Governance

United Nations definition: “E-government is defined as the use of Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs) to more effectively and efficiently deliver government services to citizens and businesses”[2]

World Bank definition: “E-government is the use of ICTs to transform government by making it more accessible, effective and accountable”[3]

Indian Perspective: In India, e-governance has evolved substantially. From computerization of various government departments to providing transparency in services by the government. The vision statement of the National e-Governance Plan says, “Make all Government services accessible to common man in his locality, through common service delivery outlets, and ensure efficiency, transparency and reliability of such services at affordable costs to realize the basic needs of the common man.”

Types of Interaction in E-Governance

There are majorly three types of nomenclatures used in e-governance[4]:

  • Government-to-Government (G2G): This involves the exchange of data electronically between different government bodies. It can be on a national level or can involve interaction between the national and local levels as well.
  • Government-to-Business (G2B): In this the exchange of services between Government and Business Organization. This is majorly focused on business-related services, for example, digital payments. It plays an important role in business development.
  • Government-to-Citizens (G2C): This involves providing public services by the government to the citizens. This further helps in the reduction of cost and time to hold any transactions. This service can be accessed anytime from anywhere.

E-Governance under Information Technology (IT) Act, 2000

Sections 4 to 10 of the IT Act deal with e-governance.[5]

  • Section 4 gives legal recognition to electronic records. It provides that if the information is rendered in an electronic form and is accessible so that it can be used for a subsequent reference, then it shall be deemed to satisfy the legal requirement.
  • Section 5 provides that if the information requires to be authenticated by affixing the signature, then it shall be deemed to have been satisfied if it is authenticated by a digital signature.
  • Section 6 provides for the usage of electronic records and digital signatures in the government and its agencies. This is generally done while filing the form, application or payment or receipt of any money. So, if a person does such activities in electronic form then also it is satisfied. However, there are certain guidelines of the government which need to be followed while doing any such activities.
  • Section 7 deals with the retention of electronic records, and documents for a certain period or a specific period.
  • Section 8 deals with the publication of by-laws, rules, and regulations in the official gazette. Such publication is satisfied even if such rules, regulations, or by-laws are published in the electronic gazette.
  • Section 9 is a further explanation of Section 6, Section 7, and Section 8. It provides that though the electronic medium of form or application or making the payment is allowed, it does not confer a right upon any person to insist on the submission of such application or payment in electronic form.
  • Section 10 explains that the Central Government has the power to make rules in respect of digital signatures.

Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology (MeitY)

In India, there is a separate Ministry which handles everything related to the IT sector. Apart from e-governance, this Ministry deals with Electronic System Design and Manufacturing, Cyber laws and e-security, digital economy, etc.

MeitY, an executive agency of the government, is responsible for policymaking and development of the electronics industry. Some of the functions of this agency relating to e-governance are[6]:

  • Firstly, the agency can make the policy relating to information technology, electronics, and the internet. However, there is an exception where only the matters relating to licensing of Internet Service Provider will not be made by the agency.
  • Secondly, the policy relating to advertising and promotion of the internet, IT, and IT-enabled services can be made.
  • Thirdly, is making more emphasis on the promotion of digital transactions, including digital payments.
  • Fourthly, is providing assistance to other departments in the promotion of E-Governance, E-Commerce, E-Medicine, E-Infrastructure, etc.
  • Fifthly, promotion of Information Technology education and Information Technology-based education. 
  • Sixthly, is interaction in IT-related matters with international agencies and bodies e.g., Internet for Business Limited (IFB), Institute for Education in Information Society (IBI) and International Code Council – online (ICC).  
  • Seventhly, making initiatives for the development of the Hardware/Software industry including knowledge-based enterprises, measures for promoting IT exports and competitiveness of the industry. 
  • Lastly, the formation of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI).

Divisions of MeitY

The MeitY has various divisions under its e-governance platform. Some of those divisions are:[7]

  • National e-Governance Division: This division performs various tasks, including, but not limited to, providing technical assistance to Central Ministries and State Line Departments.
  • E-Governance Infrastructure: This includes Aadhar-Digital biometric identity infrastructure, Digital locker, GI Cloud, State-wide Area Network, eTaal, etc.
  • E-Kraanti: The mission of e-kraanti is “Transforming e-governance for transforming governance”, and its mission is “To ensure a Government-wide transformation by delivering government services electronically to the citizens through integrated and interoperable systems via multiple modes…”
  • India Enterprise Architecture (IndEA): This provides a framework of a set of architecture reference models which accommodate both new and existing e-governance initiatives.

Digital India

The programme of Digital India is based on three key vision areas[8]

  • Digital infrastructure is a core utility to every citizen

This aims at providing high-speed internet as a core utility for delivery of services to citizens and safe and secure cyberspace among many other things.

  • Governance of services on demand

This includes the availability of services in real-time from online and mobile platforms

  • Digital empowerment of citizens

This aims at universal digital literacy, universally accessible digital resources, citizens not required to physically submit government documents, etc.

Digital India Infrastructure

This includes various platforms of Digital India. Some of the major ones are:

  • Aadhar: This is the world’s largest biometric identification system, and being so, it is considered as one of the key pillars of Digital India.
  • Common Service Centres (CSCs): This scheme provides public utility services, agricultural services, social welfare schemes, education, health, and financial services to citizens. It is a PAN-India network.
  • Digi Locker:  It is a cloud-based platform to issue, share and verify documents or certificates. It acts as a wallet, and all effort has been made to make it very secure. Digi It is providing access to around more than 347 crore digital documents which have been issued from 100 issuers consisting of Central and State agencies such as the Transport Department, Income Tax Department, etc.[9]
  • Digi Sevak: An online platform for anyone who wants to contribute to the Digital India programme. This platform provides volunteering tasks for various government agencies and departments.
  • E-Basta: This is a project which provides a framework to facilitate schools with books in digital form (e-books).
  • E-Trade: An ongoing project by the Department of Commerce, this platform aims at facilitating agencies involved in foreign trade to avail of services online.
  • Government E-Marketplace: This portal provides for the procurement of various goods and services online, which can be used by government departments and organizations. It includes tools like e-bidding.
  • IRCTC Connect: A user-friendly application to facilitate online search and booking of train tickets, cancelling the reservation, getting alerts etc.
  • Jeevan Pramaan: It is a biometric-enabled digital service, especially for pensioners of Central Government, State Government, or any other Government Organization.

 Benefits of E-Governance

  • Cost and Time Effective: Governance by using digital platforms has saved the government and citizens alike. Expenses involved in keeping and maintaining information which traditionally involved a lot of effort, time and money are reduced by the introduction of e-governance.
  • Transparency: Filing applications to avail of different services now does not involve going around from department to department to check the progress. Anyone can track the status of their application, and the whole process becomes more transparent when a person can see what all is happening with just a tap.
  • Accountability: When services are provided using technology, there’s less chance of public servants misusing their powers. Services like State-wide Area Network ensure that citizens are getting effective e-services from the government.

Issues and Challenges of E-Governance

  • Security issues: The world-wide-web and the internet is such a large area of the network that there is no foolproof way to protect it from dangerous source. Whether it is a big problem like the privacy of a citizen or a problem like failed monetary transaction, there is always a scope of misuse.
  • Maintenance issue: Even though e-governance is cost-effective when it comes to saving paper, the challenge is that maintaining the data digitally is also a cost-consuming process. E-governance requires continuous maintenance of technology and technological devices, which in turn requires a lot of money. This can be a burden for a developing country like India.
  • Accessibility: Even though a lot of Indians have access to the Internet and smart devices, using e-governance services is easier for people living in an urban areas than those who are living in rural areas. Lack of satellite towers, and lack of understanding is some of the reasons which make it less accessible to people living in remote areas of the country.

Conclusion

The schemes and programmes of the government like the Digital India Programme are actually giving “Power to Empower” as the tagline says, but the real problem lies with the awareness of people. Information Technology gives an edge to any field but unless people are aware of it, or how to use it for their benefit, what can be achieved out of it? Using e-governance for effective and transparent functioning is a win-win situation for both the government and the citizens. The government can benefit from the smooth functioning and cost-effecting use of IT, and citizens can benefit from its fast processing and transparency of it. In the coming years, with even more technological advancements like the introduction of fast networks, we can benefit from e-governance on a larger scale.


[1] Sandhya Keelery, Number of Internet Users in India, Last Updated on 3rd August 2020, available athttps://www.statista.com/statistics/255146/number-of-internet-users-in-india/

[2]E-Government, UN E-Government knowledgebase, United Nations, Department of Economics and Social Affairs, available at https://publicadministration.un.org/egovkb/en-us/About/UNeGovDD-Framework

[3]The E-government handbook for developing countries , A Project of InfoDev and The Centre for Democracy & Technology, World Bank (2002), available at

<http://documents1.worldbank.org/curated/en/317081468164642250/text/320450egovhandbook01public12002111114.txt>

[4]Types of Interaction in E-Governance, Brain Kart, available at <https://www.brainkart.com/article/Types-of-Interactions-in-e-Governance_36732/>, Also referred Types of E-Governance, available at https://ictframe.com/what-is-e-governance-what-is-the-type-of-e-governance/

[5]Electronic Records and E-Governance, Toppr Guide, available at <https://www.toppr.com/guides/business-laws-cs/cyber-laws/electronic-record-and-e-governance/>

[6]Functions of Ministry of Electronic and Information Technology, Ministry of Electronic and Information Technology, Government of India, available at <https://www.meity.gov.in/about-meity/functions-of-meity>

[7]Ministry of Electronic and Information Technology, Government of India, available at <https://www.meity.gov.in/divisions>

[8]Vision of Digital India, Vision and Vision Areas, Digital India , available at <https://digitalindia.gov.in/content/vision-and-vision-areas>

[9]AADHAR, Infrastructure, Digital India, available at https://digitalindia.gov.in/infrastructure

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