Speeding up government
The Electronic Service Delivery Bill, 2011, which aims at delivering all public services to citizens in the electronic mode, is a welcome piece of legislation. By eliminating paperwork on a massive scale, the new measure can cut the red tape and corruption that notoriously plague governance in the country. The draft Bill published by the Ministry of Information Technology at its website is similar to the Right to Information Act, 2005 in that it incorporates a complaints mechanism and prescribes penalties for failure to comply with the provisions. Importantly, it sets a five-year deadline for all public services to make the online transition, with a further concession of three years in some cases. What people can expect in the new dispensation is electronic submission of forms and applications, issue or grant of any licence, permit, certificate, sanction or approval, and receipt or payment of money. No time must be lost in enacting the law, given India's poor record of delivery of citizen services. Moreover, services now facing severe bottlenecks, such as passports, should be prioritised for electronic processing. The draft provisions make it incumbent on the central and State governments to publish a list within six months of the date of enactment, and they would do well to pick the worst-performing departments for inclusion first.
India badly needs a major initiative on electronic service delivery and e-governance. That it has done little to use Information and Communications Technology to help citizens is evident from its 119th rank among 192 countries in the United Nations E-Government Development Index 2010. Although there is no standardised measure of e-governance, the indicators used by the U.N. — online service availability, telecom infrastructure, and human capital — suggest that India is below the world average for the composite index. This underscores the need to get the electronic service delivery law in place urgently and to enforce it seriously. The experience with the RTI Act indicates that public support for modernisation will overwhelm any resistance from vested interests. What must be noted, however, is the continued failure of many government departments to disclose information pro-actively on the Internet, as laid down under the RTI Act. Successful e-government requires that citizens get maximum information, and are able to conduct online transactions and participate in decision-making. All this calls for wide access to online services in the form of kiosks and special centres. Rising India must make progress on each of these metrics, if it hopes to leave its colonial baggage of red tape behind.
Original link here