e-governance Takes Penguin To Rural India

by Hinesh Jethwani    Jul 14, 2004

The e-governance wave is spreading like wildfire across the nation, and the initiative has reached a nationwide magnitude with the pro-rural budget being announced last week. Linux has a significant role to play in the movement, claims Prakash Rane.

What sounds really hard to digest, is the fact that a body as ’red-taped’ as the Indian government has jumped on to the Open Source bandwagon both quickly and efficiently.

Speaking to CXOtoday, Prakash Rane, managing director, ABM Knowledgeware Ltd., said, “The focus on e-governance has reached peak attention levels, with the Government of India earmarking Rs 12,500 crore towards an ambitious five year spending plan. The rural approach taken by the budget is excellent. Falling hardware prices will drive demand, and as the rural economy improves, the pathway for introduction of technology in backward sectors will be cleared. The Linux perspective has seen a dynamic turnaround. Until a few years back, Linux was simply branded as an ’experiment’ in government circles, and now its not. Period. The use of Linux on RDBMS has jumped significantly, removing all earlier apprehensions.”

“Another significant contribution to the changing mindset has been the availability of good support. Today we have at least 2-3 Linux certified engineers in every team working on e-governance projects. Linux suits the market needs perfectly, as by a thumb rule, e-governments are very cost conscious customers. There is absolutely no disputing the fact that one of the biggest gainers from the e-governance wave will be Linux. As DNA, .Net, SQL Sever 7.0/2000 and Microsoft MSDE are increasingly finding their way into e-governance projects, judging on a head-to-head scale, I would say that the Linux-Microsoft share would be 50-50. That’s a significant win for Linux in the country,” added Rane.

Describing a few of the latest initiatives where Linux has made a significant contribution, Rane said, “Public Sector Undertaking, National Fertilizer Ltd., the engineering department of the Delhi Municipal Corporation, Citizen Facilitation Centres (CFCs) in 2-3 corporations in North India, and financial management projects in the interior parts of Gujarat are a few examples. For places outside Maharashtra, we are in the process of starting a few migration projects, which will involve the conversion of legacy Foxpro systems. Although the RDBMS has not yet been decided, it will most probably be an Oracle-Linux combo.”

Describing the challenges faced in e-governance projects, Rane said, “It is common knowledge that government procedures are extremely slow. The challenge that e-governance technology enablers like us face is not red tape. Rather, its change management that poses the biggest hurdle, as most government employees possess the so-called ’Fear Of The Unknown’. They take time to adjust to changing paradigm shifts. Also, we face resistance from a certain section of the society that opposes the influx of technology, primarily because of the transparencies that it introduces into the system.”

ABM has used Linux to create a complete e-governance solution for Kalyan Dombivili Municipal Corporation, which was selected by Govt. of Maharashtra for roll out across all the 245 Municipal Bodies in the State of Maharashtra.. The KDMC project has been recognized as one of the top ten implementations of the year, from 150 different applications across 14 commonwealth countries. The Government of India has seen the project, and has recommended the same to be followed throughout the country, claimed Rane.

“It has been noticed that in the context of Indian e-governance, several successful pilot projects are carried out but its successful replication has not taken place due to several factors. Replication of e-governance solutions can result in much faster roll out with substantially lower cost and lower chances of failure. Our SETU initiative first started at the Thane Collectorate has been replicated in Nagpur, Hingoli Zilla Parishad and 27 cyber cafes. The Government of Maharashtra has standardized the concept for replication across the state. We plan to take this initiative forward to the rural and interior most parts of the country, for enabling hassle-free administration in backward regions,” said Rane.

BMC’s Citizen Facilitation Centers (CFCs) still run on a legacy Microsoft environment, and the body is evaluating various aspects for migration. Whether they switch over to Linux or not still remains to be seen, claimed Rane.

ABM Knowledgeware develops tailor-made e-governance solutions for different customers, and has its offices in different states in India and abroad.

Tags: Linux