Honourable Minister of Communications & IT Sh. Kapil Sibal inaugurated the 5th IFIP World IT Forum today. He said that we are committed to ensure the Electronic Delivery of all possible public Services "in less than five years," a move that would help ramp up transparency and accountability in governance. This would be enabled by the Electronics Delivery of Public Services Bill which was introduced in the Lok Sabha in the previous winter session of Parliament.
"We have asked the State Governments to provide us with a list of public services that they can make available to the public electronically. Some of the services that we are looking at are payment of electricity and water bills, passport delivery, and birth and death registrations. This will go a long way in curbing corruption and bringing in transparency and accountability," said Sibal.
Providing insights into how India was leveraging ICT for inclusive growth, he said, "The government is in the process of setting up ten data centres in various locations. Once ready, these data centres will give a big push to government-to-government, government-to-citizen and government-to-business services."
Among other e-governance initiatives, the government was planning to roll out a fibre optic network up to the level of 2,50,000 gram panchayats. Also, The National Knowledge Network is connecting 604 universities and 35,000 colleges across the country for seamless flow of information across this educational network.
Speaking on the occasion, Minister of State for Communications & IT, Sachin Pilot, revealed, "We are setting up 1,00,000 common service centres in rural areas. Besides, the IT literary programme is now available in all 22 Indian languages. As the deadline for the 2015 Millennium Development Goals is approaching, ICT can help bridge the gap in achieving these goals. This forum provides a good platform for deliberating on issues such as regulation, privacy, digital inequality and literacy."
Meanwhile, Arun Maira, Member, Planning Commission, called for modernising the government's communication process instead of just adding a layer of technology to it.
The focus of the two-day event is on the developmental opportunities offered by information and communication technologies in the areas of agriculture, education, e-governance and health. The day started with a plenary session chaired by Ms. Dorothy Gordon, Director General, Advanced Information Technology Institute, The Ghana-India Kofi Annan Centre on Open Innovation/Open Government and ended with a plenary session chaired by Mr. J. Satyanarayana, Secretary, Department of Electronics and Information Technology, Government of India on ICT for Development. Along with these, there were eight parallel sessions, two each on health, education, e-governance and agriculture, going on throughout the day, attended by over 800 delegates.
The sessions on e-governance witnessed experts discussing the use of ICT to tackle issues plaguing governance and focussing on issues related to e-authentication and targeted delivery of social benefits. As Prakash Kumar, Director, Internet Business Solutions Group, Cisco India, said, "Some of the big governance issues today include uneven access to facilities, benefits not reaching the masses and lack of transparency." He added, "These can be tackled by using technological tools available today - tools that can empower decision makers as well as citizens through the right data and measurement metrics." Dr. Edgar Whitley, of the London School and Economics and Political Science (LSE) called for greater focus on identity management and privacy-related challenges.
Healthcare experts, including Professor Jorn Braa from the University of Oslo, Norway, and Additional Secretary for Health and Family Welfare, KN Desiraju debated on the theme of Institutionalising the use of ICT for better healthcare.
The sessions on education focused on the role of ICT being the most suitable and the least problematic solution to impart vocational training and reduce the skill gap between the working population of India and the number of jobs available. Mr. Dilip Chenoy, CEO & MD, National Skill Development Council added that 47.8% of the population of India will be below 29 years of age between 2011-2021,and NSDC aims to provide vocational training to 150 million students in the next few years. It was also discussed how ICT can provide inclusive and borderless e-content.
Experts in the agriculture sessions discussed whether there is hunger for IT in agriculture. Ms. Rita Teaotia, Additional Secretary, Department of Electronics & IT, Government of India said that ICT can help build ownership and trust among agricultural communities.
The day's sessions concluded with Geoff Walsham, Professor of Management Studies, Judge Business School, Cambridge University, UK and Nagy Hanna, Senior Fellow, Centre for Policy on Emerging Technologies; Senior Advisor & Lead Strategist, World Bank, US, providing insights into the subject of 'ICT for Development.' Mr. Satyanarayana, Secretary DIT reiterated the government's commitment to leveraging ICT for Development.
The World IT Forum is organised by the International Federation for Information Processing (IFIP), with a focus on the tangible impact of technology on development. This year's edition is being held in partnership with the Department of IT, and with 9.9 Media. The overarching goal of the Forum is to assist developing countries in formulating and implementing sustainable strategies for the application of ICT and to share experiences that can help bridge the digital divide and improve the overall quality of life.
Four previous World IT Forums have been held in Vietnam (2009), Ethiopia (2007), Botswana (2005) and Lithuania (2003).
The proceedings of the Forum can be viewed at: http://webcast.gov.in/witfor/ondemand.asp. and some of the day's presentations can be found at http://www.witfor.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=227&Itemid=266
Preeti Singh, Editor, iGovernment.in, [email protected]