As per statistics from Nasscom in the FY2012 there were 2.8 million people directly employed in the IT sector and 8.9 million indirectly. In two years the number is sure to have swelled up to a considerable multiple of the original. Nearly every Indian middle class household has a family member directly or indirectly being paid his or her salary through the ginormous machine of Information & Technology. Yet we see so little of IT being applied to our governance and the public sector. I had assumed that the civil services and government offices had not progressed further than software running on decade old UI, coded in C# and very rudimentary web pages made by class XII interns. I discovered a few sites and programs which have changed my opinion.
The National Informatics Center ( NIC) setup by the ministry of IT & communication is a large organization propelling the modernization of the vastly data dependent task of administration of the world’s largest democracy. While the parent ministry may have faced flak for many of its SOPA like activities, the NIC remain a relatively unknown and obscure entity. It is the organization responsible for getting up various government websites and keeping them up . A comprehensive list of their projects can be found here. Their own website isn’t as mystifying as usual gov websites and would be a good starting point for anyone wanting to explore the e-world of Indian government. NIC also releases a quarterly report as to the progress ( as per official sources ) in the world of IT. It’d make an interesting read, especially for someone working in IT. Find the releases here.
Data.gov.in : Perhaps the most interesting of the websites by NIC. Its the government’s official data portal. This site maintains data from various reports, surveys and branches of the government. The data is made available in csv, xls, html, xml and a number of other formats. You get the general policies of data use, data controller along with QR code generator, url embedding and social buttons. Way to go India.gov! There is also a Data visualization section with Infographics. The site encourages you to suggest potential data lists and offers a list of open data sites from all over the world. There are even hackathons and competitions with partners like Microsoft listed : here.
Dial.gov : A site with information with citizen welfare schemes for students, farmers, women, sports, youth and health. You can find programs and schemes which you technically are eligible for. What good shall that do you is something we won’t get in now.
Goidirectory : The Government Web directory, a listing of all major public websites of state and state departments. The listings are categorized as per ministries and states. They have a featured website of the month and mechanisms to suggest the addition of public websites which they might have missed. You’d be surprised as to how many specialized sites for pensioners, state departments, public works exist even if they are living their lives in last decade’s designs.
The National Knowledge Network ( NKN) is another interesting website with a high speed network shared between some major national universities. The idea is to share a knowledge base which comprises of data and journals along with software which hopes to replace high cost proprietary ware by private multinational concerns. Then there is Tenders site which lists national and other tenders along with full details and contact information for each case.
NIC also provides a mail service and other security features for government websites. Now although I do confess being impressed by these sites surpassing an average semi-IT literate person’s expectations but there are other concerns. The questions of a surveillance state and big brother and that sort of thing are disturbing. With India being among the top 4 countries to have requested personal data and user information from the likes of Google and Facebook we do have a reason to worry. But there is also a reason to worry, are these government sites, networks and email services safe? A recent discussion on the topic revealed that a part of the PMO is still using gmail for communication. While the importance of corporate emails and their security is seen as paramount even by the smallest of organizations one has to wonder what are the top brass minding a 1.2 billion strong country thinking. Watch the video to learn more.
Another great non government source for Internet information and E-governance in India is The Center for Internet & Society ( CIS ). With new and information pertaining to the area as well as specific reports and acdemic publications this is good resource for internet reasearch scholars and people generally interested in Internet policy in the Indian context.