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. : 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! 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. : 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.



Powerful Info – Graphics

A picture is worth a thousand words, so how many words make an Infographic ?

We have a natural affinity to pictures over the written word. Hence cave art, hieroglyphics, stone carvings on ancient tomb walls, seem to  make up most of the early history of humanity. Easier to make, easier to grasp and to visualize, pictorial representations just hold more power when it comes to data presentation. We have moved on from the Pie Charts and mundane bar graphs of  the last century to a more artistic and creative way of putting things forward. Catering to the areas of public administration, academics, marketing and public awareness, the Infographic has been serving the world for the last 400 years. Florence Nightingale , the lady with the lamp, the fabled nurse of the Crimean War, is known to have revolutionized wartime health care with her use of pie charts.

Nightingale's Pie Charts
Nightingale’s Pie Charts, they might have not been accurate in their analysis and conclusions but their use at that time was remarkable. Image Source – Wikipedia

With the advent of Flash and Web technologies, Infographics are perhaps the only information rich and educational images still popular on the internet. The website Powerful Infographics collects influential and cool samples from all across the net. They make for great viewing if nothing else. Although there are many websites and blogs that collate such data art I found this one a tad more diverse and appealing than the rest. Some of these are too long for mobile browsing and even with a scroll bar you don’t fare too well but the concepts always shine through.  You also get high quality links to the graphics.

Milk Process Infographic Source –

The Website features images in the following categories : Economy, ECO, Culture, Education, IT, Marketing, Shopping, Health and News. The site is managed by Vice Versa Design Studio who are a commercial Infographic development agency. Many of the images could make for excellent instruction materials for kids, interns and employees.  Forget posters, you are bound to find things here you’d like to print out. The site is updated pretty regularly. Most of the entries to me at least qualify equally as art as well as representation of statistical data.

A look back at 2013 : Source –

If all of this has gotten you revved up with an idea for your own piece of data art then things got easier with sites like Infogr . A Infogaphic creation platform online with a decent number of free features lets you fiddle around with charts, pictures, maps and images quite like the ones you see adorning expensive websites. Of course coming up with a new and interesting idea and the data to back it is your task but at least it allows for its presentation for those who lack the time and inclination to explore Photoshop or Illustrator. The free mode doesn’t allow you to save the image but you can share it on social media sites. The cover for this post was made on the website too.

Site Dissection : Academic Earth

If your butt loves a chair and there exists an attraction between the two beyond something purely gravitational then you definitely would also be addicted to some sort of internet enabled device. So how about learning stuff while trying to remain stationary ? Online video lectures have become more abundant than ever before, with the desperation of PhD holders globally trying to add value to their CV’s.

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MOOC’s (Massive open Online courses) are the thing of today with employees, students and even quite a few teachers enrolling for cursory courses on topics ranging from quantum physics to trends in pop music. We shall talk about these massive learning attempts later, today I focus on one of my first interactions with online learning. Academic Earth has been around since 2009, providing a collection of open course ware to the eager online student. Not only does it contain courses segregated on subject matter and university but also podcasts and course material. The website has recently been updated with a new much friendlier look. The people at Academic Earth have come up with playlists besides the usual list of subjects and university courses. These playlists combine video lectures from various series. They are like bait or trailers helping you make most of your time.

If you are unsatisfied with your school, teachers or generally have an unquenchable thirst for knowledge do visit the site. Free content is not always the best available on the topic but what is found here is generally pretty rich in knowledge and low on bull.