E-governance has enabled India to transform people's life by improving delivery mechanism and making government services effective and smooth
Going digital is a popular buzzword in many government offices today across the world. Governments want to adopt digital technologies to serve their people better by enhancing efficiencies and improving access to critical services. The process of using digital technologies and tools to provide public services, manage data, and regulate online activities within a country or organization is referred to as digital governance. Digital governance is significant for several reasons. Primarily, it helps streamline public service delivery by leveraging digital technologies to automate processes and reduce bureaucratic inefficiencies. Also, governments that have adopted digital governance are more transparent in their service delivery and manage user data better. Achievement in Digital Governance Widespread transformation in information technology since the launch of Digital India initiative in 2015, is cited as the key reason for the growth of digital governance in the country. Launch of 5G services in the country since October last year is expected to further boost the performance of E-governance. An application of the information and communication technologies (ICTs), E-governance has helped the government in bringing efficiency, effectiveness, transparency, and accountability in the exchange of information and transactions in the country. India is today the most connected democracy in the world, where 70 million e-authentications and 8 billion UPI transactions occur digitally daily. As the country is gearing up to become a developed nation by 2047, a plan is on to scale up digital technologies in order to serve people's interest better and effectively. In 2019, the National e-Governance Service Delivery Assessment (NeSDA) was established by the country’s Department of Administrative Reforms and Public Grievances in order to boost e-government endeavors and advance digital government excellence. During the pandemic, the widespread adoption of e-Office enabled smooth governance functioning, while helping in the creation of paperless offices in the central secretariat. In 2021 alone, E-governance helped in redressing 20 lac public grievances, the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances & Pension said in a statement. During the pandemic, E-governance helped the poor and vulnerable section of the society in getting the fruits of welfare schemes of the government. For this, the PMJDY scheme launched in August 2014, played a stellar role. More than Rs 30,000 crore Covid-19 incentives were provided by the government through PMJDY accounts after the nationwide lockdown was announced in March 2020. In all, a relief package of Rs 1,70,000 crore was provided for the poor to tide over the nationwide lockdown imposed from March 25 in 2020. This speaks volumes of India’s capability to use technology to transform the lives of its citizens—all this in a transparent and corruption free manner. Through the Direct Benefit Transfer mode, one of the key mechanisms of E-governance, Rs 24.3 lakh crore were disbursed till July 2022. The best part of the E-governance system is that it improves the life of every citizen and blurs any type of divide-economically or socially. This has been seen even in the case of Co-Win, a digital platform which has indeed helped India in defeating the deadly coronavirus. It helped the country in running very successfully its vaccination programme. Till March 22, 2023, more than 220 crore Covid vaccine doses were administered to people across the country. Highlighting Co-win’s role in making vaccination programme effective in the country, the Economic Survey 2022-23 said, “It was this broad interlock of digital framework and the government’s vigour of continuously improving its outreach for better inclusion that India could register a quick and durable economic recovery while continuing to secure both lives and livelihoods. But no story on E-governance could be complete without mentioning benefits of the Unified Payments Interface (UPI) system which has revolutionized the digital payments ecosystem in the country. While facilitating users to transfer money on a real-time basis and across multiple bank accounts, UPI has proved to be a linchpin of India’s digitization initiative. In 2021-22, annual transaction value through the UPI exceeded $1 trillion, said Simmi Chaudhary, Economic Adviser and Group Coordinator at the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, in her article for MyGov portal. Advantages of Digital Governance There are several advantages of this internet-based mechanism and they include improved government interactions with business and industry, citizen empowerment through access to information, more efficient government management, less corruption in the administration, increased transparency in administration, greater convenience to citizens and businesses, cost reductions and revenue growth, increased legitimacy of government, flattens organizational structure, reduces paperwork and red-tapism in the administrative process which results in better planning and coordination between different levels of government, improved relations between public authorities and civil society and re-structuring of administrative processes. India's rivals in Digital Governance Given the successes posted so far, India is a shining example of vision and execution, especially in the Global South. Be that as it may, the country is not alone in pursuing fully digitized public service delivery. In the north, China has set a global example of how governments can leverage technology to serve its people better. China's highly centralized and top-down approach to digital governance has seen the country propel itself to the forefront as the leader in implementing new technologies like 5G. China has also developed sophisticated digital surveillance and social control systems, such as facial recognition and social credit scores. Still in the region, Singapore is making great strides in digital governance. The government launched the e-Government Masterplan 2011–2015 (or “eGov2015”) to achieve what it described as the shift from a “Government-to-you” approach to a “Government-with-you” approach in its delivery of e-government services.” Today, Singaporeans can access over 1,600 online services and over 300 mobile government-provided services. In Europe, Estonia and the United Kingdom lead the charts. Estonia, in particular, has gained global recognition for its advanced digital governance systems. Often referred to as e-Estonia, the country's achievements are underlined by the fact that 99% of bank transactions are online, 2.7 billion queries are made annually via X-Road, and 99% of public services are online with 24/7 access. The US is another principal player in the digital governance space. However, while its e-government initiatives are far ahead of the Western countries, it lags behind its economic peers. The US ranked tenth in the 2022 E-Government Development Index (EGDI) among high-income countries, behind Estonia (8) and South Korea (3). *** The author is a Surat-based journalist; views expressed are her own