Limitations of ICT in Governance

The resistance to change is inevitable, especially, so if the status quo gives the vested interests additional clout. Such a shift in the bureaucratic culture may also meet with a similar response as the bureaucracy ever so reluctant to open up may create many hurdles to see that the power they wield over the information they control is not reduced by bringing it into public domain through net. Besides this, openness and transparency in administration, which such activities attempt to achieve, would also be feared by those sections of employees who do not want to get exposed for their inefficiency. Another constraint is paucity of funds as the case is with most of the public bodies in India. This exactly is the reason why such projects should be taken up as public-private initiative getting entrepreneurs to invest in them. Another challenge is to develop public awareness about ICT and making the citizens use such mediums for accessing civic services. ICTs in the administrative parlance have been simply equated to computerisation resulting in myriad of computers with absolutely no accent on the ‘information’ part of IT. Anybody who understands ICT would agree that it is almost 80% in the information part and only rest in the latter, that is, technology. The wrong understanding of this definition in organisation has, however, resulted in needless addition of computers leading to a system which neither has citizen focus and nor has evolved out of the real understanding of the maladies the particular system is afflicted with. Most of the computers lying with various organisations are relegated to being used as typewriters; more than 90% of their processing and storing capacities are unutilised/underutilised. In most of the cases, if every government department can take a lead and analyse its functioning, simple local ICT solutions keeping citizens as focus can be found. Due to the scale of operation and multiplicity of tasks what one needs in government system is creation and maintenance of databases that allows the retrieval and sorting of data easier and faster. Smooth front ends could allow user-friendly access to these databases. Networking and connectivity should be ensured wherein all these related computers and databases talk to each other, share the information and live symbiotically. A stand-alone computer serves no purpose and is an injustice to its inherent capacity. These computers talking sub consciously without any human intervention is the key to administrative reforms. It is also important that once the databases are readied and set, any further transaction be compulsorily routed through the data base so that the database is routinely and sub-consciously updated and remains relevant and dynamic at all times. The bane of most government databases is that individual rather than systems drive it and hence, most of it is never updated once the individual departs. It is, therefore, essential that this process is engrained into the departmental bloodstream and the transactions are invariably done through the database and updated without any conscious effort. Also, common databases for multiple departments need serious attention and promotion. There should be centralised maintenance of databases at various strategic levels. Last not the least; strong political and administrative will is required to achieve this in fairly minimal time.