The E-panchayat and Rural India

New Delhi, 30 November 2014: According to the World Bank, “E-governance refers to the use by government agencies of information technologies (such as Wide Area Networks, the Internet, and mobile computing) that have the ability to transform relations with citizens, businesses, and other arms of government. These technologies can serve a variety of different ends: better delivery of government services to citizens, improved interactions with business and industry, citizen empowerment through access to information, or more efficient government management. The resulting benefits can be less corruption, increased transparency, greater convenience, revenue growth, and/or cost reductions.” The National e-Governance Plan (NeGP) was introduced by the Government of India (GoI), in 2006 with the intention to transform rural governance by providing better access to information and hence, ensuring increased citizens’ participation in policy. The vision of the NeGP was to ‘make all government services accessible to the common man in his locality, through common service delivery outlets and ensure efficiency, transparency and reliability of such services at affordable costs to realise the basic needs of the common man’. Thus, E-panchayat is a mission mode project (MMP) currently being implemented with a vision to empower and transform rural India. The E-panchayat project holds great promise for rural India as it aims to transform panchayati raj institutions (PRIs) into symbols of modernity, transparency and efficiency. This is a one of its kind nationwide IT initiative introduced by the Ministry of Panchayati Raj (MoPR) to ensure people’s participation in decision making, implementation, and delivery of programmes. The project aims to automate the functioning of the offices of around 2.5 lakh (elected) panchayat members and addresses all aspects of planning, monitoring, implementation, budgeting, accounting, social audit and delivery of citizen services such as issuance of certificates, and licenses, and the like.

Despite the lack of information and communication technology (ICT) infrastructure and internet connectivity at the grassroots level, the MoPR, in partnership with the National Informatics Centre (NIC) and the states, aims to transform the rural governance landscape. In this endeavour, 11 individual software applications, namely Local Government Directory (LGD), PlanPlus, PRIASoft, ActionSoft, AreaProfiler, National Asset Directory (NAD), ServicePlus, National Panchayat Portal (NPP), Social Audit and Meeting Management (SAMM), Training Management and Geographical Information System (GIS), under the aegis of the Panchayat Enterprise Suite (PES) were envisaged at conceptualisation. Ten software applications have already been rolled out while GIS, the 11th application, is currently being developed. The programme also includes a component to impart information technology (IT) literacy among elected representatives and panchayat functionaries, to enable them access and use the E-panchayat applications.

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