Riding the IT bandwagon, Himachal Pradesh is emerging a clear leader in e-governance with yet another survey indicating the state’s enviable position. This time, a study conducted for CyberMedia’s fortnightly publication Dataquest has placed Himachal at the second spot, just behind Tamil Nadu, in terms of most e-governed states in India for 2008-09. Delhi, Haryana and Andhra Pradesh have secured 3rd, 4th and 5th positions, respectively. Himachal has jumped five places from its previous position as per the survey, but ironically the same kind of resurgence is not visible in IT-enabled business in the state. Are e-governance and IT-related business infrastructure two separate aspects, or has the state government failed to capitalize on the good work already done. With lot of hue and cry being raised about setting up heavy industries like cement, steel, pharmaceuticals, etc, in the state due to environmental concerns, IT-related businesses may have been a better option, but there has hardly been a serious effort in this direction. The state certainly needs a pat for taking IT services to the doorsteps of villagers, but it remains to be seen how he is to benefit from it. There is still a lot of gap between what a common villager desires and what IT-enabled e-governance model has to offer, therefore there is still a long way to go before IT gets integrated into the lives of common people. The IDC-Dataquest study itself notes that despite all efforts to ensure that government services reach the common man, there has been a decline in citizen satisfaction across categories. This means people are not really deriving utility from these e-governance services to their satisfaction.
On the other hand, a Himachali entrepreneur who needs to be encouraged to take up IT-related businesses does not seem to be benifiting from the initiative directly. Of course, there has been talk about setting up an IT corridor in Kangra and then Shimla, but these are still not even proposals, just random ideas.
The 79.23 crore rupees cost Himachal Pradesh State Wide Area Network (HIMSWAN) project under National e-Governance Programme, first in the country, was launched in the state to provide hi-tech connectivity down to the level of tehsils, sub-tehsils, blocks and panchayats and is scheduled to be completed by 2011. Under the project, 2,500 government offices would be connected through internet and so far over 450 offices have been provided hi-tech connectivity. Besides, 3,366 citizen-centric common service centres would be set up in 3,243 gram panchayats under the project during 2009. All the 69 employment exchanges/sub-employment exchanges in the state has been computerized, and a web-based job portal for all three stakeholders i.e. employers, job seekers and the employment department has been started in the state.
The government claims to be setting up touch-screen kiosks at various places in the state to provide common interface for various activities and information about developmental works is being provided instantly on finger tips under E –Vikas. Besides, all the 68,000 state employees are being trained through various expert agencies in computerization and IT related services and state government has also made amendments in R&P Rules in most departments to make IT literacy compulsory for promotion, confirmation and recruitment, etc.
These are welcome measures considering that the state cannot afford to be left behind in benefiting from the IT revolution. But, somehow there certainly seems a certain lack of commitment or even vision to cash on the most lucrative aspect – that of entrepreneurship. The state needs to understand that after tourism IT is the most suitable business prospect for Himachalis, especially after the government’s tall claim of encouraging Himachalis to take up hydro power projects proved hollow.