Digital Governance: The Way Forward for a Digital India

Serving the citizens with a new level of speed, convenience and personalisation at all possible touchpoints is now on top of the government’s agenda and digital governance is going to be the key enabler in doing so

Digital transformation, which was already a critical strategic initiative for the public as well as private organisations, has taken on heightened importance in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Digital transformation marks a radical rethinking of how organisations use technology and processes to change business performance fundamentally.

Technology imperatives have been constantly changing. Serving the citizens with a new level of speed, convenience and personalisation at all possible touchpoints is now on top of the government’s agenda. Sharing some insights on the emerging trends in the Indian public sector landscape, Nilaya Varma, Co-founder and CEO, Primus Partners says, “The biggest change that we have seen is that, while previously, the government used to look at broad categories of beneficiaries like women, children, the disadvantaged, etc., they now recognise that there are a very targeted group of individuals that they need to reach out to. It is why personalisation has become a critical aspect. However, personalisation cannot happen in the absence of data and without using technology. It is a massive shift which is going to drive most of the process reforms in the future.”

In terms of the government’s outlook on, it is evident that it is the era of digital governance – a discipline that focuses on establishing a clear accountability for digital strategy, policy, and standards. A digital governance framework, when effectively designed and implemented, helps to streamline digital development and dampen debates around digital channel ‘ownership’.

In the times that we are living in today, e-Governance or m-Governance are important aspects because they broaden the focus on how technology can help. m-Governance is all about how a mobile can be used as an access point for anything related to technology. Similarly, e-Governance has enabled the government to recognise how they could transform and translate processes to digital.

Achieving milestones in digitalisation

The road towards digitalisation isn’t always a smooth one. Multiple challenges need to be dealt with to proceed as planned. While India is heading towards a digital revolution, there are some obstacles in the way that need to be overcome. The problems are the same that plagued the institution of the government itself because governments were designed to be vertical entities.

When it comes to public-sector organisations, the fundamental challenge is vertical and isolated thinking. Every ministry and department has its database that rarely talks to each other. “If we have to move forward, we will have to dismantle government systems at least at the service delivery level from a vertical to the horizontal level. The concept of shared services can be applied here that enables resources to be leveraged across an entire organisation resulting in lower costs with agreed upon citizen service delivery levels. For example, at the district level, you go to the collector by and large for all your challenges because he is responsible for all the services. With regards to digital governance too, at the service delivery level, we need to move away from being a vertical organisation to a horizontal one, where we have a single source of data. The ministries will drive policy and programmes, however, the delivery happens in an integrated manner,” says Varma.

Exponential technologies for better governance

The world is changing at an accelerated pace, thanks to exponential technologies. As the government is adopting new-age technologies to pave the way forward for better digital governance, exponential technologies like hybrid cloud, digital workspaces, data centre modernisation, cybersecurity, etc. are playing a significant role in the success of government transformation. As the rate of improvement accelerates, we are experiencing rapid advances in the innovations built on top of these core exponential technologies.

Varma believes that although these technologies are helping the government build a comprehensive services framework, there is still more scope for it to leverage the potential of all these technologies. IoT based solutions are making a huge difference, and the cloud is helping save costs and is also allowing a particular delivery model. “However, as more and more digitalisation is happening, we are not entirely equipped to manage the cyberspace. In the past, government systems were relatively secure mainly because they were never on cloud or officers were accessing them from their offices. But now, officers are accessing them from their homes on the cloud, and most government institutions do not have a culture of cybersecurity yet. So, the cultural aspect of cybersecurity has to be looked into along with having the right and robust infrastructure to deal with it, he adds.

A digital future for citizen delivery

Since the digital environment changes so rapidly, a digital strategy needs to be updated frequently and should include perspectives from a variety of stakeholders within the organisation. As we move into a future that will be entirely dominated by digital technologies, the Indian government too is stepping up and adapting to these advancements in a rapid manner. It is taking some giant leaps in its next technology adoption plans in terms of improving citizen service delivery. As a part of its plan for the digital future for citizen delivery, the government is also being proactive by eliminating the process of asking citizens for documents, etc. Technology leaders will play a key role in lending a shoulder to this cause.

“The biggest job for technology companies is to be evangelists of solutions and not products as we step into the future. Their future lies in integrating products and providing solutions for various problems. The focus should be on data and analytics because once you have the right data and analytics, you will move to Artificial Intelligence and be predictive about it,” shares Varma. How we can solve problems and how technology companies can identify issues and bring their solutions together is going to define the future.