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Panel Discussions
E-Governance and Public Empowerment - Fiction or Reality?

Mr. Devi Prasad, Mr. Bipul Pathak, Mr. Vimal Wakhlu, and Dr. Devendra Verma at the panel discussion

Mr. Vimal Wakhlu, chairman and managing director, telecommunications, Consultants India Limited

Mr. Bipul Pathak, secretary, information technology, Government of Jammu & Kashmir
Dr. Devendra Verma, deputy director general, Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation
Mr. Devi Prasad, director, Ministry of Finance & economic advisor, Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs

Mr. Wakhlu: E-governance is the only way to serve citizens in developed nations. However, in the developing world, e-governance is a luxury. In a country like India where 70 percent of the population lives in villages, providing conventional services is a challenging task. Equitable distribution of water, power, and food is possible through proper use of technology. Through e-governance, health services can also be accessed by all, as demonstrated by the state of Orissa. Homeland security can also be remedied. The government has put up the National Information Infrastructure and the National Optical Fiber Network. Today, India sees facets of e-governance. I request Mr. Pathak to speak on mobile governance and its success in the state of Jammu and Kashmir.

Mr. Pathak: We realized that the Internet and mobile penetration could be used to our advantage. We are making government services such as availing of certificates, passports, and applying for licences available to our citizens through e-governance. There is a misconception among citizens that e-governance is not a priority for the government. We have applied our e-governance initiative in border areas through geo-tagging, keeping security considerations in mind. We have provided security forces smart phones which allow for real-time monitoring. This has really changed the game in that area. Our government has been conducting quarterly reviews to gauge efficacy. It has been a hit and now other state governments are seeking our support to replicate the initiative.

Mr. Wakhlu: I now request Mr. Prasad to highlight the success he has had with the Karnataka commercial tax initiative.

Mr. Prasad: Our e-initiative focused on two levels - increasing collection efficiency and creating spending efficiency. Earlier, commercial taxpayers had to physically go to the offices to file their taxes, having to deal with bulky documentation and lack of transparency. The tax that was paid by goods vehicles on entering the state reached the treasury three-four months later. E-SUGAM (Simple Uploading of Goods Arrival and Movement) brought down this time significantly. All tax dues from the treasury also have to be made online. We introduced E-GRAHAK (Guaranteed Response Against Hidden Activities of tax evasion in Karnataka). Today, if any citizen does not get a receipt, they can send a text message to the commercial tax officer and this will be set right immediately. The main reason we were able to implement this initiative in Karnataka was because we received legislative backing. All government projects have to go through a process and this is why implementation takes time.

Mr. Wakhlu: I now invite Mr. Verma to share his thoughts on the topic.

Mr. Verma: We all know that e-governance should be synonymous with good governance. However, the reality is otherwise in India. Take railway reservation, for instance. Despite the fact that it is all online today, touts still function. The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) initiative has now run into major problems. These issues should have been sorted out before money was allotted towards the program. The Aadhar card team and the National Population Register are doing the same thing - it is complete duplication of effort. The bottomline is that government projects lack the necessary project management skills. They also lack risk assessment. For example, under the Online Computerized Monitoring System, our ministry has to monitor 700 projects. First, our servers had to be replaced. After this, our operating systems were not compatible and had to be changed. Now, we are dealing with technical problems and in all probability, the whole system will have to be redone.

Corporate Panel: Managing Uncertainties in Projects

Ms. Leigh Moyle, Mr. Indranil Das, Mr. Neeraj Bansal, Ms. Sophie Bechu, and Mr. Hanumant Talwar at the panel discussion

Mr. Hanumant Talwar, managing director, Convergys

Mr. Indranil Das, vice president, Ericsson Global Services (India) Limited
Ms. Sophie Bechu, director - vice president, IBM India & South Asia
Mr. Neeraj Bansal, partner, Risk Consulting, KPMG
Ms. Leigh Moyle, CEO, PMGurus

Mr. Talwar: As a project manager, there would not have been a project in which there was no uncertainty. My question to our panelists is how one manages uncertainty.

Ms. Bechu: Uncertainty is not a question of "if" but "when". Prepare for it rather than fear it; take ownership; communicate to people about the uncertainties; and leverage technology to manage it.

Mr. Bansal: Surprises happen but a project manager needs to plan to respond to change, monitor it through technology and hold honest discussions, and communicate the urgency to the stakeholders.

Mr. Das: Managing a project is like driving a car where you need peripheral awareness besides the knowledge of rules and techniques. Embrace uncertainty; act quickly but stick to the fundamentals and not take shortcuts; build and manage relationships within the team, clients, seniors, and stakeholders; and enjoy being in the situation of uncertainty.

Ms. Moyle: Trusting your team is very important to mitigate uncertainty. It is largely around fear. Think of the worst possible scenario, plan in advance, prepare the team, and build the trust and calmness in your team.

Mr. Talwar: How do you keep people motivated during such times? What if a project fails? I think reflexes work best during a crisis.

Ms. Bechu: As a boss, exhibit calmness and have a relief mechanism for your team to express their concerns.

Mr. Bansal: Sometimes a project gets shelved because of government regulation, which is beyond your control. Go back to the team, talk to them about the failure, and try to lighten the moment. Also respect team boundaries during a crisis. Don't start micro-managing the crisis and make others feel unwanted.

Mr. Das: When there is a project goof up, people tend to get defensive and try to find out the culprit. That's not the right way. Don't get into the blame game. Failures act as the stepping stones to success.

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