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Local e-governance in India


Introduction

Beginning in 1997 with the State-level Informatics System for Strengthening the Decentralized Plan Implementation (SLIDE), government decision-makers throughout India realized the important role that ICTs would play in modern governance.  Focused on creating efficient and responsive mechanisms for governance at the local level, the SLIDE project employed a variety of ICTs to help local institutions mitigate the transition to a decentralized governing system that is unique to the State.  The project, which has evolved into what is now known as the Information Kerala Mission, seeks to computerize and establish a wide area network (WAN) to connect the 1,215 local governing bodies throughout the state government. 

Background and implementation

The Information Kerala Mission (IKM), which has become a model for ICT development in local governance throughout India, seeks to equip local governing bodies with the infrastructure and skills necessary to leverage the power of modern ICTs.  The Mission encourages participatory development and deployment of ICTs that are contextually relevant to local community users.  By providing support for local entrepreneurship and training, the Mission has evolved into the largest Indian initiative to focus on the creation of a knowledge society.  Beyond creating a state-wide WAN, the key objectives of the Mission are to develop a mechanism for monitoring the implementation of development plans of the local bodies, computerize the office operations and public service delivery through an easy-to-use interface, establish a micro-level developmental information systems for improved local planning, and provide technical support and training to local government personnel, including elected representatives.

In an effort to demystify ICTs, the IKM has created a variety of innovative training tools to help local governments modernize their operations.  To ensure that the more than 22,000 trainees receive relevant content, the training seminars are given in local languages, predominantly Malayalam.  In the border panchayats (locales), Tamil and Kannada versions of software and training material are being developed.  The lessons vary across different target groups depending on their role, but generally they cover topics relating to computer fundamentals (e.g. word processing), governance, database management and using the Internet as an information resource.  Such training will help the local governing bodies improve and streamline the administration of citizen services, public works and general management operations. 

Summary

As the forces of globalization sweeps across the world, it is essential that ICTs be demystified and deployed with the interests of local communities in mind.  Based on a participatory methodology, the IKM has embarked on what could be the biggest technology literacy-building programme in India.  By engaging Government officials and members of civil society, the IKM initiative promises to strengthen Kerala’s position as a high-technology centre in the country, while enhancing the states’ profile in the global economy. 

For further information, see the IKM website.  


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