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Project Management in e-Governance: What Got You Here Won’t Get You There
Mr. G.V. Subrahmanyam, partner, Government & Infrastructure, Grant Thornton India, on the strategic shifts that can improve e-governance service delivery in India
In India, over the past five years, various central and state government departments traversed the path of leveraging IT for improving public service delivery and internal efficiencies. We are seeing this change largely due to the initiatives of the Department of Information Technology (DIT), Government of India, to promote the use of IT through the National e-Governance Plan (NeGP). To ensure the success of e-governance projects, it is necessary to have smooth sharing of information and seamless interoperability of data across e-governance applications. DIT is focusing on standards in e-governance and promoting the usage of open standards to avoid any technology lockins.

The champion-led successes give hope to the taxpayer that investments in IT can bring in much desired improvements in public service delivery. Projects such as MCA 21 of the Ministry of Corporate Affairs prove that citizens are more e-ready than what government agencies believe them to be. MCA 21 is a missionmode project by the Government of India under the National e-Governance Plan that has enabled electronic filing and payments. However, there are many other e-government projects that are delayed, abandoned, or in “drag” mode. Although not much data is available on the failed/stalled projects, it is important to be aware of the widening gap between the scale of investments into e-government projects and return on such investments. This is reflected in India’s global ranking of 119 out of 184 countries in The United Nations Global E-government Survey 2010. The survey assessed countries on an overall e-government index.

Strategic Shifts to Define the New Normal

Large e-government projects in India are more likely to get stuck than succeed, unless certain conditions precedent for the success of IT projects in the public sector are promoted and fostered collectively by important stakeholders in the e-government ecosystem. It is time to reflect and debate on strategic shifts that need to be institutionalized in the e-government ecosystem. This next wave of reforms contemplated by government agencies is needed to make e-government the new normal for public service delivery in the country. The (open) secret lies in the deployment of killer services/applications designed at providing convenience to citizens and businesses, and electronic access (adequate bandwidth at the doorstep of the villager) at affordable prices. Indices such as network readiness reflect the overall penetration of IT in society as a whole. India’s current level of e-readiness can be leveraged successfully by government agencies to improve the efficiency, effectiveness, and economy of public service delivery. This can be accomplished by developing and implementing more robust e-government programs and project management frameworks.

While IT project management expertise is available in abundance in the private sector in India, e-government projects are often filled with challenges that require customized approaches for service delivery. A few important shifts in the approach for the successful design, development, and implementation of e-government projects are summarized below:

Category Shift/New Normal Ingredients
Political Demonstrated “tone at the top” by political leadership
  Professionalize “IT” as a key function in government
  Accountability—the buck stops here!
Administrative Alignment of IT with the development agenda of the state/central government agency
  Institutionalize IT risk management as a process in the prevention, identification, and mitigation of risks associated with e-government projects
  Measure! Measure! Measure! Build e-government projects around key outcomes such as uptake and customer satisfaction
  Avoid deployment of emerging/latest technologies for the sake of IT
  Institutional strengthening: elevated stature for IT
  Business should drive technology
  There is a need for an e-government-specific program and project management tool to manage the life cycle of e-government projects
  Shift from translation to transformation (of processes)
  Vested interests—cannot be silent on these informal dynamics
  Organization’s structural rigidity can limit integrated service delivery. Strong linkages needed among strategy, structure, and systems
Industry Tackle underpricing, understaffing, and under-delivering
End Users Change management, training, and communication programs should be dovetailed into every large e-government
Citizens Convenience drives demand/uptake. Comprehensive citizen programs should be aimed at building trust in the e-service delivery program

e-Government Project Management

Framework For the successful implementation of e-government projects, an effective e-governance project management framework and categorization of various risk dimensions are needed (as shown in the picture).

In addition to the different project management aspects that need to be considered, factors related to bureaucracy, political leadership support, and government organization culture are some fundamental shifts that require to be incorporated into the overall project management framework for an e-governance project.

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