Nerve centre that collaborates, integrates information
Live Mint (Hindustan Times)
November 18, 2012
NGSD gateway seeks to act as a bridge for sharing information between the various ministries and citizens
Five years ago, in 2007, the Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC) was given a mandate to build a better e-infrastructure and help simplify the task of collaborating and integrating information across different Union and state government departments. The result of that was the National e-Governance Service Delivery (NGSD) gateway.
"What we are actually doing is saving the time a user spends otherwise, for example, standing in a queue," said Zia Saquib, executive director at C-DAC. The Pune-based research and development organization was formed in 1988 with the sole purpose of strengthening India's technological capabilities.
In other words, it needs to connect all the potentially useful information lying with the various ministries to the gateways where people can easily access such data.
"Every state has an MIS (management information system), or computer software, and they use different technologies and back-end systems. There is useful information lying in all these, but is not easily accessible," said Saquib.
The NGSD gateway was launched under the department of information technology’s national e-governance plan. The NGSD will act as a nerve centre handling a large number of information and help in tracking and time stamping all government transactions.
The gateway is on the shortlist of the Manthan Awards.
Initially, the gateway was planned to be executed in a partnership with private companies and Wipro Ltd and Tata Consultancy Services Ltd (TCS) were even considered for it, but the government changed its mind and gave the mandate to C-DAC. The project is fully governed and funded by the government.
"The idea of e-governance was not understood back in those days in 2006-07. When C-DAC was offered this, there was a lot of hue and cry as to why TCS and Wipro cannot be given the mandate. But due to its sensitivity, as it looked at strategizing the infrastructure, (the project) was given to us and not a private company," Saquib said.
With the help of this gateway, citizens can get documents such as income certificates and passport verifications processed without having to stand in lines for hours. With the help of the gateway’s common service centres (CSC), people can fill a form, pay a nominal fee and wait for the ministry to respond. "Now you just have to go to one of these centres (CSC), fill up the form, pay Rs.10-15 and get the certificate, signed and stamped by a designated officer. And you can be anywhere and apply for any service from any state," said Saquib.
A key aspect about the gateway is that if different government departments get integrated with NGSD, they don’t have to get integrated with each other as the platform acts as a core infrastructure for achieving standards-based inter-operability between various ministries and state governments.
Still at testing stage, this service, not yet mandatory, is for now functional in only some cities, with Bangalore and Chandigarh having functional Passport Seva Kendras.
The NGSD includes the National Services Directory (NSD), the primary function of which is to act as a service resolution point for all services in the gateway. The gateway is designed to support 250 messages a second and is capable of scaling up to handle 1,000 messages a second without exceeding the threshold response time of three seconds.
The ride has not been easy and the project is yet to be fully implemented by the various departments. "This was a very ambitious project. People only understand back-end and front-end, and no one knows about a middle layer. Initially, it was very difficult to sell this concept," said Saquib.
The organization is waiting for the Electronic Service Delivery Bill, 2011, that aims to deliver all public services to citizens in the electronic mode. "The ESD Bill will be tabled in Parliament soon and will make it (NGSD) a mandatory requirement."