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Gujarat filling the digital divides, but where…  

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DQW Bureau
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It was not long before that the Gujarat assembly had set up an Information

Center that had details of the functioning and the history of the democratic

movements since the state was formed. Now going a step further, the assembly has

put it all into a website where each member can view the session dates,

proceeding details at their own convenience wherever they are.

www.gujaratassembly.gov.in is functional from July 15, 2002 as part of the

state's ambitious e-governance take off. And it will be for the first time in

the country that a state assembly will be going online providing details of

important ruling and data related to proceedings.

The bilingual site, in English and Gujarati, is targeted at the legislators

and the laymen with no information on what is happening in the house that

accommodates their own representatives. Speaker Dhirubhai Shah, who made the

leap to keep abreast the common people about the developments of assembly, was

more than hopeful that the site will provide transparency to the democratic

norms.

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Now it would be not only MLAs who have access to view the details of projects

and its implementation in their constituencies, but the voters themselves who

will be informed via this site about it. The only lacunae that remains here is

that the legislators are not computer literate leave alone net surfers. So their

ability to use computers as a medium still remains a big question. Information

pertaining to all the constituencies of the State on various matters of public

interest has been put on the site. But the lack of quality and the selection of

a poor web developer is noticed by the quality of the site and the standard of

English used on the website. A majority of the words are spelled wrongly

including that of the Governor.

Though the state has the infrastructure to be one of the best e-governed

states in the country, the unwillingness of the government and the poor

knowledge of the officials added to the lack of awareness of people have

contributed to remain it only on the desks of the babus. It is also ironical

that backward districts like Panchmahals have been able to implement its

e-governance project effectively, while cities like Ahmedabad remain backward.

While a villager in Panchmahals can get a ration card through net, a techno

savvy Ahmedabad citizen cannot even pay his municipal taxes through net, leave

alone other mediums.

The state also has portable Very small Aperture Terminal (VSAT) that connects

the state capital with all the districts. This commissioning has facilitated to

integrate its existing It infrastructure - Gujarat State Wide Area Network (GSWAN),

Secretariat Campus Area Network (SCAN), Secretariat Integrated Communication

Network (SICN) and also to all the 25 district and all the taluka level offices.

The VSAT will also help in establishing direct link to remote areas along the

coastal areas to help in case of natural calamities like cyclone.

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The state will also implement Computer Literacy and Study in Schools Scheme

(CLASS), a project from the Ministry of Human Resource Development. The aim of

the project is to provide computer literacy and literacy through computers.

Kaushik Bhatt, Commissioner of Schools expressed optimism that the computer

awareness in the state will jumpstart once the project takes off.

But the government's attitude towards primary education and the social strata

that divide Gujarat on communal and caste lines will be a hindrance in

implementing the project. The project, in all probability, will remain to those

schools and students who already have the access to computer literacy. And it is

also likely to go under the carpet as the pomp and show the RTO check post

computerization has shown.

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It has almost completed more than a year that the government declared that

all check posts in Gujarat has been computerized and a central monitoring cell

in Ahmedabad have become operational. The project attracted national attention

and its architect, the then transport commissioner P Paneervel got a national

award.

But not even a year down the lane, none of them are functional. There is no

monitoring either. The Central Monitoring System has collapsed totally due to

lack of personnel to man it at check posts. Moreover, the computers provided to

the check posts are lying idle. To add insult to injury, Gujarat is the first

and foremost state in computerizing check posts.

Political scientists like Achyut Yagnik puts the blame on the people for the

poor functionality though all the systems are in place. "The government as

such has the will. But it has to be implemented by the people who run the

government. As long as the people remain mute spectators, these babus are never

going to budge," he told CNS. 

Binu Alex


CNS

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