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DQW Bureau
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When the state of Chhattisgarh was formed, in 2000, the newly formed state

government's corridors were buzzing with words like office automation and

computerization, indicating its thrust on reformations.and bringing in change.

In this direction, an ambitious project for computerization of processes, called

Chhattisgarh Online Information System for Citizen Empowerment, popularly known

as CHOiCE, was conceived by the Chhattisgarh Infotech and Biotech Promotion

Society (ChiPS), a nodal agency for e-governance for improving the quality and

reach of citizen services.

The challenge for the state was to create a system through which citizens may

avail services from public offices as well as offer them the CHOiCE of payments,

obtain information about forms, right from submission, tracking, delivery of the

services, among others.

Toward Robustness



The concept of CHOiCE stemmed from the desire to develop a robust system

that was capable of handling at least 30,000 named users and 3,000 concurrent

users; establish electronic citizen service centers across the state to deliver

more than 131 e-gov services; introduce a 'single window' experience enabling

them to pay taxes, and electricity and water bills; search for property records;

apply for passports online; facilitate communication between government

administrators and citizens by building an interactive Web portal to disseminate

information and submit grievances; and most importantly, create a centralized

database to store critical business data for accurate information.

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The highlight of the network is to enable citizens to gather information that

may not have been previously accessible to them. “CHOiCE allows citizens to

access government information and services. The system has the capability to

allow citizens to query database, request applications, and check the status of

communication made to government departments, says AM Parial, additional CEO,

CHiPS.

Services Provided Under

CHOiCE Project
  • Certificates: Creation and distribution of

    certificates for income, domicile, caste, birth, death
  • Public Distribution Services (PDS): Issue

    of ration card, etc
  • Grievance Handling: Unfair prices,

    non-availability of doctor, etc. Online filing and receipt of information

    relating to the Right to Information Act
  • Link with Other e-Government Projects:

    Registration, Land Records, Driving Licenses, etc.
  • Information Dissemination: Disseminating

    information relating to government schemes, entitlements, etc.
  • Utility Payment: Payments relating to

    electricity, water bills, property taxes, etc.

Beginning the Process



The implementation platform initially was based on the client-server

technology and the Solaris sever was also procured for this purpose. But as the

project started evolving, client-server technology was found to be limiting the

interface with the citizen. During the pilot project stage itself, substantial

changes were made such as client-server interface to browser interface; process

automation to process re-engineering; English to bilingual format; and office

automation format to PPP, with CHOiCE agents.

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An important change made in the project during the pilot phase was the

adoption of CHOiCE centers and CHOiCE agents. After identifying locations of

e-governance service centers, called CHOiCE service centers, they were given on

franchisee basis. In every location, the agent was required to open a service

center with necessary infrastructure and was allowed to charge citizens. He was

also required to share a percentage of the revenue with the government, and

hence through these centers, a self-sustaining and revenue earning model has now

been developed.

Teething Troubles



As a first of its kind project in e-governance, one had to keep in mind the

uncertainties involved with this type of a project. Apart from the risk of

change in the administrative leadership (ChiPS' CEO being an IAS had the risk of

his tenure ending), the project also had to keep in mind the political changes

considering that the CM is chairperson of CHiPS.

By issuing various notifications in 2003, the government mitigated the risk

of legal validity of documents issued through CHOiCE centers, and CHOiCE was

made compliant with the IT Act 2000, where the use of digital signatures and

provide legal validity for electronic transmission was allowed.

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Most importantly, one had to address the issues in process re-engineering,

since this is important for any e-governance project to change the functioning

in conventional procedures. CHOiCE, too, required support of employees and all

other stake-holders, as discretion at the front-end was almost removed and the

employees were apprehensive of their role being jeopardized.

Inaugurated in October 30, 2004, like other projects, this project had to

undergo the initial hiccups, particularly the task of integration across various

departments. However, the departments later saw this as an opportunity to cope

with the pressure to perform. The project has now been successfully rolled out

in Raipur and is in the process of being rolled out in five districts of the

state, including Rajnandgaon, Durg, Bastar, Bilaspur, and Surguja.

Initially, the project started off with proprietary software including

Oracle. The entire deployment was done on Windows. “However, we later discovered

that the entire state wide deployment would cost us a ransom, as this would

include license payment for OS as well as client user and for every additional

processor. There were also issues pertaining to the cost of anti-virus systems,”

Parial says.

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The CHOiCE system utilizes an Oracle Database on Sun Solaris machines with

Linux operating system, and is integrated with the back-end applications of ten

government departments. Robust authentication features ensure the security of

confidential information. The system also supports interactive voice response (IVR)

capabilities and cell phone text messaging. The application is also required to

be portable enough on thin client on the Linux environment along with

biometrics, PKI and smart card.

Security Concerns



The project essentially involves automation of the entire work-flow in the

municipal corporation and district collectorates. Agents upload the citizen

applications and file travels electronically.

The project has a three-tier security system in place beginning with a valid

login user Id and password. Moreover, the system will also store the thumb

impression of each person who has been authorized to access the system. After he

logs in to the system by providing his user ID and password, the system will

prompt the user to further authenticate or identify him. Here, the user would

have to place his thumb in the biometric device, and once the impression is

matched with the one stored in the database, the system will allow the user to

proceed further.

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Any action done by the user would also have to be supported by his digital

signature. The users are provided with smart cards which carry the digital

signature. To certify the action, the user has to insert his smart card in the

smart card reader and provide the key number that is associated with his smart

card.

With more than one lakh transactions already been done through CHOiCE, the

project is now being rolled out in all districts.

Stuti Das



stutid@cybermedia.co.in

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