NIC: Enabling Data-driven Governance

By CIOReviewIndia team | Wednesday, 03 November 2021, 12:53 IST

In an interaction with CIOReview India, Dr. Neeta Verma, Director General, National Informatics Centre (NIC) shares her views on the evolution of government technology, hyperconnected public service delivery, adoption of artificial intelligence, machine learning and advanced analytics in governance, and more.   

The advent of new technologies is accelerating the digital transformation of government organizations, bringing about a sweeping change in the delivery of public services. How do you see this evolution of government technology?       

ICT has been an important public policy priority for catalyzing digital growth and enabling universal reforms in governance mechanisms for the effective delivery of citizen services. With the availability of high-speed internet and increasing affordability of smartphones, we are now experiencing a whole lot of delivery mechanisms for existing services focused on improving the ease of access and overall user experience. Mobile services are growing constantly and emerging as the new paradigm in transforming government and making it even more accessible by encompassing the benefits of remote delivery of government services and information. Element of enterprise mobility has been introduced for the accessibility of public services on handheld devices. Aadhaar, Direct Benefit Transfer, and Digital Payments have helped in transforming more and more citizen-centric services into a faceless, cashless and paperless mode. 

As a country, we have adopted digital solutions in almost every walk of life. Over a period, the Government of India and its organizations have also embraced the digital transformation of its various departments which is ultimately aimed at providing better services to the citizens. The government has demonstrated a history of early adoption of the latest technologies treading the path for successful incorporation for various sectors.  

How is NIC supporting the delivery of government IT services? What role is it playing in realizing the goal of Digital India?

NIC has been working towards the development of ICT infrastructure for connecting various government institutions over for the last four decades through its pan India multi-gigabit network at the central, state, and district levels. NIC has also set up state-of-the-art National Data Centres at NIC Headquarters Delhi, Pune, Hyderabad, and Bhubaneswar and small Data Centres in State Capitals to provide services to the Government at all levels. Email services are being provided to over 30 Lakh government officials across central and state governments.

NIC also provides video conferencing services through a network of 2300 studios spread across the country including state capitals, districts & union territories. NIC launched National Cloud Services in the year 2014 under the MeghRaj Government of India Cloud Initiative. NIC Cloud Services provide ICT infrastructure for rapid development and deployment of eGovernance applications. S3Waas platform offers a configurable website generation framework consisting of GIGW compliant templates for the creation of citizen-centric and user-friendly websites that are responsive and secure. Agile platforms developed by NIC in various domains including Agriculture, Education, Health and Family Welfare, Transport, Finance, Law and Justice, Social Welfare & Skill Development, Home Affairs, Food & Public Distribution, etc. provide direct access to the citizens for accessing government services while facilitating government for effective administration and scheme implementation.

How does NIC assess the ICT needs at all levels of governance including central, state, districts, judiciary, and legislative layers? How does it ensure that those needs are fulfilled through its solutions?

NIC has established a pan India presence with a network of 800 offices spread across various states/UTs up to the district level. NIC works in close coordination with the government at all levels including center, state, and district for the identification of grass root problems. NIC provides advisory and guidance support to the government departments regarding the effective use of ICT tools for the delivery of public services and builds robust digital solutions empowering the government and the citizens. NIC has also been working along with judiciary and legislative bodies for the development of ICT solutions such as eCourts, eFile, Virtual Courts, National eVidhan, eParliament, etc.

Based on several years of experience in developing and handling public digital services, NIC has productized its solutions in the form of generic products configurable and customizable as per the requirement of various government departments and agencies. Each of these packaged technology products are being used by 300-500 government departments. NIC developed products building a better digital experience for the citizens and government officials include eOffice, eProcurement, eHospital, eCounselling, Swagatam, eTransport, eProcurement, eAuction, etc.

Hyperconnected public services are increasingly becoming the norm with the usage of multiple technologies, tools, or platforms. How is NIC enabling the same for the Government of India?

NIC has been instrumental in developing multiple digital systems for the government supporting various programs and schemes. Over a period, NIC has employed cutting-edge technologies to develop a wide array of solutions catering to the needs of diverse sectors in India and is providing single-point access in a connected environment across the country. There is a need to further enhance the interconnectedness of discreet systems currently operating in silos. Unlocking the potential of real-time data integration in a hyperconnected digital environment, the National API Exchange Platform (NAPIX) of NIC provides a single interface for an end-to-end API lifecycle management to promote integration and collaboration amongst various stakeholders.

eTransport platform developed by NIC offers connected transport services for vehicle registration, driving license, enforcement, taxation, permit, fitness, and related activities through a multitude of applications. It has evolved as a public digital platform operating on the consolidated database of Sarathi and Vahan with upstream and downstream integrations with a large number of internal/external stakeholders. Diverse services operate over this platform including eChallan, PUCC, VLTD, IRAD, Homologation, mParivahan, eWay Bill, etc. The unified eco-system comprises Fitment Centres, Automobile and component manufacturers, Car dealers, Banks, Insurance Companies, PUCC kiosks, Transporters, support agencies for Smart Card, Private Fitness Centres, HSRP, Security agencies like Police, CCTNS/NCRB, NATGRID, FasTag along with eDistrict, CSC, UMANG, DigiLocker, etc.

How is NIC adopting artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, and advanced analytics, at each stage of government activity to improve the efficiency of decision making?

Centre of Excellence in Data Analytics (CEDA) was established in partnership with NICSI is provides a wide range of services to the government which includes data quality assessment services, custom-built data analytics solutions, social media analytics, self-service analytics, etc. Further in 2019, to explore the applications of Artificial Intelligence in developing innovative solutions, we established the Centre of Excellence for Artificial Intelligence (CoEAI). CoE for AI is working on the different aspects of AI such as machine learning, Deep Learning, Text Analytics, Computer Vision as well as Conversational AI.

AI as a Service has been facilitated on Meghraj Cloud offering a variety of AI service models including AI-Manthan: Development platform to build, train and test deep learning models, AI-Satyapikaanan: face recognition service, AI-VANI: Chatbot, Voicebot, and machine transliteration service, etc. AI is used for the detection of number plates for extracting car numbers through the images captured by speed guns for a traffic violation. The extracted number is verified from the Vahan database for the generation of eChallan. AI has been implemented for the treasury department of North-East states for verification of the alive status of the pensioners. Pensioners join the video stream through desktop/mobile and are asked to enact specific facial expressions for status verification. AI-Satyapikaanan which is NIC’s face verification and liveness detection service have been integrated with Sarathi for candidate verification for eLearner license test and DL renewal. 

Given the diverse demography of India, multichannel citizen engagement becomes important for the last-mile delivery of services. How is NIC making it possible?

Multi-channel citizen engagement helps in building fast and effective public services for a seamless citizen experience. NIC has been using citizen-centered design coupled with the increased maturity of data handling capabilities for building inclusive digital services. We focus on the right channel rather than every channel for service delivery using a combination of chatbot, web, mobile, IVR, and social media considering the varying proliferation of technology across different parts of the country.

With the growing need for enterprise mobility in Government departments, the established mobile competency center empowers the Government to adapt to the mobile age and improve government interactions with citizens (G2C), businesses (G2B), and employees (G2E). Adding to the multi-channel service delivery capabilities of existing products and services, NIC has developed mobile apps for various sectors including governance & administration, rural development, finance, health & family welfare, agriculture, education, etc. that are being used at the center as well as state level. NIC strives to incorporate elements of m-Governance for new and legacy systems to deliver information and services to citizens anytime, anywhere, and on any platform or device. NIC has also been spearheading the user experience design for the government websites and portals by incorporating standard frameworks, balanced design, and simplified user flows.

How do you envision the future evolution of government technology? What is the future roadmap for NIC?

The driving forces transforming our world have prompted the services delivered by the government to adopt an anticipatory and resilient approach. At NIC, we have embraced the rapid advancement in technology and enhanced the overall performance of government services. We are experiencing significant expansion in data analytics and in the times to come we will witness data-driven governance. The creation of organized data through analytics is helping the government formulate effective policies which act as a stepping-stone for associated departments and organizations to launch initiatives and develop solutions that can witness increased acceptance by the end-users.

At NIC, we firmly believe in the power of innovation and how technology can be put to use to develop citizen-centric solutions. We endeavor to create a strong and enduring digital ecosystem that is fit for the digital age and able to cater to the rising expectations of citizens and businesses. We wish to use emerging technologies for developing intuitive and convenient personalized services that ensure transparency and data security. Currently handing the operational data for the largest digital systems in the country, NIC will also play an important role in the implementation of controlled libraries and core data registries for the development of public digital platforms. 

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