Mapping the Path of Digital Transformation: Biswaranjan Samal, IAS, ACS, Government of Assam

In a candid discussion with ilouge Media, Biswaranjan Samal, IAS, Additional Chief Secretary of the Government of Assam, sheds light on the intricacies of implementing digital transformations within the framework of government programs. The interaction delves into the challenges faced in transitioning from traditional to digital citizen services, emphasizing the need for strategic change management and stakeholder engagement.

What is the best approach to formally evaluate the impact of Government’s digital transformation?

The optimal approach involves assessing the impact of digital transformation on the population, with a focus on specific programs such as the National Food Security Scheme (NFSA) and related initiatives like food grain schemes. To evaluate the effectiveness of these programs, it is crucial to understand their intended goals and determine whether digital transformations contribute to achieving these objectives.

For instance, the NFSA aims to provide food grains to the population, and the implementation of digital solutions such as Electronic Point of Sale (EPOS) devices in fair price shops plays a pivotal role. These devices, coupled with Aadhaar-enabled biometric authentication, streamline the process for beneficiaries to receive their allocated food grains. Additionally, centralized government portals like the Annavitran portal offer real-time tracking capabilities, allowing for the monitoring of whether beneficiaries are successfully accessing their entitled food grains.

The digital transformation involves reengineering processes to align with policy implementation. By digitizing various aspects of these programs, it becomes possible to evaluate their impact in real-time through data analysis. This includes assessing whether the intended objectives are being met, and the efficiency of the digital solutions deployed.

What are the main challenges in implementing Digital Citizen Services?

Navigating through challenges in implementing transformative changes, especially in legacy systems, is a formidable task. Take, for instance, the National Food Security Act (NFSA) in Assam, which caters to a massive 2 crore population. The transition from traditional methods to digital services involves a comprehensive overhaul of the entire value chain. Legacy systems, running for prolonged periods, require meticulous computerization, and adapting these changes demands strategic change management.

One pivotal aspect involves engaging stakeholders who may be resistant to the new program due to their accustomed ways. Conducting extensive training and motivation programs becomes imperative to ensure their enthusiastic participation. The challenge intensifies with the introduction of new technologies such as biometric authentication and Aadhar seeding. Cultural nuances and preferences must be considered, especially in remote areas where, for example, certain tribal groups may resist providing fingerprints and identity verifications.

In tackling these challenges, a nuanced approach is essential. In Tea Gardens, where conventional methods might not be feasible, alternative strategies need to be devised. Holistic consideration of all stakeholders is crucial to building systems that not only meet the requirements but also address the intricacies of diverse cultural and operational landscapes.

The transformation process necessitates a thorough examination of existing procedures, many of which have accumulated over time. Streamlining the process through effective process re-engineering is crucial. It involves cutting down layers of unnecessary procedures and optimizing the workflow for efficiency.

Successfully achieving such transformations requires a holistic view and a commitment to driving change throughout the entire value chain. By acknowledging the complexities, addressing cultural factors, and engaging stakeholders effectively, one can pave the way for a successful transition in these challenging environments.

How does our Current IT policy align with national/international standards and best practices?

In the realm of policy development, our nation prides itself on its robust and up-to-date framework, surpassing international standards in various sectors. Our strength lies in the democratic foundation that underpins our policies, fostering extensive discussions among stakeholders at all levels. A democratic structure ensures a consultative process, involving diverse voices from villages to the national stage, thereby imbuing our policies with a sense of ownership among the populace. However, the rapid advancements in technologies such as artificial intelligence pose challenges in maintaining regulatory relevance. As these innovations unfold at a breakneck pace, the absence of comprehensive regulations, especially in areas like AI, becomes apparent.

The implementation of policies is seamless, with stakeholders actively engaging in programs. Nevertheless, emerging technologies like artificial intelligence present a regulatory gap, leaving room for potential misuse. For instance, the absence of regulations on AI usage may lead to the creation and dissemination of fabricated images or videos, posing a significant threat to our democratic values. To address this, continuous scrutiny and adaptation of regulations become imperative.

In our dynamic democracy, the ongoing discourse revolves around striking a balance between technological progress and regulatory preparedness. The potential impact on democratic traditions necessitates a proactive approach to crafting and updating regulations. As technology rapidly permeates every facet of society, our democratic institutions, driven by the collective wisdom of the people, stand ready to respond to the challenges posed by this ever-evolving landscape.

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