Digital Government: Poised for Growth

With its ability to manage complexity, Government Enterprise Architecture has emerged as the essential means to drive public sector transformation

Pallab Saha

When Governments become inefficient and cumbersome, nations lose their edge. Around the world, governments are constantly facing new demands, greater expectations and an increasingly vociferous and assertive citizenry calling for better governance. This requires governments to be transformed in the broadest and deepest sense. Taking a whole-of-government (WOG) perspective is a critical success factor. This is exactly what Digital India aims to achieve. For us to transition to the next generation of Digital Government, we need a different paradigm called Government Enterprise Architecture – a term not yet common in India. Government Enterprise Architecture (GEA) is a mission-focused approach and a framework to galvanise the pan-government ecosystem by transcending boundaries – to design and deliver services in a coordinated, efficient and equitable way that citizens and businesses demand and deserve, aimed at realising Digital Government. The United Nations has acknowledged that transition towards the future of government requires a holistic and coherent framework, which cannot be delivered with fragmented thinking and approach. Governments in the future will be more connected than ever before, by being FAST (Flat, Agile, Streamlined and Tech-savvy). With its ability to manage complexity, GEA has emerged as the essential means to drive public sector transformation and realise digital government with demonstrable benefits. Digital governments have deeper engagement, encourage participation and collaboration, and exhibit greater openness and transparency. They deliver services that are more personalised, choice-based and anchored around the WOG paradigm. With e-governance in India showing signs of maturity, and fuelled by Digital India goals, there is a growing need to embrace an architecture-based approach at the national, state, district and city levels. States now have a compelling rationale to embrace GEA to enable this. GEA makes state governments future-ready by transitioning from departmental stovepipes to a citizen-centered approach, to government services achieved through transformation of the front, middle and back office operations. This facilitates collaborative working and information sharing between ministries and departments, forming a digital network organised around citizen services and their outcomes. Citizens, being an essential part of the ecosystem, are informed, engaged and involved to augment inclusiveness. Advanced countries like South Korea, Singapore, US, Estonia, Norway, Denmark, Australia and New Zealand have all embraced a holistic architecture-based approach. The seriousness accorded to architecture is also gauged by the fact that many nations have even enacted legislation to this effect. Their success stories are well documented and results are there to be seen in the UN Global E-Government Survey (in which these countries consistently rank very high). In the survey, India ranks 118 with an E-Government Development Index of 0.38, so the opportunity for elevation is unlimited. The Andhra Pradesh State Enterprise Architecture (APSEA) is a pioneering development that will spur many such initiatives in the country. Now called ePragati, and released by the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh N. Chandrababu Naidu on October 9, 2015 in Visakhapatnam, it is a roadmap to Digital Andhra Pradesh. The public sector, collectively, is the largest service provider. The role and impact of ICT in enhancing the quality of lives of people by transforming the public sector cannot be overstated. Digital AP will usher in unprecedented changes and contribute to greater effectiveness of government policies and priorities. The UN has acknowledged that transition towards the future of government requires a holistic and coherent framework, which cannot be delivered via a fragmented thinking and approach, and this is what ePragati provides. ePragati is designed to propel the new state to a developed one by 2029. AP becomes the first state in India to conceive and execute a state-wide enterprise architecture. It is anchored around seven missions, which collectively epitomise progress and development. These missions represent the state’s focus areas and are designed to chart the road ahead in an integrated manner. By adopting a WOG approach, services are rationalised and optimised for performance and outcomes. This allows the state government to be seen and operate as one, leading to better citizen interaction with effective services and, eventually, higher quality of life. Based on The Open Group Architecture Framework (TOGAF), ePragati is not complete without its underlying technologies as they provide the capacity to deliver results. The use of innovative and next-generation technologies is to ensure that the government becomes and remains future-ready. Services are taken to every part of the state via the fibre grid, which provides last-mile connectivity. Social media, mobility, analytics, cloud, and the Internet of Things (SMACT) form the cornerstones of ePragati in bringing about a paradigm shift through game changers. Inspired by the UN defined E-Government Development Index (EGDI) tailored to suit the requirements of the state, the underlying backbone for measurement and direction has been instituted. A series of calibrated measures are used to evaluate the performance of the government across the seven missions. In 21st century governance, needs-based holism and digitisation are key leitmotifs for the next decade. According to the AP CM Chandrababu Naidu “ePragati aims to bring about a paradigm shift in the way government departments function and interact with citizens. It focusses on achieving a unified and connected government with citizen-centricity at its core. Implementation of ePragati will lead to free flow of information among departments, paving the way for an integrated, outcome-driven and accountable government.” Initiatives derived from ePragati have already been approved by the state cabinet with a funding of $380 million (INR 2398 crores) for its implementation. GEA is a long-term endeavour and India is at an inflexion point. The technical process of architecting is difficult enough, but understanding the underlying complexities and the interconnected dynamics that contribute to particularly intractable and difficult-to-solve problems makes it intimidating for many countries. Effective programme outcomes include changing citizen behavior. To ensure that the potential of connected government is realised and for deriving optimum benefits, policy and decision makers play an essential role. GEA provides the enabling mechanism to understand the holistic viewpoint that is very crucial. As the UN succinctly puts it “WOG EA is more a reform process of the government sector rather than the streamlining of the government ICT structure.” To make this happen, GEA frameworks must be designed and applied keeping in view the systemic nature of government business and strategic thinking that is required to attain connected government, which Digital India aspires to. This is merely the genesis. For a country of our size and complexity, architecture is an imperative. What lie ahead are extraordinary opportunities for and in India.