Virtual governance becomes a reality

Saumya Nanda
File Photo: PM Modi holds video-conference with 130 Indian missions abroad on COVID-19 (Twitter image)

File Photo: PM Modi holds video-conference with 130 Indian missions abroad on COVID-19 (Twitter image)

With the nation in lockdown, governance like much of the human activity these days has moved online.

The National Informatics Centre or NIC is helping the government do most of its tasks in the virtual space, using its facilities spread across the country.

NIC uses over 2000 Video Conferencing studios across India, that are placed in all central ministries, apex bodies, as well as at the state & district levels, plus courts and jails too.

Established in 1976, NIC has played a big role in bridging the digital divide, providing Information and Communications Technology and e-Governance support to the government for over four decades.

Deputy Director General of NIC, Narendra Singh Arneja says, “In the last two months, the Video Conference (VC) infrastructure has been used heavily at the highest level. The President, Vice President, Prime Minister, and all Union Ministers have been using the NIC’s VC infrastructure. It helps top leaders monitor and discuss with various stakeholders on one platform. Courts have also started using the VC infrastructure. It has been provided so that prisoners need not come to the court for trial.”

NIC has held around 1.25 lakh desktop calls and at least 150 VIP sessions since February 2020. It has also conducted 6,000 VC sessions, which amounts to over two lakh studio hours till date.

Besides the studio-based VC set up, NIC has provided a Desktop VC application too, under which an online room is provided to a particular administrator where they can connect with 50-100 people at a time.

Following the lockdown, NIC has increased its strength of the Desktop VC infrastructure, creating a large number of virtual rooms to better “provide an alternative for people to connect from anywhere and on any device, either a laptop or mobile phone. All they need is a good speed internet connection, a camera and mic,” says Arneja.

NIC has also developed an e-office application using Virtual Private Network (VPN) technology. Since it is difficult to move physical files these days, this e-office lets officials create a file, move it between departments and also get approval from appropriate authorities. So far, e-office has been implemented at around 500 organisations across India.

Narendra Singh Arneja says, “NIC has developed over two dozen mobile apps as well as websites especially dedicated to COVID-19. Besides, the Aarogya Setu App, NIC has developed applications for various states too. It has also developed curfew e-passes. We take care not only of the network in terms of cloud infrastructure but also look after the cybersecurity of platforms and applications.”

Currently, NIC services are working at their optimal level. A well-functioning e-Governance platform like NIC not only helps save money but also provides the convenience of working from home or anywhere.

“This phase in our lives has taught us a lot of new lessons,” adds NS Arneja, “we have realised that one can also be productive by working from home.”