THE monsoon session of the Goa Legislative Assembly begins coming Monday and it is good to find that two-thirds of the total questions received by Speaker Rajendra Arlekar were sent by MLAs online. At last Arlekar’s efforts to make the proceedings of the Assembly paperless seem to be paying. As on his part, Arlekar has pushed digitization of questions and answers in the Assembly, which is going to reduce the consumption of paper by 4 lakh sheets daily during the session. So during the forthcoming 15-day session of the House the Assembly will use 60 lakh paper sheets less than it would have without digitization. According to stationery industry sources, conservation of 60 lakh A4-sized paper sheets equals to saving around Rs 60 lakh. We hope more and more MLAs get used to submitting and receiving digital documents, and in the sessions to follow the Speaker drives digitization in the Assembly faster.
Much like the Assembly, the departments of the state government have been trying to implement the e-office programme with the assistance of the National Information Centre and department of information technology. The progress on this score has not been satisfactory. Most government offices are crying for space. Recently this newspaper carried a series of reports on the cleanliness in government offices and found that most of the departments had followed the directives on maintaining swachhata without much success. The single reason was shortage of space for keeping files. Every conceivable corner or shelf was crammed with files. The realization that digitization can help departments bring in swachhata has not yet fully dawned.
A paperless office takes up very little space; cabinets and almirahs that stock files can be removed to make room. A paperless office is also a more efficient office. Work can be done faster in a paperless office. There is no time wasted in receiving or sending out documents. The storage is systematic; there is no question of losing or missing files. Finding files quickly is something which is not an easy task under the traditional hard copy file system. Digitization can also be a powerful tool to curb corruption. Some of the state departments now provide e-services for ensuring accessibility, convenience, transparency and timeliness in service delivery. Facilities are provided to people to submit online forms for the services and for the departments to access and process the e-Forms submitted online. The NIC has been providing software, hardware and webhosting support to state departments. The NIC helps them in system design, development, implementation and training, technical support for hardware procurement, Networking, LAN, WAN and video conferencing. NIC also regularly conducts training programmes on computer basics, MS-word and MS-excel for government employees.
The commercial taxes department has introduced e-challans. The mine dumps were e-auctioned. The state land records are online. Citizens can file e-applications to revenue department, RTOs, municipal councils, district collectorates, directorate of accounts, panchayats and other offices. Most of the departments now have internet and email facility through dial-up/leased line connections. However, progress of digitization is very slow. The constraints of funds and human resources must be overcome in order to fulfill the vision of e-governance and paperless Assembly.