The Narendra Modi government is going for a mega revamp of its main IT body, the 46-year-old National Informatics Centre (NIC), to make it “future-ready” and is appointing a consultant to study global systems in countries such as USA and Australia to suggest a re-structuring of NIC.
News18 has accessed a document in this regard, detailing a big exercise to be done over four months by the consultant. “The vision of PM Narendra Modi is to make India a US$1 Trillion digital economy by 2024-25 and boost the digital ecosystem in the country to support the transition of India into a developed nation. The Indian digital space is in a lift-off phase. For India to take the next leap in digital, NIC needs to fast-track and evolve at the same pace as the growing need for digital technologies in India over the past one decade,” the document says.
On the agenda is entering into public-private partnerships, review of MOUs signed with states and central government departments over 40 years ago, getting more manpower than just 4,000 employees at present who are in charge of running the government’s biggest digital schemes, investing in a ‘National Digital Cloud’ service and considering ‘charge-out model’ for Platform-as-a-Service apart from services being offered for free to government entities. The role of senior NIC officials will be re-purposed as “technology advisors” for ministries and departments.
What NIC Does
The NIC is the main tech body of the government. It provides national long-distance, high-speed leased data circuits and bandwidth to state capitals and districts, hosts more than 1,000 key government applications such as DigiLocker and Ayushman Bharat, provides the largest video conferencing services in the country spread across state capitals, districts, Union Territories and ministries, runs the government email service and SMS, and is in-charge of Aadhaar authentication services. NIC enabled 250,000+ VC sessions in 2021, covers 30 lakh-plus email users who do 4.5 crore email transactions daily and handles 61 crore-plus Aadhaar authentications every month.
NIC has developed and currently maintains multiple digital platforms and products like the PM Kisan scheme in which 10 crore farmers get Rs 6,000 each year in three instalments; One Nation One Ration Card; e-way bill system and e-invoice system of the GST network under which more than 40 lakh suppliers and 2.3 crore vehicles have been registered and more than 200 crore e-invoices generated in the last 22 months. The entire e-courts system covering over 21,000 courts in the country, the government’s e-office system and e-procurement is also run by NIC.
The Plan Now
The government feels that for the NIC to fulfil the rising expectations of citizens from Digital government services and the requirement for a national-level digital ecosystem for 21st century Digital India, there is a need to restructure the organisation.
“There is a significant gap in the existing workforce of NIC and the manpower required to support the ongoing and planned initiatives. The current skillset of NIC officials need to be reviewed in lieu of the transformational change in the software technologies and the core skills required to design and build public digital systems in the current times. The talent onboarding mechanism is insufficient to attract and retain industry best talent,” the document says.
The consultant will study the possibility of sustainable operations and investment in digital technologies as currently, a lot of NIC services are offered for free to government entities and states and are funded by the central budget.
“Most of the budget goes into the maintenance of existing network, infrastructure and the salary bill of the employees which leaves very little scope for upskilling or investing into new technologies such as Cloud. Today, private companies provide technology and digital infrastructure services and investing heavily into new technologies including cloud,” the document says. The consultant will recommend a public private partnership model to augment the existing hosting infrastructure and establish the National Digital Cloud.
A complete revamp of organisation, operating model, and ecosystem integration is essential, the document adds. The consultant will study the present organisation structure of NIC and the roles and responsibilities assigned to it and assess its potential, especially in light of the role being envisaged for NIC in future. “NIC needs competent workforce to support ongoing and planned activities to achieve targeted Digital Economy. The consultant will suggest investment required by NIC for skill enhancement and technology upgrading,” the document added.
The consultant will also be asked to study the impact of the use of digital technologies in governments globally in at least six countries like USA and Australia, study the roles played by similar IT and ICT-focused departments in governments of major developed countries and provide support to the ministries for carrying forward digital transformation.
The government’s current email services will also be assessed from a stakeholder standpoint and from best practices – “what is working well, what needs to be changed, what do similar government departments in other countries provide”, the document says.