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A Paperless Government!

March 31, 2003 10:39 IST

A new online system cuts out red tape and makes government offices more transparent

For hordes of citizens, a visit to a government office is like a journey to hell. Even for the simplest bit of paperwork, one has to wait endlessly in stuffy offices, run from desk to desk, meet scores of people and grease a lot of palms.

But things are about to change, thanks to the wonders of information technology. The Maharashtra government has developed a Document Journey Management System (DJMS) that could make life simpler, not just for citizens but even for the government. Developed by IRIS Software Solutions, this system is called SAHAJ, a term that translates as 'easy' -- what tracking a file now is. SAHAJ is a Workflow Application to track document generation and movement within the government. It links various state and district departments via the Internet and cuts out red-tapeism.

"It has been implemented in 10 departments, including the Chief Minister's Office, Social Justice, Woman and Child Welfare, Directorate of Information Technology, Home departments and others. By July, all computers and departments will be covered," says Satyajit Dwivedi, head of e-governance at IRIS. "The system will be integrated with the state portal so that citizens can track their files or petitions. There is also a plan to extend it to kiosks, and it can also be implemented in public sector units across HQO, zonal and regional offices," he adds.

The DJMS is one step towards creating a transparent and paperless government office. The software has a number of features that help its users (government employees) generate documents and references, view reports, and track a document until it is declared ‘closed'. An 'inbox' displays all documents that are received but unacknowledged, and reports showcase activities done by various employees, desks and departments. These printable reports are of four kinds: Employee-wise, Desk-wise, Department-wise and overall.

An Organisation Chart shows card IDs, names, designations, desk numbers and roles of all employees in a department.

A document's journey can be tracked by receiver's name at each level, and every level can be expanded to show notes and attachments in English or Marathi. Attachments can be uploaded, just like Web-based email, and copies of documents can be sent to multiple recipients.

Users can also search for files based on one or more parameters, and documents can be recalled or reopened.

The DJMS supports systems for building an organisation structure, which includes creating departments, designations, employees, associating employees with designation, department and desk, building a reporting structure and assigning special rights and roles to employees.

"IRIS is talking to the Ministry of Information Technologyand other state IT secretaries to adopt this solution with a nominal cost for implementation, customisation and change management. For a state secretariat to completely adopt the system would take a 3-4 months, provided all departments are connected," says Dwivedi.

According to Anish Parshurame, Section Officer, DIT, the search facility is the most useful one. "Tracking any document takes a couple of seconds. With the Report facility one can effectively regulate the staff. Also, a desk-/employee-wise pending list compels everyone to work hard."

What about costs? "A comparable software would cost around Rs 2-3 crore," says Dwivedi. The DJMS supports Distributed Architecture, easy customisation and installation over an intranet.

Pradip Jethawa of the Social Justice Department, Mantralaya, says: "At present, this system is being used in four to five departments and they are completely satisfied. Some problems have been encountered, but the IRIS team has fixed them. I think this is the best monitoring system for government offices and we plan to have all departments working with it as soon as possible."

The bottomline: How will citizens benefit?

"The DJMS is actually aimed at removing physical contact (of citizens) with government employees, and that is desirable," adds Dwivedi. "It will also remove the burden of citizens moving with files from department to desks. There will be a virtual relationship established to facilitate comfort. Tasks will be simplified and data will be available anytime. The time taken for processing applications will also be reduced, as files can be processed even in the case of employee absenteeism. A specific alert mechanism can be built, which will send exception reports to relevant people in the departmental hierarchy."


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Nikita Agarwal