Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Digital Administration in India: Pockets of Great Stupidity and Pockets of Wisdom!

In this blog article, I would be highlighting a contemporary aspect of developing India in the field of digital administration.

India's leap into the field of digital work space was rather late. Yet, India is presently one of the largest supplier of digital workers in the world. The majority of young Indian work force gain their incomes from computer related works in one way or the other. The numbers of Indian engineering graduates directly engaged in computer software coding and programming either within the country or abroad are also very large now. 

But when it comes to core computer hardware technology, Indian contribution is pretty low. India keeps importing computer and communication hardware from abroad. Manufacturing of computers in India essentially means assembling of hardware components obtained from developed nations! India is yet to make her footprint as a technology developer! Indian space is not-yet-so-good for original technological ideas to take root and grow!  

Indian political administration being with all the vices of democracy had not been very supportive of using advanced technologies such as computers for the general purpose of the masses from the very beginning. India's political leadership started realizing the potential benefits of computerization and digital economy only from the 1990's after the foreign dollar paying companies from the USA began recruiting technically qualified Indians in large numbers for filling up the massive shortage of lower level digital work force to offset the so-called Y2K problem.
Indian Political Leaders!
The large demand for engineering graduates from India to do digital works of the computer enabled fields  gave rise to the large scale mushrooming of engineering colleges from a few scores to over 10000 and the growth of digital work contracting companies  in a matter of just over a decade, in India.

Perhaps one of the main reasons for the advancement of digital economy related growth within India was the poor knowledge of Indian bureaucrats and political bosses about the digital economy business! Their lack of knowledge in the initial years prevented them from interfering with the natural growth of digital economy in the country. Indian politicians and bureaucrats were good in extracting money from conventional businesses in liquor trade, road transport, real estate, etc with their typical road blocking administrative techniques, but were yet to understand the business processes of the digital world! 

Gradually the wings of the government machinery began to learn about computers and computer aided communication technologies and their potentials in money making.

So they stepped in to grab their share of the digital economy cake directly and indirectly causing huge interference in the smooth growth of demand based digital economy in India. 

Then followed the era of various scams in India- the telecom 2G scam and the scams related with education and the like arising out of the imposition of draconian administrative controls and involvement in the smooth growth of legitimate businesses.

All these money scandals or scams kept happening in India due to the gradual success that unscrupulous democratic leaders got in diluting the efficacy of the bureaucracy. The former did it by promoting bureaucrats and technocrats who were good sycophants rather than good in character and competence, to key positions in the government! 

In all these, we also see pockets of human stupidity concurrently moving along with human genius!

And my intention is only a mild effort to create a little bit awareness among those who care for reading this blog, about the likelihood of human follies and stupidities that go hand in hand with human achievements, wisdom and genius.

And that happens because, we humans are not a homogeneous group of individuals with equitable physical and mind capacities- we are with varying degrees of perfection or imperfection. 

We are with varying levels of wisdom and stupidity!

And hence we reflect great achievements and great stupidities at the same time and that situation has not changed so far. Perhaps we need to progress to many generations ahead to reduce the ratio of foolishness to wisdom in our individual and group activity matrix.

When we look to our world as a whole, we see the uneven distribution of human stupidity and wisdom and its effect reflecting marked uneven distribution of  human development indices.

Though late, the Indian government was realizing the potential of digital economy. Apparently, lack of technological knowledge among the policy makers and the bureaucracy also caused them making great follies while they began planning big to make use of the great potential of computers!  

Prioritization of digitization or use of computers for all possible human activity for taking advantage of the great potential of computers is indeed a wise administrative decision.

But implementing it unwisely would make a wise decision appear as foolish or stupid!

When things move as a mixture of wisdom and stupidity, clever fellows (intelligent people with no character) get success in reaping selfish gains for them abundantly, though for short duration!

The acts of stupidities coupled with the acts of characterless people  enhance human sufferings and the nation as a whole gets affected adversely. 

India is a typical example of that at present!

For example let us consider a scenario like this. Suppose a group of wise and intelligent governmental advisers who know much about computers and digitization, keep advising  the governmental decision makers about the need for fast implementation of digitization in the country for reaping its benefits, there is always a possibility of some stupid decision or law making when the decision makers are not with the level of knowledge in this field as their advisers. When there are stupid fellows in the governmental decision making system, unscrupulous, characterless but clever fellows within the system get good chances for making good fortunes for them as well.

When that happens, the nation will get  faultily  implemented digital infrastructure and digital governance!

In India, digital governance acts done by the government in a stupid haste with regard to money transactions, income tax return filing, goods and services tax administration, electronic voting etc are typical examples of stupidity arising out of pretty high levels of ignorance in the area of computerized  administration coupled with corruption in certain pockets.

No doubt, computerized administration can do wonders and the decision to adopt that policy is not any stupidity. Stupidity here is the level of misunderstanding or inferior awareness about the human effort, competency and time that are required for its successful implementation.

Is it not stupidity when the government desires that all its citizens who earn taxable incomes to pay taxes, keep accounts , file income tax returns and monitor their taxation interactions with the tax authorities only in a computerized manner. But this desire becomes absurd stupidity when the government declares it as implemented ignoring the ground realities, causing great hardships to the citizens and also causing great damages to the governmental systems as well. How can you declare a nation fully digital when the same nation has not achieved full basic literacy even?

Is it wise to assume that an illiterate person would not have income tax payable income? Is it wise to assume that all income tax payers find computers too convenient for all their tax payments, return filing and record keeping? If not, is it wise to have a tax payment system fully computerized?

When the individuals in the top decision making levels are themselves computer illiterates, there is all possibility that they leave everything to the hired system analysts and programmers for making the digital systems and processes as required for the digital administration. Faulty systems get introduced which need frequent changes. Frequent changes in an administrative system cause the people to lose confidence in the government! It is not a good thing for the nation.

The current problems related to e-governance of income tax, Goods and Serives Tax (GST) all reflect faulty implementation of digital governance.

Similar faults could be seen in the implementation of bio-metric citizen identity system called Aadhaar, e-voting, etc as being implemented by the governmental departments and organizations.

While some banks have implemented extremely reliable and good e-banking systems, some others, especially in the government sector are limping with faulty systems.

Some Indian private companies have very good e-management systems while several others are still with faulty systems.

All systems are as a result of peoples' effort, after all. When the individual capacities of the people with regard to knowledge and wisdom are widely varying from person to person, extreme care is needed to build organizations of people for  tapping the potential of the individuals for collective good.

That is where good leadership matters!

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