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INTRODUCTION TO INFORMATION SHARING

INTRODUCTION TO INFORMATION SHARING

The free flow of information is a basic human right. The ability to seek, receive and impart information is crucial for respect of human rights.

One way of looking at “Democratization of Information” is the ability of every person to get the information they need to make their lives better as it helps them in effective decision-making. Another dimension to this is building an information-driven society which has access to all services and facilities with minimum bureaucratic and procedural formalities.

An information-driven society leads to transparency and accountability. This provides impetus to programmes aimed at improving the processes and systems of public bodies thereby improving service delivery.

A number of international bodies with the responsibility of promoting and protecting human rights have recognised the fundamental nature of the Right to Information (RTI).

Information is required at multiple levels as follows:

  • At the first level, the public should be aware of their rights. There are numerous examples where millions of people are not even aware of their basic rights. For example, the Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS) has been in place for many decades in India, but a number of the targeted beneficiaries are not even aware of their entitlements.                INTRODUCTION TO INFORMATION SHARING
  • At the second level, people need to have information that will enable them to use the services provided by the government. For example, a beneficiary needs to know the ration card registration process in order to avail the benefits. A simple IT based system of ration card registration where the beneficiary is helped through the process can make a huge difference.

At the third level, people will be able to demand services as per service level agreements set by the government and raise grievances so that the system is able to correct itself based on the feedback from the users.

Unfortunately, many people do not have information at the first level itself. Thus, awareness of rights, government services and welfare schemes is central to democratization of information.

The electronic delivery of services provides information to users so that they are aware of the services and benefit from it by using multiple communication channels. Some of the electronic channels being used today include Web portals (available on the Internet), e-mails, SMS, kiosks that ensure that information flows to people wherever they are.

Service centres manned by skilled people are also a key channel for distribution of information. Other channels of information dissemination include print media, television, radio and public office premises.

  • In this context, civil society organisations and media have a key role to play. The civil society organisations are increasing awareness and helping people get access to information.
  • The media has played its part in generating awareness and remains a powerful means of ensuring reach and awareness. In India, the Electronic Delivery of Services Bill has been introduced while the RTI Act was passed in 2005.            INTRODUCTION TO INFORMATION SHARING
  • The challenge is, however, not in the absence of law but in its implementation. This includes bringing about a cultural change towards ‘openness’ in the way public authorities work.
  • It also means managing the cost of information and using innovative ideas and Information Technology (IT) to make information accessible to public wherever they are at a reasonable cost.
  • Use of technology is the only way by which information can be made available to a billion-plus people in India, as it can remove economic, language and other barriers to information flow.

While the flow of information has some obvious benefits like increased transparency, accountability, public participation and empowerment, it has some pitfalls too. If the information is used to make allegations to malign public servants or create disorder it can negatively impact the working of public bodies. Adequate checks and balances are needed in the systems to ensure that information is not misused by such elements.

Today, a number of public authorities at the central and state levels are using IT to manage and disseminate information. However, the progress has been slow.

While India is miles ahead of other countries in the maturity of its IT industry, the pace of adoption within the government space is slow.    INTRODUCTION TO INFORMATION SHARING

Various governments have been striving to bring about changes in the way public authorities function. Large transformational projects have been implemented. The success of these projects hinges not only on the technical solution but also on its adoption by various stakeholders.

Some examples of successful use of technology are as follows:

  • Ministry of Corporate Affairs Projects
  • State Portals like MPOnline
  • eDistrict Projects
  • IT in Social Welfare Projects like APNR EGA
  • Setting up of call centres, where the call centre facilitates drafting an RTI application

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