What do Indian IT giants think of Meghraj?

The Government of India cloud (GI Cloud), which promises to reduce costs and increase IT adoption in the public sector in India, has been welcomed by small IT suppliers, but what do the IT giants in the country think?

The Government of India cloud (GI cloud), which promises to reduce costs and increase IT adoption in the public sector in India, has been welcomed by small IT suppliers, but what do the IT giants in the country think?

Meghraj, as the project is also known, is based on initiatives by the UK and US governments, which are themselves modelled on the app stores of companies such as Apple. The idea is that different government bodies will use shared infrastructure and have access to the same approved applications in the cloud, which promises to cut costs and speed procurement times.

Tanmoy Chakrabarty, head of the government industry solutions unit at Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), said currently the government is only doing things at the infrastructure as a service (IaaS) level. He said this offers cost savings through the use of a common infrastructure.

He added that, in the long term, the introduction of apps created for government bodies could bring about benefits other than reduced costs. “Ideally, horizontal applications should be available to all government departments through a G-cloud. Once this happens, there could be a paradigm shift in buying behavior,” said Chakrabarty. But until this happens, he does not foresee that shift happening.

Chakrabarty said procurement complexity will come down as every project may not require detailed infrastructure procurement and implementation. But he added that more needs to be done: “A simplification of procurement procedures and commercial conditions is also required to achieve an improvement in the procurement process and timelines.”

GI cloud will create opportunities for IT suppliers

Vivek Sharma, general manager and business head, government vertical, at Wipro Infotech, said: “Wipro sees the GI cloud initiative as a much needed initiative. Its adoption will be compelled by considerations of cost, replication and sharing of best practices.”

He added that this will create opportunities for suppliers by opening up opportunities in the government segment for Indian cloud service providers and application developers.

Sharma said the initial shared infrastructure project has been a success and cloud apps will inevitably follow. “The State Data Centres project was a great initiative and a successful one. Cloud enablement is a natural succession and is a welcome move,” he said.

India State Data Centre is a project mandated by the Indian government to provide the core infrastructure for the e-governance initiatives of the National eGovernance Plan (NeGP). The plan proposes that each of the 28 states and seven union territories create a datacenter that consolidate services, applications and infrastructure to provide efficient electronic delivery of government-to-government (G2G), government-to-citizen (G2C) and government-to-business (G2B) services.

Sharma said things will pick up for Meghraj after the elections. “We are in the early stages now, but I expect it to move to the next phase after the elections are over. We already see some states executing it and taking a lead out of their own budgets. This will hopefully spur more investments,” he said.

Indian government faces challenges at a local level

But Sharma said the federal nature of India will make it a challenge to get states “on the same page” because “each has a different legacy”.

“The ground level reality in implementation of e-governance projects varies vastly from state to state because of many factors, such as IT adoption maturity level, purchasing power, political considerations and local affinity. Thus, when it comes to replication of e-governance projects, what is successful in one state fails to take off in another,” he said.

“The state of readiness and the will of state government to execute differ in state-level implementation in many integrated projects. Local issues such as migration from different legacy systems, difference in process, multilingual entry and inconsistency in standards are other problems.”

Sharma added that while the National eGovernance Plan is a centrally driven plan by the Department of IT & Electronics (DeiTY), with decentralized implementation, the above factors might mean state governments follow their own agendas.

Rajesh Chandiramani, head of continental Europe (enterprise) at Tech Mahindra, said Meghraj is viewed as the second big thing in the government’s ICT initiative – after taking the railway reservation system online.

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“This is certainly going to bring more efficiency in functioning of various government departments and easy access for people to avail government services. With the proposed app store in the cloud, various departments can use and customize the applications used by other departments and reduce their go-to-market time to offer online services to people of the state/country,” he said.

“We are very optimistic about this government initiative as it would not only help common people, but also would cater to industries which would provide lot of scope for companies like Tech Mahindra. The program is set to the change the internet landscape for the country. This will improve efficiencies, give easy access and create a more transparent system, removing the legacy and the middlemen who confuse the ecosystem and make it difficult for people to engage with government,” said Chandiramani.

He said there will be different challenges for India than those faced by the US and UK. “Initial challenges for higher uptake will be the infrastructure challenges/limitations which we have in our country today in terms of connectivity, speed and higher availability of internet. But longer term, with the adoption of 4G mobility services, this challenge will become extinct and uptake will significantly improve in coming years."

Another challenge, he said, will be educating users and acceptance of the cloud due to data security challenges.

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