Swiss and Indian experts from government, research and civil society have for the first time exchanged knowhow and expertise in a public forum on e-governance in New Delhi. The exchange benefits both countries in staying abreast technology trends and evolves global policies by learning from each other’s best practices. Spurred by emergence of Digital India Program (Government of India, 2014) and Swiss eGovernment Strategy (2016-2019), the presentations and panels touched on a wide range of subjects from security of digital services, data protection as well as open access to government data and digital inclusion.
The high profile event was inaugurated by the Ambassador of Switzerland to India Dr. Andreas Baum, Dr. T. Chatterjee, IAS-Retd, Director IIPA and Sh. Shekhar Dutt, IAS-Retd, Former Governor of Chhattisgarh. The Swiss Information Technology Steering Unit was represented by Mr. Cédric Roy, Head of Programme Office, eGovernment Switzerland. From Switzerland’s start-up ecosystem the speakers were Hannes Gassert (Civic entrepreneur, Board member opendata.ch), Daniel Gasteiger (Co-founder and CEO, Procivis) and Alenka Bonnard (Director and Co-founder, staatslabor).
The Indian government luminaries who spoke in the event included Dr. N.C. Saxena (IAS-Retd., Former Secretary, Planning Commission), Mr. Shankar Aggarwal (IAS-Retd., Former Secretary, Ministry of Labor and Employment), Dr. Gulshan Rai (National Cyber-Security Coordinator, Prime Minister’s Office), Mr. Brijesh Singh (Secretary, Information & Public relations, Government of Maharashtra), as well as Dr. Neeta Varma (Director General, National Informatics Centre).
The forum was met with great interest by an audience of 160 stakeholders. The open panels and lively discussions showed the significant interest as well as the various questions and reflections regarding the subject, especially on privacy and security issues of e-identification solutions. There was unanimous consent among the experts, that e-governance had great potential to simplify government-citizens interactions and administrative processes, embracing it would have a long term benefit for both sides. It also became clear: Whether one manages e-governance top-down or bottom-up, for both Switzerland and India the main challenges are predominantly linked to policy issues, legal framework, data protection and security as well as citizen participation and needs – not so much to issues related to technology.
Amongst other learnings that emanated from the event, Swiss experts averred that the thrust of Digital India in using open-data and MyGov as well as the obvious efforts of Government of India in bridging the last mile gap for a hitherto ‘unreached’ citizen is expected to benefit Swiss experiences. Similarly, Swiss success stories on use of Blockchain technology in public domain and its innovative models of encouraging its start-ups could be of interest for India.
This unique event was successfully conducted by the Public Diplomacy section of the Embassy of Switzerland, New Delhi and Dr. Charru Malhotra, Associate Professor (e-Governance and ICT), IIPA, New Delhi.