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February 9, 1998


N Vittal

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The Andhra initiative

Randeep Sudan

- Additional secretary to the chief minister of Andhra Pradesh

This article outlines important projects that Andhra Pradesh proposes to implement in its efforts to harness information technology.

Indian Institute of Information Technology

Rebooting democracy
The Andhra initiative
The Vittal game plan
IBM has signed a memorandum of understanding to set up an 'IBM School for Enterprise Wide Computing' as part of the IIIT.

Subsequently, discussions have been held with representatives of Microsoft for setting up a 'Microsoft School for Software Technology' under the wings of the IIIT.

Microsoft will set up the school jointly with local partner Microland. In the case of Microsoft, Oracle and Silicon Graphics, the Andhra Pradesh government is very close to finalising the formal agreements covering their participation in IIIT.

It is hoped that with the association of these companies it will be possible to provide quality education to students at the IIIT.

The setting up of the IIIT with private-sector funding and management is a unique experiment.

In a recent interview with Business World, Microsoft Corporation Chairman Bill Gates stated that he had asked his executives to put Andhra Pradesh on top of the list in the context of locating a software development centre in India (Business World, September 9, 1997, p 95).

The interview had followed his meeting which Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu.

A HITEC (Hyderabad Information Technology and Engineering Consultancy) City is coming up at Madhapur on the outskirts of Hyderabad, covering 158 acres. The HITEC City is being constructed under a joint venture between L&T and the Andhra Pradesh Industrial Infrastructure Corporation.

The first phase of he project involves setting up 5 million square feet of quality space for location of software and engineering consultancy firms.

The progress of work in the construction of the Hyderabad Information Technology and Engineering Consultancy City has been very encouraging. The first phase of HITEC City was planned to be completed by December 1998. However, with the work progressing very fast it should now be possible to complete it by June 1998 itself.

Arrangements have been made for providing power and water supply to the HITEC City. An expressway is also being taken up for connecting HITEC City with the Hyderabad airport. This will enable executives to reach HITEC City within 20 minutes of their landing at Hyderabad airport.

The Videsh Sanchar Nigam Limited, which is the sole national agency providing connectivity for international communications for the public, has decided to set up an international communications gateway within the HITEC City.

This will provide convenient access to firms located within HITEC City to communicate with the rest of the world.

Wide-area network

Andhra Pradesh has been provided with a 2 MBPS link between the state headquarters at Hyderabad and each of the 23 district headquarters. In the first phase it is proposed to set up a WAN by linking the state secretariat with 23 district headquarters and Vijayawada using the 2 MBPS fibre optic link being made available by the Department of Telecommunications, Government of India.

The WAN will be the IT backbone for data, video and voice communications. The WAN will start with a star topology centred at Hyderabad and will evolve into a partially meshed topology to achieve acceptable levels of uptime.

The aim of the data communication network is to operate intranets, electronic data interchange (EDI) services, value added network services (VANs) etc.

Video transmission capacity will be used to provide broadcast quality videoconference facilities among various government offices. To start with, it is sought to set up videoconferencing services between the state secretariat and district collectorates.

Voice and data transmission will be utilised to provide voice links for governmental communications, disaster management related communications and for maintenance of the WAN itself.

It is proposed to connect multi-segmented switched local-area networks in the secretariat with at least one local-area network in each of the collectorates by the time the first phase of the proposed WAN is commissioned.

In subsequent phases, the wide-area network will be extended to mandal headquarters and eventually to villages. The network is proposed to be flexible both in terms of scalability and versatility, that is, it would use alternate communication channels.

For example, the systems should allow upgradation of transmission speeds to 155 MBPS. It should allow use of alternate communication channels like satellite links (VSATs) dial-up lines (DUN) integrated services digital network (ISDN) lines, radio links, DECT, CDMA etc. without obsolescence of its components.

It should also provide interface to the DoT packet switching network called I-Net.

At present, there are a few LANs in various government offices, mainly scattered in Hyderabad. It is, however, planned to build many local-area networks simultaneously with implementation of this wide-area networking project.

Campus networks in the secretariat, various heads of department complexes and collectorate campuses are planned. The schedule of implementation of collectorate LANs will precede the schedule of state WAN implementation by at least one week. It is proposed to operate an intranet (APNET) which will provide statewide email services straight away on the WAN.

At present, the district treasuries have a system of collection of data using dial-up lines and floppy mailings. Similar systems are operating in commercial taxes and rural development departments. It is proposed to bring those applications requiring transmission of data on to the wide-area network at the time of its commissioning. These applications will serve as experiments for commissioning of the wide-area network.

Secretariat campus network

The secretariat house, the council of ministers headed by the chief minister, ministerial offices and secretariat departments would all be linked.

The business of the government is transacted in various secretariat departments. Currently, there are 29 secretariat departments and about 5,000 employees inclusive of all categories. Since most issues handled at the secretariat have wide ranging implications, business rules of the government and secretariat procedure requires consultations among officials dealing with various aspects of an issue coming up for decision by the government.

Such consultations take place within each department and across departments. Mandatory consultation requirements imply that departments have to follow up pending issues with each other, track file movement and access data from each other.

While the volume of communications within departments will naturally be high, interdepartmental communications will also constitute a significant portion of the total communications traffic.

Each department frequently communicates with various directorates, commissionerates and autonomous organisations under its control. Most of these offices are located in Hyderabad but outside of the secretariat complex. Usually a few such offices are clustered in one location. For example (a) the directorate of medical services (DMS) complex houses a large number of directorates and autonomous bodies under the health and family welfare department, and (b) another complex, a few kilometres away houses the commissionerate of tribal welfare, social welfare, tribal research institute, residential school society offices etc.

It is proposed to provide connectivity to these locations through the WAN infrastructure being built together with district collectorates and important district offices.

Technical specifications have also been drawn up for the secretariat WAN. Fibre optic cabling will be provided up to each floor of the buildings in the secretariat.

Similarly, tenders are being called for structured cabling for LANs in the departments of the secretariat, which will connect to the WAN. At each of the collectorates, at least one LAN will be set up. The hardware and software gaps are currently being worked out in this regard.

At the end of the project, each collectorate complex will have at least one functional LAN linking to the WAN.

Statewide videoconferencing

The delivery of public services, daily routine administration and the implementation of government policy at the cutting edges largely rest with various district and sub-district level officials and panchayati raj institutions.

Face-to-face discussions facilitate clarification of government policy, review and monitoring of programme implementation and corrective action to ensure achievement of targeted service delivery objectives.

As of now the only mechanism for face-to-face review by the government and the district administration is achieved through periodic collectors' conferences and specific review meetings to which the district officials concerned are invited.

Since the district collectors cannot be spared from their jurisdiction frequently and for long periods, such conferences are organised two or three times a year. Technological developments in data communication and videoconference, in contrast, enable frequent face-to-face conversations among multiple locations.

Hence it is proposed to commission a statewide videoconference facility to operate on the WAN connecting the state network centre at the secretariat and district network centres at the collectorate complexes.

The proposed videoconference facility will help achieve better co-ordination between state headquarters and district offices and more effective management of various regulatory, developmental and hazard mitigation programmes of the government apart from reducing time overheads on travel between the state capital and district headquarters.

Electronic kiosks

It is proposed to locate electronic kiosks, to begin with, at the secretariat and at each of the district collectorates.

These kiosks will provide information about government activities to the public. An electronic kiosk was recently demonstrated in a meeting conducted at Hyderabad to apprise senior officers from the Government of India about the information technology initiatives of Andhra Pradesh.

The response to the electronic kiosk was highly positive. Information, which will initially be positioned, on the kiosk will include copies of government orders of interest to the public, directory information on key government officials, general information on the eligibility for assistance under various government programmes and information of tourist interest.

Multipurpose household survey data

The 'multipurpose household survey data on citizens' scheme has been computerised and is at an advanced stage of validation. The data covers the entire population of 73 million in the state.

It was collected while conducting the electoral identity card survey in July 1995. After initial entry of data, printed outputs were given to the district collectors for cent per cent verification in the field.

The vendors, according to corrections arising out of field verification, edited original data. A test plan for checking accuracy of data based on comparison of output from 5 per cent randomly chosen polling stations with field verified manuscript has been developed. Vendors are to hand over data after specifying acceptance tests to collectors.

In the meantime, plans are being drawn up to train staff and position hardware up to the 'mandal' level for maintaining and updating the data.

Registration and stamps

The registration and stamps department has taken up the computerisation of land records on a pilot basis at two locations in Hyderabad. While previously it used to take nearly 15 days to complete registration of land, the computerised system permits the process to be completed within half an hour.

This has provided an immense facility to the public. It is now proposed to extend the pilot to all the offices of the sub-registrars in the state.

Consequently, it is proposed to introduce computerisation at 240 offices of sub-registrars in the districts.

Since the state WAN is currently under implementation, certain alternative models are being examined. These include, setting up the WAN entirely by the Andhra Pradesh Technology Services Limited with the entire investment being met from budgetary resources of the government.

Another model is to entrust the setting up of the WAN to private companies specialising in largescale networks on a 'build operate and own' model.

Rebooting democracy
The Andhra initiative
The Vittal game plan
Payment for the use of the network could be made based on transaction volumes. The government of Andhra Pradesh could guarantee a minimum level of transactions to reduce the element of risk for private investors.

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