At India’s Economic Times e-Governance Forum, speakers stressed the importance of technology in disaster management, service delivery and eliminating poverty.
India’s Minister for ICT, Mr Ponnala Lakshmaiah, noted that technology had helped to reduce fatalities from cyclones from 10,000 per year in 1970 to 30 last year in the state of Ander Pradesh.
He finished his speech by warning of a violent revolution if the gap between the rich and poor kept on widening.
A number of other speakers reiterated that ICT was key in reducing the gap between the rich and the poor. The potential for job creation is clear. Digitisation of government records globally created six million jobs and $196 billion in new revenue last year.
As the forum progressed however, it became clear that whereas the technical approaches to propagating ICT were clear, turf protection - or the silo mentality - was the elephant in the room.
Just like in Kenya, each department here does what it wants without making reference to any other department. Infrastructure that should be shared is duplicated, making seamless integration difficult.
For example, biometric data that already exists in the passport department is also collected separately by the electoral commission.
The Indian Permanent Secretary for e-Governance, Rajiv Gauba, wants to eliminate parallel government systems and multiple data centres by implementing cloud computing. He feels a government mandate is necessary because India’s ministries are not ready for integrated services.
At lunch break, I met Pradeem Kumar, who has been to Kenya. “You guys are lucky that you can learn from us and implement things immediately”, he told me.
“Here, we have very powerful and corrupt state governments. This talk that resources will move from the centre to the goal is nonsense if kickers in the field are wearing shoes with nails. The ball is always deflated before we can score.”
Corruption starts from the assumption that you will never win.
Anil, a governance expert had a different view. Corruption, he argued, would persist until governance was taught in India’s institutions of higher learning, because factual knowledge was missing.
“India has the best brains any country can have, but they cannot put their finger on that thing,” he said.
We have a lot to learn from India since we share a similar history having both been colonized by the British. Indiscipline is causing both India and Kenya a great deal, and some urgent solutions are required.
We should institute national service for high school leavers, and teach ethics in every class from high school through university.