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Disputes over sharing of data and its integration delayed the project

Ever tried downloading the birth certificate of your child from the website of the Kochi Corporation? Or attempted to pay property tax or secure building permit online?

You can get all these jobs done online elsewhere in the State but not from the Kochi Corporation, one of the biggest civic bodies in the State.

City residents have to travel all the way through traffic choked roads to reach the offices of the civic body and manually apply for the services. Though the civic body has an internal computerised system for processing the applications for building permits, the applications will have to be submitted manually as the e-governance programme of the Corporation has reached nowhere.

“At a time when even the smallest panchayats are offering e-services, the Kochi Corporation is still stuck in the world of preparing crucial documents manually,” said Poornima Narayan, chairperson of the Education Standing Committee of the civic body.

Forget about downloading birth certificates from the comfort of your room. The network of the Corporation goes down at times, blocking the transmission of crucial data on deaths and births from city hospitals. “Only after receiving data from hospitals, the civic body can issue certificates manually,” she added.

Though started in 2011, the e-governance programme of the Corporation, which aimed at offering a host of services to residents, has failed to go online. The past eight years saw the civic body spending ₹4.94 crore as the service charge to IT major Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) though the project has failed to take off. The Corporation still owed the company another ₹3.15 crore, said civic officials.

The e-governance programme was originally conceived during the 2008-09 period and the programme was launched during the later part of 2009. Wipro, an IT giant, was chosen to prepare the detailed project report (DPR). The role of the agency was then perceived as that of a Project Management Unit, though it was not mentioned in the records as such, said R.S. Anu, Secretary of the Corporation.

Series of disputes

When it came to the implementation of the project, the agency selected TCS. Meanwhile, Information Kerala Mission (IKM), the IT arm of the State government, started digitising the Basic Tax Assessment Register of the civic body, which included tax details, extent of buildings, and other details. The TCS later laid claim for the data it generated using the funds of the civic body, which led to a series of disputes between the civic body, TCS and IKM, she said.

TCS maintained that it required the data to test-run its software developed for the civic body. The disputes over the sharing of the data and its integration took away the precious time required for rolling out the programme, said another official who was involved in the programme.

Incomplete modules

Going by the original DPR, the plan was to develop 22 modules for the project, including the 13 ones which were to be rolled out for the general public.

The modules for offering birth and death certificates, building permits, marriage certificates and payment of tax were named as pilot modules and rolled out in the first phase. The remaining modules were for the internal use of the civic body and were called non-pilot modules. Wipro was supposed to run the modules and test them for glitches. However, the company failed to carry out the process, which again delayed the project, the official said.

Civic authorities also condemned the delay in getting the software tested at the Standardisation Testing and Quality Certification Directorate, an attached office of the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology. “The directorate offers quality assurance and conformity assessment services in the area of Electronics and Information Technology related to Information Security, Software Testing/Certification and Development of National level Assurance Framework in IT and software sectors,” reads the website of the Directorate.


Though it was offered to complete the testing of the software in two weeks, it took almost one-and-a-half years for the Central agency to complete the job. Moreover, the civic body was handicapped to assess the usefulness of the software and to identify the glitches as it lacked qualified technical hands, said the official.

Ms. Narayan, who had been raising the issue of flawed e-governance programme, refused to buy the arguments of the civic administration.

“Each tax payer of the city, whose money was used to pay the IT firms, has the right to know the reasons behind the delay in the project. If the IT companies have failed to keep their word in developing and rolling out the modules, the civic body should not have paid them the fee. By now, a significant amount has been paid to the companies after the civic body agreed that certain milestones where achieved in the implementation of the project,” she said.

Demand for report

Ms. Narayan alleged that the civic administration was keeping even the Corporation councillors in the dark about the progress of the project. Till now, the civic body could not come up with a status report on the project. “One needs to know how far the project has progressed and what needs to be done. A factual report on the project must be placed before the people of Kochi,” she demanded.

Govt. intervention

At the same time, the civic administrators are pinning their hopes on the understanding reached at a recent meeting convened by Minister for Local Self-Government A.C. Moideen. TCS was allowed six more months to complete the project and periodic review was suggested, said civic administrators.

However, V.P. Chandran, the LDF leader in the council, was not hopeful about the successful completion of the project within the revised deadline. “Civic authorities have failed to follow up the project after the conciliatory meeting. The delay in implementing the project cannot be justified,” he said.


Autor(en)/Author(s): K.S. Sudhi

Quelle/Source: The Hindu, 22.08.2019

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