UAlbany Grad Student Assists on e-Governance in India
(November 22, 2005)
Rockefeller College graduate student Devendra Potnis was selected as a student intern this summer by the United Nations' Asia Pacific Center for Transfer of Technology. He traveled to India, where he worked on a few of the challenging e-governance projects being carried out by the state government of Karnataka, one of the southernmost states in India.
Potnis, a second-year graduate student pursuing his master's degree in public administration from Rockefeller College, is a graduate assistant in the Division for Research. He has a master's degree in computer science from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.
According to Potnis, Karnataka's state government is planning to deliver primary services to its citizens by using kiosks connected to the central database located in Bangalore, the capital of the state. In remotely located villages, the requirement of setting up basic infrastructure for kiosks with consistent high bandwidth calls for private partnerships to operate these projects on the "build, operate, and transfer" principle. He explained that "in the developing part of countries like India, challenges for a strategic planner involve such issues as designing kiosks with local language keyboards which reflect local dialects, employing kiosk operators with enough compensation at remote locations of the state, and crafting policies taking into account that local politicians who frame the issue of 'new technology in the villages' may not necessarily support the idea."
Potnis said that "officials face a
huge problem in creating a central citizens' database
for executing e-governance ventures due to
the lack of a Social Security-like system
structure in India." He enjoyed facilitating
discussions among officials, government employees,
computer users, and laymen in the villages.
In some cases, the success of the project
will depend on whether there is a commitment
to it at all levels, he said.