List of Figures and Tables........................................................................................................................7
1 Introduction ........................................................................................................................... 8
Casting the Context .............................................................................................................8
Governance: Concepts and Connotations .......................................................................... 10
Shifting from Government to Governance .......................................................................... 16
Good Governance: The Agenda and Its Implications.......................................................... 19
Politics of Governance Reform: The Changing Patterns of Governance in India ................ 23
E-Governance in the Strategic Reform Agenda of the Indian State: An Overview ............... 27
Politics, Technology and Culture: An Analytical Puzzle of (e)-Governance ........................ 32
Evaluating (e)-Governance: Linking Politics, Culture and Technology .............................. 35
Research Design: The Structure of the Dissertation ........................................................... 39
1.10 Conclusion: Scope and Limits of the Research ................................................................... 41
2 State of the Art: Literature Review .................................................................................. ...44
Introduction: Mapping the Research .................................................................................. 44
Governance in Political Science ........................................................................................ 45
Governance in the International Development Paradigm: Rise of Good Governance
Discourse and Governance Reform Agenda ....................................................................... 53
Governance Reforms: The Indian Context .......................................................................... 61
E-governance in India: A Strategic Governance Reform .................................................... 66
Theory and Methodology ................................................................................................... 71
Conclusion: Taking the Research Forward. ....................................................................... 80
3 Unravelling Governance, Reform and Technology: Theories and Methodology ............... 83
Theories of Governance ..................................................................................................... 83
Rational Choice Theory ............................................................................................. 83
Foucault and Governmentality................................................................................... 84
System Theory ........................................................................................................... 85
Neo-liberal Economic Theories.................................................................................. 86
Good Governance ...................................................................................................... 87
Institutionalism .......................................................................................................... 89
Social Constructivism ................................................................................................ 91
Evaluating Governance and Strategic Reform: Actors, Parameters and Problems of
Operationalising................................................................................................................ 93
Evaluating E-governance: Linking Reform, Technology and Governance .......................... 99
Methodological Challenges of a Context-Specific Analysis of Governance ....................... 101
Conclusion: From Theory to Practice .............................................................................. 107
4 E-Governance in India I: An Overview of Policy Framework ......................................... 109
Major Policies in Information Technology (IT) in India: The Pre-liberalisation Setting ... 109
National Task Force on IT & Software Development, 1998: Implications for e-Governance
Reform ............................................................................................................................ 113
Information Technology and the Reform of the Legal Framework .................................... 114
Information Technology Act, 2000: An Overview ..................................................... 114
Information Technology (Amendment) Act, 2008: An Overview................................ 115
The IT Act 2000 and the IT (Amendment) Act 2008 and Provisions forE-Governance116
Changing Legal Framework and Implications for E-Governance ............................. 118
Five Years Plans, Governance Reform and E-Governance ............................................... 120
The Tenth Five Years Plan (2002-2007): An Overview ............................................. 120
The Eleventh Five Years Plan (2007-2012): An Overview ........................................ 125
The Tenth and Eleventh Five Years Plan and the Scope of E-Governance ................ 128
Five Years Plans and Implications for e-Governance as Strategic Reform................ 130
National e-Governance Plan (NeGP), 2006 ..................................................................... 131
The Eleventh Report of the Second Administrative Reform Commission, 2008 .................. 137
E-Service Delivery Bill, 2011 ........................................................................................... 141
From Policy to Practice ................................................................................................... 142
5 E-Governance in India II: Case Study of Common Services Centres (CSCs) Scheme .... 144
E-Governance Projects in India: A General State of Affairs ............................................. 144
Some Significant E-governance Projects: Pre National e-Governance Plan ............. 145
E-Governance Initiatives under the National e-Governance Plan: A Brief Overview 149
The Case Study of the CSC Scheme .................................................................................. 154
What is CSC? .......................................................................................................... 154
Status of CSCs Roll Out in India: A Snapshot........................................................... 157
Why CSC? : Arguing the Validity of the Case Study ......................................................... 160
The Framework of the Case Study.................................................................................... 161
Methods of Sampling ............................................................................................... 161
Methods of Data Collection ..................................................................................... 163
Narratives from the Field: An Overview of the Four States ............................................. 166
A Comparative Account of the CSCs Scheme in the Four States: ..................................... 179
Conclusion: Limitations of the Case Study ....................................................................... 185
6 A Comprehensive Analysis of Policies & Practices: Assessing the Impact of E-Governance
Reform on Governance in India ............................................................................................. 187
E-Governance to Governance: A Relational Matrix......................................................... 187
Analysing E-governance Reform in India: Evaluating the impact on governance.............190
6.2.1 C1 E-governance Reforms that make public service more easily and regularly accessible ..
for citizens will improve the level of governance ..................................................................... 188
6.2.2 C2 Improved coordination among all the stakeholders of e-governance reform will
improve the level of governance.............................................................................................. 195
6.2.3 C3 E-governance initiatives that take social and cultural factors embedded in the specific
context into consideration improve the level of governance ..................................................... 197
6.2.4 C4 E-governance reform that improves the delivery mechanism of public service will
improve the level of governance. ............................................................................................ 201
A Comparative Regional Narrative: (e) Governance in Context....................................... 206
Hybridising (e) Governance in India: Bridging State and Society .................................... 211
Revisiting the Analytical Strategy .................................................................................... 216
7 Conclusion: (e)-Governance at the Intersection of Politics, Technology and Contexts.... 218
Impact of e-governance on the level of governance in India: Summary of Observations ... 218
Politics of Governance Reform and the Role of E-governance: The Indian Scenario ........ 221
Connecting Governance and Technology: Is e-governance a means to an end or an end in
Hybridising (e)governance Reform in India: Contradiction or Consolidation? ................ 225
Researching Governance through the prism of e-governance........................................... 228
Transcending the Context: From Area Studies to Theory of Governance ......................... 233
Further Research: ........................................................................................................... 236
Methodological Appendix
I would like to express my deepest gratitude to a few people without whom this research
endeavour would not have been possible.
First of all I am sincerely grateful to my supervisor Prof. Subrata K. Mitra for his constant
support, encouragement and above all absolute patience throughout this academic journey. He
has been a guide in true sense of the term as his involvement with this dissertation has
surpassed mere professional advice.
I would like to thank my friends and colleagues and senior scholars at the Cluster of
Excellence- „Asia and Europe in a Global Context‟ at the Karl Jasper Centre for Transcultural
Studies, Heidelberg University for providing a vibrant and ever-stimulating research
environment. The financial and academic assistance of the Cluster has rendered the process of
this dissertation rather smooth and enriching. I would like to give a special note of thanks to
Oliver Lamers and Kristen von Lingen at the Cluster for being the pillar of strength at all
moments starting from academic input to administrative assistance, from bureaucratic crisis
management to personal stress management. I must also thank my friends and colleagues of
Graduate Programme for Transcultural Studies (GPTS) at the Cluster who has almost
replaced the family in a foreign land.
I would also like to thank Mr. Abhishek Singh at the Department of Electronics and
Information Technology (Ministry of Communication and Information Technology,
Government of India) and his entire team for supporting my research and for providing all the
possible assistance throughout my fieldwork in India.
I would be ever so grateful to Prof. Dr. Markus Pohlmann for taking out time to read and give
his valuable feedback on this dissertation. I would also like to thank Mrs. Barbara Neef for
always being patient with my constant queries.
I would like to thank my parents, parent-in-laws and all my family members for all their love,
care, support and endurance throughout this process.
Last but not the least, the person who deserve my deepest and earnest gratitude is my
husband, Sumit. He has not only been a technology wizard for completing this dissertation,
but also his persistent optimism, fierce criticism, persistent inspiration and consistent
comforting has provided me with the much needed strength and sanity in all these years.
This research, based on a neo-institutional model explores how a techno-managerial variety of
e-governance reform as espoused by a transnational governance reform agenda affects the
level of governance that hinges upon a dynamic relationship between state and society. Since
such a research endeavour focuses on the relationship between technology and governance, a
social constructivism approach is deployed to explicate how this relationship is mediated
through an array of political, social and cultural factors which further calls for a contextspecific analysis of e-governance. Consequently, a detailed analysis of e-governance policies
and practices in India along with a case study of the Common Services Centres (CSCs)
Scheme under the National e-Governance Plan of the Government of India has been
undertaken. Such analyses often denotes substantial gap between the macro-policies of reform
and their actual impact which is further explained through the analytical category of hybridity.
Hybridity shows how both policies and practices go through a process of hybridisation in
negotiating the hiatus between „imported‟ institutional set up and the „inherited‟ social set up
in the post-colonial context of India. Thus, the implication of e-governance in India goes
much beyond in explaining (e) governance as a complex interplay between politics,
technology and culture. Hence, this research transcends the specific context of India firstly in
explicating the relationship between technology and governance and secondly, by devising a
unique yet holistic methodological approach to address the entanglement of politics,
technology and culture in the complex whole of governance.
Table of Figures
Figure: 1.1: State, Society and Governance in Modern State ................................................... 12
Figure: 1.2: The Complex of Governance: the emerging paradigm ......................................... 17
Figure: 1.3: Research Design ...................................................................................................... 40
Figure: 3.1: A stylized model of governance: realms and actors .............................................. 93
Figure: 3.2: A dynamic neo-institutional model of governance based on elite strategies ....... 95
Figure: 3.3: Policy Network of e-Governance in India ........................................................... 100
Figure: 4.1: An Alternative Model of Governance developed by the Indian State ............... 123
Figure: 4.2: NeGP Programme Management Framework ....................................................... 135
Figure: 4.3: NeGP Project Management Framework .............................................................. 135
Figure: 5.1: Service Need Matrix of Rural India ..................................................................... 155
Figure: 5.2: 3-tier Implementing Structure of the CSCs Scheme ........................................... 156
Figure: 5.3: CSCs Roll Out Status (Before Fieldwork) ........................................................... 162
Figure: 6.1: A Typical CSC Banner in Rajashtan .................................................................... 192
Figure: 6.2: A Typical CSC Banner in West Bengal ............................................................... 193
Table of Tables
Table: 1.1: Principles of Good Governance………………………………………………...21
Table: 1.2: Defining Indicators of Improved Level of Governance……………………….. 36
Table: 4.1: List of Mission Mode Projects…………………………………………………136
Table: 4.2: e-Governance Imperatives……………………………………………………...139
Table: 5.1: Service Status of CSCs…………………………………………………………157
Table: 5.2: Sources of Data…………………………………………………………………164
Table: 5.3: Comparative Status of the CSCs in the Four Sample States…………………....180
Table: 6.1: Frame of evaluating governance in terms e-governance refom………………...187
Casting the Context
“[G]overnance, more than the innate cohesion of Indian society and culture, or the specific
context of colonial rule and transfer of power, is the key to India‟s resilience” (Mitra, 2006;
The above statement unequivocally hints at the instrumentality of the concept of governance
in explaining the strength and sustainability of a post-colonial nation such as India. However,
undoubtedly it is not just an Indian problem. The significance of governance as a political and
social problematic has caught the fancy of policy-makers, academicians, developmental
practitioners and social activists with similar rigor and severity. Consequently, in recent times
one can witness an increasing focus on governance across developed as well as developing
countries, albeit varying in terms of their origin and contexts.
International political scenario essentially changed since 1989 as the bipolarity of the Cold
War period gave way to multipolar locus of power in the world politics. This was soon
reflected in the shift in the international development discourse. The focus was now on
democracy, participation, efficiency, accountability and so on. Unlike the previous decade,
1990s brought the limelight back on state and institutions and consequently „governance‟
moved into the agenda across an wide range of discussion involving academicians,
development practitioners, politicians, bureaucrats, private sector entrepreneurs and civil
society activists . This swing became more prominent in most of the changing societies of
post colonial and post communist nation-states where governance reform became a priority
for governments and a prerequisite for economic development.
However, this new agenda setting around governance (or governance reform) in the
international political and development discourse and the issues emerging from these debates
were already confronted in most of the Western democracies already in 1970s. Three main
concerns of these debates were focussed on three main functions of the state, namely
regulation, welfare and development which in turn addresses the issues of ungovernability
related to distrust and disagreement with the state, crisis of welfare state in the face increasing
demand related to public sector deficit and lastly the incapability of the state to perform
unilaterally to solve social and economic and other developmental problems (Kooiman;
These concerns led to different measures by different states, which found its
expressions in terms like privatisation, deregulation, agencification, decentralisation,
development of policy networks, public administration reform and so on (Kjaer; 2004).
Parallel to these reshuffling in the role of the state was a growing citizen demand for better
and more responsive public service delivery which also resonated in the mounting power of
the media and the influence of the civil society (Fritzen; 2009). In post Cold War times, these
issues became relevant in most developing and changing societies which was further fortified
by a renewed interest in democracy and sustainable development. Evidently, while the recent
focus on governance in western developed nations rose more or less from the internal issue of
governability, in developing nations the impetus came mostly from external forces such as the
international donor agencies.
Amidst myriad attempts at governance reform, the concept of governance went through
considerable reconfiguration. On one hand international development paradigm and policymakers take predominantly a techno-managerial position in addressing the issues of
governance, while on the other hand social science research maintains to view governance as
a function of orderly rule and a synchronised relationship between state and society. Although
these spectrums by no means suggest an exhaustive account of all the possible perspectives on
the concept, they nonetheless demonstrate the contentious nature of the concept. This research
places itself in the threshold of both sides of the aforementioned continuum of
conceptualising governance. That is to say, it explains how governance reforms of a technomanagerial variety can improve the level of governance which hinges upon the state-society
dynamics. In illustrating this broader argument, the study draws on the case of India and the
e-governance as a specific field of strategic reform 1 in the Indian context. The basic research
question that drives this study is: “Does strategic reform matter in improving the level of
governance? This broader question is followed by two corollaries: Why some strategic
reforms are successful in enhancing governance while others fail? Does the gap between
policies and practices of reform necessarily denote a legitimacy deficit in governance? In
answering these questions, a careful combination of neo-institutional, social constructivist and
transcultural perspectives is deployed. While the neo-institutional model of governance
explains the role of strategic reform in determining the level governance, social
constructivism demonstrates how social and cultural factors embedded in the local contexts
influence the effectiveness of reform initiatives. This implies a probable hiatus between the
intentions and outcomes of reform which could be symptomatic of a legitimacy deficit. Here,
Strategic reform in the context of this research can be defined as a broad sectoral reform which emerges as a
deliberate shift in the policy regime initiated by the elites as strategies of welfare in order to harness legitimacy
of the rule.
transcultural perspective enabled with a conceptual tool of hybridity leverages the analysis of
governance by mending the hiatus between policies and practices of reform. In short, statecentric as well society-centric approaches are coalesced to understand the dynamism of the
concept of governance and this dynamism is further explicated within a transcultural
analytical/methodological framework. Overall, a conscious attempt has been made to combine
public policy approach to governance with that of comparative politics approach. The public
policy approach perceives governance as an interactive process and serves to understand the
material context of the actors involved in the processes of interaction. The comparative
politics approach on the other hand renders the analysis of governance more contextually
embedded. However, before delving further into the specific dimensions of governance and
governance reform that this research undertakes to investigate, it is worthwhile to dwell a
little deeper into the concept of governance itself at the outset.
Governance: Concepts and Connotations
The basic dictionary meaning of governance describes it as an act or manner of governing of a
state or an organization (Oxford Dictionaries Online; 2011). The term has often been used
synonymously with government which changed during 1980s when political scientists
included civil society actors into its definitions. Even within political science, different
subfields treat the concept rather differently. Scholars in public administration and public
policy while talking about public sector reform refers to governance as self-organizing
network involving a plurality of actors and organizations which further blurs the traditional
boundaries of public and the private (Kjaer;2004).
For the theorists of international relations, the focus is more on global governance which
refers to a system of rule at all levels of human activity aimed at decision-making of
transnational nature (Rosenau; 1995). Of course, the definition of global governance is
conceived differently by its proponents, even though the spotlight remains on the creation of
global organizations such as WTO and growth of non-governmental movements and
institutions outside the purview of the nation-state.
In the subfield of comparative politics, which largely engages in the systematic comparison of
the political system, during 1980s state institutions and their effects became a common theme.
This was different from its previous preoccupation with political culture, parties, electoral
behaviour and so forth. While bringing back state institutions into focus comparative politics,
in recent times became seriously engaged with the state-society interactions. Governance, in
this sense, is about managing the political rules of the game both at the formal and informal
level (Kjaer; 2004).
Needless to say that, despite its different usage in different approach governance as a concept
frequently transcends these analytical boundaries. Therefore, “governance can be
conceptualized in terms of how authority, resources and power are distributed among the
public, private and people sectors and various levels of government (from a supranational to
community level)” (Fritzen,2009, pp:1). This definition of governance implicates all the three
approaches discussed above at the same time. Governance can also be referred to as the
“development of governing „styles‟ in which boundaries between and within public and
private sectors become blurred. The focus in this case is on governing mechanisms that do not
rest on recourse to authority and sanctions, but draw their legitimacy from popular consent”
(Mitra; 2006). This public policy meets comparative politics definition of governance
definitely hints at the democratizations process which is more pertinent in the context of
changing societies 2 . Moreover, since public policy is affected by both domestic and
international politics and affairs, international relations notions of governance also stands
Here, governance also becomes a relevant topic for other disciplines such as
institutional economics, development studies, organizational studies, and political sociology
and so on.
Besides having overlapping zones of understanding, all the approaches conceive of
governance as something broader than government which is concerned about the rules of the
game. Their preoccupation with rule-making also grows out of their common orientation
towards institutions and institutional change. There are many versions of institutionalisms
which are albeit based on two basic assumptions about human behaviour. The first is rationalchoice approach where preferences are exogenous to individuals and an individual chooses
from a list of alternative actions to maximise utility. The second is sociological where
preferences are endogenous and the individual behaviour is determined by certain values and
norms he or she is socialized into. Both these assumptions are crucial to explain two basis
questions that institutionalism set out to address; i) how institutions affect political
behaviour?, and ii) how institutions emerge and change. This latter concern of institutionalism
has caught much fancy of the governance theorists (Kjaer; 2004).
Following Mitra (2006) „changing societies‟ are taken to represent societies in which formal institutions are
mostly of exogenous variety and lack roots in the inherent social structure. This feature of changing societies put
them in sharp contrast to the post-industrial, stable democracies at large. .
Institutionalism conceives governance as setting, application and enforcement of rules which
not only determines the framework in which citizens, government and politics interact but
also shapes the spheres of civil society (Kjaer; 2004). This way of defining governance
combines the structure of rules with agency of change. Therefore, governance as a process
lies in the interplay of structure and agency in which state interacts with society. More
precisely, “governance, conceptualised as the overlap of the thin norms of the state and the
thick perceptions of social groups is the interface of societies and institutions” (Mitra; 2006,
pp:21). This is further elaborated in the figure 1.1 below.
The Modern Post-colonial State
Figure: 1.1: State, Society and Governance in Modern State
Source: Mitra (2006)
Until now it becomes clear that recent developments in governance theory has opened up
alternative ways of looking at political institutions, domestic-global linkages, transnational
co-operation, and different forms of public-private exchange (Pierre,2000). However, one
fundamental point which needs to be addressed here is the contradiction inbuilt into the very
concept of governance. Governance is always perceived differently by those who govern and
those are governed as they belong to the opposite ends of social distribution of power. The
immediate question that one tends to ask is how orderly rule is achieved in spite of this
inevitable hiatus between perceptions. The answer lies in conceptualising power as
productive, technical and positive. Power needs to be visualised as a productive network
which runs through the entire social body surpassing its mere negative function of repression
(Foucault; 1980). In Foucault‟s own words,
…from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries onwards, there was a veritable technological
take-off in the productivity of power. Not only did the monarchies of the Classical period
develop great state apparatuses (the army, the police and fiscal administration), but above all
there was established at this period what one might call a new 'economy' of power, that is to
say procedures which allowed the effects of power to circulate in a manner at once
continuous, uninterrupted, adapted and 'individualised' throughout the entire social body.
These new techniques are both much more efficient and much less wasteful (less costly
economically, less risky in their results, less open to loopholes and resistances) than the
techniques previously employed which were based on a mixture of more or less forced
tolerances (from recognized privileges to endemic criminality) and costly ostentation
(spectacular and discontinuous interventions of power, the most violent form of which was the
'exemplary', because exceptional, punishment). (Foucault, 1980, pp: 119)
Even while talking about modern state, he maintained the same perception of power which
goes much beyond the juridical-legal aspect of the state and focuses more on the relations of
power already existent in the society. According to him,
To pose the problem in terms of the State means to continue posing it in terms of sovereign
and sovereignty, that is to say in terms of law. If one describes all these phenomena of power
as dependant on the State apparatus, this means grasping them as essentially repressive: the
Army as a power of death, police and justice as punitive instances, etc. I don't want to say
that the State isn't important; what I want to say is that relations of power, and hence the
analysis that must be made of them, necessarily extend beyond the limits of the State. In two
senses: first of all because the State, for all the omnipotence of its apparatuses, is far from
being able to occupy the whole field of actual power relations, and further because the State
can only operate on the basis of other, already existing power relations. The State is
superstructural in relation to a whole series of power networks that invest the body, sexuality,
the family, kinship, knowledge, technology and so forth. True, these networks stand in a
conditioning-conditioned relationship to a kind of 'meta-power' which is structured
essentially round a certain number of great prohibition functions; but this meta-power with
its prohibitions can only take hold and secure its· footing where it is rooted in a whole series
of multiple and indefinite power relations that supply the necessary basis for the great
negative forms of power. (Foucault, 1980, pp: 122)
Relating this Foucauldian notion of power to the understanding of governance in modern state
becomes specially relevant as it reiterate the fact that orderly rule is derived from the broader
acceptance of governing mechanism despite the hiatus between the governed and those who
govern. And the hiatus is bridged by addressing the interactive relationship between state and
society and harnessing the significance of governance in manoeuvring this complex and
dynamic relationship.
All the definitions discussed above delineate certain concepts which become crucial for
general understanding of governance. These concepts are as follows: legitimacy, democracy,
efficiency and accountability (Kjaer; 2004). It is not only important to understand each of
these concepts, but also to realize their interconnectedness in relation to the concept of
governance. Legitimacy is considered to be one of the prerequisite of the governing system in
a democratic set up. It can be derived through democratic procedures as a common agreement
or acceptance of the governing authority3. Legitimacy can also be derived through effective
policy implementation geared towards common good. This relates legitimacy to the concept
of efficiency on the part of the governing elites involving both public and the private realm of
governance. The issue becomes more complicated when applied in a democratic set up, since,
sometimes in a democratic set up decision-making might become slow due to involvement of
many stakeholders. Then, pertinent question becomes: Is it possible to achieve both
democracy and efficiency at the same time or the presence of one eludes the other?
Governance scholars, however, stress the importance of both in enhancing governance as
efficiency will increase democratic legitimacy by policy implementation and democracy will
ensure more effective and citizen-centric policy outcome (Kjaer, 2004). The elite-strategy for
reform could also be an instrument to tackle the issue of legitimacy in governance (Mitra,
2006). This particular aspect of the relationship between democracy and governance holds
Democracy is broadly understood as rule of the people which is also linked to governance as suggested by the
institutionalism thriving on both the rational-choice and sociological model. In the rational approach, where the
preferences are exogenous, political actors turn individual needs and resources into collective action through
bargaining, lobbying, coalition formation, etc. This is a aggregative model of democracy which is built on a set
of institutional arrangements, civil and political rights and regular free and fair elections (March and Olsen;
1995). For the sociological approach, that emphasises endogenous nature of preferences, individuals act more
according to the appropriate norms rather than personal interests. This is an integrative model of democracy
which is based on participatory processes furthering democratic identities (ibid). There are, of course, many
more forms of democracy such as representative democracy, deliberative democracy, associative democracy.
However, the point here is not to select between these different forms of democracy but to recognise the extra
push on concept such as efficiency (Kjaer; 2004) or simply the „capacity to get things done‟ (Mitra, 2006). This
treatment of democracy is also echoed in the public policy approach towards governance, as mentioned earlier.
special relevance in the current research endeavour as it investigates the importance of
strategic reform and policy implementation in enhancing governance.
In recent times, given the alternative approaches towards governance which promote the role
of non-governmental actors, the concept of accountability has become extremely crucial.
Involvement of private sector and civil society actors in decision-making and public service
delivery processes, development of policy networks, decentralization of government, growth
of transnational organizations, all contribute to complicate the chain of accountability and
problematise the issue of who is accountable for what, when there are too many actors
involved. In general, governance studies have been preoccupied more with efficiency.
Nevertheless, democratic accountability has also caught serious academic attention and is
getting due importance by governance scholars along with the facets of efficiency.
There are two more characteristic features of governance which have been repeatedly
mentioned in almost all the literature and therefore needs a little more elucidation in the
introductory section. The first of these two features is the public-private linkage. Governance
being an interactive process seeks to build a partnership model between public and private as
none of the sphere has the necessary knowledge or resources for unilateral action to obtain
effective performance (Kooiman; 1993). There are different models of such partnership: i)
principal-agent model in which the principal (one side) hires the agent (the other side) to
perform a certain task; ii) inter-organisational model rests on negotiations between
organisations on either side to better achieve their respective goals; iii) systemic coordination
model establishes shared vision and joint capacity between the partners through embedded
mutual understanding which eventually culminate into self-governing network (Mitra; 2006).
The other notion which has been implicitly present in all conceptualisation of governance is
that of agency. It is through the notion of agency that governance theory addresses the issue
of institutional change and also promotes the participatory processes involving citizens and
civil society which purportedly compliment parliamentary democracy. As far as governance
research is concerned, it is important to hold the focus on agency since it would be
instrumental in exploring the changes in political practices across societies and their
implications for governance rather than being sabotaged by overwhelming attention to the
neo-liberal policy (Kjaer; 2004 ). Keeping the basic research questions in mind, the concept of
agency plays a crucial role in understanding the process of policies and practices of strategic
reform and the subsequent impact on governance. It is the concept of agency on part of all the
stakeholders that explains how policies are formulated, implemented and received in a
specific context, which can also called “strategic evaluation of rules by the stakeholders”
(Mitra, 2006: 2) 4.
Shifting from Government to Governance
The context in which governance came to the fore in much of academic and development
discourse has been already been touched upon in the previous section. It is nonetheless
imperative to invest a little more attention on this aspect as this context is particularly
instrumental for the shift that has taken place in the lexicon of governance. Moreover,
mapping the different trajectory of the governance discourse in developed and developing part
of the world is also crucial for comprehending the politics of governance.
The most fundamental paradigm shift in this regard has been the moving focus from
government to governance. This does not mean that the conceptual difference between
government and governance is a new theoretical development. What it actually means is that
this difference has been highlighted in recent times and the focus is now more on the
governance than on the government. Moving from a purely abstract level of analysis (as done
in the previous section), one feels compelled to ask what does this shift actually imply in real
In discussing the government, the focus remains primarily on the sphere of state and its
institutions and a structural-functional approach is mostly deployed in analysing the realm of
state. This structured based understanding of the state was slowly replaced by a process based
conceptualisation of governance where two other spheres got considerable importance,
namely the market and the civil society. The growth of market and civil society has
sometimes coincided with the shrinkage of state or at least ineffectuality of state.
As has already been mentioned, governance forms a complex whole (Figure.1.2) of
interconnected spheres of public (which includes the state), private (which includes market)
and citizens (which includes the civil society) in which the relationship between these spheres
vary according to the distribution of power, resources and authority among them (Fritzen;
Following Mitra (2006:2), this research also describe stakeholders as groups of people who “affect and are
affected” by policies and practices of strategic reform.
Figure: 1.2: The Complex of Governance: the emerging paradigm
Source: Author (Adapted from Fritzen, 2009)
It can be conferred that until the power, authority and resources were monopolised by the
public sector, government was the focus of all analysis either in welfare state model of most
democracies or centralised planning model of erstwhile communist states and its followers.
However, since 1980s even the public sector started changing considerably with the
introduction of differentiated levels of governance ranging from village (local) to
supranational (global) governing bodies. This development coincided with the popularity of
the neo-liberal philosophy which propelled the free reign of market and shrinkage of the state.
This of course, changed the way different spheres of governance were related and also their
respective roles in the system.
Since early 1990s, with the collapse of Soviet bloc, centralised planning and its close
followers who relied on mixed economic model in a democratic set up opened up more to the
liberal economic policy. This created different repercussions in different set up which was in
turn shaped by the specific historical and contextual trajectories of those regions. The
common development that was experienced across region was emergence of identity politics
and social movements involving civil society and peoples‟ participation (Jayal and Pai;
2001.). Furthermore, by this time, the free market policy was slowly being replaced by
„retreat back to state‟ approach which again changed the balance of relationship between
public, private and citizen. Hence the discourse shifted its focus from government to
governance dealing more with the changing patterns of relationships between multiple
spheres of governance.
After scrutinizing the generalized context in which this broader and heterogeneous concept of
governance has emerged, it is time to map the North- South divide in the entire trajectory.
This is important in order to understand the factor of path dependency of certain events and
concepts which would later help building right perspectives to merge Area Studies in general
theorization. In most Western democracies, privatizations, deregulations and cut down on
public expenditure were direct effects of fiscal crisis which pushed most of the governments
in these countries to search for new public management system. They wanted to employ new
strategies of management to reform public administration which in turn meant reorganizing
the state along the line of private sector. These developments were not so much about
reducing the role of the state but including private actors (in delivering public services) who
were supervised and monitored by state bureaucracies according to the financial and
performance criteria. Another major development in reorganization of state‟s role was the
creation of European Union and other even wider institutions which tried to introduce a global
regime in trade and environmental regulations. These national and transnational events
questioned the role of state as regulator of economic and other policies, as a sole provider of
basic services, but not so much as a broker of social consensus (Jayal and Pai; 2001). This
definitely points towards the importance of state-society relations in governance analysis.
In most of the non-Western nations (some of which were actually very new), on the other
hand, the governance discourse did not grow out of an existential reality of those nationstates. Like many other conceptual realties it flew from the Western debate on governance in
a manner which closely resemble modernization theory of development. Focussing strictly on
the last two decades of the twentieth century, it becomes fairly evident that most of the shifts
in governance debate and practices in the developing world have been prescriptive in nature,
as imposed by the aid conditionality of donor agencies, mainly World Bank. A World Bank
document in 1989, on sub-Saharan Africa suggested that most of bank‟s programmes and
policies are failing due to the crisis of governance in that region. Hence heavy governance
reform packages were recommended as a development management mechanism, which later
became popular under the umbrella term of „good governance‟ (Jayal and Pai; 2001).
Following, the East Asian crisis in the latter half of the 1990s, the excessive dependence on
market oriented development was questioned and role of the state again came under much
discussion and the relationship between state and plurality of actors outside the state became
more significant for broadening the governance paradigm. Newer notions of the processes of
governance started addressing the core of the governance. The thrust was not only on
including multiple actors but also to attend to qualitative aspect of governance. Therefore, it
was not enough to have civil service reform, new public administration management
strategies and privatization of services, but it was now impending to take account of factor
such as participation, decentralization, responsiveness and more broadly social justice and
equality (Jayal and Pai; 2001). It seems clear here that new parameters of measuring
governance in changing societies have emerged. However, these parameters are also not
completely divorced of prescriptive flows of reform agenda closely associated with
democracy and sustainable economic development.
At this point, it becomes quite clear that for developing countries, recent shifts in the
governance discourse comes in a package of good governance, however, problematic that
may appear. In order to deepen one‟s understanding of governance especially in the context of
changing societies, it is important to debunk the notion of good governance and unravel the
politics of its language and outcome. Before doing so, a brief overview of the concept is
Good Governance: The Agenda and Its Implications
Following the aftermath of the Cold War, the last decade of the twentieth century witnessed
renewed interest in democracy, participation, transparency and efficiency (Woods; 1999).
This wider context of political transition coincided with the massive failure of Structural
Adjustment Programmes (SAPs) in most of the developing countries. Henceforth,
international development community especially World Bank woke up to a new realization
that governance reform is the key to all developmental problems in underdeveloped and
developing nations. Unlike SAPs which emphasized the role of market as opposed to the
state, this new approach towards reform brought the role and capacity of the state and
institutions under serious consideration (Joseph; 2001). Interestingly enough the governance
reform agenda became quietly complementary with two related themes of democracy and
economic development. Together they formed a triad of a magical solution to all the anguish
and distress associated with underdevelopment. This triad focused together on political
system, institutional structures and governance processes within a framework of publicprivate partnership (Santiso; 2001). All these new developments became popular under the
umbrella term of “good governance”. In last two decades good governance has become the
buzzword in the international development community. The term is packaged in such codes of
morality that it seems to be devoid of any politics at all. However, quite contrarily in marrying
the free market with a strong civil society, good governance promises to provide new
standards of rule which protect the citizens from the political societies and undemocratic
governments (Corbridge; 2005).
As has already been mentioned, good governance emerged alongside (or as a result of) a set
of other agendas which challenged the prevailing ideas on the state size, locus of authority
relationships and the way government authority is organized. Privatization, decentralization,
global governance, participatory democracy (democratization), deregulation, public
administration reform – all these agendas play out simultaneously in the current debate on
governance and culminates into the popular approach of good governance. There is as such no
definition of good governance. It is rather an ideal-typical construct (somewhat in a Weberian
sense 5 ) which delineates the parameters of governance through certain indicators. The
qualifier “good” clearly denotes the better standards of such a formulation and hence the
imperative to achieve them. The World Bank has identified three discrete aspects of
governance which needs to be emphasized for reform: “i) the form of political regime; ii) the
process by which authority is exercised in the management of a country‟s economic and
social resources for development; and iii) the capacity of government to design, formulate and
implement policies and discharge functions” (Bandopadhaya; 1996). Four key dimensions of
this reform are as follows: public sector management (capacity and efficiency) which involves
civil service reform and privatization initiatives; accountability which would enable
institutions to hold the government accountable, for example an ombudsman; the legal
framework for development which implies making and enforcing rules to control the market,
for example enforcing private property rights; and information and transparency which hints
towards free media, publicising public expenditure, for example right to information (Jayal
and Pai, 2001; Kjaer, 2004). This implies significant changes in the ways power, authority
and resources would be allocated and aligned with close links between democracy, economic
development and good governance. As far as the criteria of good governance are concerned,
UNESCAP (United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific) sets
out eight major characteristics. It is participatory, consensus oriented, accountable,
Ideal type is a analytical construct which represents a “methodological utopia” to denote conceptual purity
without any claim to reality. (Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy in
retrieved on 21.09.2012 )
transparent, responsive, effective & efficient, equitable & inclusive and follows the rule of
Five Principles of Good Governance
UNDP text on which they are based
Participation – all men and women should have a voice in decisionmaking, either directly or through legitimate intermediate institutions
that represent their intention.
1. Legitimacy
and Voice
Such broad participation is built on freedom of association and speech,
as well as capacities to participate constructively.
Consensus orientation – good governance mediates differing interests to
reach a broad consensus on what is in the best interest of the group and,
where possible, on policies and procedures.
Strategic vision – leaders and the public have a broad and long-term
perspective on good governance and human development, along with a
2. Direction
sense of what is needed for such development. There is also an
understanding of the historical, cultural and social complexities in which
that perspective is grounded.
Responsiveness – institutions and processes try to serve all stakeholders.
3. Performance
Effectiveness and efficiency – processes and institutions produce results
that meet needs while making the best use of resources.
Accountability – decision-makers in government, the private sector and
civil society organizations are accountable to the public, as well as to
institutional stakeholders. This accountability differs depending on the
organizations and whether the decision is internal or external.
Transparency – transparency is built on the free flow of information.
Processes, institutions and information are directly accessible to those
concerned with them, and enough information is provided to understand
and monitor them.
Equity – all men and women have opportunities to improve or maintain
5. Fairness
their wellbeing.
Rule of Law – legal frameworks should be fair and enforced impartially,
particularly the laws on human rights.
Table: 1.1: Principles of Good Governance
Source: Graham, Amos, Plumtre; (2003)
Now the question arises as to how can we understand these broad and general norms in
specific political and cultural contexts? Or how to transform such a normative concept into an
operational concept of governance? This new agenda of good governance, though based on
the premise of early liberal theories puts emphasis on a market concept of equality which
strives for empowerment of citizens by making them economically self-sustaining and
enabling them to enter into market transactions. The cooperation of private agencies and
NGOs are crucial for this purpose. Under this new found concept of equality and active
participation of different actors citizens are often viewed as end users or customers whereas
the government acts as the service providers. Improving the quality of these services and
reaching out to a wider base of customers with the help of the private and non-governmental
stakeholders are the central objectives of the governance reform projects and calls for
complete overhaul of public administration (Joseph; 2001).Therefore, as an issue of public
policy good governance has moved not only into the agenda of World Bank but has also
become a common parlance of national governments and local political actors. In short good
governance provides a universal recipe with a gradually growing mix of deregulation,
privatization, civil service reform and decentralization (the associated agendas of reform)
which are deemed to produce better governability across societies (Corbridge et al., 2005).
However, international development community soon realised that supporting institutional
reform was more difficult than implementation of a particular project. The domestic politics
in developing countries started becoming explicitly dependent on external influences of the
international development agencies. For example, World Bank‟s demand for economic
austerity could trigger of social protest which would then bring changes in the regime
structure. On a more subtle note, some donor- supported programmes could strengthen one
ministry over the other and thereby influencing internal institutional structure of the
government. In this way, good governance programme and its implementation across
societies raised serious debate about the role of external actors in processes of state-building
(Kjaer; 2004).Good governance agenda touched upon the sensitive aspects such as
distribution of power and resources in developing societies which were anyway fraught with
internal issues of growing ungovernability. This agenda was much more political in nature
than earlier interventionist approaches of the international development community and hence
created much more resistance in the local community and institutional set up. As a result, they
changed their agenda in certain ways. The movement was from demanding good governance
ex ante, i.e. governance reform being a conditionality of aid, towards ex post selectivity; i.e.,
taking good governance as a qualifier to receive assistance. The usage of good governance has
changed from being something to be promoted in developing countries to rather being a
requirement before which loans could be disbursed. In short, these practices of international
institutions as far as governance is concerned raised two very important issues in the debates
within comparative politics: i) how external forces influence domestic politics?; ii) whether it
is at all possible to transfer the models of „good governance‟ built on Western ideas to nonWestern setting? (Kjaer; 2004)
These are pertinent questions which turn our focus to developing societies where model good
governance has made its foray into public policies and developmental initiatives of the State.
In most of the post-colonial and post-communist countries the good governance or
governance reform agenda has significantly impacted not only the state policies but also the
overall governance structure and practices which manifest in changing contours of statesociety relationships. In order to understand how a transnational agenda of governance reform
influence the national rhetoric of governance, we bring a context-specific understanding of
governance into the forefront of analysis. Here, India serves as a case of those changing
societies where transnational governance reform strategies have shifted the national discourse
on governance. The motivation behind choosing India is neither to establish an Indian
exceptionalism in governance analysis, nor to ignore cultural idiosyncrasies embedded in the
Indian context. In fact the aim is to reemphasise the context-specific understanding of
governance. Keeping the basic research questions in mind, the Indian case elucidates how far
reform initiatives inspired by transnational paradigm can take root in the local contexts of
governance. Taking a critical stand against the good governance paradigm, this research
nonetheless seeks to trace the impact of reform strategies promoted by the same paradigm.
Politics of Governance Reform: The Changing Patterns of Governance in India
The fall of Soviet Union in 1989, put serious question mark on the feasibility of centralized
planning which was coincided with a cynicism against the mixed economy as India continued
to struggle with problems of poverty, unemployment, lower rates of growth. This led the
Indian state to adopt International Monetary Fund (IMF) driven Structural Adjustment
Programme (SAP), which inaugurated economic liberalization in India in 1991. These
transformations of India‟s political economy manifest not only in liberal economic reforms
but also in the political realm such as the increasing influence of Hindu cultural nationalism
and mobilisation of identical politics through empowerment of historically subordinate
sections of the populations, decentralisation of governance through constitutional
amendments (73rd and 74th) and strengthening of Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs)
(Ruparelia et al, 2011, Farrington et al, 2009; Jayal & Pai, 2001). The impact of such wideranging economic and political reform is still unfolding and is fraught with much
ambivalence. However, all these trends have serious implications for the issues of
governance. Identity politics and subsequent political mobilization do claim recognition of the
state while challenging the particular regime and its legitimacy. Though they do not question
the role of the state as such, nevertheless they do call for some reform of the state institutions.
The processes of economic reform on the other hand, challenge the role of the state especially
in the productive and redistributive aspects of the social order and stress the sphere of market.
At the same time, a series of social movements and institutional experiments have taken up
some of the responsibilities traditionally bore by the state, such as sustainable development,
alleviating poverty and other such social causes. This definitely shifts the balance between
state, market and civil society and also their sphere of influence in the society (Jayal and Pai;
2001). While pointing out the need to look beyond the mere economic aspect of the reform,
Jean Dreze and Amartya Sen, aptly argue,
While much energy has been spent on sorting out these issues, too little attention has been
paid to what is lacking in the current orientation of economic policy in India. The removal of
counter-productive regulations on domestic production and international trade can form a
helpful part of a programme of participation and widely-shared growth, but it may achieve
relatively little in the absence of more active public policy aimed at reducing the other social
handicaps that shackle the Indian economy and reduce the well-being of the population. The
absence of real reform in the field of basic education is a telling illustration of the
government's neglect of that part of the agenda. (Dreze and Sen; 1996, pp: 187-88)
One obvious change of all these interconnected events was weakening of the omnipresent
status of the state and rise of extra-state spheres. The impetus for change, although, were both
exogenous and endogenous. The exogenous factor was definitely the intervention of
international development community and the consequent adoption of economic liberalization
policy that primarily benefited the market in general and transnational corporations in
particular evidently at the expense of national bourgeoisie. Endogenous factors of change
were manifold. Firstly, it was the weakening of the central power followed by the rise of
regional political parties, regionalization of the political system, increasing demands for
separatism and political mobilization along caste/ethnicity axis. Secondly, with state‟s
inability to tackle issues of poverty and development, there was a boom of civil society
organization taking up the social and developmental causes. Thirdly, tendency towards
deinstitutionalization has increased through unparallel cases of corruption and failure in law
enforcement (Jayal and Pai; 2001). However, the decline in state authority and rise of private
and people sector should not be seen as state versus extra-state spheres. In fact, changing
parameters of governance have led to more cooperation between all these sectors, even
though, neither the process of partnership nor the outcomes of such partnership have been
smooth and devoid of controversy.
Jayal (2001) captured these diverse changes in six models of governance that emerged in the
political discourses of India post economic liberalization in 1991. Jayal described these
models of governance as being alternative to the “pre-existing centralized (albeit formally
federal) structure of governance, and its twin, the command economy with centralized
planning” (Jayal, 2001; 133). The first model of governance is described as rolling back the
state which was part of the economic reform agenda. This model manifested in a mixed form
in India. There has been a significant cut-down on the public expenditure in the social sector,
albeit without much downsizing or disinvestment of the state. However, exogenous factors of
globalisation posed serious challenge to state capacity to intervene within society and beyond.
The second model is purported by practices of social movements challenging the state
discourse on development. Often debated as the „new social movements‟ of India these
movements, on one hand delegitimise the modernising elitist tendencies of the developmental
state and on the other hand, promote the idea of a citizen-centric participatory democratic
polity. The third model of governance is characterised by capturing of the state power by dalit
parties such as Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) which views economic inequalities as functions of
political inequalities. Hence, the state as the main agent of redistributive system needs to be
controlled by the disadvantageous dalits. The fourth model of governance is built on the
notion of franchising the state where increasing number of national or international nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) take over the developmental functions of the state either
as a substitute of the state or as a franchise or as a public service contractor. The fifth model is
based on the growing incidence of partnership between the state and the community based
organisations (CBOs). These partnerships can be both top-down state initiatives and bottomup approach where the state follows up on the path charted by the CBOs. Both the fourth and
the fifth model hint at the emergence of a significant sphere of civil society and their changing
relationship with the State. The sixth and the last model is that of a state-driven decentralised
model based on 73rd and 74th constitutional amendments in 1992.
This major reform policy in the governance and administrative sector is one of the crucial yet
usually sidelined in the general discussion on reform (Mooij, 2005). The 73rd and 74th
amendments made way for a two-three tier panchayat system in every state with provision for
direct elections in village, block and district levels thereby strengthening institutions of local
self-government. The principal features of such decentralising measure were: representative to
all the three levels were to be elected for a five-year term; one-third of the seats were reserved
for women; mandatory reservations for scheduled castes (SCs) and scheduled tribes (STs)
proportional to their population were introduced; the gram sabha or the voting public attained
the constitutional status as the formal deliberative body at the village level; provisions were
made for individual states to enact further reservations for other backward groups (Farrington
et al, 2006). Another important aspect of the village panchayats is that they act as local
mechanisms to increase transparency and accountability in government functioning. For
example, distribution of governmental schemes is often fraught with stories of corruption,
nepotism and misallocation. Through the decentralised model, village panchayat are expected
to play a positive role to salvage such misappropriation as they enjoy considerable authority
in identifying beneficiaries for most governmental schemes (ibid, 2006). However, in an
interesting observation Jayal pointed out, “…though these Amendments were intended to
bring about both the democratization and the decentralization of governance, democratization
– through the provisions for reservations for women as well as for members of the scheduled
castes and tribes – clearly appears to have outpaced decentralization” (Jayal, 2001; 149).
The above-mentioned models of governance quite painstakingly summarise the changing
patterns of the state-society relationships that emerged in the political landscape of India
following the economic liberalisation in early 1990s. Another important aspect of the reform
process that some of these models suggest that there has been a conscious effort on the part of
the state to initiate significant strategic reforms, be it in specific sector or in reforming
governance networks ( including extra-state spheres) or in changing orientation of state26
institutions (e.g. by adopting citizen-centric delivery models). In short, governance reform has
occupied a significant place in state planning and programmes. It is in this planning mode that
there has been considerable attention on information and communication technologies (ICTs)
for revamping the operations and functioning of the entire system of governance by
contriving the technical as well as developmental role of the state. This strategic reform
orientation of the Indian state towards electronic governance can be captured under the label
of e-governance for good governance or e-governance for development (Sreekumar, 2008;
Madon, 2009). The following section illustrates the general state and importance of egovernance reform in India as a broader part of the governance reform agenda.
E-Governance in the Strategic Reform Agenda of the Indian State: An Overview
On 15th August 2002, on occasion of the India‟s Independence Day, Prime Minister
announced 15 important initiatives to be endorsed by the Government of India. E-governance
was placed under this list of initiatives which stated, “The Ministry will implement a
comprehensive programme to accelerate E-Governance at all levels of the government to
improve efficiency, transparency and accountability at the Government-citizen interface. ...”
(Mathur et al, 2010). In the same year, the Prime Minister‟s statement at the National
Development Council (NDC) in December 2002 asserted that, “E-Governance, which can
contribute significantly to better governance, is a major thrust of the Tenth Plan.” (ibid,
The thrust on e-governance is emblematic of a major shift of discourse from government to
governance in the rhetoric of the Indian state. This shift reflects across a range of policy
documents and government reports. National Human Development Report (2001), published
by the Government of India dedicated a whole chapter on „Governance for Human
Development‟ which reinforced the importance of governance and „good governance‟ for
sustainable development and promoted subsequent adaptation in the current governance
practices by changing the scope and role of the state in relation to the market and the civil
society (Choudhary, 2007). Similarly, in the Tenth Five Years Plan (2002-2007), and the
Eleventh Five Years Plan (2007-2012), governance received special attention of the policymakers and thereby was allotted a separate chapter unlike previous planning documents. A
close look at these chapters brings out two important dimensions of this shift of focus from
government to governance. Firstly, there is a growing importance of the market and the civil
society and secondly, this burgeoning State-orientation towards governance is mandated by
the transnational paradigm of good governance. The Tenth Plan defines governance as the
management of processes within a society that raise individuals‟ choices for realising their
capabilities in a conducive environment. It further reiterates that,
[Governance] covers the State, civil society and the market, each of which is critical for
sustaining human development. The State is responsible for creating a conducive political,
legal and economic environment for building individual capabilities and encouraging private
initiative. The market is expected to create opportunities for people. Civil society facilitates
the mobilisation of public opinion and people‟s participation in economic, social and political
activities. ...With the acceptance of market liberalism and globalisation, it is expected that the
State yields to the market and the civil society in many areas where it, so far, had a direct but
distortionary and inefficient presence. ...With the growth of markets and the presence of an
aware and sensitive civil society, many developmental functions as well functions that provide
stability to the social order have to be progressively performed by the market and the civil
society organisations. It means extension of the market and the civil society domain at the
expense of the State in some areas. It also implies an increase in the area of their respective
overlaps. (GOI, 2002)
As the Tenth Plan acknowledges the influence of market liberalism and globalisation on the
framework of governance, similarly the Eleventh Five Years Plan talks about improving the
quality of governance within the broader framework of good governance which is argued to
be covering “all aspects of interface between individuals and business on the one hand and
government on the other” (GOI, 2007; 223). Elaborating on some distinctive features of good
governance the Eleventh Plan document stresses factors such as accountability, transparency,
efficiency of service delivery, decentralisation, rule of law or sound legal framework, and
inclusiveness and so on. The issues and strategies of reform discussed in these Plans range
from narrow administrative reform to broader political reform and include right to
information, civil service reform, procedural reform, judicial reform, using information
technology, people‟s participation, decentralisation, partnership approach with extra-state
spheres and so on (Choudhary, 2007). There is another side of this governance reform
trajectory which directly relates to issues of economic reform such as privatisation,
deregulation, disinvestment, corporatisation and social sector reforms (ibid). The underlying
agenda of all the discussions concerning reform in India is „institutional reform‟ which is
further illustrated through themes such as decentralisation, simplification, transparency,
accountability and e-governance (ibid, 2007). These common themes have gradually made
their way into the checklists of all government ministries and departments under the broader
framework of governance reform. Consequently, both the Tenth and Eleventh Plan talk about
e-governance for „good governance‟ and better service delivery (GOI, 2002, 2007).
As it emerged from the above discussion, e-governance has taken up an important position in
the State initiatives for overall governance reform in India in recent times. There are many
conceptualisations of e-governance. Most of these conceptualisations are formulated either by
International Organisations or developed countries which have made considerable progress in
the field. The term e-governance is often interchangeably used with the term e-government.
The 11th Report of the Second Administrative Reform Commission (2008) on E-Governance
attempts to summarise some of the basic definitions of the term. The World Bank‟s definition
of the term says,
E-Government refers to the use by government agencies of information technologies (such as
Wide Area Networks, the Internet, and mobile computing) that have the ability to transform
relations with citizens, businesses, and other arms of government. These technologies can
serve a variety of different ends: better delivery of government services to citizens, improved
interactions with business and industry, citizen empowerment through access to information,
or more efficient government management. The resulting benefits can be less corruption,
increased transparency, greater convenience, revenue growth, and/or cost reductions. (11th
2nd ARC Report, GOI, 2008;8 )
The UNESCO defines the concept in relation to the broader concept of governance as it
argues, “Governance refers to the exercise of political, economic and administrative authority
in the management of a country‟s affairs, including citizens‟ articulation of their interests and
exercise of their legal rights and obligations. E-Governance may be understood as the
performance of this governance via the electronic medium in order to facilitate an efficient,
speedy and transparent process of disseminating information to the public, and other agencies,
and for performing government administration activities.” (ibid; 8-9).The Council of Europe
refers to e-Governance as “the use of electronic technologies in three areas of public action:
relations between the public authorities and civil society, functioning of the public authorities
at all stages of the democratic process (electronic democracy) [and] the provision of public
services (electronic public services)” . (ibid; 9).The United States E-Government Act 2002
defines it as the “the use by the Government of web-based Internet applications and other
information technologies, combined with processes that implement these technologies, to (A)
enhance the access to and delivery of Government information and services to the public,
other agencies, and other Government entities; or (B) bring about improvements in
Government operations that may include effectiveness, efficiency, service quality, or
transformation”. (ibid; 9)
In an attempt to adapt the concept to the Indian context, former President of India, Dr. A.P.J.
Abdul Kalam promoted the idea of “A transparent smart e-Governance with seamless access,
secure and authentic flow of information crossing the interdepartmental barrier and providing
a fair and unbiased service to the citizen.” (ibid; 10)
By conjuring up all these diverse formulation of the term e-governance can be defined as
deployment of information communication technology (ICT) for improving information and
service delivery, encouraging citizen participation in the decision-making process and making
government more accountable, transparent and effective through greater coordination among
private sector and civil society organizations (Vasu Deva, 2005). It is also important to
distinguish between the concepts of e-government and e-governance. E-governance is a
broader idea which encompasses a political as well as a technical dimension. The political
dimension relates to the State‟s institutional arrangements, decision-making processes,
implementation capacity and the relationship between, the government with citizen,
businesses and the civil society. The technical dimension refers to the issues service delivery
and public management. E-government, though sharing some goals with e-governance, is
better understood as a subset of e-governance concentrated on increasing administrative
efficiency and reducing corruption (Bhatnagar, 2009). The other two terms which need some
elucidation here are „change-management‟ and „business-process re-engineering‟. These two
terms appear quite extensively in most of the literature and they are crucial in understanding
both e-government and e-governance. “Change Management is a structured approach to
transitioning individuals, teams, and organizations from a current state to a desired future
state. It involves a series of changes beginning with vision, introduction of skills, adding
incentives and resources and designing an action plan bringing positive results” (Sachdeva,
2009; 109) Business Process Re-engineering (BPR) “is the redesign of business processes and
the associated systems and organizational structures to achieve a dramatic improvement in
performance...(It) agency to implement substantive reform in organisational
structure, initiate a change in culture and mindset, train and improve skills of its people and
put in place an appropriate supporting ICT infrastructure to enable online processes that are
timely and efficient to both the user and the government agency” (Bhatnagar; 2009; 78).
E-governance has been one of the strategic sectors of reform in India since late 1990s under
the rubric of „good governance‟ agenda promoted by International Organisations. Since 1991,
India‟s policy focus changed towards economic liberalization, deregulation, and privatisation
proliferating domestic and foreign investment. IT (Information Technology) has been one of
the leading areas for such heightened investment. Though the Indian government has been
taking interest in IT infrastructure development and computerisation of public administration
already since 1980s, until the late 1990s, the use of ICTs in public service delivery has been
pretty low. It is around 1997-98; using ICT tools oriented towards development goals became
more and more popular within the public sector. However, majority of these reform initiatives
were initially aimed at urban middle-class citizens for improving their experience of public
service delivery. This picture slowly changed as the potential of ICTs for rural development
caught the fancy of policy-makers. Hence, since the beginning of the twenty-first century,
comprehensive policy frameworks have been formulated at the national level to implement egovernance across India reaching out to even remote rural areas. The policy goals of such
initiatives are two folds: to widen the outreach of public services and to improve the quality of
public services (Sreekumar,2008; Madon,2009).
This policy-orientation towards e-
governance reached its crest with the approval of the National e-Governance Plan (NeGP) in
May 2006 which envisages “[To] Make all Government services accessible to the common
man in his locality, through common service delivery outlets, and ensure efficiency,
transparency, and reliability of such services at affordable costs to realise the basic needs of
the common man” (GOI, 2006). National e-Governance Plan along with 27 Mission Mode
Projects and 8 components adopts a holistic approach to streamline all e-governance
initiatives across the country. This marks a shift in the governmental approach towards egovernance as most of the initiatives before NeGP was tackled in an isolated manner with
individual impetus. There was a severe problem of sustainability even for successful
initiatives and there was hardly any scope for sharing the experiences. Evidently, NeGP
addresses these gaps by bringing in an integrated approach to all e-governance initiatives.
Besides engaging in the administrative reform by improving public service delivery model,
NeGP also deals with broader issues of governance reform espoused by the Government of
India. One such example is the public-private partnership model and thereby the active role of
private sectors in the implementation of most of the initiatives undertaken under the NeGP.
Having explored the recent policy shifts towards e-governance as a strategic sector of reform
by the Indian State, the next step is to understand the impact of such strategic reform on the
basic level of governance. This understanding hinges upon resolving the analytical puzzle
involving politics, technology and culture in a intertwined relationship. In addressing this
analytical puzzle, it becomes imperative to debunk the theoretical underpinnings that add to
the explanatory framework of this research.
Politics, Technology and Culture: An Analytical Puzzle of (e)-Governance
Governance as a social and political concept traverses state and society, those who govern and
the governed.
Hence, governance can be manipulated by both the ruler and the ruled
depending on the context of the rule. This implies a continuous interaction between the
structure and agency, between the state- institutions and the stakeholders (those affected by
the institutions) which transform the system of governance and thereby renders it a dynamic
concept. The basic question that this research sets out to investigate is how strategic reform
affects the level of governance, or in other words, how can the state-society interface be
influenced by strategic reform policies and practices. Policy-making and its implementation
by the state institutions lie on one hand of this spectrum. The other side involves the reception
and adaptation of such policies among the stakeholders. Both sides of reform, that is policies
and practices involves a set of actors who are embedded in a particular cultural context. As
this research focus on reforms initiated in the sphere of Information Communication
Technologies (ICTs), understanding the impact of technology also adds to the broader
research question. In order to analyse the impact of e-governance reform on the level of
governance it is important to establish the link between politics, culture and technology. Thus,
the analytical puzzle of e-governance in this research links politics, culture and technology in
a complex and overlapping relationship. In resolving this puzzle three theoretical and
methodological perspectives have provided the significant heuristic devices. They are neoinstitutionalism, social constructivism and transcultural perspectives. Although these
academic dispositions are discussed in much detail in the chapter on theories and
methodology, it is absolutely necessary to pronounce the relevance of these scholastic
principles for the current research endeavour.
Neo-institutionalism engages with both formal rule-bound state institutions and informal
matrix of values and norms embedded in society in order to understand the impact of
institutions on political behaviour and also institutional change. Therefore, it provides a
theoretical model to investigate on one hand how rules are made and applied, and on the other
hand how rules are simultaneously manipulated by different actors (Kjaer, 2004).In other
words, it explains how structure of rules originates and gradually shifts through agency of the
actors. These actors include not only the elites who can directly influence the institutional set
up but also average citizens who usually reside on the receiving end of the institutional rules.
Applying these basic principles in our specific research problem neo-institutionalism explains
how reform policies are initiated and implemented through elite strategies and how they are
perceived and received by the stakeholders. While exploring e-governance reforms, neoinstitutionalism also probes why and how it became a part of the elite strategy in the posteconomic liberalisation years in India. Neo-institutionalism becomes even more relevant in
the context of post-colonial states like India where elite strategies serves as significant tools to
leverage the gap between imported categories of colonial institutional structure and embedded
inheritance of cultural norms (Mitra, 2006).
By now it has been reiterated that cultural norms and values embedded in a societal context
influence the behaviour of the actors engaged in the system of governance irrespective of their
power position. When technology is added to this well-knitted relationship between
governance and culture, neo-institutionalism cannot provide sufficient explanatory rigor.
Therefore, the complex interplay between governance, culture and technology is analysed
through the critical lens of social constructivism. Social constructivism serves a two-level
analytical purpose. At the first level, it explicates how both institutions and actors being
socially constructed are entangled within the historically produced and culturally bound web
of meaning, rules and preferences (Barenett, 2005). At the second level social constructivism,
as opposed to technological determinism expounds how actors and contexts determine the
impact of technology. Social constructivism therefore shows how ICTs policies are
formulated and received in India depending on the different subject positions of the actors and
their respective contexts (Sreekumar, 2008). While measuring e-governance, the „e‟ part
which denotes the technological contribution to the „governance‟ needs to be disaggregated.
This implies taking up a social constructivist orientation towards technology instead of
relying on technological determinism. In simple terms, the basic assumption in this analytical
frame is that technology does not automatically improve public service delivery or enhance
Needless to say, both neo-institutionalism and social constructivism aid in the context-specific
understanding of governance albeit from different theoretical lens. However, both theories,
having their roots in Western/ European history and context bear the risk of misrepresenting a
non-Western, post-colonial system of governance. Such Euro-centric grand theories often
explain India either as an ever catching up deficient state or as a society of exotic aberrations.
Instead of absolutely rejecting these theoretical models, this research strives to strike a
balance by introducing a transcultural perspective which stands as an outright challenge to the
hegemony of
transdisciplinary methodology analyses social, political, cultural and historical phenomena as
a product of a multi-directional trans-cultural flows of concepts and categories which acquire
different meaning in different local contexts through active agency of the actors (Mitra, 2012).
In comprehending such entangled trajectories, transcultural perspective presents a analytical
and methodological toolbox comprised of concepts such as “flows”, “asymmetry”,
“hybridity” and so on (ibid, 2012). Given the post-colonial attribute of the Indian state and
society, hybridity plays the most instrumental part in understanding governance within the
India context. Hybridity, though originating in biological sciences has taken up an important
position in cultural studies, humanities and social sciences. Postcolonial studies, particularly
writings of Homi Bhaba have made hybridity a popular concept by perceiving it as a political
strategy in the hands of the governed (Bhaba, 1994) or simply the „weapon of the weak‟6. It is
this notion of hybridity which is directly linked to the notion of political agency that strikes a
chord with context-specific analysis of governance and also links it to the basic framework of
neo-institutional and social constructivist approaches. However, hybridity in this study is
meant to serve a broader purpose. Firstly as a political strategy, it shows how in post-colonial
context, the gap between imported institutional set up and inherited categories of social norms
mend through a continuous yet non-linear process of hybridisation and how they
culminate into different hybrid institutions in order to alleviate the level of governance.
Secondly as an analytical category, it espouses how the state-society relationships being
entangled in multidirectional trans-cultural flows are manoeuvred by different actors in
different contexts. This latter application of the concept goes well beyond the post-colonial
contexts and shows a historical yet non-linear precedence of hybrid institutions emerging out
of the process of hybridisation (Mitra, 2012). In terms of understanding the impact of egovernance reform on the level of India‟s governance, hybridity explains how both egovernance policies and practices in India go through the process of hybridisation and create
hybrid institutions which in turn help to increase the level of governance. Furthermore, it also
shows how a e-governance as part of a transnational/trans-cultural agenda of governance
reform takes root in the Indian context by resorting to hybridity.
James Scott used this concept in his book by the same title “Weapon of the Weak: Everybody Forms of Peasant
Resistance (Yale University Press, 1985) to understand how subaltern peasants in Malayasia could exercise their
agency in their everyday practice to resist ideological and material hegemony.
These three analytical perspectives combined together create a compact base for addressing
three basic research questions which are closely related to each other: a) does strategic reform
help improving the level of governance; b) why some reforms initiatives are more effective
while others fail; and c) how the gap between state and society, between policies and practices
can be understood not merely in terms of legitimacy deficit but as contributing to the
resilience of governance. In order to resolve these questions, e-governance policies and
practices and their impact on India‟s governance is analysed here. Importantly, it is crucial to
mention here that though e-governance policies form a substantial category in the analysis;
this research does not intend to focus exclusively on policy outcomes of e-governance in
India. Instead it strives to analyse e-governance as a strategic reform sector in its entirety, that
is, why and how e-governance reform came into the policy discourse, how these reform
initiatives gradually changed the policy networks, how introduction of e-governance impacted
the governing styles and how practices of e-governance are slowly taking root into the
contextual realities of India. Therefore, this study does not merely evaluate the impact of a
particular e-governance policy, but rather e-governance serves here as case in point to reflect
how certain strategic reform agenda (propagated by transnational and national institutions)
take shape in the material and cultural contexts of a society and impacts its overall governance
mechanism. For this overarching understanding of e-governance reform and its impact on
governance, it was only importunate to move beyond the policy-outcome approach and to
devise a rather complex analytical frame combining different theoretical and methodological
perspectives. With the basic understanding of the premise of this research, the following
section will directly approach to the actual matrix of evaluating e-governance in India.
Evaluating (e)-Governance: Linking Politics, Culture and Technology
In order to evaluate if the strategic (e) governance reform can enhance the level of governance
four main theoretically informed conjectures are formulated within the context of ICT policy
and e-governance initiatives in India. They are as follows:
C1: E-governance reforms that make public service more easily and regularly
accessible for citizens will improve the level of governance.
C2: Improved coordination among all the stakeholders of e-governance reform will
improve the level of governance.
C3: E-governance initiatives that take social and cultural factors embedded in the
specific contexts into consideration improve the level of governance.
C4: E-governance reform that improves the delivery mechanism of public service will
improve the level of governance.
In order to evaluate these conjectures, e-governance policies and practices with particular
emphasis on a case study of the CSCs scheme (which is one of the pivotal national egovernance projects in India) has been analysed in depth. Each of these conjectures is
evaluated in terms of the indicators which link them to the level of governance, namely
accountability, adaptability, participation, predictability and transparency. Each of these
indicators is further defined according to certain attributes (Table 1.2). The careful
combination of these indicators with the four basic conjectures would formulate an analytical
grid for evaluating governance within the framework of this research endeavour.
Indicators: Increased citizen Participation (C1, C3), Increased Predictability in
Service Delivery (C1, C4), Increased Transparency in the system (C1, C2), Increased
accountability in the system (C2, C4), Adaptability to suit local contexts (C3)
Participation: Numbers of footfall per
Predictability: Speed of delivery of services,
CSC, Preference of CSC over other
Compliance to committed time frame,
delivery outlets, Integration of VLEs as
Standardisation of the quality of services
rural entrepreneurs
Transparency: Availability of information of
services, Options for accessing information,
Quality of information, Simplification of
Accountability: Availability of public
Adaptability: use of local languages, catering
grievance redressal mechanism, The
to specific social groups, integrating social
quality of public-private partnership,
and community goals, use of innovation by
Attitudes of public servants, Eliminations stakeholders
of intermediaries, Responsible
engagement of VLES
Table: 1.2: Defining Indicators of improved level of governance
Source: Author
To fully comprehend the analytical frame of this research, it would be worthwhile to elaborate
on each of these theoretically informed conjectures.
C1: E-governance reforms that make public service more easily and regularly accessible for
citizens will improve the level of governance. According to this conjecture, accessibility of
public services is crucial for improving the level of governance as it makes the system more
inclusive and effective. In a densely populated country like India, where accessibility of
public services poses serious administrative and infrastructural challenge, ICTs bear the
potential of taking these services to the doorsteps of the citizens even in the remotest corner.
Availing of public services by more and more citizens renders state institutions and
machinery more efficient; it makes distributive function of the state more adept and thereby
ensures enhanced legitimacy of state institutions. All these factors hint towards improved
interaction between state and society and hence improved level of governance. To denote that
e-governance reform leads to better accessibility of public services and hence to improved
level of governance three indicators are deployed: increased citizen participation,
predictability of services, and transparency of processes.
C2: Improved coordination among all the stakeholders of e-governance reform will improve
the level of governance: As described earlier governance as a concept is consisted of both
ruler and the ruled which represents different power positions. Being at the core of differential
power distribution, it often embodies conflicting interest groups. Given the inherent inequality
of the concept, lack of transparency and absence of clear accountability structure might lead
to mismatch of expectation and performance among different stakeholders involved in the
complex of governance. As e-governance reform has the potential to make service delivery
process more transparent, the interaction between state, market, civil society and citizens can
resultantly become more transparent. Similarly transparency of processes also helps create
clearer structure of accountability among stakeholders through introduction of ICT tools,
change-management and business-process re-engineering. Thus, better transparency and
accountability serve as the indicators of improved coordinators among stakeholders which in
turn will have a positive impact on the overall system of governance by making it more
efficient and effective.
C3: E-governance initiatives that take social and cultural factors embedded in the specific
contexts into consideration improve the level of governance: As governance lies at the
intersection of state and society, it is not enough to render the public service delivery
accessible and efficient through intervention of ICT tools. At the same time it is important for
e-governance reform to take root into societal structure. In other words, such reform
initiatives need to take local social and cultural factors into consideration in order to be
effective. Without such considerations, even reform initiatives with best of intentions can fail
at the grassroots levels of implementation. Hence, it can be inferred that e-governance reform
that are better adaptable to the local context will ensure greater participation by all
stakeholders. These will increase the acceptability and legitimacy of such reform initiatives
and consequently the level of governance.
C4: E-governance reforms that improve the delivery mechanism of public service will
improve the level of governance: The first conjecture reflects on how citizens can access
public services in a better way. However, public service also requires improvement in
delivery model which implies internal improvement within the state- machinery. Egovernance reform holds the capacity to revamp the delivery mechanism of the public
services through the use of ICT tools and related public administration reform tools such as
change management, business-process re-engineering, training modules and so on. The
impact of such reform on the state machinery that delivers public services can be indicated
through higher predictability of services and better accountability within the delivery chain.
It is pertinent to mention here that most of the indicators described here are also present in the
„good governance‟ paradigm as espoused by the World Bank and the United Nations
organisations. Nonetheless the difference remains in the approach. The „good governance‟ as
a top-down approach outlines these indicators as universal normative standards of governance
without much regard for context-specificities. To counter this gap adaptability as an
additional indicator is deployed conjointly which brings the significance of contexts to the
forefront of inquiry. Consequently, quite contrary to the „good governance‟ approach, this
governance analysis focuses on the legitimacy of the rule by converging rulers‟ category with
the perceptions of the ruled.
These four main conjectures that drive this research infer that introducing information
communication technologies would lead to better predictability of service delivery, higher
transparency in the rules and processes of public administration, greater accountability of the
service provider and enhanced reach of public services or inclusion of wider mass into service
delivery mechanism. However, they also stress the importance of adapting to embedded social
conditions and cultural values in fully realising the potential of these technologies and the
counter-productive forces of technologies. The vital challenge here is to incorporate these
social and cultural factors into a comprehensive frame of analysis in a systematic manner.
E-governance initiatives in India are comprised of both policies and practices. Hence, besides
exploring the major policies, a case study of one of the major e-governance projects in India
called the Common Services Centres (CSCs) Scheme was incorporated into the framework of
analysis for a better understanding of the cultural context in which e-governance initiatives
are materialised.
An extensive four-state fieldwork was conducted based on qualitative
interviews involving all the stakeholders, both at the state level and at the national level. As
the CSCs scheme is formulated as a structured project, the stakeholders were predefined. In
addition, a group of experts specialising in e-governance in different capacities have been
interviewed. Hence the sources of the study can be classified into four broad categories, such
as case study, expert interviews, policy and other relevant project documents and lastly the
relevant secondary literature on e-governance reform. The primary data, which is comprised
of respondents‟ interviews and policy documents, were collected on the basis of a purposive
sampling7. Moreover, the interviews conducted during the fieldwork do not follow a standard
format (due to their qualitative nature) and also total numbers of interviews (116) do not
exhaustively represent the selected states or the groups of respondents. Hence, the analyses
developed from these data do not put forward any claim to quantitative inferences. However,
some quantitative patterns are drawn to support the arguments build upon qualitative
interpretations of the sources (Table 5.2).
Research Design: The Structure of the Dissertation
The overall research design which gradually unfolds through this dissertation is driven by the
four broader theoretical conjectures mentioned above. . There are two major areas of egovernance which have been studied in order to evaluate those conjectures , namely policies
and practices of e-governance in India. Before exploring these two areas, an extensive
literature review has been conducted to familiarise with state of the art of the research on
governance, governance reform and e-governance in general and in the particular context of
India (Chapter 2). The following chapter outline some of the major conceptual categories and
Purposive sample is selected through a deliberate and non-random manner in order to achieve a certain goal.
For example, in this research, a pool of policy documents was selected through purposive sampling in order to
establish the significance of e-governance in recent policy making. For the case study, the four sample states
were chosen firstly, to cover four major geographical cluster of India (North-South-East-West) and secondly, to
showcase states with different success rate in project roll out (very low-low-high-very high). Correspondingly,
only CSCs which were regularly operating were selected. Similar methods were adopted throughout the study
starting from the selection of case study to choosing the experts and so on.
theoretical paradigms related to governance and the aptness of the perspectives adopted in the
research design to analyse e-governance in India (Chapter 3). One important section of this
chapter spells out the methodological challenges associated with the context-specific analysis
of governance and also present some of the probable resorts attempted in this study.
Governance in
IT Act 2000
IT Amendment
Act 2008
Governance Reform Agenda
10th & 11th
Five Years
National eGovernance
A Broader
reforms in
11th ARC
Delivery Bill,
Practices: Case
Study of the
CSCs Scheme
(Project Team,
VLE, Citizens)
States: Andhra
Rajasthan, West
Qualitative Method
Figure: 1.3: Research Design
Source: Author
The next two chapters engage in describing the state of e-governance in India through policies
and practices. In the first step, the policy documents related to such strategic reform are
analysed which include Information Technology (IT) Act 2000; Amendment to the IT Act
2008; National e-Governance Plan (2006); 11th Report of the 2nd Administrative Reform
Commission (ARC) 2008; selected chapters of the Tenth and Eleventh Five Year Plan (200207 & 2007-2012); and E-service Delivery Bill (presented in the Parliament in 2011). A
qualitative research method has been adopted to derive at an in-depth understanding of the
policy directions and guidelines and their potential impact on the framework of governance
stretching across almost a decade (Chapter 4). These policy documents are analysed mainly
within theoretical framework of neo-institutional model of governance and helps to discern
the policy framework for e-governance reforms in India. The next chapter elaborates on the
practice of e-governance in India with a particular focus on one of the important pillars of
National e-Governance Plan, that is, Common Services Centres (CSCs) Scheme (Chapter 5).
The CSCs scheme is placed within the wider environment of reforms initiatives in egovernance in India. The details of the case study are presented through selected narratives of
different regional states and account of their comparative status in the project implementation.
Besides providing a more descriptive overview of the project and its context, this chapter also
accounts for limitations of the case study.
The overall analysis of policies and practices described in the previous chapters are finally
presented in the following chapter (Chapter 6). This chapter evaluates to what extent the
initial conjectures about the relationship between e-governance reform and overall
governance can be supported by the policies and practices elaborated in the previous chapters.
On the basis of the findings, a regional comparative narrative is drawn to further illustrate the
context-specific understanding of governance even within a national scale. To grasp the
overall impact of the CSCs scheme on existing governance practices, a social constructivist
approach to analyse the interplay between the technology and governance has been adopted.
Additionally, the patterns of adapting to e-governance with the specific local context is
analysed with the conceptual tool of hybridity framed within a transcultural perspective. The
summary of observations is elaborated in the Conclusion which also explains how egovernance research can enrich governance research and how the Indian context holds wider
implications for overall understanding of governance issues. The entire research design
envisages capturing how e-governance as a strategic reform aids in the process of overall
governance reform agenda and hence impacting the level of governance in India and indicates
some further avenues of researching e-governance.
1.10 Conclusion: Scope and Limits of the Research
Governance being the interface of state and society can be analysed from different academic
approaches and from different perspectives even within the same disciplinarian boundary. For
example, social anthropology and political science would approach the problematic of
governance quite differently. Similarly within the purview of political science, public policy
and international relations theorists would focus on different aspects of governance. Though
this study of governance often transcends these scholastic boundaries, nonetheless it strives to
combine the public policy approach with comparative politics approach within the broader
framework of political sociology. This implies that it examines how particular public policies
harness the state-society relationship in an effective manner. In doing so, it looks at policy
formulations, policy implementation as well reception of policies. Such multi-faceted focus
renders the analysis of governance both state-centric and society-centric as it not only
explores how political elites initiate policies, but also how bureaucrats implement these
policies (sometimes with help of private actors) and how finally these policies are received by
the citizens. All these processes take place in a particular political, social and cultural context
which shapes the behaviour of all the actors and ultimately their interactions with each other.
The interlocking of these political, social and cultural factors makes the policy process a
complex yet a crucial node in the analytical puzzle of governance.
Following the economic liberalisation in India in 1991, there were several major policy
reforms which went much beyond economic sphere. One such reform was in the field of
Information Communications Technologies and its subsequent impact on the public service
delivery model and the system of governance, in other words e-governance reform. Given its
significant impact on governance e-governance reform has been critically scrutinised starting
from e-governance policy formulation, implementation and its reception by the stakeholders.
Hence both governance and e-governance are treated as conceptual variables where latter‟s
impact on the former are considered to be of considerable significance. Having clearly setting
the scope of this study, it would be only imminent to draw the circumference of the enquiry as
Governance as a conceptual variable lies at the crossroad of politics, culture, economy and
society. Consequently, there are myriad categories that can contribute to the quality of the
governance. In other words, indicators of good or bad governance can range from law and
order management to the state of justice, from public service delivery mechanism to social
discrimination, from developmental schemes to economic inequality and so on. This research
by no means claims to present an exhaustive account of all the factors which either enhance or
reduce the quality of governance. Instead it confines its attention to one particular strategic
reform which is considered to have a positive impact on the level of governance. The other
limiting element of this research is its heavy reliance on qualitative data. Though treating
governance as a conceptual variable, the analytical frame deployed here is based on purely
qualitative data. Therefore, while evaluating the quality of governance in terms of the
outreach and effectiveness of the strategic reform, an attempt has been made to look for gaps
in the policy documents and its subsequent implementations. However, all the gaps are not
interpreted automatically as a failure of the policies but weighed carefully to see how
sometimes these gaps in fact help a policy to be absorbed in the local context. In other words,
instead of finding simple explanations for policy effectiveness or policy failure, the focus is
more on the conflicting zones of policy processes instigated by a certain reform agenda and
the way apparent policy deficits can be actually turned into policy resolve. The final point of
contestation is the India-centric analysis of governance. Rather than denying the specificities
of the Indian context the study attempts to counter this bias in three ways: firstly, by adding
the four federal states as additional layers of regional complexities which make the Indian
case study more dynamic; secondly, by presenting India as only a case in point (not the case)
to facilitate a context-specific understanding of governance; and thirdly, like many other postcolonial and post-communist societies, in India the domestic as well as international impetus
to governance reform appears to be well pronounced.
E-governance and its impact on overall quality of governance is a rarely studied field within
academia. Hence, despite its limited scope this study intends to make an important and
original contribution to the existing body of research on e-governance and governance in
general. In addition, by connecting the Indian case study to the general theories of governance
this piece of work attempts to demonstrate how area studies can contribute to the process of
State of the Art: Literature Review
Introduction: Mapping the Research
As we already witnessed in the introduction, governance has led to different connotations and
conceptualizations in different context. Although, it has been predominantly a field of study
for Political Scientists (albeit in an array of diverse subfields), governance has acquired equal
significance among international development practitioners, policy makers, and civil society
organizers in recent times. Therefore, any research on governance could be colossal because
of the diversity and vastness of approaches deployed in its analyses and also consequently the
vast literature available on the same. This implies that there is a need to delineate the most
relevant literature according to the research problem this thesis intends to address and hence
calls for mapping the existing research on governance leading in due course to the research on
good governance and e-governance in general and in the particular context of India. Given
this task at hand this chapter will divide the relevant literature in specific sections in
accordance with the concepts and issues they deal with. While devising these sections,
however, the focus remains on the implication of these literatures on the specific research
questions set out in the beginning. Needless to say, some of the literature will have a direct
bearing on the topic whereas others will only indirectly touch upon the important issues; some
will determine the theoretical underpinnings of the thesis and some will elucidate on the
practical and methodological aspect of the study and some even will address more than one
issues dealt in this study. The first section will focus on the Political Science literatures that
explore the concepts of governance in two relevant subfields, namely Comparative Politics
and Public Administration. Though a few literature consulted during this research endeavour
have dealt with the issue of governance within the subfield of International Relations, this
stream of the governance discourse have not been taken into account of the analytical grid of
this research and hence the literature discussed below will not reflect on governance research
within the academic ground of the International Relations. Instead of getting into the third
subfield of International Relations, the next section will look into the International
Development research on governance as it will make the due inroads into next section on
good governance discourse. This section on good governance will not only elaborate on the
literature available on general trends of good governance but will also look at similar research
done in the Indian context and here the next section will bring the light on the specific issue of
e-governance as an extension of good governance studies within the Indian context. The
following section will deal with the literature that have direct and indirect implications for
building up the transcultural perspectives on the issues dealt in the previous sections. At the
end an attempt would be made to conjure up some methodological studies that have helped
shaping up the course of the research and its wider framework.
Governance in Political Science
At the onset, before entering into intricate alleys of the vast literature of governance in
Political Science, it would be worthwhile to attend to the notion of power and its relevance for
the analysis of governance. Governance as a concept as well in practice hinges on the power
relation between the governed and those who govern. The analysis of this power relation is
best explained in the writings of Michel Foucault, particularly in Power and Knowledge:
selected Interviews and Other Writings 1972-77 (Harvester Press, 1980). In the chapters titled
Truth and Power and Power and Strategies, he eloquently elaborates on the nature of power
in the social body that surpasses the juridical-legal aspect of the state. While conceptualising
power as productive, technical and positive he subverts the mere repressive nature of power
and focuses mostly on the mechanisms through which the meta-power of the state need to be
rooted in the entire gamut of existing networks of power relations invested in the society,
starting from the body, to family, to kinship, to knowledge, to technology and so on. It is this
understanding of power relations that holds the state-society relationship in the modern state
and hence implicated evidently in any further analysis of governance in this study.
The treatment of the term Governance in different subfields of Political Science is well
summarised in the book by Anne Mette Kjaer titled Governance: Key Concepts (Polity,
2004). Kjaer establishes that a close scrutiny of Institutionalism holds the key to a deeper
understanding of the common ground of the concept of governance that permeates all subdisciplines. Notwithstanding its different versions, according to Kjaer, Institutionalism sets
out to answer to key questions: 1) how do institutions affect political behaviour? , and 2) how
do institutions occur and transform? As most institutional theories occupy itself with the first
question, it is governance theory which focuses on the question of institutional change by
combining structures of rule with that of human agency. This underlying preoccupation with
Institutionalism, in Kjaer‟s opinion, determines the perception of governance discourse across
all sub-disciplines of Political Science.
The chapter titled Governance in Public Administration and Public Policy: Steering InterOrganizational Networks deals with governance debate within the Public Administration field
which explicitly impact the public policy deliberation. In doing so, the chapter traces the
reform in the public sector since 1980 which marks a clear shift from the Weberian principles
of bureaucratic hierarchy to development of policy networks. While taking a critical view of
the traditional public administration model Kjaer explains the emergence of the concept of
governance in the process of public sector reforms in 1980 and 90s. This reform process
which is sometimes referred to as the New Public Management (NPM) Reform is typically
characterized by privatization, decentralization and ushered in policy networks geared
towards efficient public service delivery. However, Kjaer does not stop at the mere
description of this reform process which brought significant changes in the role of the state,
but also attempts to further her attention to the issues of democratic governance by raising
questions about accountability and rule setting within the policy networks which now
governed the public policy-making.
This book dedicates two chapters in describing the concept of governance in the field of
Comparative Politics. As it explores the journey of Comparative Politics as a subfield of
Political Science (since pre-War era to the recent times) starting at the systematic comparison
of different political systems based on the national constitutions, to input oriented study of the
political system such as political culture, electoral behaviour, interest groups and so on, to
further comparisons of the state institutions based on the policy outcomes, the book shows the
trend which start with a focus on the state, move towards the political culture and behaviour
and finally bring the state back in the frame while focussing on its relationship with the
society. This recent focus on the state-society relationship also hints at the phenomenon of
democratization and its analysis. The chapter titled Governance in Comparative Politics I:
The State and Economic Development engages in a comparative political economy which
explores the role of the state in setting the rule of the public policy- making either through
state institutions or through networks of public and private stakeholders. This latter process of
policy making leads to the debate on democratization that is elaborated in the next chapter
titled Governance in Comparative Politics II: Theories of Democratization. The debate
around democratization, according to the author is two-fold, as it is a normative as well as an
analytical issue. The normative aspect of the debate focuses on the concept of legitimacy and
efficiency which would help developing the working models of governance applicable across
different social, cultural and economic background. This stream of thought has direct bearing
on the concept of good governance which would be explored in a separate section later in this
chapter. The analytical side of the debate emphasizes the relationship between state and
society, the structures and the actors in the process of democratization and hence look at the
roles civil society, political elites, and international organizations play in the decision- making
process of the state/regime.
It is the latter aspect of the democratization debate that builds on the main argument of the
book titled The Puzzle of India‟s Governance –Culture, Context and Comparative Theory
(Routledge, 2006) by Subrata K. Mitra. This book conceptualises governance as the interface
of the state and society from a neo-institutional rational choice framework. Mitra argues that
governance is embedded in the normative and material conditions of the society and therefore,
context bound, especially in transitional societies where often the institutional structures are
imported in origin and exhibits a hiatus from the inherited societal norms and values. This
hiatus becomes crucial in bringing institutional change and a comparative model of
governance occupying the overlapping zones of thick perceptions of the social actors and
groups and the thin norms of the state structures and institutions forms the focal point of such
a process of change. This book stands out to be specifically relevant for a number of reasons.
Firstly, while bringing the culture and context into the analytical framework, Mitra never
refrains from his focus on politics. Culture and contexts plays a role in developing the factors
of path dependency of certain political institutions and behaviour rather than turning the
uniqueness of inherent cultural attributes into explanatory factors of politics. Secondly, this
book also bring out the notion of plurality involved in an understanding of governance by
pulling together agency of rational actors and strategic politics of elites into the decision
making process of the state. Thirdly, even with its strong analytical root in the comparative
politics that locate governance within the state-society relationships, this book deals with
notion of legitimacy and effective orderly rule in changing societies such as India in a manner
that goes beyond one-size-fit-all approach of the normative model of comparative politics and
the democratization debate and still manages to draw generalizations of broader theoretical
implications. Fourthly, in its quest to solve the puzzle of resilience of India‟s institutions, the
book uniquely and quite seamlessly marries comparative politics‟ perception of governance
with that of public policy approaches which obviously adds to the dynamism of its neoinstitutional model. As Mitra describes, governance from a public policy perspective is based
more on popular consent rather than authority and sanctions for legitimacy. Therefore,
governance becomes more of an interactive process of public-private partnership where the
government is open to use new tools and techniques to steer and guide more efficiently (This
aspect of public policy approach is instrumental in emergence of e-governance which would
be discussed and explained later).
Last but not the least, this book quite successfully
characterizes governance as a conceptual variable which can be measured in terms of both
quantitative and qualitative indicators. The uniqueness of this book‟s approach lies in its
grand attempt to combine study of institutions, policies, elites strategies and mass attitudes
into a single framework of understanding that connects the concept of governance to the statecentric political economy approach as well as to the society-centric pluralistic democratization
approach excluding its normative bias.
In another book titled When Rebels become Stakeholders- Democracy, Agency and Social
Change in India (Sage India, 2009) Subrata K.Mitra and V.B. Singh again look at the agency
of rational actors and cultural context in the backdrop of democracy and social change in
India. They devise the concepts of stakeholder (people who consider their agency to be
efficacious and recognise institutions to be legitimate) and rebel (who knows their political
influence while refuting the legitimacy of the political system) to understand the process of
social change in India through a rare combination of „neo-institutional model based on
structural parameters of action and the logic of individual perceptions of values, choice and
strategy‟ (pp.13, 2009). Adding to the dynamism of this model of social change is the role of
the political elites and their policy initiatives that collate both sanction and welfare with the
flair of customs and cultural continuity. By locating governance in the interface of state and
society, this book draws on the reciprocal relationship between them to elucidate how the
state (in the Postcolonial context of India) has impacted social transformation and how the
processes and outcomes of such changes have had implications for the state. The myriad
notions of human agency, elite strategy, legitimacy and efficacy of the political institutions,
culture, context and path dependency have played a crucial role in understanding this causal
and reciprocal relation between state and society and thereby enriched the understanding of
A similar approach is found in an earlier book by Subrata K. Mitra titled Culture and
Rationality: the politics of social change in post-colonial India (Sage India, 1999). Though
the book is looking at politics of social change rather than the concept of governance, it is the
underlying approach of the book which makes it relevant for our understanding of governance
in comparative politics. This book takes an approach of critical traditionalism to look for the
sources of change in the preferences of the actors. These preferences are further embedded in
the culture, context and the historical frame in which they are entrenched. Yet, it is through
the individual rationality of the actors that culture and history unfold and not just by
themselves. This abstract rational-choice model combined with empirical categories of actors‟
preferences percolates in Mitra‟s analysis of governance where he places the concept at the
juncture where legality of state coincides with the legitimacy of the society and explores the
role of the multitude of actors and groups in such an interactive process which again is
informed by broader assumptions of comparative politics.
Mark Bevir and R.A. W. Rhodes in their book The State as Cultural Practice (OUP, 2010)
follow a similar line of argument while talking about governance. In the chapter Rethinking
the State, they argue that „governance is constructed differently by many actors working
against the background of diverse traditions‟ (pp.82, 2010). Instead of providing a historical
survey of the concept, they focus on the recent developments in the analysis of state which
traces the shift in the patterns of state authority moving from a hierarchic government to
network governance, to metagovernance and then to the decentred governance. Bevir and
Rhodes identify three separate waves of governance in the course of this change.
The first wave which they term as the Anglo-governance school focuses on the public sector
reform of the 1980s driven by the neo-liberal reform strategy of the state. As an outcome of
these reforms the role of markets, quasi-markets and networks increases in public service
delivery which was further intensified by the global changes such as emergence of
transnational organizations or rise of regional institutions such as European Union.
Consequently, the state power and authority becomes simultaneously dispersed among
different networks ranging across local, national and supranational levels of governance.
The second wave of metagovernance disputes this dispersal of state authority albeit its
recognition of burgeoning influence of markets and networks. In the wake plurality of
networks, state‟s role of direct governance shifts to metagovernance of different modes of
interventions through indirect steering and guiding of chains of somewhat self-governing
stakeholders. A clear attempt to bring the state back is evident in this phase.
However, Bevir and Rhodes counter this metgovernance with a third wave of decentred
governance which focuses on human agency and social construction of individual practices.
Within this wave governance is constructed through individual actions of a plurality of actors
embedded in their beliefs rooted in diverse and overlapping traditions. Rather than the state
the point of departure becomes the “various traditions that have informed the diverse policies
and practices by which elite and other actors have sought to remake the state” (pp.82, 2010).
In developing their analysis of decentred governance, they also firmly refute generality as
they argue that governance is contingent upon the agency of the actors ensconced in culture,
context and history. Here this book exhibits a close resemblance to the approaches adopted by
Mitra in his book, The Puzzle of India‟s Governance – Culture, Context and Comparative
Theory (Routledge, 2006). They both look at the issue of institutional change or changes in
the pattern of state authority through the politics of elite strategy and individual agency deeply
rooted in the complex web of values, norms and beliefs enmeshed in the critical juncture of
diverse culture, contexts and history.
A similar notion of decentred governance is found in Kooiman‟s idea of social-political
governance. Jan Kooiman in is his edited volume titled Modern Governance- New
Government-Society Interactions (Sage, London, 1993) tries to develop new conceptual
framework to analyse the emerging patterns of interactions between the government and the
society and find recourse in the notions of governance and governing. He terms it as a novel
form of interactive social-political governance which means “setting the tone; creating the
social-political conditions for the development of new models of governing in terms comanagement, co-steering and co-guidance” (pp.3, 1993). In his opinion, these social-political
forms of governance and governing of course spreads way beyond governments to include
continuous yet shifting interactions between social actors, groups, state, market, civil society
organizations. Though he directly does not talk about networks, but he argues in the same line
as the notion of decentred governance. The chapters in this book look at both the issues of
conceptualizations of socio-political governance and governing and also their empirical
manifestations, especially in the Western European context. The theoretical paradigms range
from system-theory, to public administration and public management theories, from
communication theory to the theories of state and theories of inter-organizational networks.
Irrespective of their different theoretical dispositions, the papers in this edited volume focus
on three common area of analysis: the patterns of interactions between state and society;
growing notions complexity, dynamics and diversity of the societies they study and their
implications; and the issues of governance, governability and governing at analytical as well
as empirical levels. In a later book called Governing as Governance (Sage, London, 2003),
Kooiman maintained the same line argument, however, only broadening the scope of his
analysis by viewing governance as a social quality to be shared by public and private actors.
Like his previous work, he argues that governance is a mix of different kind of interactions
between a multitude of actors growing out of increasing complexity, diversity and dynamisms
of modern societies, though the nature of this mix (as a continuously changing element) varies
depending on the context and level of governance and in turn affects the process of governing
itself. This changing pattern of governance does not totally write off the traditional role of
governments, it rather points out the limitations of the role of the state and its traditional
government interventions. The awareness of this limitation on the part of the state only
reshuffles the role of the government rather than shrinking it. As Kooiman explains, “In
diverse, dynamic and complex areas of social activity, no single governing agency is able to
realise legitimate and effective governing by itself. Such governance is achieved by the
creation of interactive, social-political structures and processes, stimulating communication
between actors involved, and the creation of common responsibilities next to individual and
separate ones. There is a need to restructure governing responsibilities, tasks and activities,
based upon differentiation and integration of various concerns and the agents representing
them” (pp.4, 2003). Though wearing a close resemblance with the approaches taken by other
authors discussed above, the uniqueness of Kooiman‟s approach remains in its focus on the
socio-political aspects of the interactions between government and society and the shifting
nature of such interactions.
Mark Bevir‟s Key Concepts in Governance (Sage, London, 2009) plays an important role in
providing a holistic description of the concept and establishing the link between the social
science and international development discourse on governance. This text starts with a
conceptual history of governance in social science, in neo-liberal philosophy, in civil society
movement, in New Public Management (NPM) finally culminating into an idea of a New
Governance which rose in prominence since 1980s with the rise of non-state actors, policy
networks and changing role of the state. While tracing the conceptual history of the concept,
Bevir also explores the theoretical paradigms attributing to various interpretations of
governance. He presents a vivid account of governance in theories of Rational Choice, New
Institutionalism, Social Constructivism and also in System theories and Regulation theories.
While tracing the conceptual and theoretical roots of governance, Bevir addresses the
significant implications of new governance on issues of public policy and democracy. The
role of the state in managing non-state actors, the questions of accountability along with the
notion of legitimacy and efficiency, issues of social inclusion and justice, the role of
international organizations in implementing governance reform – all these become relevant
research concerns in the context of new governance. Therefore this text serves two purposes,
firstly in providing strong theoretical grounding of the concept of governance and secondly, in
contextualising the significance of governance analysis in the development discourse.
The other two texts, which also helps in creating the link between Political Science and
development paradigm on governance are Transforming Asian Governance: rethinking
assumptions and challenging practices edited by M. Ramesh and Scott Fritzen (Routledge,
2009) and Democratic Governance in India: Challenges of Poverty, Development and
Identity edited by Niraja Gopal Jayal and Sudha Pai (Sage India, 2001).
The first book starts by recognizing the myriad and even contradictory ways of
conceptualizing governance and therefore attempts to focus on the contextual factors of the
governance debate in the recent times. The basic presumption which the book takes as its
point of departure is that governance is determined by the way authority, power and resources
are allocated within the public, private and people sector ranging from local to supranational
level. Given this basic understanding of governance, Fritzen summarises four general trends
which given rise to the governance debate both in academia and development community.
They are: fiscal crisis within the government, growing citizen demand for better quality of
services along with a responsive government, lack of trust in the competence of public
agencies, and failure of state-driven development initiatives (especially in the context of
developing countries). These trends implicated the size of the state, locus of authority and the
distribution of authority between state and other sectors which in turn brings the focus on the
associated notions or rather agendas (as Fritzen describes them) of privatization, participation,
decentralization and de-regulations. According to these agendas, there are two ways of
viewing governance; firstly, as part of the „good governance principles‟ which basically
developed some universal scales and measure the performance of different countries along
these scales; secondly as part of public administration and management which has gone
through severe reform in recent years. Though bearing some affinity to public administration
discourse, these interpretations of governance forms the undercurrent of the governance
debate within the development community. This becomes apparent through many case studies
(exclusively focussing on developing nations of Asia ) in the volume that explores the
impetus of transformation in specific countries along with sector specific trajectories of such a
process of change.
Jayal and Pai tries to connect the recent trends in governance in different fields as they starts
by arguing that “ current discourses on democratic governance in India are imbricated in and
reflects trends international development discourses and policy, as well as Western social
science” (pp.12, 2001). They succinctly trace the neo-liberal upsurge in the Anglo-American
world in 1980s and its gradual impact in the theories of state and eventually affecting the
developing countries in the post cold war era through intervention of international
development community. By capturing the shift from mere government to the governance
approach, this book does not stop at the academic trends vis-a-vis governance analysis, but
carry forward these trends in concrete empirical ground with a effective comparison of the
North-South trajectory. Though the book is constricted to the experiences of India, its overall
critical analytical framework of the social science as well developmentalist approaches to
governance renders it an instrumental role in shaping the arguments of this dissertation.
Governance in the International Development Paradigm: Rise of Good Governance
Discourse and Governance Reform Agenda
Governance in the international development paradigm is basically understood as a condition
of development. The overall theoretical or philosophical underpinning of such an
understanding is guided by neo-liberalism that has been on a growing binge since 1980s.
There are many literatures on this specific dimension on governance which eventually lead to
a normative framework, often described as “good governance” principles. This section will
explore the literature that have scrutinized or emphasized this developmental notion of
governance and also hinted at the probable manifestations of such approaches towards
The Governance Discourse-A Reader (OUP, 2008) edited by Bidyut Chakrabarty and Mohit
Bhattacharya presents a series of papers essaying governance in the context of development
and its consequent manifestations (mostly in the context of India). In the introduction to the
reader Chakrabarty and Bhattacharya attempt to contextualise governance in the
contemporary social, economic and political state of affairs, especially after the collapse of
Soviet model which prompted the neo-liberal school of thought as an alternative to the statedirected development paradigm. In their own words “ as the neo-liberal view started
downplaying the state and overvaluing the „market‟, and the trend was to decentre the state
from its monopoly status in social control, the idea of „governance‟ gained in prominence,
connoting a plurality of rules replacing the state‟s monopoly” (pp. 2, 2008). This shift from
the government to governance theories emphasises a process-oriented view of state and
politics over the structure-oriented hierarchical approach that intend to improve the technical
expertise of the government and hence tries to depoliticise the act of governing. This brings
the „good governance‟ into fore of governance theories within the international development
discourse. Chakrabarty and Bhattacharya provide a three dimensional view of good
governance: firstly, as a set of principles based on a checklist of criteria for public
management; secondly as a complex process of interaction between state, market and civil
society based on a mix of policies, values and institutions; thirdly, as a regulatory capacity of
the state inevitable for effective realization of the principles and processes. Tracing the
historical and theoretical roots of the governance theories and linking them with the good
governance paradigm, this text helps formulating the basic research questions of this study.
A similar line of argument is prominent in Joachim Ahrens‟s edited volume Good
Governance in the 21st Century: Conflict, Institutional Change and Development in the Era of
Globalization (Edward Elgar, 2011) as he explores the interplay of institutions, economic
development and governance. This book is based on the underlying principle of institutions
matters – a principle that promote a less interventionist yet central role of the state
government in successful market driven policy reform. Ahrens argues, “it is not only
economic institutions such as secure property rights, competitions rules or bankruptcy
regulations which are crucial for a functioning market economy, but political institutions such
as the rule of law, federal structures, or organizational modes in public bureaucracies as well”
(pp.3, 2011). This is where, he proposes, the entry of good governance as a set of
prescriptions for reform in order to implement economic policies according to the new set of
rules. He also reiterated the fact that these institutional governance reforms are more
significant and more encompassing for the transitional or developing societies where policy
reforms should be combined institutional restructuring. In the introduction to the volume,
Ahrens formulates the concept of Market Enhancing Governance Structures (MEGS) which
he then connects to his models and dimensions of governance characterised by the changing
role of state and economic institutions vis-a-vis accountability, predictability, participation
and transparency. While developing this model, however, he recognizes the problem of linear
governance-growth relationship trajectories guided by orthodox liberal economic thinking and
therefore tries to account for success as well as failure stories of development models in
different country case studies in the volume.
The papers of this volume is arranged in three different parts: 1) Conflict and Cooperation; 2)
National Strategies; 3) Newly Emerging Global Actors and Networks. The basic attempt of all
the contributions has been to formulate development strategies to better tackle the challenges
posed by the recent trends of economic globalization, international conflict and increasingly
complex global system in the 21st century. This volume is mainly preoccupied with the
economic reform in the global context and takes non-economic factors such as political
institutions and social conditions only in their implications for the former. Therefore, it can be
argued that governance is discussed as part of the causal relationship between the exogenous
economic reform and the endogenous policy reform and institutional change.
Stephen Knack in his article “Governance and Growth” in the volume Good Governance in
Developing Countries: Interdisciplinary Perspectives edited by Kerstin Koetschau and Thilo
Marauhn (Peter Lang, 2008) documents the way institutional economic approach has viewed
governance in a causal relationship with economic performance and hence growth. His vivid
exploration of the state of the art was supplemented with the statistical evidences from a
cross-country analysis of the role of governance in economic development. However, Knack
also identifies the limitation of such statistical analysis in their lack of clarity for governance
parameters. Though all these studies point out corruption, bureaucratic inefficiency, arbitrary
policy-making, lack of enforcement of law etc as attributing to the poor quality of
governance, they fail to establish which matters more than the other. The interconnectedness
of these parameters also leaves the role of donor agencies in a fix as some of the issues lie
within the strict domain of internal and domestic politics and therefore beyond the
interventionist reaches of the donors. This article is mainly concerned with the growth –
oriented economic policy-making and the role of donors and national governments in
facilitating such policy implementations by improving the quality of governance. Knack
clearly singles out the hindrances such as over-regulation, corruption, different forms of rentseeking, in achieving neoliberal economic policies and proposes a set of governance
parameters to improve the situation. He uses the term good governance in much of selfexplanatory manner and with much emphasis on strategies to achieve it. This rigor for „good
governance‟ as a universal prescription is reflected across a wide range of development
agenda in last two decades.
Three other articles in the International Social Science Journal (Issue No.155, March 1998)
explore the rise of governance in the development paradigms in somewhat similar manner.
Bob Jessop‟s article titled, “The rise of governance and the risks of failure: the case of
economic development” investigate the rise of governance with regard to the changing roles
of state, market and co-ordination of partnerships between different sectors and also with the
failure of these sectors. Jessop elaborates on different modes of governance with specific
reference to tendencies of governance failures and tries to connect them to the notion of metagovernance where state acts as a broker of co-ordination between different sectors. The
overall tendency of such a changing role of state and growing interest in governance however
remains oriented towards economic development in the global context. The next article in the
same issue named, “Governance and the crisis in the international mechanisms of regulation”
authored by Pierre de Senarclens talks about the governance debate in the international
organizations as a legitimizing discourse of neo-liberal project. However, he urges to go
beyond the role of these international organizations in evolving mechanisms of political
regulations and to look at governance debate more as a problem of institutional reform in the
changing economic, social and political scenario. Cynthia Hewitt de Alcantara, in her article
“Uses and abuses of the concept of governance” provides a descriptive account of six
different areas of development discourse which deals with the issue of governance with much
vigour. These areas are: institutional restructuring for efficient market economy; public sector
reform; shifting of power and resources between public, private and civil society;
democratization process and issue of social inclusion, justice and human rights; rebuilding
war-torn societies and coping with the challenges of globalization. The author also suggests
new avenues of change in the governance debate that would mark a departure from the
predominant views of the much of the donor community and the development paradigm.
David Craig and Doug Porter in their edited book Development Beyond Neoliberalism:
Governance, Poverty Reduction and Political Economy (Routledge, 2006) present some
further and interesting insights into the development discourse on governance. As the title of
the book suggests, this edited volume harnesses the recent shifts in the neoliberal policies of
the international development community with burgeoning agenda of pro-poor governance.
Craig and Porter trace the historical development of Neoliberalism within the international
development community and the shifts in its approach in the wake of failures of Structural
Adjustment Programmes in 1980s and crisis of financial crises in 1990s. While these
historical failures put a serious question mark on the development paradigm itself, postdevelopmentalists alleged it to be a grand modernizing agenda serving Eurocentric interests.
Entangled in the web of severe criticism and performance failure, development institutions
were compelled to change their strategy albeit retaining their philosophical bias towards
neoliberalism. This shift was marked by the dramatic arrival of „inclusive‟ Poverty Reduction
and Good Governance agenda which was believed to leverage wider consensus for market-led
growth and developing countries‟ integration into global capitalism. As Craig and Porter
deconstructs the Poverty Reduction and Good Governance agenda, the relation between the
two becomes quite apparent – poverty reduction was explained in terms of categories such as
opportunity, empowerment and security where good governance became a facilitator by
bringing in stability, service delivery efficiency, transparency, accountability, justice,
predictability and equality. Privatization, increasing influence of civil society, decentralization
became some of the important aspects of the broader institutional reform under the rubric of
poverty reduction and good governance. Therefore, this edited volume presents the narratives
of liberal conception of good governance which comes with a promise of poverty eradication
for those “who respected, above all, the rule of law, and the property rights of the powerful”
(pp.7, 2006). This conceptualization of governance in the recent development discourse is
unravelled further in a number of cross-country experiences.
The neoliberal turn developmental policy making and development assistance and its
inevitable link to the good governance agenda became a common theme amongst authors late
1990s onwards. D. Bandyopadhyay in the paper titled “Administration, Decentralisation and
Good Governance” (Economic and Political Weekly, Vol.38, No.48, November, 1996)
focused the on the way World Bank and other international donor agencies have attempted to
define good governance and its implications for developing countries and indicted the notion
to be a symbol of recolonisation and new imperialism. Sara Joseph‟s paper “Democratic Good
Governance: New Agenda for Change” (Economic and Political Weekly, Vol.36, No.12,
March, 2001) also explores the neoliberal root of governance in development paradigm and
emphasizes the market concept of equality and citizen empowerment backed by a democratic
polity with growing interest in civil society organizations. One of the major dimensions of
good governance, according to Joseph, is to renders the citizens economically self-sustaining
by opening up market-oriented opportunities and to view them more as consumers of public
service delivery. This echoes the equivalent relationship between poverty reduction and
governance that would come up in Craig and Porter‟s edited book in 2006 (already discussed
above). In his article, “International Co-operation For Democracy and Good Governance:
Moving Toward A Second Generation?” (European Journal of Development Research,
Vol.13, No.1, June, 2001), Carlos Santiso draws our attention to the close link between
democracy, economic development and governance. Both democracy and good governance,
geared towards institutional and political reform to enhance the capacity and legitimacy of the
state, are propagated as prerequisites of better economic performance or rather market driven
growth. Though focusing on sub-Saharan Africa, Rita Abrahamsen‟s book Disciplining
Democracy: Development Discourse and Good Governance in Africa (Zed Books, 2000)
critically examines the development discourse in post Cold War era and it strong connection
to the process of democratisation by theoretical and textual investigation of the good
governance agenda and its empirical implications. While not completely denying the
difference of development approaches by different donors, Abrahamsen clearly contends that
good governance as a uniform agenda is nothing but an “intrinsic part of the technologies of
power employed in international politics and one of the ways in which the North maintains
and legitimises its continued power and hegemony in the South” (pp.ix, 2000). Rather than
focusing on the institutional, bureaucratic and managerial aspects of good governance, this
book traces the historically contingent and culturally definite course of development discourse
in the shifting balance of power in post Cold War times and hence the ways in which good
governance has become an weapon to legitimise certain types of democracy over the others in
the African context.
An equally critical approach is evident in Pia Riggirozzi‟s book
Advancing Governance in the South: What Roles for International Financial Institutions in
Developing States? (Palgrave Macmillan, 2009). Like Abrahamsen, this book also explores
the power relations which drive the governance reform agendas of the International Financial
Institutions only with a different regional focus on Latin America. However, she looks
beyond the simplistic notion of coercive authority of these lending institutions to understand
the complex relations of power that emerge and exist through much negotiation, conflict and
contestation between the local actors and their international counterparts.
There is another set of literature which directly looks into the common practices of
development assistance in international and bilateral donor agencies and contends how (good)
governance plays a key role in development assistance since the collapse of Berlin Wall in
1989.The Politics of Aid Selectivity: Good Governance Criteria in World Bank, US and Dutch
Development Assistance (Routledge, 2007) by Wil Hout debunks aid selectivity as a political
concept used to revive contemporary approaches of development assistance from the severe
attacks it encountered in late 1980s and early 1990s. The aid selectivity was aimed to bring
more legitimacy to development assistance by rendering it more target-oriented, more focused
on delivery mechanism and greater emphasis on aid recipients. Over all, there was an
emergence of “effectiveness discourse” in the development community which were in tune
with the new public management (NPM) approach in many Western nations in the 1980s.
This book focuses on the a particular aspect of aid selectivity criteria which was based on
governance quality in the recipient country along with the traditional selection criteria of
poverty related issues since late 1990s. This newly emerging interest in the governance
quality were considered to be a step beyond the simplistic model of development that does not
end with the disbursement of aid but also exploits the concept of selectivity to focus on the
issues of capacity of the states. Therefore, Wil Hout‟s book on aid selectivity brings in fresh
insights into the paradigm shift in the development theory and policy making and the
emergence of governance centred aid selectivity agenda in the process.
Eric Neumayer‟s book The Pattern of Aid Giving: The Impact of Good Governance on
Development Assistance (Routledge, 2003) can be considered in the same genre of
contributions which meticulously explores the pattern of aid giving in the 1990s with a special
focus on good governance. By taking aid as a depended variable, this study presents a detailed
econometric analysis of aid giving by all major donors between 1990-2000 and why and how
good governance played an instrumental role in this endeavour. This quantitative analysis of
the patterns of aid giving was well supplemented by an extensive and comparative account of
the donor agencies with a special focus on good governance. Needless to say, this book serves
as reliable source of understanding development policy making and practices in the recent
times with its special insistence on good governance.
There are some literatures which indirectly touch upon the issues of governance or good
governance and hence provide useful insights into our research problems. Global Social
Policy and Governance (Sage, 2007) by Bob Deacon extensively review some significant
social policies of the major multilateral agencies, global think tanks and civil society
organizations and global business and knowledge networks, in order to understand the
emergence of global social policy networks, global social governance and also the emerging
mechanisms of global redistribution, global social regulation and global social rights. This
understanding global social policies hints at the further political strategies to ensure greater
social justice within and between states which somewhat relate to the quality of governance
within and beyond states. In the same way, Going Local: Decentralization, Democratization
and the Promise of Good Governance (Princeton University Press, 2007) by Merliee S.
Grindle addresses the issues of decentralization as an intrinsic parts of good governance and
its connotations for structural changes aimed at “public good”.
Furthermore, there is a number of policy briefs, concept papers, working papers, reports by
several multilateral and bilateral donor agencies and International Organizations which talks
about governance, democracy, decentralizations, growth and other related issues in a more
direct and precise manner. The pioneering text in this regard would be Sub-Saharan Africa:
from Crisis to Sustainable Growth – a Long Term Perspective Study (World Bank, 1989).
This World Bank report identifies the failures of public institutions to be the root cause of
economic failure in the sub-Saharan Africa and therefore calls for good governance. Despite
admitting to the importance of the market forces and private sector initiatives, good
governance was considered to be the single most imperative factor in achieving sustainable
growth in the region. Good governance in this document was characterised by efficient public
service, reliable judiciary, public accountability of the administration, and citizen
empowerment. There is an over-all understanding throughout that development should be
bottom-up which in effect encourage the growth of civil society organization. This documents
stands out as one of the first documents to conceive and preset the idea of good governance in
development assistance.
The research project Worldwide Governance Indicators (WGI) by World Bank published
several volumes of the research reports titled Governance Matters. The research is spread
across 212 countries and territories and measures six dimensions of governance between 1996
and 2007. The dimensions of governance under this project are: voice and accountability,
political stability and absence of violence/terrorism, government effectiveness, and regulatory
quality, rule of law and control of corruption. These volumes of Governance Matters provide
a quantitative cross-country analysis of governance indicators and the aim of this research
endeavour is to explore causes and consequences of good governance. Daniel Kauffmann in
several Policy Research Working Papers of the World Bank has explored the link between
economic growth and good governance by introducing different measurement strategies to
establish the causal relationship between the two. United Nations Organizations have also
defined and described the concept of good governance and connected its importance to the
democratisation process. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Report titled
“Governance and Sustainable Human Development” (1997) has illustrated major principles of
good governance which has gained universal recognition and therefore often used across other
UN documents and also other development organizations and practitioners. Adel M.
Abdellatif‟s workshop paper, Good Governance and Its Relationship to Democracy and
Economic Development (2003) illustrates in considerable details the World Bank and UN
discussions on the concepts of good governance, democracy and economic development and
their interconnectedness in the development discourse. There is an abundance of literature on
good governance not only within World Bank and UN databases but also across all major
donor agencies which are widely accessible and clearly delineates basic tenets of good
governance along with the guiding principles of its implementation in development
assistance. Describing each of this text or a great deal of it would not only be a tedious task
but also render the argument rather repetitive. Hence an effort has been made here to focus on
the generalized understanding of governance and good governance in the development
assistance literature and underline the semblance in the approach of the donor agencies
towards the issues of governance.
Governance Reforms: The Indian Context
Building on the analysis of governance as a concept and its gradual rise in the development
paradigm as a package of good governance, the next imminent step is to contextualise this
governance discourse in developing nations where the governance reform agenda has been
most frequently implemented. As India has played out the context in this research endeavour,
the literature consulted for this part of the research is also India-centred barring a few
A group of literature which has discussed the political economy of the economic liberalisation
in India are as follows: Robert S. Jenkins‟ paper “Liberal Democracy and the Political
Management of Structural Adjustment in India: Conceptual Tensions in the Good Governance
Agenda” (IDS Bulletin, Vol 26 No2, 1995), Jos Mooij (ed.) The Politics of Economic Reforms
in India (Sage, 2005), Sanjay Ruparelia, Sanjay Reddy, John Harris and Stuart Corbridge
(eds.) Understanding India‟s New Political Economy: A Great Transformation? (Routledge,
2011), Chandan Sengupta and Stuart Corbridge (eds.) Democracy, Development and
Decentralisation in India (Routledge, 2010) and John Farrington, Priya Deshingkar, Craig
Johnson and Daniel Start (eds.) Policy Windows and Livelihood Futures: Prospects for
Poverty Reduction in Rural India (OUP, 2006). These edited volumes pull together an array
of papers focussing on different aspects of economic reform in India. Their contribution for
this research lies in the political analysis of economic reform in India and evaluation of these
reforms on different political, social and cultural dimensions of the country. Another paper
titled “Politics of Economic Liberalizations in India"(World Development, Vol. 17 No.3,
1989) helps in familiarising with the pre-reform political context in India.
Essays on Politics and Governance in Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Thailand (Towards
Freedom, 2007) authored by Jayanta Kumar Ray and Muntassir Mamoon and Governance:
South Asian Perspectives (OUP, 2001) edited by Hasnat Abdul Hye - both of these books
investigate specific issues of governance mentioned in the previous sections, namely
decentralization, civil society, public sector reform and so on, from south Asian or Asian
perspective with a number of case studies. The case studies discussed in these volumes bring
in fresh insights into the local conditions of the south Asian nations as far as overall
governance or particular sector is concerned. Together these volumes build up better
understanding of the context in which broader reform agendas are verified. Another such
relevant contribution is found in the well-formulated and insightful article, “Civil Society and
Good Governance in Bangladesh” by Syeda Naushin Parnini published in Asian Journal of
Political Science (2006). The significance of this paper not only in its treatment of historicity
and contexts in the analysis of good governance and civil society but also in its efforts to go
beyond the top-down approach of western hegemony to formulate workable strategies for
better governance embedded in the local culture. Though these contributions are not Indiacentric, their analysis and perspectives nevertheless, set the tone of further discussions on
good governance and governance reform in India.
Choudhary‟s edited volume Globalisation, Governance Reforms and
Development in India (Sage, 2007) adeptly contextualises the governance reforms in India
under the rubric of good governance agenda of the international development community.
There are two areas in which this volume makes a significant contribution. Firstly, despite
stressing the neo-liberal bias of the new governance or good governance discourse,
Choudhary promises to stretch beyond the mere economic and technical aspect of the reform
and incorporates political, social and cultural dimensions with equal vigour. While doing so it
also brings in sector-specific analysis of changing faces of governance in India, for example,
exploring media, health, information communication technology and so on in the wake of
new trends of globalization and governance. Secondly, the contributions to this volume strive
to strike a balance between different groups of the society who are affected differentially by
these changes in the governance agenda. Certainly, in a deeply fragmented and hierarchic
society like India, a particular reform will not have similar implications for the elites and the
marginalised. Rather than depicting a generalised pattern of governance reforms, this volume
probe exactly into these narratives of rupture and discontinuities that good governance creates
in India. As this dissertation also deals with the phenomenon of e-governance in India, this
book‟s specific contribution in terms of Santosh Panda‟s “Globalization, Culture and
Information Communications Technology in India" proves to be extremely relevant.
It is the comparative framework of its analysis that renders the edited volume of Good
Governance, Democratic Societies and Globalization (Sage, 2004) by Surendra Munshi and
Biju Paul Abraham, a pertinent contribution to the discussion on good governance. The book
is based on the comparative analysis of European Union and the Union of India as two
democratic societies in terms of their experiences of the emerging trends ushered in by
globalization and governance reforms/good governance. In conceptualising good governance,
the authors explore multiple contexts of its development by combining the neo-liberal turn
and the traditional social democracy with that of progressive governance aimed to provide
cushioning to the harsh realities of global economy within the realm of democratic states.
However, this emphasis on the third way does not lead to a homogenous prescriptive model of
governance reforms but instead thrives on a heterogeneity approach to understand the
comparative perspectives the volume undertakes. It is widely argued across all the
contributions in the volume that governance is not only embedded in the cultural norms but
also shaped by the historical trajectories of its emergence which in turn determine the desired
social and economic outputs of the governance systems. Therefore, it is important to
understand these contexts and their complexities before evaluating the appropriateness of
certain governance reform initiatives. The complexity of the contexts not only differs across
Europe and India, but also within these broader geo-political constructs. These nuanced
comparative narratives reinforce the significance of the heterogeneity approach and brings in
the desired reflexivity in the analysis of good governance.
The Indian context plays out in a prominent way in understanding the actor‟s experience of
confronting the state in Seeing the State: Governance and Governmentality in India
(Cambridge University Press, 2005) by Stuart Corbridge et al. In their attempt to review main
development debates on participation and good governance, they weave the intricate web of
local political experiences in rural India with the reform agenda set in the government and
wider development community. In other words, the book explore the state-society relationship
in the rural setting of India with a bottom-up approach which gives equal attention to the
citizens as well as the local political elites. In their words, the purpose is to see “ the
new governance agenda might look from the point of view of some of the key individuals at
the Block and district levels who are charged with making it work. Instead of thinking of
government actors in impersonal terms, we want to give a stronger sense of their
embeddedness in local society.” This particular approach makes this study even more relevant
for any research on the rural politics in India as it shows the link of grandiose principles of
good governance with its microcosmic realm of implementation and also the potential zones
of rupture in which they are entangled. Besides critically examining the rural contexts of
implementing reform initiatives, this book also draws our attention to the important concept
of political society as conceived by Partha Chatterjee.
In his book The Politics of the Governed- Reflections on Popular Politics in Most of the
World (Columbia University Press, 2004) explores the concept of political society in the
context of postcolonial societies in sharp contrast to the European polity and its equivalence
in the notion of civil society. As in the case of most postcolonial societies, in India the state
overtook the role of development for its population aided by grand ideals of international
development community and the latest governmental technologies to generate and implement
policies. However, colonial categories of caste, ethnicity and religion continue to flourish in
both mobilising political demands and formulating public policy which shaped the
postcolonial state of India and its relationship with the society. As Chatterjee argues, this
narrative of politics in India is markedly different from the European ideas of civil society
which is restricted only to a culturally equipped minority of Indian citizens representing only
a high ground of modernity. Therefore, in order to deepen our understanding of the Indian
context, it is imperative to fully explore the concept of political society which does not always
fall into legal-rational framework of Western polity but somewhat instrumental in lending
legitimacy to the developmental postcolonial state at large. This perception of Indian political
context appears to be exceptionally crucial while investigating the implications of rural or
local politics for the broader issues of governance or the nature of state-society interactions.
Despite, recognizing the break from the postcolonial notion of political society, civil society
remains central to the good governance discourse in most developing societies as well as
India. Civil Society and Governance in Modern India (East West Books, 2007) edited by V.R.
Raghavan stresses the same. This volume is a compilation of talks by academicians, civil
society practitioners, policy makers at a seminar organized by the Centre for Security
Analysis (CSA), Chennai in 2007. All the speakers unanimously underline the role and
importance of civil society in realising the goals of good governance and also its potential to
support the state in fulfilling the developmental promise for its wider mass.
The developmental role of the postcolonial state, however, has been on decline since the end
of Cold War with the emergence of good governance principles in sync with the neoliberal
economic policies. T.M. Joseph edited Governance Reforms- Challenges Ahead (Kanishka
Publishers, 2009) looks at several governance reform initiatives in India as the Government of
India recognizes the role of good governance in human development and make adjustments in
its role against market and civil society. Referring to Government of India documents Joseph
intends to establish the conscious shifts in the way power and resources are allocated and in
initiatives which ranges from the local self-governance mechanism to public administration
reform, from ensuring right to information to the spread of information communication
technology to increase efficiency and accountability and so on. Each paper in this book aims
to provide the exact nature and extent of governance reforms in India under the auspices of
good governance as they explore the consequences of reforms in varied sectors such as health,
environment, finance, infrastructure etc. A special mention of the paper titled “Good
Governance and E-governance: The Case of Revenue Department in Karnataka” by G.M.
Dinesh and B.S. Bhargava is needed here as it adequately brings forth the link between good
governance and e-governance and hence aids formulating the research agenda of the
Further insights on governance reforms in India are drawn from another edited volume Statelevel Reforms in India – Towards More Effective Government (Macmillan India, 2003) by
Stephen Howes et al. Before going into content of the book, it would be worthwhile look at
the context under which this book is conceived. This book is comprised of the papers
presented in a three-day India States Reform Forum: Fiscal and Governance Reforms for
Poverty Reduction held in Delhi in November 2000. The forum was co-sponsored by the
Asian Development Bank, the Department of International Development (UK), the
Government of the Netherlands, the Ministry of Finance, Government of India, the National
Institute for Public Finance and Policy, the Planning Commission, Government of India, the
Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, and the World Bank. This background
information provides an interesting outlook of the governance reform initiatives in India, that
is, most of the reforms are taken under the paradigm of good governance aided by the
International donor agencies and development assistance. The book is divided into three parts:
the first part sets the overall tone of the central and state government framework of reforms in
India; the second part emphasises on lessons in particular reform programmes from
international experiences and the third and final section investigates into actual cases of fiscal
and governance reforms in India. Like other literature discussed earlier in this section, the
compilation contextualise the Indian nature of governance reform agenda and takes it to next
level of state government‟s role in the process of such a paradigmatic shift in the governance
structures and procedures. Nonetheless, the focus remains mostly on state (both at the central
and regional level) and its role in the reform process. The book does not delve much into
other quarters involved in the reform process. Most importantly, even this volume
acknowledges the importance of e-governance in the Indian context.
A need to formulate integrated public policy in India in the onslaught of privatization,
globalization and liberalization is the underlying theme of the edited volume Nationalising
Crises – The Political Economy of Public Policy in Contemporary India (Atlantic, 2007) by
Bhabani Shankar Nayak. In compiling a range of interdisciplinary research papers, this book
asserts the state of crises in Indian development and policy scenario confronting the global
challenges. The papers in the volume therefore examine the politics of public policy in India
from different vantage point and address important issues in the debate around inclusive,
people-centric and culturally sensitive policy-making. As public policy forms an important
mainstay in governance, this book presents a critical view of the neo-liberal agenda of
governance and explores alternative policy realms in the Indian context.
Citizen‟s Report on Governance and Development 2007 by Social Watch India (Sage, 2007)
addresses the very dilemma that Nayak‟s volume raises – the dilemma between growth and
justice, between intention and implications, between rhetoric and reality. By evaluating the
different institutions of governance in India, such as the constitution, parliament, judiciary,
local institutions of self-governance and policy making, this report attends to the difficult and
ambiguous zones of policy formulation that render governance problematic by putting
question marks on issues of legitimacy and accountability. In the wake of shifting role of the
state under the universal appeal of good governance agenda, marginalized sections of the
society and neglected peripheries of policy areas become more vulnerable which need to be
addressed in order to avert the threat of democratic deficit in the governance of a postcolonial
E-governance in India: A Strategic Governance Reform
This broader theme of public policy debate in India in the context of liberalization need to be
further narrowed down to particular areas of policy initiatives and reforms. It is in this context
that emergence and evolution of e-governance in India has been discussed. E-governance for
Development: A Focus on Rural India (Palgrave Macmillan, 2009) by Shirin Madon fits the
framework of this analysis as it inexorably relates broader issues of governance and
development with e-governance with the help of specific case studies in India. The most
important aspect of this book is its focus on the political economy of e-governance rather than
the technological aspect which is a major gap area in the current research trends on egovernance. In the case studies, this book focuses on the e-governance applications that assist
in key social sector reforms such as rural development, health and agriculture with an overall
motive of transforming the existing system socio-political processes. To fully explore these
transformational potential, Madon draws on macro-level analysis of policy-making process
that are shaped by larger political and socio-economic factors and also micro-level analysis of
social systems manifested in the local administration and governance structures that interface
between e-governance application and citizens. This contribution is also significant in
compiling the recent research on e-governance in connection with governance and
ICTs and Indian Social Change: Diffusion, Poverty, Governance (Sage India, 2008) edited by
Ashwani Saith et al is another contribution which needs a special mention for its unique
approach to the study of technology, especially Information Communication Technologies
(ICTs) in this regard, as an agent of change. The volume pulls together an array of papers
focusing on the relationship between new technologies and social transformation within the
realm of public policy and other governance reform initiatives. This relationship, however, is
explored from two distinctly contrasting theoretical dispositions. The first is a liberal
conception of technology which views technology as a neutral tool producing desired and
predictable results depending on the input of the users. Second view comes from social
constructivism that perceives technology to be constructed by and in turn constructing social
relationships and conditions. As the latter view is rarely accounted for in the policy domain,
this book promises to initiate a dialogue between these divergent perspectives. Therefore, the
contributions in this volume enrich the public policy debate and governance paradigms under
the current regime of neo-liberal reforms in India which undoubtedly emphasize deployment
of ICTs in major sectoral reform programmes under the rubric of e-governance.
Another edited volume titled The State, IT and Development (Sage India, 2005) edited by
R.K. Bagga et al looks at the policy environment in India in terms of evolution, potential and
impact of ICT tools in governance and developmental issues. After setting out the general
developmental potential of e-governance and establishing its link with good governance, the
papers looks at specific initiatives of e-governance in different Indian states to addresses some
major social and organizational issues such as digital divide, corruption, e-readiness and also
to chart out a future trajectory of e-governance in India across sectors. The contributors to this
volume are mostly acting or retired bureaucrats and consultants who are primarily concerned
with the administrative and managerial aspects of e-governance laden with much zeal and
Vasu Deva in his book E-governance in India - A Reality (Commonwealth Publishers, 2005)
also takes a rather buoyant approach towards e-governance since he perceives good
governance as the sole purpose of e-governance and strongly recommends digitisation of the
government administration by network technology as a prerequisite to achieve citizen-centric
governance. It is with this good governance approach that each chapter in this book unfolds a
particular dimension of e-governance, such as globalisation and ICT and development,
Information Technology and democratic governance, combating corruption, role of
leadership, role of women, innovation and knowledge management, sustainable human
resource development and so on. While focusing on the Indian context of e-governance, the
author constantly draws on experiences from other developed and developing countries to
address the major issues, challenges and strategies in the process of realising the full potential
of e-governance. C.S.R. Prabhu, a technocrat by profession, exhibits his expertise and
experiences in his book E-governance – Concepts and Case Studies (Prentice Hall of India,
2005) as he starts by defining the basic concepts used in the common parlance of egovernance and then gets into the technical nuances of the practices of e-governance. This
book is more of a project management perspective on implementing e-governance initiatives
and case studies all set in the Indian context further elaborates on the technical and managerial
aspect of e-governance. This book is particularly significant in familiarising oneself with the
main concepts of e-governance also for an overview of technological nuances presented in a
lucid manner. Jayshree Bose‟ edited volume E-Governance in India: Issues and Cases (The
Icfai University Press, 2006) combines issues of governance technology, infrastructure as
related to e-governance discourse in India. This book discusses some relevant concepts such
as capacity building, public-private partnership (PPP) model, and citizen-interface and so on.
Furthermore, it draws attention to some key challenges faced by e-governance projects in
India with the help of some case studies.
Governance of Rural Information Communication Technologies: Opportunities and
Challenges (Academic Foundation Delhi, 2009) edited by Harekrishna Misra is comprised of
a pool of papers which were borne out of workshop dealing with the relationship between
rural development and infrastructure with a special focus on rural information communication
technology. The objective of the workshop and thus of the book is to identify; a) issues and
challenges of governance in terms of participation, decentralisation and accountability, b) the
role of state, market and civil society in order to achieve good governance and finally c)
strategies of effective governance geared towards enhanced capacities and opportunities for
human development and increased social capital. With these objectives in mind, the papers in
the volume look at specific issues of IT infrastructure in rural India and try to explore the role
of ICT in rural development through various business and governance models.
A similar contribution to the body of literature is R.K. Mitra edited E-government: Macro
Issues (GIFT Publishing, 2006) which recognises the research gap in the field of egovernment and hence tries to provide useful insights into the macro issues in the context of
National e-governance plan of the Government of India for policy makers and practitioners.
Mitra strives to achieve a balanced approach by giving equal weight to the analysis of
technological input and developmental output. In this balancing act, cultural factors surmount
in a significant way with cross-cultural country perspectives. As the title suggests, the book
focuses particularly on the role of the government or public sector and hence establishes the
need to reengineer government mechanism to resolve major macro concerns to produce
desirable outcomes from the investment into the e-government system. Jaijit Bhattacharya
edited Technology in Government (GIFT Publishing, 2006) touches on the same theme but
from a different perspective. He talks about e-government primarily in terms of infrastructure,
technological model and application management.
One of the pervasive and refined literatures on e-government is Subhash Bhatnagar‟s
Unlocking E-Government Potential: Concepts, Cases and Practical Insights (Sage Indian,
2009). This is a practical guide to conceptualise and implement e-government applications
starting from local to national spectrum drawing simultaneously from global experiences. The
book starts off with conceptual understanding of e-government and its impact on different
stakeholders such as citizens, governments, business and other agencies involved. Besides
presenting case studies on ten recent e-government projects in India, this book also explores
the relationship between e-government and two important issues of transparency and
corruption. Though the book takes a rather technocratic and managerial view of e-government
it nonetheless establishes the current trends and issues of e-government application in much
details and depth.
The papers presented in the ICTD 2009 Proceedings as part of the3 rd International Conference
on Information Communication Technologies and Development brings together a wide range
of issues linked to the multiples themes around ICTs and development. E-Government Tool
Kit for Developing Countries (UNESCO 2005) has been prepared by UNESCO, New Delhi,
Asia-Pacific Bureau for Communications and Information and National Informatics Centre,
Government of India. The objective of this toolkit is to provide action framework for
stakeholders involved in e-government application in developing countries and it is specially
meant for policy makers and senior executives in these countries.
In addition to these relevant books, there are a few journals and newsletters which has been
extremely useful for this research, namely Government Information Quarterly, International
Journal for Electronic Government Research, Information Technologies and International
Development, Information Technology in Developing Countries, Governance:
International Journal of Policy, Administration and Institutions and Egov magazine. One of
the most noted author who needs a special mention here is M.P. Gupta for his study of egovernment in specific government organizations in India such as Police administration,
Indian Central Excise, New Delhi Municipal Corporation and so on. Information Technology
in Developing Countries, which is newsletter published by Centre for E-governance (IIMA)
provides several evaluation studies of several e-government projects. All these papers present
significant research in the field of e-government along with framework for evaluation of
different projects in India. Hence, they play an important role in conceptualising and planning
the case study taken up under this doctoral project. It is imperative to mention here that the
case study of the Government of India project was aided by the documents and reports
available on the project website and also on the website of the Department of Information and
Technology, Government of India.
Another important segment of literature relevant for this research was the review literature of
IT policy frameworks in India. One of the key articles under this section is Jyothi Saraswati‟s
paper titled “The Indian IT Industry and Neo-liberalism: the irony of a mythology” (Third
World Quarterly, Vol. 29, No. 6, 2008, pp 1139 – 1152). This paper not only summarises the
main policy phases in the IT sector starting from 1960s to the present, but also emphasise the
instrumental role of the state in promoting IT in India. A few other important literatures that
present detailed analysis of policy-making in IT and e-governance reform in India are N.
Seshagiri‟s The Informatics Policy in India (Information Systems Frontiers 1:1, 1999, pp 107116); Tracking the Evolution of E-Governance in India by M.P. Gupta (IJEGR, 6(1), JanuaryMarch 2010, pp 46-58); a conference paper by Shirin Ahuja titled Information Technology in
India: The Shift in Paradigm (October, 2010); and India and Information Technology: A
Historical and Critical Perspective by Ramesh Subramanian (Journal of Global Information
Technology Management, 2006). Additionally Shirin Madon‟s book e-Governance for
Development (2009) mentioned earlier also provide crucial insights about e-governance
policy framework in India.
In order to capture the wider scenario of e-governance applications some more literature has
been crucial. A cross-country comparative study of e-governance application along with
challenges of innovations across region have been documented extensively in Christopher G.
Reddick edited Comparative E-government (Springer, 2010). A similar comparative study is
found in Hanna Nagy et al edited World Bank Discussion Papers titled Diffusion of IT:
Experience of Industrial Countries and Lessons for Developing Countries (World Bank,
1995). Roland Traunmueller edited E-Government (Springer, 2003) is a series of papers
pulled together from an international conference on e-governance and covers an wide range of
issues on e-governance, e-democracy, electronic service delivery, change management,
knowledge management, models and methodology of e-government research and much more
across a large geographical span. ICTs, Citizens and Governance: After the Hype! (IOS, 2009)
edited by A. Meijer et al analyse innovations in public sector in general and the role of ICTs
in public administration through case studies across a number countries. ICT Policies and eStrategies in the Asia-Pacific is book published by UNDP- Asia-Pacific Development
Information Programme in 2004 and brings together ICT policies adopted in the region along
with the thematic priorities in policy formulation and subsequent development processes.
Around these focussed studies, reports and manuals of e-governance and e-government in
India and a few other countries, there is a pool of literature which deals with the larger issues
of politics of communication technology, diffusion of IT, innovation and knowledge
management, digital divide and so on. These literatures do not directly addresses the issues of
e-governance, but explicate the broader spectrum of innovation, technology, communications
in terms of social, cultural and policy concerns.
Theory and Methodology
In terms of theories this research project is primarily rooted in the Political Science theories of
Rational Choice and Neo-institutionalism and which has been discussed in much detail in the
literature already mentioned under the section Governance in Political Science. In addition to
the extensive list of literature elaborated earlier, two other volumes needs a special mention
here which addresses the major theoretical stands taken here along with other important issues
of political sociology. The first is the Blackwell Companion to the Political Sociology
(Blackwell, 2001, 2004) edited by Kate Nash and Alan Scott which not only introduces one to
the major theoretical paradigms of power and politics but also deal with the issues of state
formation and governance. The second is Subrata K. Mitra et al edited Political SociologyState of the Art (Barbara Budrich Publishers, 2010). Instead of presenting any radical or new
approach, this edited volume reemphasizes the importance of traditional theoretical
approaches such as actor-oriented, structuralist and institutionalists in their capacity to
connect political with the social. Furthermore, the authors also address the methodological
concerns of triangulation by which multiple analytical factors can be combined in one method
with the aid of both quantitative and qualitative methods.
Joachim Ahrens‟ chapter “Governance, Development and Institutional Change in Times of
Globalization” in Good Governance in the 21stCenturyedited by Ahrens et al (Edward Elgar
Publishing, 2011) adds to the methodological framework of this study specially in terms of its
analytical models and overall dimensions of governance in the emerging discourse on
governance reform. The literature dealing with liberal concepts of governance and the
neoliberal roots of governance reform agenda have also been discussed in the earlier sections
where governance, governance reform and e-governance have been explored. Therefore, even
though most of the literature in those sections have been crucial in concept and theory
building, will not be repeated here.
As has already been mentioned earlier in this section, the social constructivist view of
technology is an important yet neglected perspective in the policy debate. Therefore, an effort
has been made here to address this perspective with much verve. A few literature has been
selected to understand social constructivism as a theoretical disposition and the way
technology can be analysed under the lens of social constructivism. The overall purpose has
been to excavate new areas of research on technology as an instrument of social change.
Understanding social constructionism per se is imperative in order to indulge in social
construction of technology. Andrew Feenberg‟s work on this field of enquiry has provided
substantive insights for the argumentation of this research. He, defying the essentialism of
technology, argues that technology is mediated through local social and cultural practices as
the initiator and users of technology is embedded in these contexts. Viewed from this
perspective, technology is never neutral. Therefore, Feenberg proposes a “democratic politics
of technology” where all actors irrespective of their subject positions could engage in
manipulating the technology to best suit their interests. A few of Feenberg‟s work which has
been referred for our research are namely, “Subversive Rationalization: Technology, power
and democracy” (Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy, Vol 35, Issue 3-4,
1992) and Questioning Technology (Routledge, 1999). Social Constructionism: Sources and
Stirring in Theory and Practice (Cambridge University Press, 2010) by Andy Lock and Tom
Strong is a collection of essays which presents different theoretical and disciplinarian
approaches to social construction as such. The unique approach of the book is that while
unfolding a different stream of social constructionism in each chapter, it does not only explore
what is social constructionism and its implications but also the thinkers and the cultural
contexts in which such thoughts emerged. In doing so, the book provides not only a better
understanding of social constructionism as a distinct school of thought, but also raises
important issues of methodologies in social science.
A Companion to the Philosophy of Technology (Blackwell, 2009) edited by J.K.B. Olsen et al
can be described as an anthology of interdisciplinary contributions on technology involving
humanities, natural science, social science, sociology, psychology, engineering sciences and
so on. This encyclopaedic volume is divided in seven major parts, namely, history of
technology, technology and science, technology and philosophy, technology and
environment, technology and politics, technology and ethics, and finally technology and the
future. Through each of this section the Companion intends to present different dimensions of
technology and its manifold roles in the modern complex society. The philosophical approach
in the anthology ranges from pragmatism to phenomenology, from analytical philosophy to
other epistemological genres. Though traversing through many theories and subjects, the
focus remains to understand the consequences of technological impact on the environment,
the society and the human existence. In short, the Companion serves as a pertinent starting
point for research on technology in its myriad ramifications.
After developing familiarity with the philosophy of science, the next step is to get acquainted
with Science and Technology Studies as a specialised field of study. Sergio Sismondo‟s book
An Introduction to Science and Technology Studies (Blackwell, 2010) does exactly fit in here
as it provides a basic understanding of the field of research enriched by the works of
sociologists, anthropologists, historians and philosophers who are interested in the process
and impact of science and technology. Besides presenting a comprehensive introduction to the
world of Science and Technology Studies, the author forthrightly provides a clear cut
understanding of the two different domains of research in this field at the very outset. The
first domain known as science and technology studies is concerned with issues of science and
technology in the public sphere and public interest in science and technology policy making.
The second domain known as science, technology and society is more concerned with
dynamics of science, technology and medicine. This book is ideal for those who are least
familiar with the field of studies and yet need to develop some basic ideas on the same.
With these basic overviews, it is possible then to look more closely at the “black box” of
technology and society which W.E. Bijker et al in their edited volume The Social
Construction of Technology: New Directions in the Sociology and History of Technology
(MIT Press, 1987/1993) describes as “thick description” (1993,5). The volume sets out by
exploring technology as a combination of the artifacts, processes, and know-how and
presenting onward these basic concepts in all three relevant approaches, namely, sociology of
scientific knowledge (which deconstruct technology both in terms of the usage and the
content); historical or systemic approach (that views technology as an integration of technical,
social, political and economic aspects); and action-network approach (which breaks down the
separation between human actors and the natural phenomena and treats them as elements in
action-networks). Relating these approaches and their basic concepts, the book presents a
number of case studies which help explore these emerging concepts in the empirical context.
As the aim of the book is to weave the seamless web of connection between technology and
society, it stands as a relevant reference for this dissertation.
W.E. Bijker and John Law made another equally important contribution in Shaping
Technology/Building Society: Studies in Sociotechnial Change (MIT Press, 1992). While
arguing for social construction of technology, this book establishes two important points;
firstly, technology at the same time embodies and reproduces the society in its complex
interplay of between technical, social, economic, political, professional and cultural factors;
secondly, the development of technology is definitely path-dependent or historically
contingent and therefore defies any inner technological or scientific logic. Depending on these
two assumptions, an effective understanding of technology as shaped by society and also as
an agent of social change can be further developed.
Science, Technology, and Society: A Sociological Approach (Blackwell, 2006) by Wenda K. presents a sociological approach on science and technology. While
recognizing other approaches in all their vitality, the authors trace the classical sociological
theories in developing the sociology of science and technology and eventually preoccupy
themselves with addressing science as a culture. This view of science as culture leads to the
treatment of technoscience as social institutions which can then be compared with other
institutional practices such as religion. Within this conceptual premise, the issues of
technological change, innovation, technological adoption, cultural convergence are dealt with
in the context of both colonisation and globalization.
The last but not the least significant contribution in this section is made by the book written
by W.E.Bijker et al, titled The Paradox of Scientific Authority: The Role of Scientific Advice
in Democracies (MIT Press, 2009). Although, serving an important scholarly agenda in the
field of science, technology and society studies, the significance of the book for our research
endeavour lies in its political agenda. In this latter agenda, the book explores the importance
of science and technology in the process of decision-making in modern democracies.
they call for new practices to deal with politicization of science, the authors raise a few
important questions: “how can scientific advice be effective and influential in an age in which
the status of science and/or scientists seems to be as low as it has ever been? What role is
there for scientific advice to play in political deliberation and policy making? How
technological elites are checked and held accountable? What is the merit of scientific and
engineering expertise in relation to other forms of expertise?”(2009, 2). It is through these
questions that the paradox of scientific authority in modern and complex democracies comes
into full view. This is undoubtedly a significant literature in bringing the politics of the
relationship between technology and policy making into forefront of scientific analysis.
Now moving more closely to the methodological issues, a few books on qualitative research
method and community research would be introduced. However, before introducing these
literatures, it must be recounted here that the most important resource in shaping up the
methodological design of this study has been Subrata.K. Mitra‟s The Puzzle of India‟s
Governance: Culture, Context and Comparative Theory (Routledge, 2006). It has not only
provided the guideline for combining quantitative and qualitative methods in a seamless way,
but also unravelled the possibilities of measuring governance as concept while not losing
focus of other factors such as culture and contexts. In short, the research method described in
this book skilfully demonstrates how actors‟ categories can be merged with that of the
As this study has been based on a case study driven by qualitative methods of data collection,
it would be worthwhile to draw our attention to a few relevant ones. There are more than one
edition of the volume Qualitative Research: Issues of Theory, Method and Practice (Sage,
1997, 2004, 2011), edited by David Silverman, out of which the second edition (2004) and the
third edition (2011) have been consulted. In addition to providing basic introduction to
qualitative research method, both these editions strives to present recent cutting edge research
methods in terms of the emerging patterns of sources, techniques and topics. The
contributions to both the volumes prove insightful not only in methods of data collections
such as interviews and focus groups but also in data analysis depending on the sources and
quality of data. Moreover, some of the papers also delve into the issues of validity,
creditability, reliability of data and styles of data representations. Overall, these two editions
can be described as practical guides to methods throughout the study.
Another book by David Silverman and Amir Marvasti Doing Qualitative Research: A
Comprehensive Guide (Sage, 2008) is more focussed with a clear target at graduate students.
This book meticulously explores each and every stage in doctoral research starting from
writing the proposal to fieldwork, from data analysis to writing up with a special focus on
qualitative research method. As the title suggests, rather than dealing with abstract issues of
qualitative method, this book preoccupies itself with most pragmatic aspects of doing
Studying Elites Using Qualitative Methods (Sage, 1995)edited by Rosanna Hertz and
Jonathan B. Imber a combination of papers using qualitative methods for elite interview
across a wide range of topics albeit in the tradition of sociological analysis. The most relevant
section of this book is the section dealing with community and political elites which
demonstrates different dimensions of qualitative research in different context and different
elite groups. Citizen Participation in Rural Development (Oxford and IBH Publishing, 1982)
authored by H.R. Chaturvedi and Subrata Kumar. Mitra brings out important insights in terms
of measuring citizen participation in the rural Indian contexts which are of particular
importance to the current research project besides presenting useful guide into sampling and
interview techniques and methods of comparisons.
Besides these general texts on methods there are a number of case studies on e-governance in
India which has relied both on quantitative and qualitative methods. Review of these case
studies also form an important framework for methodology. The earlier section e-governance
has already captured much of this literature.
As we draw close to end of this chapter on literature review, it becomes inevitable to lay
down the most challenging and probably the most contentious aspect of this research
endeavour. During the course of this study, a conscious effort has been to understand and
measure governance as a concept which culturally and historically contingent. In order to
explicate this contingency factor a transcultural perspective has been introduced with
analytical categories of conceptual flows and hybridity. Since transculturality is an emerging
and transdisciplinary perspective, different literature from different field of studies has shaped
its framework and content. In a gamut of vast range of research, only studies that helped
shaped the transcultural perspective of this particular research, would be accounted for here. It
is also important to mention here that the state of art in transcultural studies forms the
theoretical and methodological undercurrents of this research. Therefore, the focus in the
following paragraphs would be more on the analytical relevance of the literatures rather than
their direct bearing on the topics of this research.
One of Mitra‟s earlier article, titled “Flawed Paradigms: Some “Western” Models of Indian
Politics” in his edited volume Culture and Rationality: The Politics of Social Change in PostColonial India (Sage, 1999) can be taken as a point of departures in this regard. In dealing
with the epistemological debates of political science and at large social science discourse in
analysing the Indian political realities, he focused basically on two major aspects of the
debate. First, how western models and concepts such democracy and secularism can be
meaningful in non-Western contexts like India? Second, how new concepts emerging out
political practices in India can be mapped into the main framework on political analysis?
Therefore, without radically breaking from main currents of academic discourse on political
science, Mitra skilfully brings out the zones of epistemic ruptures and thereafter tries to
weave these ruptures into the mainstay of political categories.
Arjun Appadurai in his Modernity at Large: Cultural Dimensions of Globalizations
(University of Minnesota Press, 1996) wonderfully elaborates on this rupture as he argues,
One of the most problematic legacies of grand Western social science (Comte...) is that it has
steadily reinforced the sense of some single moment –call it the modern moment – that by its
appearance creates a dramatic and unprecedented break between past and present.
Reincarnated as the break between tradition and modernity and typologised as the difference
between ostensibly traditional and modern societies, this view has been shown repeatedly to
distort the meanings of change and the politics of pastness. Yet the world in which we now
live – in which modernity is decisively at large, irregularly self-conscious, and unevenly
experienced – surely does involve a general break with all sorts of past. (1996, 2-3)
These epistemic ruptures have been further explicated in the context of politics in India in
Sudipta Kaviraj‟s collections of essays in The Trajectories of the Indian State: Politics and
Ideas (Permanent Black, 2010). The most relevant paper in this volume is Modernity and
Politics in India that tries to connect the pre-colonial and colonial political institutions and
structures in India in their implications on the postcolonial Indian state and governance. Even
though, he does not use the term hybridity in this essay, a similar analytical frame can be
discerned in his emphasis on the pluralising embodiment of modernity within and outside
Europe. By taking recourse to historical account of the Indian state and politics, Kaviraj
deconstructs the concepts of democracy, nationalism in the backdrop of Indian modernity
which is markedly different from its Western counterparts. S.N. Eisenstadt‟s paper “Multiple
Modernities” (Daedalus 129-1, 2000) argues in similar vein against the canonising project of
Western modernity and proposes instead the notion of “multiple modernities” which attempts
to view the contemporary world “as a story of continual constitutions and reconstitution of a
multiplicity of cultural programmes. These ongoing reconstructions of multiple institutional
and ideological patterns are carried forward by specific social actors in close connection
with social, political and intellectual activists, and also by social movements pursuing
different programmes of modernity, holding very different views on what makes societies
modern” (2000, 2). Such alternative constellations of modernity not only make the distinction
between tradition and modernity much blurred but also reiterate the significance of other
contingent factors embedded in a web of contextualities.
Partha Chatterjee‟s Politics of the Governed: Reflections on Popular Politics in Most of the
World (Permanent Black, 2004) brings out the contingent roles of the history and contexts in
the realization of politics in a similar fashion. As the title suggests, this book looks at politics
from below or in other words, politics of the subalterns and how this poses a challenge for
some models of political analysis and the concomitant concepts with their origin in the
historical context of Europe. Chatterjee unravels these complex issues rather concretely in his
discussions on the cases from Indian politics. This book is not only important in presenting
new concepts like political society as opposed to civil society but also holds ground in its
unique narrative approach in analysing political categories.
In a different methodological approach of a more historical kind, Michael Werner and
Benedicte Zimmermann in their paper “Beyond Comparison: Histoire Croisee and the
Challenge of Reflexivity” (History and Theory 45, 2006) a novel approach of histoire croisee
with its methodological implications for pragmatic and reflexive inductions. In addition to
underlining the importance of a historical approach both in terms of object and categories of
analysis, histoire croisee calls for a break from conventional comparative and transfer studies.
It aims to bring historicization as a method to reconsider the entanglement between different
societies and cultures in all their social and cultural productions. Hence, this text shows new
methodological avenues to understand politics in a more historically entangled manner where
connections between pre-colonial, colonial and post-colonial becomes more prominent.
So far it becomes clear that despite the hegemonic canon of the Western model of modernity,
there is a strong site of resistance not only within the academia but also within the actors‟
world that has the immense potential of subversion. This brings us finally to the concept
hybridity which pulls out notion of agency of the „subaltern‟ by breaking away from the
binary opposition of tradition and modernity.
Originating in the biological discourse, hybridity has come a long way by freeing itself from
the limits of racial and linguistic categories. The concept of hybridity has acquired a wider
acceptance in the postcolonial studies since 1980s and has reached its height in the works of
Homi K. Bhabha. In his book The Location of Culture (Routledge, 1994), where he poses
hybridity as embodying active agency and political strategy on the part of the actors who
finds themselves in the receiving ends of power and authority. The act of resistance that is
redefined through hybridity becomes more of a process of negotiation rather than negation.
This view finds resonance in Foucault‟s concept of power as positive and productive. Further
elucidation of the concept of hybridity in its explanatory and hermeneutic capacity has been
explored in Nestor Garcia Canclini‟s Hybrid Cultures: Strategies for Entering and Leaving
Modernity (University of Minnesota Press, 1995), in Anjali Prabhu‟s Hybridity: Limits,
Transformations, Prospects (State University of New York Press, 2007) and in Peter Bruke‟s
Cultural Hybridity (Polity Press, 2009). Besides presenting the wide ranging implications of
the concept, these authors also cautions against the ambiguity of the term and hence hint at
the much needed refinement.
The most relevant and thought-provoking literature which directly addresses some of the
issues dealt in this dissertation is Subrata K. Mitra‟s “From Comparative Politics to Cultural
Flow: The Hybrid State, and Resilience of the Political System in India" in P.W.
Stockhammer edited Conceptualizing Cultural Hybridization: A Transdisciplinary Approach
(Springer, 2012). In this seminal paper, Mitra opens up a new analytical toolbox with
concepts of hybridity, hybridisation, re-use and conceptual flows which not only gives
comparative politics a
sharp edge in considering different polities but also brings out
grounded empirical investigations of historically and culturally concomitant factors into
broader framework of analysis. It builds on the challenges posed against the Western model
of analysis and places them in context of the Indian case across a wide spectrum of time and
space to highlight the agency of the actors. However, interestingly Mitra‟s analysis goes one
step further by reiterating the need to coalesce the multiple categories of analysis and bringing
hybridization as a strategy of such a merger.
Conclusion: Taking the Research Forward.
There are a few critical insights that emerge out of the literature review and which form the
basis of this research. They could be summarised as follows:
Conventionally in social sciences, particularly in Political Science literature
governance has recurrently been addressed as an interface between the dynamic statesociety relationships where the state and its institutions lied at the centre of analysis.
Similar reflections were prominent in the developmental paradigm, whereas in the
common parlance it was „government‟ which was more in use rather than
„governance‟ and both were often used interchangeably.
By1980s, due to crisis of governability and fiscal problem some Western democracies,
started shifting towards privatisation, decentralisation, public sector reform which can
be situated under the rubric of New Public Management (NPM). These developments
brought about significant changes in role of the state and facilitated the emergence of
policy networks involving several non-state actors.
Parallel to these shifts in the developed economies, a considerable number of African
countries were suffering from the failure of the World Bank induced Structural
Adjustment Programmes (SAPs). This further coincided with the end of Cold War
leading to renewed interest in democracy and need to establish strong institutional
framework conducive to democracy and economic development.
Consequently, there emerged a global developmental agenda of „good governance‟
which ushered in massive reform initiatives across developing and changing societies
implicating paradigm shifts in the way state would function and also the role of nonstate actors such as the market and civil society in the system of governance.
Alongside a new set of formal indicators such as transparency, efficiency,
accountability and so on to measure the quality of governance also rose in
prominence. The overall agenda of good governance is commensurate with neoliberal philosophy and forms one of the three important pillars of internal development
paradigm along with democracy and economic growth.
In last two decades of post economic liberalization India, good governance agenda
found expression in different reform initiatives spreading across health, education,
local governance, public administration and many more. One of the major areas of
reform in the Indian context has been e-governance where Information
Communication Technologies (ICTs) have been deployed to improve the service
delivery to the citizens. E-governance in India could be crucial in understanding the
entire governance reform spectrum in two important ways. Firstly, it is geared towards
achieving good governance standards such as efficiency, transparency, accountability
etc. and hence sets out a list of formal indicators to measure its quality. Secondly,
most of the initiatives in this field operate on a strong public-private partnership (PPP)
model that shed considerable light on the way different stakeholders are interacting
within the complex of governance.
Use of ICTs will have significant impact on the society in general and on the existing
patterns of governance in particular. These impacts can be analysed both from liberal
and social constructivist perspectives. Within the liberal paradigm the impact of
technology will be comprised of some predictable outputs which can be neutrally
produced through prescribed and desired input of the users. Social constructivism on
the other hand perceives technology to be constructed by and in turn constructing
social relationships and conditions. This latter conception of technology will be
instrumental in understanding the impact of e-governance on Indian‟s present system
of governance.
Social constructivist view of technology combined with the concept of hybridity and
conceptual flow as espoused within the transcultural perspective emphasise the
importance of agency of the actors in the constant interplay between structure and
agency. Hybridisation as a political strategy serves to understand how imported
categories of governance and e-governance are confronted (also resisted) by the
inherited values and norms of the actors within a particular cultural context to create a
„third space‟. Following from this strategic position, hybridity as an analytical
category carries significant explanatory value for understanding the impact of ICTs on
the process of transforming governance in India and can therefore contribute to
general understanding of governance in changing societies.
As it becomes evident from the above summary, the aim of this literature review is twofold;
first to grasp the existing perspectives on a particular theme of research; second to locate
one‟s research in the broader body of knowledge. This implies the attempt to fill in the gaps
that previous research has left and to continue the legacy of challenges that previous
paradigms have raised. Given this understanding, this chapter on the state of art has tried to
present the most relevant arguments pertaining to the research questions it sets out to address.
In no way, it claims to be an exhaustive account of all the research done on the theme and the
concomitant concepts and methodologies. Moreover, the arguments in the literature are
ensconced in the act of representation which carries the burden of researcher‟s interpretation
and hence might have occasionally strayed away from their original content and usage.
However, a sincere attempt has been made to keep to the original text and only to sieve out
their contribution in accordance to the relevance.
Unravelling Governance, Reform and Technology: Theories and Methodology
Theories of Governance
The governance discourse traverses through academia, international development community,
policy practice and civil society activism with similar rigor and assertion. Even within
academia it transcends many boundaries starting from political science to development
economics from organisational studies to cultural studies. However, as this research is rooted
more within the confines of political sociology, only a few relevant theoretical dispositions
will be elaborated here. These theoretical frameworks will be discussed in terms of their
contribution to the overall governance research which would be followed by their relevance
for the current research on governance reform and e-governance in India.
As we have witnessed in the previous chapter, while exploring the state of the art in
governance research that even within the political science, governance issues are addressed
from different sub-fields such as public administration and public policy, international
relations and comparative politics. This leads to different connotations of governance within
different intellectual contexts. For example, within public administration and public policy,
governance is generally discussed in relation to public sector reform and how emerging policy
networks influencing the way of governing. Whereas within international relations,
governance theorists are concerned with institutions of global governance dealing with global
problems (climate change, terrorism, international trade, migration and so on) transcending
national boundaries. On the other hand in comparative politics, governance is always
associated with the process of democratisation, economic transformation and changing
dynamics of state-society relationship (Kjaer; 2004). Though all these sub-fields address
governance from different perspectives, there are some common theoretical framework that
underlies the basic tenets of governance discourse across all the sub-fields such as
institutionalism. Despite acknowledging the significance of institutionalism for this study, a
few other theoretical approaches towards governance need to be explicated here in order to
develop a broader perspective on governance research.
Rational Choice Theory
Rational choice theory attempts to explain social facts or institutions in terms of a micro-level
analysis of individual behaviour which presupposes each individual as being essentially
rational and hence their actions are always oriented towards utility-maximisation (Bevir;
2009). Following North (1990) and Baldwin (1995), Mitra suggests, “Rational individuals
will be governed if, and only if, they consider being governed worth their while. People stick
with rules when they perceive that orderly transactions yield more than they could expect to
gain by breaking the rules. It helps in the comparison of alternatives when rules are precise,
explicit, transparent, constitutional and comprehensive, characteristics that enhance
governance. In some situations, what the rules require and the perception by the players of
their interests converge in a manner that contributes to the resilience of the system. In other
cases, a gap between the two results in consistent disregarding of the rules, which in turn
reduces institutions, and ultimately the state as a whole, to an empty shell” (Mitra 2006; 9).
This latter situation of declining of the state brings attention to the notion of „bounded
rationality‟ where individuals‟ actions are restricted by lack of complete information about
their preferences (Bevir, 2009).
From the above analysis, the relevance for rational choice theory for governance research can
be summed up as follows: firstly, it emphasises the rule-bounded nature of governance;
secondly, it establishes governance as a variable concept which can be measured in terms of
convergence and divergence between those who govern and those who are governed; thirdly,
the notion of „bounded rationality‟ underlines the possibility of different contextual realities
within the system of governance; last but not the least, it gives actors on either side of the
power relations the status of a stakeholder. While neo-liberals often use rational choice theory
to justify privatisation and public sector reform (Bevir, 2009;17), one of the most important
thrusts of rational choice theory remains to explain how institutions could function even
without strong presence of a law-enforcing higher authority where governance becomes a
self-organizing system. This brings us to the next school of thought as developed by Michel
Foucault and Governmentality
The basic understanding of governance starts with the preliminary assumption that there is a
hiatus between the governed and those who govern them. Now the puzzle remains how a
system of governance sustains despite this hiatus. In Foucault‟s analysis of power,
governmentality involves technologies of government that goes beyond the realm of the state
apparatus (mostly expressed under repressive form of power) and penetrates every sphere of
life, from family to sexuality, from body to the system of knowledge. Governmentality
therefore can be described as a way of thinking about regulating populations which works
through both repressive and persuasive forms of power. The laws, constitutions, programmes
and other written mandates on which state machinery functions shows only one aspect of
governmentality. The other side of governmentality lies at the regime of knowledge,
administration and other techniques of power (such as computing, numbering and so on) that
are systematically created to sustain the existing power relations (Chakrabarty and
Bhattacharya, 2009). As Foucault himself puts it,
I don't want to say that the State isn't important; what I want to say is that relations of power,
and hence the analysis that must be made of them, necessarily extend beyond the limits of the
State. In two senses: first of all because the State, for all the omnipotence of its apparatuses,
is far from being able to occupy the whole field of actual power relations, and further because
the State can only operate on the basis of other, already existing power relations
(Foucault,1980; 122).
This understanding of governmentality reiterates the fact that in order to understand a system
of governance it is important look beyond the realm of the state and explores how consensus
is achieved between the state and society through a wide array of technologies of power
which are punitive and persuasive at the same time. Hence governance research, beside
focussing on formal rules, institutions, also need to take the actors‟ perceptions into serious
In recent trends of governance reform where citizens and civil society,
international organisations are emerging as important actors, Foucaudian analysis of power
and governmentality could provide crucial insights into how modern states and global
political system are actually governed.
System Theory
System theory conceives of governance as a socio-cybernetic system which emerges out of
continuous interactions between actors and institutions in a self-organizing fashion. “A
system is the pattern of order that arises from the regular interactions of a series of
interdependent elements....such patterns of order arise from the functional relations and
interactions of the elements. These relations and interactions involve a transfer of information.
This transfer of information leads to the self-production and self-organization of the system
even in the absence of any centre of control” (Bevir, 2009; 19).
There are two salient features of system theory which are crucial for a comprehensive analysis
of governance. Firstly, system theory distinguishes the act of governing from the concept of
governance. While the former refers to the goal-oriented act of intervention, the latter
suggests the totality of system that emerges from these interventions and interactions of
different elements. Secondly, the system theory of governance explicates the limitation of a
state-centric analysis of governance as it emphasises multiple centres of organisations that are
related to each other in a functional system. Emerging trends of governance reform thrives on
this matrix of multiplicity of actors where the “role of the state is not to create order but to
facilitate socio-political interactions, to encourage varied arrangements for coping with
problems, and to distribute services among numerous organizations” (Bevir, 2009; 19).
Neo-liberal Economic Theories
The burgeoning importance of governance discourse since 1980s across Western democracies
and developing nation-states has been particularly influenced by the neo-liberal economic
thoughts which stresses on the expansion of market and a downsizing of the state. This neoliberal philosophy, in turn is ingrained in the „new right ideology‟ (Chakrabarty and
Bhattacharya, 2009; 21). There are four main schools of thought within this theoretical
framework, namely Chicago School, Austrian School, Supply Side and Public Choice.
Though all of them talk about a limited role of the state as it should be viewed as only a
provider of legal and institutional framework in which other actors can freely pursue their
individual interests, the public choice theory is particularly relevant within the purview of this
research on governance.
Public choice theory which is often described as „the economics of politics‟ epitomises the
ideology of „rolling back the state‟ (Chakrabarty and Bhattacharya, 2009; 24). There are
definitely some overlaps in basic epistemological assumptions between public choice theory
and rational choice theory. Firstly, all social entities are amalgamation of individuals and
hence it is individuals who form the unit of analysis. Secondly, all individuals or political
actors are „utility-maximizers‟ who are pursuing their self-interest at all the times. Depending
on these two assumptions, public choice school attempts to theorise on public action and
public sector decision-making. While there are again many sub-brunches within this school of
thought, the basic tenets can be summarised in a few points. Firstly, politics is viewed as a
system of exchange where public policy should be developed on the basis of consensus
among citizens. Secondly, the principle of constitutional economics is deployed to underline
the inconsistencies in traditional model of representative democracy as it relies heavily on a
state-centric model of policy-making. To counter this inherent fallacy public choice theory
suggests alternative decision-making where economics of policy-making is favoured to
contain the politics of interest groups and bureaucracy. Thirdly, public choice theory
prescribes an array of strategies to limit government and to contain tendencies of overgovernment. In this regard, constitutional reform, decentralisation and reducing roles of
interest groups on policy-making are conceived of some favourable strategies. (Chakrabarty
and Bhattacharya, 2009) Overall, public choice theory promotes increasing privatisation
where market and individual interests would take precedence over incessant state
interventions. This philosophy, though fraught with some serious limitations, dominates the
recent debates on governance which are evidently reflected in the „good governance‟ school
of thought.
However, before getting deep into the discussion on good governance it is also worthwhile to
caste a glance on the major caveats in public choice theory. As Herbert Simon argues, the
methodological individualism underlying the public choice theory gives a incompletely
picture of individual choices. Individual actions are not always driven by self-interest but also
ingrained in the norms and interests of the family, ethnic groups, culture, nation and other
group identities (Chakrabarty and Bhattacharya, 2009). Politics as exchange between profitseeking individuals presents too narrow explanations and hence needs to grapple with issues
of cross-cutting identities and interests depending on the contextual realities. This brings us to
the second point of contestation which focuses on different realities of the West and nonWestern developing societies. Given the colonial past of most of the developing nation-states,
the institutional framework is too weak for market-driven policy-making and the state needs
to play a strong developmental role ensuring fairness in distribution of resources and public
justice. This latter gap in rigid neo-liberal principles of minimalistic state can be well captured
through the failure of Structural Adjustment Programmes (SAPs) in many African Asian
countries in 1980s which set out to introduce free market practices in those countries as part
of aid conditionality. It is in the context of this massive failure that the present fixation with
„governance reform‟ or „good governance‟ has come into the forefront of the governance
Good Governance
Good governance as a paradigm rose in prominence in last two decades since the end of Cold
War. It is formulated as a developmental jargon tailored in accordance with neo-liberal
economic policies by International Organisations such as World Bank, United Nations and so
on to promote wide-ranging programmes of governance reform across all developing nations.
World Bank recommends governance reform involving three major areas namely; : “i) the
form of political regime; ii) the process by which authority is exercised in the management of
a country‟s economic and social resources for development; and iii)the capacity of
government to design, formulate and implement policies and discharge functions”
(Bandopadhaya; 1996). Four key dimensions of this reform are as follows: public sector
management (capacity and efficiency) which involves civil service reform and privatization
initiatives; accountability which would enable institutions to hold the government
accountable, for example an ombudsman; the legal framework for development which implies
making and enforcing rules to control the market, for example enforcing private property
rights; and information and transparency which hints towards free media, publicising public
expenditure, for example right to information (Jayal and Pai; 2001; Kjaer, 2004). UNESCAP
(United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific) sets out eight
major characteristics. It is participatory, consensus oriented, accountable, transparent,
responsive, effective & efficient, equitable & inclusive and follows the rule of law. „Good
governance‟, which is also interchangeably used with „democratic governance‟, „governance
for sustainable development‟, „human governance‟ and so on has been developed as one of
the major criteria for aid conditionality and also a significant field of development
A few characteristic features of good governance paradigm which have serious implications
for the current debate on governance can be outlined here. Firstly, this paradigm is a
customised recipe to tackle the problems of governability in post-colonial and postcommunist nation states. Secondly, given its target recipients, good governance comes in a
full package of democracy promotion and market-led economic growth and development.
Thirdly, while criticising the regulatory role of the state it nevertheless recognises the role of
the state in providing a stable institutional arrangements and rule of law in changing societies.
Fourthly, it conceives of governance as a matrix of interdependent stakeholders such as
state/public sector, market, civil society and citizens where the state will function as one of
the service providers. Fifthly, it espouses a market concept of equality and empowerment
which views citizens more as customers or clients and enables them to enter market
transactions in a more non-restricted environment. Lastly, it stresses the importance of publicprivate partnership in improving service delivery to the citizens. Evaluated on the basis of
these tenets, good governance presents a mix of moral and technical fix for shifting the statecentric governance agenda to multi-centred governance reform agenda where politics takes a
back seat.
Regardless of the fact that good governance has become such a buzzword among
academicians, policy-makers, development practitioners, the inherent ideological bias makes
it somewhat a redundant concept. Moreover, its one-size-fits-all modernising approach
renders it unachievable in most of the societies it originally aimed at and puts a question mark
on the legitimacy of the paradigm itself. Nonetheless, the influence of good governance
agenda as endorsed by international donor agencies on the existing systems and practices of
governance in developing societies cannot be completely overlooked. Most importantly,
despite promoting private sector growth, it once again brings the focus back on the state
institutions and their importance as a steering authority.
As state institutions and their interactions with social actors forms the most important aspect
of governance, it becomes imperative to explore the theoretical trajectories of intuitionalism
and neo-institutionalism. Institutionalism focused on formal rules, procedures, organisational
set up including constitutions, electoral system, and political parties and also on the
behaviours of the actors within these institutions. Institutionalism dominated the field of
politics and public administration up until 1940s before it was heavily criticised for its
reliance on specific institutional settings by some universal theories such as behaviouralist
school, rational choice theorists and so on. Neo-institutionalism emerged as a response to
these criticisms and in addition to its earlier focus on formal rules, procedures and
organisations, it broadened its concept of institutions by including norms, habits and cultural
customs. There are many variety of neo-institutionalism such as rational choice
institutionalism, historical institutionalism, sociological institutionalism and many more.
Rational choice institutionalists studies how institutions shape the behaviour of the rational
actors whereas the historical institutionalists explores how past institutional arrangements
influence subsequent political processes which can also be referred to as „path dependency‟.
Sociological institutionalism on the other hand, looks at how informal ideas, values and
norms shape policy frameworks and in turn the political process. (Bevir, 2009)
Notwithstanding their many differences, neo-institutionalism as a whole identifies two basic
factors in human behaviour which are either exogenous (as in rational choice school) or
endogenous (as in sociological school). March and Olsen (1989) describe them as „logic of
consequentiality‟ and „logic of appropriateness‟ though they reiterate the fact that in most
cases it is the latter that guides human behaviour (Kjaer, 2004). Instead of posing these two
categories as binary oppositions, it would probably be more discreet to see human behaviour
as both rational and normative at the same time while keeping in mind the Weberian concept
of „value rationality‟ 8.
In governance research neo-institutionalism becomes extremely crucial as governance is
comprised of formal rules, procedures and organisations of state institutions vis-a-vis informal
norms, values and customs of the society locked in a complex and dynamic relationship with
each other. There are two most important areas of investigation within institutionalism; firstly,
the impact of institutions on political behaviour and second the origin and transformation of
institutions (Kjaer, 2004). Governance covers both these areas of study as it starts from the
setting of the rules (origin of institutions) and follows it though the application and
enforcement of these rules which affect political behaviour and political process and finally
how institutions themselves evolve in the process.
Neo-institutionalism as a theoretical paradigm becomes even more imperative in the contexts
of governing developing countries in the non-Western world. As Mitra (2006) explains,
“crucial to the neo-institutional model is the „room to manoeuvre‟ that the constitution
permits the political elite (a democratic regime, as opposed to military rule, offers more scope
for negotiation and bargaining) and the political accountability of the elites, which makes it
necessary for them to engage in purposeful social intervention” (Mitra, 2006; 16). On the
basis of this perspective he develops a neo-institutional model of governance to explain how
institutional change can indeed add to the stability and resilience of the system of governance
in a changing society where there is a considerable hiatus between the imported categories of
state institutions and the inherited values of the culture (This model will be discussed later in
much detail while issues of governance reform will be analysed). In addition to elucidating
the inevitable and positive link between institutional change and buoyancy of a governance
system, this model also points out the importance of policy responsiveness, reform
programmes in bridging the gap between the macro and micro level, between national and
local contexts, between imported and inherited categories, between rational and sociological
and most importantly between governed and those who govern. This particular model of neoinstitutionalism and institutionalism in general tries to combine material benefits with
normative concerns and this latter transcendental aspect of governance brings us to the next
important theoretical paradigm, i.e., social constructivism.
Value rationality which can also be termed as substantive rationality in Max Weber‟s terminology in the
context of this research can be described as actions which are determined by the conscious belief in the value (of
some ethical, religious, political nature) in itself without much consideration for some utilitarian ends. (Reading
Max Weber in retrieved on 21.09.2012)
Social Constructivism
Social constructivism bears a strong resemblance with sociological institutionalism as
discussed above. Social construction denaturalises what is taken for granted, questions the
origin of what is now seen as a fact of life and considers the alternative ways could have
produced a different condition. Therefore, at the core of social constructivism lies the socially
constructed nature of actors and their identities and interests. Instead of assuming that actors
are born outside and prior to society, as individualism does, constructivists claim that
individuals are produced by their social and cultural environment; and historically produced
and culturally bound knowledge comprised of symbols, rules, concepts, categories and
meanings shapes how individual actors in the social setting would construct and interpret their
world. While perceiving ideas as structurally rooted, constructivism views actors‟
interpretation of the material reality directly impacting the dynamic relationship between
ideas and material forces. There are a few basic tenets of this paradigm. Firstly, it takes the
concept of power beyond material facades and explores an ideational notion of power, which
allocates differential rewards and capacities through knowledge, fixing of meaning and
construction of identities. Secondly, the meanings that are constructed and shaped by the
underlying cultures are the central features of politics as they determine the actions and
interests of the actors. Thirdly, it places a great importance on institutions albeit as embodied
in norm, practices and formal organizational structures.(Barenett, Michael, 2005) 9 Social
constructivists view actors as bound through web of meanings which are inscribed in beliefs,
sings, languages, conscious and intuitive knowledge within a cultural context. This web of
meanings forms the core of politics and hence the core of governance. There two ways of
analysing these meaning that constructivists engage themselves in. On one hand, there is
synchronic analysis of meanings abstracted from the realm of history. On the other hand, the
diachronic studies explore the development of meanings over time. This latter analytical
model explicates how agents could alter and structurally shift the web of meanings while
deploying them in a particular context. According to social constructivist paradigm, both
institutions and actors are embedded in the conditional system of meanings. Hence
governance being an interface between the two also need be understood how these meanings
are constructed, deployed and transformed. Therefore, it can be said that constructivists take a
keen interest in demonstrating how agents produce structures and vice versa.
Barnett‟s discussion on constructivism in this article is predominantly aimed at International Relations discourses. Nonethel ess, he lays out
the fundamentals of social constructivism in a concise and succinct manner. Barnett,Michael, SocialConstructivism in Baylis, John & Smith,
Steve (ed.), The Globalization of World Politics – An Introduction to International Relations 3 rd Edition, 2005, Oxford University Press,
91 Social Constructivism: Linking Technology and Governance
As this research not only focuses on the system of governance but also how this system is
shifting through the use of ICT tools, social constructivism as a theoretical framework
becomes even more crucial.
It presents a view of technology which runs against
technological determinism. Technological determinism not only conceives of technology to
be autonomous and neutral but also presupposes it quintessential role in economic and social
development (Bijker, 2009). Taking a critical stand against this essentialist conception of
technology, social constructivists tend to explore how actors and contexts influence
technology. They further disaggregate the perception of technology from different subject
positions of the actors involved. For example, in disbursing e-governance projects, decisionmaking elites rationalise to build an efficient system. However, citizens, who are at receiving
end of these projects experience and appropriate these technologies varies according to their
life world. Hence, the value of information generated by such new information
communication technology does not automatically follow from their inherent virtue but is
contingent upon the context of their application and the web of meanings that they construe
(Sreekumar, 2008).
Social construction of technology is a distinct field of study which rose from three different
areas of research, namely, the science-technology-society (STS) movement, the sociology of
scientific knowledge and the history of technology (Bijker, 2009). Without going further into
the history and development of social construction of technology, it is important here to
establish the crucial links between this theoretical framework and this study which touches
upon a cross-cutting theme of technology and governance. Firstly, social construction of
technology point out the social and political intervention in the course of technology.
Secondly, it raises a few concepts such as “interpretive flexibility” and “relevant social
groups” which could shape the analytical frame for understanding the linkages between
technology and governance. Interpretive flexibility stresses the fact that technology is socially
and culturally constructed which makes it open to different interpretation and meaning. The
act of interpreting technology within a specific context hinges upon the subject positions of
the actors, such as users or producers of technology (ibid, 2009). It is important to mention
here that this study should not be viewed as an analysis of e-governance founded within the
frame social construction of technology albeit a few heuristic tools have been adopted to
understand the constructivist nature of technology. Since both technical subjects and objects
are organised in terms of socially and culturally contingent variables, technologies (both in its
design and social incorporation) cannot be fully comprehended without scrutinising its
context (Feenberg, 2009).
Evaluating Governance and Strategic Reform: Actors, Parameters and Problems of
Actors: - It is clear by now that governance as a concept does evoke neither a distinct
definition nor a single frame of analysis. Therefore, any comprehensive research on
governance needs to clearly delineate its conceptual and theoretical/analytical frame of
reference at the very onset. This study focuses on governance in relation to institutional
arrangements and political processes of formulating and implementing policy reforms
involving a diverse set of actors (Ahrens, 2009). Needless to say, although the state still lies at
the centre of policy-making and policy reform, a host of non-state actors are linked through
formal and informal institutional networks. These networks of national and domestic actors
together lay the foundation of the system of governance. This network of actors has been
captured quite effectively by Ahrens (2009) in the figure below:
Domestic non-political actors
Domestic political actors
Central government
Subnational government
Private firms
Civil society
Foreign actors
State-society interface
Economic institutions
Public sector
International structure
Figure: 3.1: A stylized model of governance: realms and actors
Source: Ahrens (2009)
This model of governance maps all the actors and demonstrates how policy goals are devised
and achieved through coordination among these actors. One of the most important aspects of
this model of governance is that it emphasise the role of public policy in economic
performance and development.
The aim of this investigation, however, is limited to
introspect how public policy formulation and implementation, particularly in terms of reform
strategies bring structural changes in the system of governance. E-governance initiatives or in
other words reform programmes facilitated through information communication technology
serves as a focal point for analysing the same. While the ultimate aim of analysing
governance differs, Ahrens‟ (2009) model nevertheless, quite aptly places the actors in the
matrix of governance. Hence, by simply replacing “economic institutions” with “egovernance institutions”, the same model could be deployed within the purview of the current
study. There are two aspects of policy reform and e-governance initiatives which can be
traced through this network of actors. Firstly, the foreign actors depicted on the right hand
side of the figure present the wider international policy environment and explain the origin of
certain policy agendas and reform strategies. For example, the emergence of e-governance as
one of the reform areas in India emanates from recent insurgence of „good governance‟
agenda across developing nations under the influence of International Organisations such as
World Bank. Secondly, domestic political and non-political actors described in this figure
narrate how certain policy reforms are rolled out in a particular context. For example, the
formulation and implementation of National e-Governance Plan in India is based on publicprivate partnership model and evidently involved state, private firms, civil society and
Moving to the issue of governance reform and its impact on the overall system of governance
a neo-institutional model of governance developed by Mitra (2006) (which has already been
introduced in the section on theories of governance and Institutionalism) needs to be
discussed here in further details. This neo-institutional model relates governance as variable
concept which depends on political institutions, state-society interface, role of elites and some
other variables (as described in the figure below). There are a few overlapping aspects of this
model which become crucial in conducting research on governance particularly in the context
of developing countries. Firstly, the key to governance, according to this model, is the ‘room
to manoeuvre’ (Mitra, 1991) that the institutional arrangements provide the political elites
with. In a democratic set up this provision for institutional change resolves both the issues of
accountability and legitimacy. It explains how political elites being accountable to their local
and regional context initiate reform and hence in turn enhance legitimacy leading to the
resilience of the system. Secondly, this model suggests an exceedingly significant role of the
political elites in the system of governance. As Mitra argues, “(T)he response of the decisionmaking elites to crises through law and order management, strategic reform and redistributive
policy and constitutional change in order to give legitimacy to contested, embedded values,
acts as a feedback loop that affects the perceptions of crucial people at the local
and regional level”(Mitra, 2006; 16). The political elites act as nodal points of political
actions connecting national to the regional and local institutions. Thirdly, this model brings
out the relevance of policy responsiveness and reform strategies in bridging “the hiatus
between the locally embedded values and those espoused by the macro-arena” (ibid; 16).
Social inequality,
ethnic identity
Elite strategy
Law and order management; reform; constitutional
incorporation of values
Figure: 3.2: A dynamic neo-institutional model of governance based on elite strategies
Source: Mitra (2006)
However, the question remains why certain policy reform is favoured over the others? At this
point, both the above models need to be looked at in conjunction with each other. In the first
figure (Arhens, 2002), a policy network of domestic and international, political and nonpolitical actors are hold responsible for policy reform. Whereas in the following figure (Mitra,
2006), domestic political institutions, state-society interface and political elites are described
as harbingers of policy reform and institutional change. Combining these two models it can be
said that policy reforms are simultaneously influenced by the international political trends and
domestic political realities. The domestic politics gets further complicated by continuous
political exchange between national, regional and local political elites and non-political
actors. Therefore, any process of policy formulation and implementation needs to navigate
through these complex nodes of a governance system. Again while reiterating the role of elite
strategy in policy responsiveness, Mitra(2006) pertinently points out, “In a case of successful
transaction, competing elites choose their options in a manner that maximises benefits and
minimises transaction costs, and negotiate on the basis of a complex repertoire that combines
instruments of rational protests with elements of participation such as contacts with high-level
decision-makers, lobbying, voting and sending petitions”(ibid;16).
Parameters:- There are generally four parameters of governance under the neo-institutional
model: 1) a bureaucratic state machinery delivering policy response as well as maintaining
law and order; 2) a series of variables such as election, pressure groups , parties, protests
influencing the overall agenda setting; 3) political elites combining a „two-track
strategy‟(Mitra, 1991) of institutional and non-institutional actions; 4) provision of turning
constitutional change into a political resource (Mitra, 2006; 18). In his quest to understand the
puzzle of India‟s governance, Mitra (2006) drew on this neo-institutional model of
governance parameters to examine the role of India‟s new elites as compared to the traditional
leaders. By distancing himself from structural-functional approach which relied more on
unique features of Indian society (for example caste system), he explained that order, rule and
institutional stability is achieved as stakeholders‟ choices are curtailed by constitutions, social
structures, cultural norms and political processes. 10
This research takes a neo-institutional approach to scrutinise how policy responses and
institutional change influence the level of governance. Hence it draws on at least two of the
parameters mentioned above: first, political elites initiating institutional actions and second,
the bureaucratic state machinery developing and delivering policy responses. Simultaneously
a social constructivist approach is added to the research framework to understand the social
and cultural factors in implementing policy solutions. Keeping the actors and realms of
governance in the figure 3.1 in mind along with these parameters of governance, a few
general theoretical assumptions can be drawn here. However, since this study is primarily
based on qualitative data and analysis, it would be difficult to accurately testify such
assumptions. Therefore, these assumptions about the impact of strategic reform on the system
of governance can be better described as theoretically informed conjectures (as already been
mentioned in the Introduction)
He further breaks this general assumption into seven hypotheses; “the higher the credibility of sanctions based
on law and order management, the higher the expectations of governance; strategic social and economic reform
enhance governance; institutional arrangements based on the logic of federalism and consociational forms of
power sharing promote governance; effective party systems that institutionalise the link between the state and the
individual enhance governance; elite fragmentation reduces the level of governance; if the core values and
symbols of a society are constitutionally protected, then governance is likely to be higher; trust, which follows
from the absence (or removal) of factors that offend, turns victims into survivors and extends a sense of
belonging, and thereby enhances governance” (Mitra, 2006, 18-20).
C1: Strategic reform that improves life conditions of the citizens enhances the level
C2: Policies that cater to the overlapping benefits of all political and non-political
actors will enhance the level of governance. This also means that policies which
overlook conflicts of interest reduce the level of governance.
C3: The ability of macro-policies to accommodate embedded values and norms with a
local context is directly proportionate to the level of governance.
C4: The higher the capacity of the state machinery to act on a policy response and
absorb institutional change, the better the quality of governance.
The conjectures 1, 2 and 4 combine a public policy and public administration meets
comparative politics approach to governance, albeit all are rooted more or less into the
rational choice neo-institutional framework, pursuing methodological individualism. The third
conjecture nonetheless brings out a social constructivist approach to understand the impact of
policy reform on the level of governance. By taking the social structures and cultural norms
into account, it conjures up the everyday practices of policy initiatives. In explaining the
relationship between governance, policy reform and technological innovation, both neoinstitutional and social constructivist approaches are focussing on two basic questions:
Where does the impetus for reform come from?
How the reform is realised?
Addressing these questions inevitably leads to the dynamics of structure and agency as a
heuristic point of reference for any analysis of governance. The structure of governance are
embodied in the formal rules and institutions, policy frameworks, strategies for reform
whereas the agency lies with actors within the realm of governance who either appropriate, or
reject or shifts the structural forces of governance. These actors exert their agencies not only
within the limits of structure of governance but also within the normative structures that is
comprised of cultural values and socio-political processes. There is a continuous interplay
between structure and agency which helps manoeuvring the state-society linkages; balancing
power relations innate in the system of governance; and also precipitate the process of
transforming governance through institutional change. Therefore, for a policy or a reform
strategy to be effective, the embedded values and local contexts need to be leveraged (as
depicted in conjecture 3). This structure-agency dynamism becomes even more relevant in the
context of a developing society such as India where state-society linkages are further
weakened due to its long colonial past. In India, the structures of governance, be it the
established state institutions or the recent trends of governance reform, are originated mostly
in the Western context of democratic governance. These imported structures are often
confronted with the embedded values, norms, customs which affect the local political context.
Both the imported and inherited categories are not static element. Their constant confrontation
renders them as well their relationship a dynamic category. Thus, the established categories of
governed and those who govern are not sufficient for a context-specific understanding of
governance. The imported vis-a-vis inherited categories of governance need to be added to the
analytical frame.
Problems of operationalising and measuring: - The above discussion on context-specific
analysis of governance hints at the fact that it is not enough to understand how policies/reform
strategies are formulated at the macro arena. It is also important to reflect on how these
policies/reform initiatives are perceived by the citizens and how these macro-initiatives get
altered at the micro-level through active agencies of the actors involved. Bringing this macromicro continuum into the analysis of governance implies that perceptions of actors need to be
converged with meta-narrative of a rule (policy guidelines or formal mandate of a reform
strategy in the particular case of this research) in order to arrive at an effective evaluation of
the level of governance. All the conjectures depicted above establish governance as a
conceptual variable which can be measured on a scale of high to low. Now the challenge
remains how to operationalise the concept of governance so that the subjective criteria of
perceptions can be merged with the objective structures of institutions and consequently
categories of evaluation could be developed.
One of the major threats to a system of governance is the notion of legitimacy deficit. A
complete lack of legitimacy would mean a breakdown in the system of governance. There are
two ways of looking at legitimacy (Kjaer, 2004; 12). Firstly, the „input-oriented‟ view of
legitimacy follows from a collective compliance with the mutually agreed- upon rules. This
inevitably signals at a democratic system of governance where collective decisions are made
through majority principles according to set democratic procedures. On the other hand, the
„output-oriented‟ view of legitimacy relates to the effectiveness of rules to yield desired
results. This dimension of legitimacy is directly concerned with policy responsiveness and its
impact on the citizens. If we presuppose the former orientation of legitimacy, that is, if we
confine our analysis to a democratic system of governance, then legitimacy can be negotiated
through policy responsiveness, strategic decision-making and welfare packages. Therefore,
the underlying assumption of measuring governance within the purview of this research is,
higher the efficiency of a policy/reform programme, higher the legitimacy of institutions, the
higher the level of governance. This general assumption need to be further broken down into
some operational concepts. Moreover, these operational concepts should be directly related to
the general theoretical assumptions or conjectures elaborated above.
The inevitable question that emerges at this point is what legitimacy is consisted of? Or, what
are the specific qualities that denote legitimacy? In simple terms, what are the indicators of
legitimacy? The concepts which have a direct impact on increasing legitimacy of a democratic
system of governance are predictability, participation, transparency and accountability and
adaptability. Each of these concepts can be indicative of effective policy responsiveness and
higher level of legitimacy and hence higher level of governance. Predictability connects a
policy/reform strategy to its desired goal; transparency denotes better and equal accessibility
of information by all stakeholders and hence evokes improved clarity over rules and
processes; accountability establishes sense of responsibility and ownership among the policymakers and service providers; adaptability ensures the ability to bend the meta-framework of
a policy to suit local contexts; affirmative participation of all stakeholders indicates efficiency
of a policy/reform initiative and active participation of citizens ensures effectiveness and
increasing legitimacy of the same. On the basis of this preliminary frame of evaluation, it is
imperative to explore the particular reform area within a specific context. This implies
narrowing the research focus on policy response and reform strategies undertaken in the field
of information communication technologies (ICTs) in India. As already been mentioned, the
case of India is brought not to reflect on the uniqueness of its context but to reinforce the
significance of context-specific analysis of governance in a more generalised sense.
Evaluating E-governance: Linking Reform, Technology and Governance
By choosing e-governance reform in India as the specific research focus, the broader
parameters and operational concept need to be adapted to the context of ICT policies and
practices and India‟s governance. For this purpose a framework of analysis with the
conceptual variables, theoretically informed specific conjectures, indicators and stakeholders
has already been elaborated in the Introduction. However, before proceeding with the policies
and practices of e-governance in India, it is essential to take a close look at the policy network
of e-governance initiatives in India to better understand how e-governance reforms are
formulated, implemented and appropriated. Looking at the aforementioned definition of egovernance (Vasu Deva, 2005), five major actors can be identified. They are as follows: i)
state/public sector, ii) market/private sector (both domestic and foreign), iii) civil society, iv)
citizens, and v) international organisations. All these actors together form the policy network
for e-governance reforms in India albeit the state still remains at the centre of such network as
the main steering authority, coordinating body and as the facilitator.
State/Public (political
elites & bureaucracy
Figure: 3.3: Policy Network of e-Governance in India
Source: Author
Since this study approaches governance from a public policy perspective, it thereby focuses
on governance as an interactive process between different actors. The basic assumption
behind such an approach is that no single actor has either the capacity or the resources to
resolve policy implementation. Yet this interactive process depends on the forms partnership
it adopts (Mitra, 2006). For example, there are three basic forms of partnership, such as,
principal-agent, inter-organisational negotiation and systemic coordination (ibid; 26). In the
principal-agent model one actor (principal) hires or contracts the other actor (agent) to deliver
a particular task. In the second model different organisations undertake a joint project by
coalescing their capacities and resources through negotiation. The systemic coordination is
one step ahead of the first two as it involves a self-governing network where a mutual
understanding and shared vision acts as the driving force of the partnership. These different
models of partnerships also significantly influence the process of governing. Hence, while
mapping the actors and their relationship within the policy network of e-governance in India,
it is also impertinent to shed some light on the notion of public-private partnership. This is a
model of cooperation between public sector institutions with private organisations in
implementing policy goals and is popularly known as PPP model. The PPP model as it is
practised in India within the confines of e-governance follows more or less the first form of
partnership, i.e. principal-agent relationship. Usually a state department or a public sector
institution either at the national or regional level hires or outsource a particular task (often
service delivery) to a private firm on the basis of a formal contract. Though there are other
actors and other variety of relationships within the policy network, the PPP model dominates
majority of e-governance literature and practices.
After describing the actors and networks of ICT policy formulation and implementation, the
immediate task would be to evaluate how these policy agendas influence the system of
governance with a special focus on the Indian context. Understanding the linkage between
technology and governance renders it difficult to directly associate a policy change with
institutional change. Moreover, the Indian context adds to the complexities with its regional
and local variation and presents an ever more interesting case for analysis.
Methodological Challenges of a Context-Specific Analysis of Governance
3.4.1. Complex Dimensions of Culture, History and Context: An Analytical Puzzle
Following Foucault‟s notion of governmentality, it can be established that the point of
departure for any governance analysis should be the underlying power relations between the
ruler and the ruled (Foucault, 1972). Within any system of governance, this hiatus between
the ruling class and its citizens need to be continuously manipulated in order to sustain
legitimacy and to maintain the status quo. Within a democratic system of governance, the
methods of manipulation have to be bound by rules (e.g. the constitution) and hence are often
conjured up in two-track strategies of the elites, such as punishment and welfare (Mitra,
2006). Foucault also talks about socialisation, education, administrative tools of computing,
accounting, and the entire system of knowledge as key factors in the techniques of
governmentality (Foucault. 1972). However, looking at governance purely from the
perspective of elite strategy or focussing only on the techniques of governmentality presents
only a partial picture. They present a state-centric approach of governance which renders the
citizens powerless receiving agents of institutional rules and structures. Whereas “the
complex genealogy of governance explains why its state-dominated understanding, and the
panoply of institutions that sustain it, are so often contested by political actors locked in
combat against one other, or against the state itself” (Mitra, 2006; 21). This hints at the
duality of the concept of governance which poses similar challenges to the study of both the
state and the society. For that reason, it becomes imperative to explore the „weapon of the
weak‟ (Scott, 1985), the agency of the governed to alter the structural forces of governance.
The previous analysis of structure-agency dynamics becomes crucial here as well. This
research attempts to analyse governance both from state-centric and society-centric
perspectives. This means the focus is neither purely on structure nor on agency, but on how
these two intersect. The duality of governance as a concept is well captured in the figure
below (Mitra, 2006; 21).
Applying this dual conceptualisation of governance in the context of developing societies
poses serious analytical as well as methodological challenge. The primary hiatus inherent in a
system of governance is further widened by the gap between alien institutional set up and
embedded socio-cultural make up in most of post-colonial and post-communist societies. In
case of India, its colonial past reflects strongly in its state institutions, starting from
administration to legal framework, from judiciary to bureaucracy. Most of these institutions
originated in the Western Europe at a particular historical juncture. The history and contexts
were both different when they were applied on the Indian soil. Consequently, the process of
their adaptation and evolution also took different course which was definitely fraught with
conflict, violence and ruptures. To elaborate a little more on this rupture, a simple comparison
between the European and Indian context could be illuminating. In Europe, the nation-states
were built upon a collective identification with and sense of belonging to a nation. Hence, the
modern state followed nation-building. In India, the situation was just reverse. India inherited
a modern state at the time of Independence (in 1947) and its ruling elites were left with the
daunting task of nation-building afterwards (Mitra, 2006; 208). Evidently, the state and
society were not immediately at sync and this made the act of governing further complex.
This historical dimension for state-society hiatus acquires a whole new meaning under the
cultural logic. The regional and local variations coupled with major cultural rifts based on
religion, language, gender and so on renders governance in India an overwhelming
experience. With a continuous conflict between modern categories and primordial identities
politics becomes relentless process of negotiation and accommodation. Moreover,
interestingly enough, the very institution of modern democracy ushered in new networks of
shared interests and pressure groups which has injected power into pre-modern identities
(Mitra, 2006; 207). This implies a parallel battle between old elites and new elites which
might lead to elite fragmentation (Mitra, 2006; 19) and further engendering governance.
3.4.2. Resolving Methodological Individualism: Balancing the Liberal Bias
All these historical and cultural dimensions do not only make the task of governing difficult
but also cause enough bewilderment for the observers and analysts of governance. The first
methodological dilemma that arises in analysing governance in India and for that matter any
developing societies is the issue of methodological individualism. On this issue Mitra (2006)
raises a few pertinent questions which need to be dealt with much seriousness in our analysis
of governance in India. Firstly, “how appropriate is a model based on methodological
individualism to the analysis of changing societies where moral bonds are based on
primordial identities?” (ibid; 13) Secondly, “can rules based on individual calculations of
benefits gain acceptance in societies based on caste, class, tribe, race, language, partisanship
and religion?” (ibid; 13) A rational-choice neo-institutional model of governance exhibits
certain liberal bias such as putting individual choice at the core of political institutions which
eventually find expressions in a state-centric view of governance. This bias, of course needs
to be balanced by a society-centric view where citizens‟ perception of rules and institutions
affect governance as much. In this research social constructivist approach provides a heuristic
balance to the neo-institutional model. Furthermore, in case of measurement the governance
indicators are adopted in a way so that they can capture the dual aspects of governance. For
example, while assessing accountability of public service delivery system, it is not sufficient
to explore the structural aspects of it within the public institutions. It is also crucial to evaluate
to what extent citizens can exert their rights to hold a public officer responsible for delivery of
certain services. Similarly, it is not enough to make information available through a
government website under the transparency clause, whether this information is actually
empowering citizens is also equally relevant.
3.4.3. Hybridity and Hybridisation: A Transcultural Methodology of Politics
The problem of balancing the state-society continuum in governance analysis can be
accomplished through a skilful combination of a neo-institutional and social constructivist
approach. Social constructivist model of governance aids in analysing how institutional
change occurs through political behaviours of actors ensconced in particular cultural and
social contexts. In other words, it explains how society affects state and its institutions. The
neo-institutional model on the other hand helps explain how elites work as brokers between
state and society and how they devise strategies (either of sanction or welfare) to
accommodate embedded values in imported institutions. An elite strategy in developing
societies recognises this asymmetrical relationship between the state and society and strives to
leverage through institutional innovation, in public administration, in legal framework, in
social policies. There are many such examples in India which ranges from the provision of
personal laws for different religious groups to the provision of constitutional amendment,
from introducing panchayati raj as a method of decentralisation to positive discrimination or
reservation policies for socially marginal groups. These institutional reforms emerge out of
the contextual realties of a society where culture, history and politics are all entangled in the
same whole. Moreover, these new institutional set-ups often take quite a leap from their
imported counterparts. In simple terms, the above-mentioned institutional innovations are
meant to promote democratic consolidation in India, yet they are produced keeping the Indian
context in mind.
However, most of the analysis of governance in developing societies irrespective of their
approach tends to explain shifts and variations in the institutional set up in terms of grand
theories of politics which have their historical roots in the Western European contexts. This
often leads to misrepresentation of other societies either in terms of a deficiency syndrome
with a perpetual imperative to catch up or as an exotic deviant. An evident case of the former
perspective is reflected in the „good governance‟ paradigm which not only sets out universal
standards of governance across societies but furthermore, by adding the prefix „good‟ labels
all other forms of governance inadequate. In the latter perspective, the stability (or the
absence of it) of a system of governance is explained in terms of the innate cultural qualities
(or lack of it) of a particular society. To avoid such epistemological shortcomings, a
combination of neo-institutional and social-constructivism is deployed in this research.
However, as both of these school of thought also cater to some grand narratives of theorybuilding, a distinct methodological perspective is required which would address the epistemic
ruptures in classical theoretical framework and approach the same realities in a different way.
An emerging perspective of transculturality aims to fulfil this search for a noble
methodological approach. Even though, it can be deployed across all societies, transcultural
methodology becomes even more relevant while studying non-Western societies.
Being an emerging perspective, the scope and limits of transculturality is still evolving and
hence makes it difficult to delineate it salient features in an exhaustive fashion.
Transculturality “help(s) us look at our material differently than before, it may be useful to
develop new research questions and perspectives, even finding new, hitherto neglected
material (because some of it used to be considered “just an Asian copy” of a “European
original,” for example). This approach may also open the possibility for letting the hitherto
silent speak and hitherto unheard voices be heard.” 11 Thus, instead of arriving at an allencompassing definition of transculturality, it would be more prudent to explore how
transcultural methodology can enrich analysis of governance.
The underlying assumptions of transculturality are that “even the seemingly most local
phenomena are part of trans-cultural flows of concept and things. Cultures are not “social
groups or geographies, but social imaginaries that express or create distinction and
asymmetrical flows” and “rather than passive consumer of alien concepts, local societies
imbue them with meaning in the process of using them (Mitra, 2012; 111). Following these
basic postulations transcultural methodology presents a distinct analytical tool box consisting
of “flow”, “asymmetry”, “hybridity” which transcends disciplinary boundaries both in terms
of its origin as well as applicability. All these concepts are deployed as heuristic devices to
add explanatory value to the existing framework of analysing social, cultural, political and
historical phenomena. In case of political analysis of governance in post-colonial India,
hybridity appears to be one of the most relevant analytical categories.
As transcultural methodology postulates that there are continuous multidirectional cultural
flows and that alien concepts acquire new meaning in the local context, it questions the
possibility of authenticity in any ideas, institutions and practices. This is where the notion of
hybridity becomes pertinent that can be viewed as “the natural consequence of the real world
process of institution making, and the adaptation of alien institutions into the native medium”
(Mitra, 2012; 112). Hence, hybridity not only underlines the agency of the local context but
also becomes an analytical category to explain the hybridity of governance in India rather
than its deficiency or uniqueness.
Originating in biological sciences to denote mixing of species, hybridity has further travelled
to cultural studies and humanities and social sciences to overcome binary oppositions of
categories and represent a “third space”, “which combines elements of the original duality,
but folds them together in a functional, coherent way” (ibid, 111). Hybridity became popular
concept in postcolonial studies especially in the writings of Homi Bhaba since 1980s. In the
context of postcolonial studies, hybridity is viewed as a political strategy in the hands of the
governed to exert their agency (Bhaba, 1994). It is this particular conceptualisation of
hybridity that renders it an important explanatory tool to analyse governance in India. As
Cluster homepage: retrieved on 17.06.2012
depicted in the dynamic neo-institutional model of governance (Mitra, 2006;16), elites in
post-colonial India need to devise noble strategies (through manipulating policy, initiating
reform and constitutional amendment and so on) to mend the legitimacy deficit generated
between alien institutions and local contexts. As Mitra puts it, “hybrid institutions are
necessarily a part of a larger political project, one where elites and counter-elites seek to
amend the rules to produce new designs and imbue them with a new spirit, geared to a
political goal” (Mitra, 2012; 112). Moreover, he does not confine hybridity only to a postcolonial context; rather arrest the concept in colonial rule, in anti-colonial movement, in
democratic transition, in post-colonial nation building and governance (ibid). This application
of hybridity as a political strategy is entirely different from the use of the same notion in
comparative politics where it is often used to differentiate between authoritarian regimes from
the liberal democracies.
Hybridity both as a political strategy and as analytical category assists in understanding of egovernance as a strategic reform and its implications for overall governance in India in some
specific ways:
To understand the application of e-governance as a hybrid political strategy of reform
by the elites in India. Here hybridity can add to the analytical framework of neoinstitutional model of governance.
To understand the political agency of the different stakeholders through hybridisation
of e-governance institutions and practices at the local contexts. Here hybridisation can
explain the process of social construction of technological development.
To understand how e-governance as a strategic reform leads to hybrid institutions
which can further enhance the level of governance in India.
Hybridity also adds explanatory value to the structure-agency dynamics with the
matrix of governance.
In elucidating these particular aspects of governance as political problematic, there are two
aspects of the notion of hybridity that need to be understood, firstly, hybridisation as a process
and secondly, hybrid institutions and practices as a product of that process. However, at the
same time one needs to keep in mind that this is a continuous yet non-linear and discursive
process of transforming governance. For example, before consolidation of the colonial state of
British India, the East India Company as a private corporation served many state functions
such as revenue collections, state-wide accountancy, production of statistical records, etc.,
which were later transferred to the colonial state authority (Kaviraj, 2000; 143). A similar
trend could be found in the recent concept of „franchising the state‟ private corporations and
non-governmental organisations, which has risen as one of the alternative models of
governance in the recent political discourse of post-liberalised India (Jayal, 2001; 143). Given
this past reference, e-governance policy networks involving different stakeholders (discussed
in the previous section) can be seen as a continuous yet non-linear process of hybridisation to
adapt colonial administrative structure better in the post-colonial local contexts in India. In
another example, the concept of „political society‟ as espoused by Partha Chatterjee (2000)
can well represent a hybrid institutions which is equivalent to the notion of civil society, yet
somewhat different due to its different historical and political trajectories embedded in the
contexts of a post-colonial society. In case of e-governance initiatives in India, rural internet
kiosks or telecentres operated by local operators can be projected as hybrid institution geared
to mend the digital divide as well as literacy gaps inherent in the local context.
There are
many such examples that can be cited here. Thus, by adopting a transcultural methodology to
critically scrutinise the impact of e-governance reform on the level of governance, this
research acquires an analytical edge that sharpens its explanation for a stable system of
democratic governance in India.
Conclusion: From Theory to Practice
This chapter presented the theoretical perspectives on governance in order place the current
research into the wider framework of theories and to emphasise the theoretical underpinning
of the same. The study of e-governance reform in India is guided by the neo-institutional
model of governance. The social constructivist approach is added to this model to explicate
how the relationship between technology and governance is mediated through social practices
embedded in a particular context. This context-specific understanding of governance faces a
serious methodological challenge while Euro-centric grand theories are applied in the non
Western post-colonial context such as India. However, the solution does not lie in rejecting
these theories altogether but in addressing the gaps in the existing models to render the
context-specific analysis of governance possible. In an attempt to counter this analytical
problem, the concept of hybridity under the transcultural perspective on politics has been
deployed. The analytical category of hybridity explicate how the policies and practices go
through a process of hybridisation in order to bridge the hiatus between „imported‟
institutional set up and the „inherited‟ social set up. In analysing this process of negotiation,
hybridity also emerges as a political strategy dispensed with the agency of the actors
involved. Such a theoretical and methodological combination serve to address the basic
research questions elaborated already in the Introduction.
Having enumerated the main theoretical and methodological alignment of the research the
next step is to apply them in the specific context of e-governance reform in India. For this
purpose, the policies and practices of e-governance in India need to studied in much depth and
details within the broader political, social and cultural contexts. The detailed understanding of
the policy framework and concomitant implementation will form the basis of final analysis.
E-Governance in India I: An Overview of Policy Framework
Major Policies in Information Technology (IT) in India: The Pre-liberalisation
The literature review on governance reform in India establishes e-governance as a major area
of reform since late1990s (Sreekumar 2008; Madon 2009, Gupta 2010). One of the major
reasons cited for this gradual growth in e-governance is the Information Technology (IT)
boom in India in the post-liberalised years. Even though, it is widely accepted that the state
had played a minimalist role as far as the IT sector is concerned in India, a close and careful
study of the pre-liberalisation policies reveals quite the opposite (Saraswathi, 2008). State
intervention in IT sector took off in 1970 with the foundation of the Department of
Electronics (DOE) to oversee IT policy making. Since then there has been contrasting yet
considerable interventions by the state in devising IT policy-making which has had significant
impact on the way the industry has shaped up (ibid). For the purpose of this research, the
focus is more on the current policy framework commencing from the year 2000. However, to
acknowledge the role of the state in IT sector growth it is important to shed some light on the
history of IT policy-making in India.
Under the rule of J.L. Nehru (India‟s first Prime Minister), the Electronic Committee or
Bhaba Committee was set up under the chairmanship of Homi Bhaba (who was also the head
of the Atomic Energy Commission) in the aftermath of India-China war, in order to develop
indigenous electronic base for national security and development. Hence, incited by security
imperatives and also by recognising the significance of technical advancements in the IT
field, this Committee was later replaced by the Electronic Commission (EC) in February 1970
which was followed by the establishment of DOE in June 1970 (Saraswathi, 2008; Gupta,
2010). The EC was the primary policy making body for electronics and computers whereas
the DOE implemented those policies and together they regulated the policy environment for
electronics and computer-related development in India (Subramanian, 2000; 36). In its
attempt to develop and expand an internally competitive software industry through finely
customised export schemes, this policy phase is marked by the establishment of two large
public sector computer companies namely Electronic Computers of India Limited (ECIL) and
Computer Maintenance Company (CMC) and their collaborations with IBM and other
transnational computer companies (TNCCs) in order to access latest technologies. The
Software Export Scheme of 1972 catered to the management consultancy firms which had
diversified into software writing for domestic clients. These firms enjoyed a lower duty on
computer import and also received loans from the government for such imports of computers.
The condition was to meet this loan within five years through foreign exchange generated
from export of software skills. However, this policy confronted with many logistic
bottlenecks, failed to achieve the desired growth rate of software export. Nonetheless, the
software export rose from Rs. 8.4 million in 1975 to Rs. 30 million in 1978 (Saraswathi,
2008; 1145).
The next phase of IT policy making commenced with the Janata Dal coming to power in the
Centre in 1977. The Minicomputer Policy of 1978 insisted on the state intervention through
selective and discriminatory licensing and at the same time regulation of the private sector
activities within the IT sector. However, the continuous pressure from the domestic business
houses reflected significantly in the way this policy was implemented. “For example, within
the first two years of policy, over 40 licences were issued, undermining the economies of
scale required for mass computer production and giving recipients of the licences no incentive
to reinvest their profits into deepening capabilities via expanding productive capacity and
R&D. Furthermore, emulation of the Taiwanese model required not only subassembly but
local manufacture and supply of components and peripherals.... importation of Simple
Knocked Down (SKD) kits from East Asia allowed, sustaining a subassembly system with
little value-added. The DOE even allowed, by stealth, importation of more powerful
computers, which was a market supposedly reserved for ECIL” (ibid; 1146-47). Some other
such measures were taken which were quite contradictory to the fundamental essence of the
policy document. Despite the evident contradiction in its policy implications, Minicomputer
Policy in the long run influenced the growth of India‟s software industry. With no
standardisation in the fragmented hardware industry, hardware firms would not bundle
software with their hardware as they did in Taiwan and Japan, but provided separate software
services or none at all. As such, independent software firms began to service this burgeoning
fragmented market, and hardware firms developed significant software revenue streams. This
induced the growth of the domestic software industry, which rose from Rs2.3 million to
Rs76.9 million between 1981 and 1985, in contrast to exports, which rose from Rs44 million
to Rs280 million over the same period” (ibid; 1147).
This competition between hardware and software market continued well into the next policy
phase starting with Rajiv Gandhi‟s election as a Prime Minister of India. Though the New
Computer Policy was approved by the previous Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, it became
statutory under the rule of her son (i.e., Rajiv Gandhi) that this policy took effect
(Subramanian, 2000; 38). Between 1984 and 1986, software industry became the thrust area
under the New Computer Policy which was not only propelled by the potential of software
export but also by considerable pressure from the business houses to lower the import duties
on fully assembled computers and software packages. An Inter-Ministerial-Standing
Committee (IMSC) was established to facilitate to ease the process of import restriction. ....
“(T)he policy outcome was a reduction of basic customs duty on hardware from 135% to
60%, while customs duty on foreign software was reduced from 100% to 60%. While the
excessively lenient reductions resulted in balance of payments problems and had to be
modified in subsequent years, the policy increased the installed hardware base and further
promoted the emerging software services industry” (Saraswathi, 2008; 1147). Rajiv Gandhi
was a strong supporter of computerisation and use of Informational Technology for nation
building. There were significant technological changes in the railways, banking and education
sectors during his tenure (Gupta, 2010). Thus, this policy phase can be characterised by wideranging computerisation of public sector organisations albeit against strong resistance from
the labour unions (Saraswathi, 2008).
A number of important policy initiatives were introduced by the DOE to exploit the export
potentials of the software industry between 1986 and 1989. The first such policy was the
Computer Software Export, Software Development and Training Policy 1986. Though
maintain the overall rhetoric of indigenous development, this policy eased the import
restrictions on software packages moving from quota to tariff regime. This was followed by
allowing business houses to enter software development market which was restricted earlier
under the Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices (MRTP) and also by offering attractive
finance and marketing packages aiming at software export development (ibid). In 1988, the
Electronics and Software Export Promotion Council was backed by the Ministry of
Commerce which was followed by the establishment of a software industry trade association
called National Association of Software and Service Companies (NASSCOM) to provide
further marketing support (Subramanian, 2000; 39). The next major policy initiative was the
International-Package-Switching-Services (IPSS) by the Department of Telecommunications
(DOT) in 1989 which aimed at providing telecommunication infrastructure at a fairly low cost
to transfer domestically developed software to foreign countries. Around the same time DOE
came up with its Software Technology Parks (STPs) project which besides providing
advanced telecommunication infrastructure also made provision for other subsidies such as
free water and electricity. STPs also implied that all telecommunications for software export
came under the direct control of the DOE. STPs were a major policy initiative for the
development of software export market in India and have thrived ever since. As a result, there
are currently 43 STPs across India, albeit in the midst of much dispute and debate over its role
Another important state initiative which is even more relevant for the purpose of this research
is the establishment of National Informatics Centre (NIC) in 1976. By 1975, there was a
growing realisation of the potential of ICT in improving government activities and hence
overall development. As a result, NIC was conceived and set up with the financial assistance
from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). Starting as a miniscule initiative
by the Government of India (GOI), NIC has grown exponentially in the following decades to
become one of the major government organisations to spearhead the growth of e-governance
and informatics-led development in India. “NIC has leveraged ICT to provide a robust
communication backbone and effective support for e-Governance to the Central Government,
State Governments, UT Administrations, Districts and other Government bodies. It offers a
wide range of ICT services” (NIC Website, 2012). One of the milestone project of NIC was
the launch of NICNET, a Nationwide Communication Network in 1987. NICNET engaged
with “gateway nodes at about 53 departments of the Government of India, 35 State/UT
Secretariats and 603 District Collectorates to service ICT applications. NICNET has played a
pivotal role in decentralized planning, improvement in Government services, wider
transparency of national and local Governments and improving their accountability to the
people” (ibid). NICNET was followed by the District Information System of the National
Informatics Centre (DISNIC) which was an initiative to computerise all district offices across
the nation (11th ARC Report, 2008). Till date, “NIC assists in implementing ICT projects, in
close collaboration with Central and State Governments and endeavours to ensure that state-of
the-art technology is available to its users in all areas of ICT” (NIC Website, 2012).
Given this historical overview of IT policy-making in India and the institutional framework
for ICT-led developments within the public sector a few key issues can be underlined which
have a direct influence on the later reform trajectory of IT policy and e-governance. Firstly,
quite contrary to popular belief the state played an important role from the inception of IT
policies in 1970s. The role of state-led IT policies in the growth of software industry in India
cannot be entirely denied. It is in the backdrop of such a policy environment that National
Information Technology Task Force was established in 1998 which came up with the
Information Technology Action Plan I (Software), Information Technology Action Plan II
(Hardware) and Long Term National IT Policy (Task Force Website, 2000). In 1999,a
separate Ministry of Information Technology was established with a specialised Department
of Information and Technology (Gupta, 2010). Secondly, the influences of private or business
sectors in IT policy formulation and implementation even in the pre-liberalised years are well
established. Thirdly, the recognition of the developmental potentials of ICT tools dates back
to 1970s in India. However, the massive exploitation of ICT tools in governance reform and
other developmental projects is fairly recent. The launch of nation-wide networks such as
NICNET or DISNIC played instrumental role in planting the seed of network governance in
India. Fourthly, the role of International Organisations such as UNDP in interposing ICT tools
in government activities can also be traced back to the 1970s (as noticeable in the formation
of NIC). Though, such international donor intervention became rampant in the wake of larger
governance reform agenda after the economic liberalisation in 1991. For example,
international donor agencies such as the Department for International Development (DFID),
G-8, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the World Bank have been
actively engaged in several policy and project initiatives under the framework of egovernance for development (Sreekumar, 2008; Gupta, 2010).
Lastly, navigating its way
through the IT industry and ICT-led development, the Indian state (based on the
recommendation of NASSCOM) tries to integrate private sector goals with social
development goals. Hence the current policy focus in this field are on value-addition to IT as
an industry and to take IT to masses (Ahuja, 2000; 2). Under this broader framework of major
policy issues and environment that the recent policies pertaining to e-governance reform
initiatives in India is discussed and examined in the following sections.
National Task Force on IT & Software Development, 1998: Implications for eGovernance Reform
The National Task Force on IT & Software Development or as it is popularly known as the
National IT Task Force was established in 1998 by the Prime Minister‟s Office. The Task
Force was chaired by the deputy chairman of the Planning Commission and its main objective
was to formulate a draft National Informatics Policy (Sinha, 2006). There are many
recommendations that the Task Force came up with in three Basic Background Reports.
However, limited by the research focus of this dissertation only a few relevant themes are
elucidated here.
It recommended the “preparation of Five-Year IT Plans by every department in central
and state governments earmarking 1–3% of their budget for applying IT to streamline
their functioning. It gave the various ministries and departments three months to issue all
necessary instructions and amendments to procedures” (Madon,2009);
At least 2% of the departmental or ministerial budget was expected to be spent on IT
development (Sinha, 2006);
There was a strong recommendation for international cooperation in terms knowledge
sharing and technical assistance in planning and implementation of IT projects (ibid);
It suggested reorientation of the civil service towards IT based on training and capacity
building (ibid);
A Central Repository of Data in government was also recommended (ibid);
Citizen-IT interface was one of the focus areas of the Task Force which recommended
wider penetration of IT for the masses through application in health, education, trade,
taxation and so on (ibid);
It also recommended the universalising computer literacy through increasing use of IT
and computers in education under the „Operation Knowledge‟ programme (11 th ARC
Report, 2008)
In sum, The National Task Force for IT and Software Development marks a paradigm shift in
IT policy focus. The shift was from mere computerisation to improved service delivery,
better, investment climate and all-pervasive use of IT for development. The outcomes became
more important than the input which was reflected in subsequent policy frames.
Information Technology and the Reform of the Legal Framework
Information Technology Act, 2000: An Overview
The Information Technology Act, 2000 (No.21 of 2000) received the Presidential approval on
9th June 2000. As per the legal document, it is “An Act to provide legal recognition for
transactions carried out by means of electronic data interchange and other means of electronic
communication, commonly referred to as “electronic commerce”, which involve the use of
alternatives to paper-based methods of communication and storage of information, to
facilitate electronic filing of documents with the Government agencies and further to amend
the Indian Penal Code, the Indian Evidence Act, 1872, the Bankers‟ Books Evidence Act,
1891 and the Reserve Bank of India Act, 1934 and for matters connected therewith or
incidental thereto.” (GOI, 2000; 1)
This Act was a developed in direct response to the United Nations resolution on Model Law
on Electronic Commerce. Hence the Act states, “WHEREAS the General Assembly of the
United Nations by resolution A/RES/51/162, dated the 30th January, 1997 has adopted the
Model Law on Electronic Commerce adopted by the United Nations Commission on
International Trade Law; And WHEREAS the said resolution recommends inter alia that all
States give favourable consideration to the said Model Law when they enact or revise their
laws, in view of the need for uniformity of the law applicable to alternatives to paper-cased
methods of communication and storage of information; And WHEREAS it is considered
necessary to give effect to the said resolution and to promote efficient delivery of Government
services by means of reliable electronic records (ibid; 1).”
The Act has total thirteen chapters and four schedules including a separate chapter on egovernance. In principle this Act ratifies, a) the legal acceptance of electronic
communications and documents along with details processes of attribution, acknowledgment
and despatch of electronic records, b) legal recognition of digital signature along with details
of authentication, certification and regulation of digital signature, c) offences and penalties
along with the establishment of Cyber Regulation Appellate Tribunal and Cyber Regulations
Advisory Committee, d) the role and power of different authorities involved in the
institutional and regulatory framework of the Act. The Central Government holds
considerable power under this Act to make rules and make changes to carry out the provisions
in this Act.
Information Technology (Amendment) Act, 2008: An Overview
The Information Technology Act, 2000 (IT Act, 2000) was a breakthrough in the Indian legal
history as it was the first cyber law to be formulated and enacted. However, being at a nascent
stage of cyber law, the Act did not address many such issues that were deemed necessary to
strengthen the legal framework. Hence based on the recommendation of the Expert
Committee, the Government of India presented an amendment document namely, The
Information Technology Amendment Bill in 2006 (Naavi website). After much debate the
Bill has been passed by the Parliament to become the Information Technology (Amendment)
Act, 2008 (IT (A) Act, 2008).
The major thrusts of this amendment Act were issues of cyber security, privacy, cyber
terrorism, techno-legal information security and e-auditing. This also meant to refine the
terminology, for example, substituting the term “digital signature” with “electronic
signature”. It further provided to strengthen the Cyber Appellate Tribunal and to enhance the
authority of the Central Government regarding security issues even though the word
“Regulation/Regulations” were omitted from the principal Act of 2000. The provisions for the
intermediaries have also been revised under the amendment Act.
The IT Act 2000 and the IT (Amendment) Act 2008 and Provisions for EGovernance
Within the scope of this research the relevance of these legal documents lies in its particular
provision on e-governance. Chapter III of the IT Act, 2000 delineates the provisions under
seven specific sections.
Section 4: This section elaborates on the legal recognition of electronic records.
Information or any other matter are considered to be legal documents if they are “a)
rendered or made available in an electronic form; and b) accessible so as to be usable
for a subsequent reference.”
Section 5: This section confirms the legal status of digital signature to authenticate any
information or matter provided that the digital signature is affixed in a manner
prescribed by the Central Government.
Section 6: In this section provisions regarding the use of electronic records and digital
signatures in Government and its agencies are specified. Any filing, application and
other documents related to any Government authority, body or agency; issue, grant of
any licence, permit, sanction or approval by such authorities and the receipt or
payment of money made available through electronic form and authenticated by
digital signature gains the legal recognition. However, the appropriate Government
hold the power to prescribe the manner in which such electronic should be filed and
the methods of payment for any such filing and creation of electronic records.
Section 7: This section provides for the retention of electronic records if “a) the
information contained therein remains accessible so as to be usable for a subsequent
reference; b) the electronic record is retained in the format in which it was originally
generated, sent or received or in a format which can be demonstrated to represent
accurately the information originally generated, sent or received; c) the details which
will facilitate the identification of the origin, destination, date and time of despatch or
receipt of such electronic record are available in the record”.
Section 8: This section provides for the publication of rules, regulation, order, bye-law,
notification or any other matter in both the Official Gazette and the Electronic Gazette
where the date of publication will be the date of the Gazette published first (in any
Section 9: This section specifies that any Ministry or Department of the Central
Government or the State Government or any other similar authority or body funded or
controlled by the Central or the State Government cannot be persuaded to “accept,
issue, create, retain and preserve any document in the form of electronic records or
effect any monetary transaction in the electronic form”.
Section 10: This section details the power of the Central Government to make rules
regarding digital signatures, for example, its type, format, and procedures of personal
identification, procedures to ensure security and confidentiality of electronic records
and payments and so on.
IT (A) Act, 2008 adds several sections under this Chapter on E-Governance. After Section 6
of the principal Act, four more sub-sections were inserted. After section 7 and section 10 of
the principal Act some other sections were also inserted.
The sub-sections sections inserted after Section 6 of the principal Act are as follows:
“(1) The appropriate Government may, for the purposes of this Chapter and for
efficient delivery of services to the public through electronic means authorise, by
order, any service provider to set up, maintain and upgrade the computerised facilities
and perform such other services as it may specify by notification in the Official
Gazette. (2) The appropriate Government may also authorise any service-provider
authorised under sub-section (1) to collect, retain and appropriate such service
charges, as may be prescribed by the appropriate Government for the purpose of
providing such services, from the person availing such service. (3) Subject to the
provisions of sub-section (2), the appropriate Government may authorise the service
providers to collect, retain and appropriate service charges under this section
notwithstanding the fact that there is no express provision under the Act, rule,
regulation or notification under which the service is provided to collect, retain and
appropriate e-service charges by the service providers. (4) The appropriate
Government shall, by notification in the Official Gazette, specify the scale of service
charges which may be charged and collected by the service provider under this
section: provided that the appropriate Government may specify different scale of
service charges for different types of services” (IT(A)Act, 2008; 4). The service
providers under this Act includes “any individual, private agency, private company,
partnership firm, sole proprietor firm or any such other body or agency which has
been granted permission by the appropriate Government to offer services through
electronic means in accordance with the policy governing such service sector” (ibid).
The sub-section inserted after section 7 of the principal Act, provides for the “audit of
documents, records or information processed and maintained in the electronic form”
The additional section inserted after the section 10 of the principal Act establishes the
validity of contracts formed through electronic means.
Changing Legal Framework and Implications for E-Governance
The Information Technology Act, 2000 and the Information Technology (Amendment) Act,
2008, both are crucial in understanding the way e-governance is gaining foothold in the
institutional framework of governance in India. There are a few key issues that arise from a
careful scrutiny of these legal documents.
These laws facilitate the overhauling process of communication and documentation
within and with the Government agencies in India through legalising electronic data
interchange. This has direct implications for communications and transactions
between the Government and citizen, between the Government and business and also
within different bodies, departments and agencies of the Government.
The international framework plays an instrumental role in the development of the
principal Act as the motive behind this law is described to be keeping uniformity with
Model Law on Electronic Commerce adopted by the United Nations Commission on
International Trade Law.
Another motivation behind the principal Act was “to promote efficient delivery of
Government services by means of reliable electronic records” (IT ACT 2000; 1). This
fits within one of the basic principles of e-governance reform agenda and hence this
Act paves the way to such reforms.
Similar trends are evident in the Chapter III on Electronic Governance under the Act.
Through various provisions of legalising electronic records, digital signatures,
retention and dissemination of information in electronic format and so on this Act
helps to standardised the process of information exchange within the public sector.
Moreover, the provisions under the Section 7, that is, retention of electronic records
promote transparency of information and harness easier structures of accountability
with the Government. For example, the clause 1a) and b) in this section are
particularly relevant in this regard. Even various sections of Chapter IV on Attribution,
Acknowledgement and Dispatch of Electronic Records facilitate the same.
The IT Act, 2000 also makes information on Government rules, orders, and
regulations more easily accessible through rendering them available in electronic
forms (as specified in section 8 of Chapter III). This also enhances transparency with
the Government.
Under section 10 (Chapter III) and also under section 87 (Chapter XIII) the Central
Government gets enough authority to set the format and manner of electronic
communication including the digital signature and also to change rules through prior
notification. However, there is much ambiguity in the way it outlines under section 9
(Chapter III) that any person cannot demand acceptance, creation or retention of
electronic records or any electronic money transactions from any Government
authority. It leaves the question of governmental authority to different interpretations.
The provision for Cyber Appellate Tribunal in both the Acts (though with slight
refinement of terminology) further hints at institutionalisation of regulatory
frameworks in electronic communications.
The IT (Amendment) Act, 2008, notwithstanding its major focus on privacy and
security issues, make considerable amendments to the Chapter on E-Governance in the
principal Act. For example, “for efficient delivery of services the public through
electronic means”, this Act not only legalise the privatisation of service delivery
mechanism but also legalise the payment of fees for regular public services whereas
the responsibility of deciding the scale of such charges lies with the Government
(6A.(1), (2), (3) & (4)). Such a legal framework further encourages the model of
public-private partnership widely adopted under the governance reform agenda.
Other amendments provided under the 2008 Act aid in the process of increasing
transparency by legalising e-audit (7A) and also the simplification of communication
mechanism by recognising contracts generated in electronic form.
By addressing the issues of cyber security and privacy and data protection, cyber law
compliance and so on, this Amendment Act is supposed to affect the IT industry in
India in particular and also bring massive changes in the corporate governance system
within the country. These changes, in turn, have explicit and implicit impacts on the
issues of transparency and accountability within the general governance structure
where the private/corporate sectors have increasingly been involved.
Many view the introduction of such laws in the Indian context as a threshold in India‟s path to
become a digital society (Naavi website). Without delving deeper into the debate of digital
society, these Acts can be understood as a legal step towards institutionalising changing
nature of communications and interactions among different actors including public sector,
private business and ordinary citizens. Hence they set the stepping stones of reform in the
complex whole of governance structure in India by making provisions for e-governance.
Five Years Plans, Governance Reform and E-Governance
Five Years Plans in India is one of the leading documents of policy directives which reflect
the priority areas of development and strategies of intervention by the Government of India.
These plans are developed and approved by the planning commission of India where
recommendations from both the state and central governments are incorporated. Analysing
these planning documents holds immense significance to understand the overall policy
framework as they point out key areas of strategic reform. The two most important documents
to deal with governance issues are the tenth and eleventh Five Years Plan as both of them
give special attention to governance in general and e-governance in particular. Therefore both
the Plans will be analysed in succession albeit only specific chapters on governance will be
discussed in details. This narrow focus is required not only to pragmatically tackle such a
massive document but also to maintain its link to the main research questions.
The Tenth Five Years Plan (2002-2007): An Overview
The Tenth Five Years Plan clearly demonstrate the significance of contemporary governance
reform discourse in India‟s development planning as it devotes one full chapter to
„Governance and Implementation‟ (Chapter 6 of the Tenth Plan). It also expresses Indian
policy-makers‟ allegiance to the „good governance‟ paradigm at the very outset of the aforementioned chapter which states, “Good governance is one of the most crucial factors required
if the targets of the Tenth Plan are to be achieved” (The Tenth Plan; 177). The Plan starts off
with a clear notion of governance that “relates to the management of all such processes that,
in any society, define the environment which permits and enables individuals to raise their
capability levels, on one hand, and provide opportunities to realise their potential and enlarge
the set of available choices, on the other. These processes, covering the political, social and
economic aspects of life impact every level of human enterprise, be it individual, the
household, the village, the region or the national level. It covers the State, civil society and the
market, each of which is critical for sustaining human development” (ibid; 177). It also
continues to outline the characteristics of good governance: “The universally accepted
features of good governance are the exercise of legitimate political power; and formulation
and implementation of policies and programmes that are equitable, transparent, nondiscriminatory, socially sensitive, participatory, and above all accountable to the people at
large. There could however be aspects of governance that are contextually driven and geared
to address the local concerns” (ibid; 177). Here, there is evidently an attempt to balance
universal notions with local realities that promotes context –specific policy reform.
While disaggregating the concept of governance from that of development, the Tenth Plan
demarcates features of poor governance followed by an alternative framework for
conceptualising governance. Exploring the contextual parameters of governance in India, it
recognises the presence of poor governance even in better developed states. By poor
governance it implies: “Poor management of economies, persisting fiscal imbalances,
disparities in the pace and level of development across regions and across districts; denial of
basic needs of food, water and shelter to a substantial proportion of the population; threat to
life and personal security in the face of inadequate State control on law and order;
marginalising, exclusion or even persecution of people on account of social, religious, castes
or even gender affiliation; lack of sensitivity , transparency and accountability in many facets
of the working of State machinery, particularly those that have an interface with the public;
lack of credibility-the gap between the intent and the actions –of some institutions in society;
inadequate system of incentives/disincentives for people (particularly for a civil servant),
subversion of rules, evasion of taxes and failure in getting timely justice; existence of a
significant number of voiceless poor with little opportunities for participating even in
institutions of local self-governance, despite a visible movement towards decentralisation
through the Panchayati Raj institutions; and deterioration of physical environment,
particularly in urban areas” (ibid; 177-78).
These manifestations of poor governance can have direct correspondence with economic,
political or civic aspects of governance. However, all these aspects together are based on a
continuous process of intermediation between institutions, the delivery mechanism and the
supportive and subordinate framework of legislations, rules and procedures. The continuous
interplay between these predefined elements determines the alternative framework for
conceptualising governance within the Government discourse according to the Tenth Plan
(see below Figure 4.1).
Institutions are defined as “adopted or created arrangements, both formal and informal, to
bring about predictability, stability and efficiency in managing the social, economic and
political transactions in any society ;(For example, the institution of Parliament, the judiciary,
or the civil administration)”. The delivery mechanism is viewed as “including the executive
apparatus adopted or evolved by the institutions for implementing the agenda and the
objectives for which the said institutions have been created; (For example, law courts,
hospitals, police stations or the Collector‟s office)”. The final element, that is, the supportive
and subordinate framework for legislations, rules and procedures are “formulated for
delivering and meeting the stated responsibilities of the concerned institutions” (ibid; 178).
For efficient functioning of the system of governance, these three elements have to work in
complete harmony. With the changing domestic and global contexts, these elements need to
be capable enough to absorb changes and adapt accordingly. Therefore comprehensive policy
framework and institutional capacity of the delivery mechanism become crucial in
formulating and implementing appropriate projects/plans. As the Plan document reasons,
“...the ability to effectively target schemes/programmes towards the most deserving depends
critically upon the quality of governance. The better the levels of governance, the more
precise can be the targeting. The corollary of this is that in the absence of acceptable levels of
governance, it would be preferable to eschew targeted programmes in favour of more
generally applicable schemes” (ibid; 180).
Governance – An Alternative Model
Deliberate but Ad-hoc
Changes in Institutions
of Rules &
Changes in Global Economic &
Political Order
Figure: 4.1: An Alternative Model of Governance developed by the Indian State
Source: GOI (2002)
The changing contexts in the domestic and global level can be manifold. For example in the
domestic front, “In the past, with the elected governments lasting their full terms, the tenure
of the Government and the term of the Finance Commission were co-terminous. With the
changing political environment – premature dissolution of the lower house of the Parliament,
coalition governments and different political parties forming governments in the States and
the Centre- the working together of such institutions concurrently and in consonance with
each other cannot be taken for granted any more....These developments have a bearing on the
macro-economic management at the Centre, as well as in the States. Institutional changes
have to be, therefore, thought of to address the resulting issues and provide continuity and
harmony in the working of these bodies. Similarly, there are good reasons to devise new
instruments that ensure continuity of basic policies on which there is consensus across
political parties” (ibid; 178).
Likewise, the Tenth Plan also accounts for changes in the global contexts as it argues, “With
the acceptance of market liberalism and globalisation, it is expected that State yields to the
market and the civil society in many areas where it, so far, had a direct but distortionary and
inefficient presence. It includes areas where the State, for instance, had entered as a producer
of such goods and services that are also produced in the private sector. It also includes the role
of the State as a development catalyst where, perhaps, civil society presently has better
institutional capacity. At the same time, with the growth of markets and the presence of an
aware and sensitive civil society, many developmental functions as well as functions that
provide stability to the social order have to be progressively performed by the market and the
civil society organisations. It means extension of the market and the civil society domain at
the expense of the State in some areas. It also implies an increase in the area of their
respective overlaps” (ibid: 181). This reformulation of roles of the state, the civil society and
the market reflects unerringly in the governance reform trends in India and is well summed up
already in the beginning of the said chapter (Governance and Implementation) in the Tenth
Plan where the responsibilities of each sphere is explicitly marked. “The State is responsible
for creating a conducive political, legal and economic environment for building individual
capabilities and encouraging private initiatives. The market is expected to create opportunities
for people. Civil society facilitates the mobilisation of public opinion and peoples‟
participation in economic, social and political activities” (ibid; 177).
The Tenth Plan admits that in current situation it is impossible for the government to take a
completely minimalist role. However, instead of being extremely proactive, the government
focuses on certain key areas which would improve governance through efficient use of
resources in the public sector and by strengthening personal and community capabilities
geared towards sustainable development. These priority areas are: peoples‟ participation;
decentralisation; right to information; reforms of the revenue system; improving fiscal health
of the Central as well the State governments by making necessary corrections in the subsidy
and the pricing regime for public provisioning of services; inclusion of civil society as
development partners; civil service reform; procedural reform (covering all aspects of
government‟s interface with public); formulation of programme/project in a more professional
manner; project based assistance to States and development agencies/institutions; synergy and
coordination between different public and para-state agencies; stricter mechanism of
monitoring and evaluation; rationalisation of Central Sector schemes (CSs) and Centrally
Sponsored Schemes (CSSs) through convergence, weeding out and transfer to the States on
Zero Based Budgeting (ZBB); empowerment of the marginal and the excluded; judicial
reform; and using Information Technology (IT) for good governance/E-governance. The
underlying aims of all these thrust areas are improving the delivery mechanism, efficient
resource mobilisation and effective public expenditure (ibid; 182-87).
The Eleventh Five Years Plan (2007-2012): An Overview
Like its predecessor, the Eleventh Plan also devotes an entire chapter on Governance (Chapter
10) and reasons that “ inclusive growth, reducing poverty and bridging the various divides
that continue to fragment our society can only be achieved if there is a significant
improvement in the quality of governance” (The Eleventh Plan; 223). This chapter does not
attempt to present any definition of governance and good governance (which were already
introduced in the previous Plan). It nevertheless specifies the concrete meanings of good
governance in the Indian context which are as follows:
“As a democratic country, a central feature of good governance is the constitutionally
protected right to elect government at various levels in a fair manner, with effective
participation by all sections of the population. This is a basic requirement for the
legitimacy of the government and its responsibility to the electorate”.
“The government at all levels should be accountable and transparent. Closely related
to accountability is the need to eliminate corruption, which is widely seen as a major
deficiency in governance. Transparency is also critical, both to ensure accountability,
and also to enable genuine participation”.
“The government must be effective and efficient in delivering social and economic
public services, which are its primary responsibilities. ...In our situation, where the
responsibility of delivery of key services such as primary education and health is at the
local level, this calls for special attention to ensuring the effectiveness and efficiency
of local governments”.
“Governments at lower levels can only function efficiently if they are empowered to
do so. This is particularly relevant for the PRIs, which currently suffer from
inadequate devolution of funds as well as functionaries to carry out the functions
constitutionally assigned to them”.
“An overarching requirement is that the rule of law must be firmly established. This is
relevant not only for relations between the government and individuals enabling
individuals to demand their rights but also for relations between individuals or
businesses. A modern economic society depends upon increasingly complex
interactions among private entities and these interactions can be efficiently performed
only if legal rights are clear and legal remedies for enforcing these rights are swift”.
“Finally, the entire system must function in a manner which is seen to be fair and
inclusive....Disadvantaged groups, especially the SCs, STs, minorities and others,
must feel they have an equal stake and should perceive an adequate flow of benefits to
ensure the legitimacy of the State”.
While looking back at the Tenth Plan and its conceptualisation of governance, this Plan
lists out the steps taken under the Tenth Plan to improve the quality of governance in India
(ibid; 224). This comprehensive list reflects the concrete path of governance reform
agenda by the Government of India at various levels.
The Right to Information (RTI), 2005 was ratified as an Act. This Act aimed to
empower citizens, applies to all agencies and societies including Union and local
governments which receive public funds.
In order to promote accountability the All India Service Rules were amended by
introducing fixed-tenure provisions for certain posts.
As part of the major reforms in the tax structure, a new value added tax regime
was introduced which considerably simplifies tax system.
By providing tax incentives to donors and disclosing antecedents of candidates,
major reforms for electoral funding were initiated.
An e-Governance Plan for 27 important areas was adopted to improve service
delivery and digitisation of information.
National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA), National Rural Health
Mission (NRHM) and other such initiatives were taken to increase participatory
As recognition of the Voluntary Organisations‟ importance in participatory
governance system, a new policy for VOs was announced by the central
A National Disaster Management Authority was introduced to strengthen the
response system and to bring more consorted focus on the issue of disaster
The Second Administrative Reforms Commission (ARC) was founded in 2005 to
prepare a detailed blue-print for revamping the public administration system.
Keeping its allegiance to the „good governance‟ paradigm, the Eleventh Plan proposes two
specific measures. Firstly, “the Department of Administrative Reforms and Public Grievances
has proposed a framework for good governance in the form of a Code Governance. The main
components of this Code are: i) improving service delivery; ii) development of programmes
for weaker sections and backward areas; iii) technology and system improvement; iv)
financial management and budget sanctity; v) accountability and transparency; vi) public
service morale and anti-corruption; vii) incentivising reforms” (ibid; 224). Secondly,
depending on the federal structure, this Plan proposes a state-wise index of good governance
measuring the performance of the States by a high-level expert group. This index can be used
for giving incentives to perform and also to bring serious attention to governance issues (ibid;
While maintaining the basic focus on achieving good governance, the Eleventh Plan takes
major initiatives in a broad range of areas, such as, decentralisation through strengthening and
empowering Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs); decentralisation through introducing district
level planning; decentralisation by bringing Centrally Sponsored Schemes (CSSs) under the
PRIs; participation and harmonising community-based organisations with PRIs; rehabilitation
and resettlement; monitoring and evaluation; e-governance for better service delivery and
programme design, implementation and monitoring; use of ICT in major flagship
programmes; location-specific planning using geographical information system; partnering
with VOs; corruption; civil service reform; police and judiciary reform; new regulatory
structure with independent regulators.
These initiatives bear direct resonance with the priorities of the Plan; in “providing access to
health care and education, particularly in the rural areas and for girls, minorities, SCs and
STs, backward classes and BPL families. It also emphasises programmes of employment
under the Rural Employment Guarantee Programme. Access to clean and good quality water,
sanitation, housing and electricity are also critical. These services are delivered at the local
level and this calls for both empowerment and accountability of the relevant authorities and
effective monitoring of service delivery, particularly for low income groups. Effective
administration of the rule of law resulting in efficient criminal and civil justice system
delivering swift decisions and, particularly, ensuring access to the poor is of extreme
importance. An effective security and policing system is required for Naxalite affected and
communally sensitive areas” (ibid; 225). Additionally, the Plan identifies corruption as one of
major problems of governance and hence deems it extremely necessary to deal with this
problem. As already discussed in the Tenth Plan, this Plan also calls for wider participation of
private sectors and civil society organisations in matters of governance. Thus the
responsibility of the government is to develop business-friendly environment by promoting
efficiency and to encourage VOs for developing citizen initiatives and monitoring
government systems by promoting transparency (ibid; 225).
The Tenth and Eleventh Five Years Plan and the Scope of E-Governance
Given the overview of the two consecutive Five Years Plans, the overall governance reform
agenda espoused by the Government of India over the last ten years become apparent. As both
the Plan documents identify e-governance as one of the priority areas, strategic reforms have
taken place in this sector. Therefore, it becomes imperative to explore the policy orientations
and initiatives taken for e-governance under both the Plans.
The Tenth Plan identifies e-governance as one of the important tools “for achieving good
governance especially with regard to improving efficiency, transparency and making interface
with government user-friendly” (Tenth Plan; 187). The basic aim of e-governance is to use IT
in the government functioning “in order to bring about better governance which has been
termed as SMART (simple, moral, accountable, responsive, and transparent)” (ibid; 187). In
the Tenth Plan, the focus on e-governance was spread beyond connectivity, network and
technology upgradation to re-engineering of processes and rules. In a quest to take IT to the
masses, both private and public resources were to be mobilised under this Plan. Moreover, as
sustainability, interactivity and standardisation of e-governance activities were prioritised
under this Plan, the need for a comprehensive master plan for e-governance with specific time
frame was asserted. Innovative, cost-effective solutions to develop G2C, G2B and G2G
functionalities which will take local languages, local accessibility infrastructures into
consideration were encouraged and promoted. A major step taken under the Tenth Plan was to
adopt a National e-Governance Plan (NeGP) in 2006 to improve service delivery mechanism
to the citizens. This Plan spread across 27 major areas marks a significant difference from the
earlier efforts of mere computerisation.
In the Eleventh Plan, the initiatives taken in the field of e-governance become more organised
and comprehensive. The Plan reasons, “If attributes of good governance are transparency,
efficiency, responsiveness, cost-effectiveness and accountability, e-Governance is the means
to attain these attributes through application of technologies” (Eleventh Plan; 231). “The
National Knowledge Commission had, in the context of e-governance, suggested that to make
an immediate impact on citizens, it is critical to identify and simplify important processes and
services, say 15 to 20 to begin with, which are currently cumbersome, bureaucratic and prone
to unnecessary delays and corruption. Initially these services could include providing online
record of land rights, computerised land registration, computerised transfers, computerisations
of social security schemes, birth and death certificates, proof of residence, issue of ration and
ID cards, and so on” (ibid; 231). Continued focus was on technology upgradation and process
re-engineering for improved service delivery culminated into many important projects under
the Eleventh Plan. Some of these projects are: i) Unique identifiers of citizens and businesses,
“to create a common platform for service/ programme delivery...a unique ID (UID) in the
G2C domain and Corporate Identity Number (CIN) in G2B domain” (ibid; 231-32); ii)
Citizens Smart Cards Project to represent “different entitlement groups for which free services
or implicit/explicit subsidies are given” (ibid; 232); iii) State-Wide Area Networks (SWANS)
in 29 States and 6 Union Territories to establish “an intra-government network with a
minimum of 2Mbps connectivity from the State headquarters to block headquarters through
the District headquarters” ( ibid; 233). This project also provide connectivity for service
delivery of different Mission Mode Projects (MMPs) under the National e-Governance Plan;
iv) Common Services Centres (CSCS) scheme to establish “100,000 broadband Internet
enabled kiosks in rural areas which would deliver government and private services at the
doorstep of the citizens” and CSCs scheme “is the first step towards ubiquitous broadband
reaching up to the village level”(ibid; 233); v) Connectivity for the last mile through BSNL
and Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF); vi) State Data Centres (SDCS) across 29
States and 6 Union Territories along with Disaster Recovery (DR), “in order to provide
shared, secured and managed infrastructure for consolidating and securely hosting State-level
data and application...The various MMPs, both at the Central level, State level and also the
integrated services of the NeGP are expected to use SDCs to deliver their services. This
infrastructure would be created during the Eleventh Five Year Plan” (ibid; 233). The StateWide Area Networks (SWANs), Common Services Centres (CSCs) and the State Data
Centres (SDCs) are the three most important pillars of the National e-Governance Plan.
Besides these important areas of e-governance activities, Information Communication
Technologies (ICTs) are also being applied in flagship government programmes such as
NREGS, Bharat Nirman, PMGSY, for the purpose of implementation as well as monitoring.
Five Years Plans and Implications for e-Governance as Strategic Reform
Taking a close look at the Tenth and Eleventh Five Years Plans establishes two important
facts: first is that governance reform geared towards achieving „good governance‟ standards
has become an intrinsic part of government planning and second is that egovernance/application of ICTs in government functioning forms a major part of the
governance reform planning. Hence it is important to analyse e-governance as part of the
broader agenda of reform including its different other dimensions. One of the crucial aspects
of governance reform is the increasing influence of the market and civil society. This not only
implies shrinking of the state but also hints at a growing partnership between the State, the
market and the civil society in achieving developmental goals. The Tenth and the Eleventh
Plans both reiterate this dimension of governance reform through myriad policy directions
and project initiatives. In case of e-governance, such partnerships are envisaged to improve
service delivery and renders government functionaries more citizen-centric. In all the egovernance projects discussed in the Plan documents, the State plays the role of catalyst
facilitating the coordination among all developmental partners. Through process reengineering, e-governance also promises to change the way government personnel,
procedures and rules function at present. Along with simplification of the system, it also
assists in increasing transparency, accountability and efficiency of the system while showing
potentials to reduce occurrence of corruption. E-governance also aids in other priority areas of
the government such as health, education, police and judiciary reform, revenue system
reform, professional project formulation, monitoring and evaluation of projects/programmes
and so on. Embedding e-governance activities in major social flagship projects such as
NREGS enables better implementation. Thus, significance of e-governance lies not only as a
mere part of the governance reform programme but in its ability to permeate many other
reform initiatives with equal impact.
One of the vital points which both Plans stresses is taking ICTs to masses through increased
sustainability, interactivity and standardisation which further push for a master plan. Hence,
the Tenth Plan introduces the National e-Governance Plan (NeGP) including 27 Mission
Mode Projects (MMPs) and the Eleventh Plan continues to facilitate the successful
implementations of these projects besides adding a few more under the rubric of NeGP. Being
the single most important policy document for e-governance initiatives in India, NeGP
demands distinct attention.
National e-Governance Plan (NeGP), 2006
National e-Governance Plan presents a holistic approach towards varied e-governance
initiatives taken at various levels in the country. “During the 1980s and early 1990s, initial
attempts towards e-governance were made with a focus on networking government
departments and developing in-house government application in the areas of defence,
economic monitoring, planning and the development of IT to manage data-intensive functions
related to elections, census, tax administration etc. These applications focused on automation
of internal government functions rather than on improving service delivery to citizens” (2 nd
ARC 11th Report, 2009). However, there have been many isolated e-governance initiatives in
India ranging from the block level to the central level. Even though all such initiatives have
not been particularly successful in yielding desires results, lessons learnt from these
experiences shaped the e-governance strategy of the country in a considerable manner
(Saaransh, 2011). A few such lessons are:
“Need for political ownership at the highest level and a national vision for egovernance for successful implementation of the programme”;
“A dedicated team with a stable tenure from within the organization to conceptualise
and implement the programmes down the line”;
“New areas of public-private partnership in making e-governance possible should be
continuously explored”;
“Defined architecture, standards and policies addressing issues of security, privacy,
“An urgent need to develop the basic core and support infrastructure for e-Governance,
such as Data Centres, Wide Area Networks and the physical access points for delivery
of government services, which would be common to all departments and where
services could be delivered at the doorsteps of the citizens in an integrated manner”;
“Need to start with small pilots before scaling-up, as IT projects take a long time to
implement and often there are modifications to be incorporated along the way”; and
“Issues of re-engineering and management of change are of paramount importance in
comparison to technical issues associated with e-Governance”.
These basic lessons pointed out the need to have a programme approach towards egovernance initiatives in India with a common vision, strategy and approach. “These would
have the added advantage of enabling huge savings in costs, in terms of sharing the core and
support infrastructure, enable interoperability through standards etc, which would result in the
citizen having a seamless view of Government” (2nd ARC 11th Report).
Given this felt need, the Department of Information Technology (DIT) and Department of
Administrative Reforms and Public Grievances (DAR & PG) formulated the National eGovernance Plan which was approved by the Union Government on May 18, 2006.
Comprising of 27 Mission Mode Projects (MMPs) and 10 components, NeGP is guided by
one common vision, that is,
“Make all Government services accessible to the common man in his locality, through
common service delivery outlets and ensure efficiency, transparency and reliability of such
services at affordable costs to realise the basic needs of the common man.”
As the NeGP is being implemented as a programme it follows a broad approach which can be
illustrated in following points:
“DIT would create Common and Support Infrastructure(State Wide Area Networks,
State Data Centres, Common Service Centres, National/State Service Delivery
DIT would evolve/lay down Standards and Policy Guidelines, provide Technical and
Handholding support, undertake Capacity Building, R&D etc. as required for
successful implementation of various e-Governance projects
Mission Mode Projects (MMPs) would be owned and spearheaded by various
concerned line Ministries. The Ministry/Department would be entirely responsible for
all decisions connected with their MMP
States would be given the flexibility to identify a few additional state-specific projects
(not exceeding 5), which are very relevant for the economic development of the State.
In case, Central assistance is needed, such inclusions would be considered on the
advice of the concerned Line Ministries/Departments
E-Governance would be promoted through a Centralized initiative to the extent
necessary to ensure citizen service orientation, to realize the objective of
interoperability of various e-Governance applications and to ensure optimal utilization
of ICT infrastructure/resources while allowing for and adopting, as a policy, a
Decentralized Implementation Model
Successes would be identified and replication promoted proactively with required
Public Private Partnership (PPP) would be promoted wherever feasible to enlarge the
resource pool without compromising on the security aspects” (Saaransh, 2011)
NeGP implementation strategy is based on the programme approach and involves different
agencies with well defines roles and responsibilities encapsulated as such:
“Line Ministries/Departments are responsible for the implementation of the Mission
Mode Projects (MMPs)/Components owned by them and work in a project mode
within a tight, defined timeframe.
State Governments are responsible for implementing State Sector MMPs, under the
overall guidance of respective Line Ministries in cases where Central Assistance is
also required.
DIT is the facilitator and catalyst for the implementation of NeGPand provides
technical assistance to various Ministries and State Governments. In addition, it
implements pilot/ infrastructure/technical/ special projects and support components.
DAR&PG is responsible for Generic Process Re-engineering and Change
Management, which are desired to be realized across all government departments. For
various MMPs, concerned Line Ministries/ Implementing Agencies are primarily
responsible for carrying out the required Process Re-engineering and Change
Planning Commission and Ministry of Finance allocate funds for NeGPthrough Plan
and Non-plan budgetary provisions and lay down appropriate procedures in this regard”
(Saaransh, 2011).
Following the overall approach and a concerted implementation strategy, NeGP is formulated
through a rigorous project management structure involving the key stakeholders. The key
components of this structure are as follows:
“Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) for programme level policy
A body under the Chairpersonship of Prime Minister with representation drawn from
relevant Ministries/ Departments, the National Knowledge Commission, the Planning
Commission, experts, etc., to provide leadership, prescribe deliverables and milestones
and monitor periodically the implementation of NeGP
National e-Governance Advisory Group, headed by the Minister C&IT, to solicit
views of external stakeholders and to provide inputs to the CCEA, advise the
government on policy issues and strategic interventions necessary for accelerating
Apex Committee headed by the Cabinet Secretary to oversee the programme and to
provide policy and strategic directions for its implementation. In addition it moderates
and drives services, process re-engineering and service levels of each MMP wherever
required. Further it is empowered to add or delete MMPs as considered appropriate
and to resolve all inter-ministerial issues. DIT acts as the Secretariat for
Expenditure Finance Committee (EFC)/Committee on Non Plan Expenditure (CNE)
to financially appraise/ approve projects as per existing delegation of financial powers.
The EFC/ CNE headed by Secretary Expenditure would also be recommending to the
CCEA the manner in which MMP Projects are to be implemented, i.e. as a Central
Sector Scheme, Centrally Sponsored Scheme etc, as well as the financial terms of
participation for States.
Further, considering the complexity of the Programme and the need to look at issues
such as overall technology architecture, framework, standards, security policy,
funding strategy, service delivery mechanism, sharing of common infrastructure etc. at
a program level, the technical appraisal of all NeGP projects is done by DIT, prior to a
project being placed before the EFC/ CNE.
State level Apex Committees headed by Chief Secretaries to allocate State level resources, set
priority amongst projects and resolve inter-departmental issues” (ibid).
The programme management and project management structures are illustrated in details in
the figures below
Programme Management – NeGP
Overall Government Structure
NEGP Strategy Setting
National e-Governance
Advisory Board
(Chairman NCIT)
Working Group
(Chairman NCIT)
Apex Committee
Management Unit
Expenditure Finance
Project Owners
(Central Line Ministries/State
Department of IT
Figure: 4.2: NeGP Programme Management Framework
Source: GOI, (2006)
Government Structure at State Level-NeGP
State Government
State eGov Council (CM)
State Apex Committee (CS)
Department Committee
Figure: 4.3: NeGP Project Management Framework
Source: GOI, (2006)
The three main pillars of the National e-Governance Plan are State Data Centres (SDCs),
State-Wide Area Networks (SWANs) and Common Services Centres (CSCs). Together they
form the common support infrastructure of the NeGP. The SDCs functions as the central
repository of the State providing secure data storage which further “consolidate services,
applications and infrastructure to provide efficient electronic delivery of G2G, G2C and G2B
services through common delivery platform seamlessly supported by the State-Wide Area
Networks (SWANs) connecting up to the villages through the Common Services Centres
(CSCs)” (2nd ARC 11th Report). There are also 27 MMPs, nine at the Central level, eleven at
the State and seven at the integrated project level. Line ministries are responsible for the
implementation of MMPs.
Central Government
State Government
Integrated Service
Income Tax
Property Registration
India Portal
National Citizen Database & Treasuries
UID Projects
EG Gateway
Central Excise
Gram Panchayats
Commercial Taxes
Police (UTs initially)
Land Records
& Road Transport
Employment Exchanges
Table: 4.1: List of Mission Mode Projects
Source: DIT/COL (2006)
EDI (e-Commerce)
According to Mathur et al. (2009), the overall strategy of the National e-Governance Plan can
be summarised as follows:
“Centralised Initiative, Decentralized Implementation
Identify services to be targeted
Prioritise Services (Mission), Identify measurable service goals (Outcomes)
Identify, Appoint & Empower Mission Leaders
Create mechanism for effective Private Sector participation
Put in place a common Infrastructure, Policies, Standards and Framework
Service Delivery through Common Service Centres
Think Big, Start Small and Scale Fast
All services supported by 3 infrastructure pillars to facilitate web-enabled Anytime,
Anywhere access
Connectivity: State Wide Area Networks (SWANs)/NICNET
National Data Bank /State Data Centres (SDCs)
Common Service Centres (CSCs) primary mode of delivery” (Mathur et al., 2009)
Given this brief overview of the NeGP, the overall policy and strategic framework for egovernance initiatives in India becomes apparent. Implementations of grand plans in India
usually project a different trajectory. In case of NeGP as well, there could be wide gaps
between the programme outline and the implementation processes. Nonetheless, the
formulation of NeGP demonstrates the earnestness in the governmental attitudes towards egovernance reforms. A similar intensity continues to reflect in the Eleventh Report (2008) of
the Second Administrative Reform Commission which concentrates on promoting egovernance in India and lays out a number of recommendations in the field.
The Eleventh Report of the Second Administrative Reform Commission, 2008
The Second Administrative Reform Commission was established in 2005. Since then it has
published many reports covering different aspects of public administration system. Its
eleventh report titled, „Promoting e-Governance: the Smart Way Forward‟ , published in
2008 tries to “analyse the successes and failures of e-Governance initiatives in India and at
the global level, in order to extrapolate the best practices, key reform principles and
recommendations that can help the government to implement a new paradigm of governance
in the country. This new paradigm would focus on the use of information technology to bring
public services to the doorsteps of our citizens and businesses on the basis of revolutionary
changes in our institutional structures, procedures and practices that would transform the
relationships between our three levels of government, our businesses and our citizens”
(2008;i). The Commission in all its previous reports has touched upon e-governance while
addressing different aspects of public administration and governance issues. This report takes
e-governance as the core issue. This report presents basic conceptual frameworks of egovernance along with its different definitions by different International Organizations and
also a definition more suitable in the Indian context. As the report talks about the importance
of e-governance in India and the status of e-governance implementation in India, it does so by
placing such experiences within the broader framework of international scenario of egovernance. In elaborating different aspects of e-governance, starting from core principles to
legal framework, from National e-Governance Plan to knowledge management, this report not
only describe the recent state of affairs in India but also lists out a number of
recommendations for each of these aspects. Before looking at those recommendations, it is
worthwhile look at some of the basic features of e-governance that this report highlights.
The Commission argues that “the purpose of implementing e-Governance is to improve
governance processes and outcomes with a view to improving the delivery of public services
to citizens” (ibid; i). “While recognizing the potential of ICT in transforming and redefining
processes and systems of governance, the Commission had suggested that e-Governance is
the logical next step in the use of ICT in systems of governance in order to ensure wider
participation and deeper involvement of citizens, institutions, civil society groups and the
private sector in the decision making process of governance” (7-8). The main goals of egovernance, according to the Commission are: a) better service delivery to citizens, b)
ushering in transparency and accountability, c) empowering people through information, d)
improved efficiency within Governments, e) improve interface with business and industry
(ibid; iii).
This report also recognises the fact that “the benefits of information technology have not been
evenly distributed...that most of the time the benefits of e-Governance are also reaped by the
affluent sections of society” (ibid; iii). This calls for a “concerted effort to direct eGovernance reforms towards the common man” (ibid; iii). In doing so, “e-Governance needs
to transform all levels of Government but the focus should be on local governments since
local governments are the closest to citizens, and constitute for many, the main interface with
government....e-Governance based administrative reforms in local governments can have
maximum impact on citizens” (ibid; iii).
The report promotes comprehensive e-governance reform which goes beyond the mere
introduction of technology as “e-Government is not about „e‟ but about „government‟; it is not
about computers and websites, but about services to citizens and businesses. e-Government is
also not about translating processes; it is about transforming them. e-Government is
concerned with the transformation of government, modernisation of government processes
and functions and better public service delivery mechanisms through technology so that
government can be put on an auto-pilot mode”(ibid; v). A comprehensive e-governance
reform includes four important pillars, such as, people, process, technology, resources which
are framed as e-governance imperatives in the report:
Sustainability Cost-
Technology Architecture
Table: 4.2: e-Governance Imperatives
Source: GOI (2008)
Though the report gives much importance the public-private partnership model, it
nevertheless reinforces the role of the government both as a leader and a facilitator. It also
delineates much needed elements of such a role:
Developing a national e-strategy, making ICT adoption and network readiness a
national priority;
Undertaking innovative projects that make a difference, to lead by example, adopting
best practices;
Reforming government processes covering areas such as revenues, expenditures,
procurement, service delivery, customer grievances etc;
Tracking, storing and managing information, promoting production of national content
online and through electronic media; and documenting “successes” and “failures”;
According high priority to protection of individual rights, intellectual property,
privacy, security, consumer protection etc. and mobilising the civil society; and
Developing a supportive framework for early adoption of ICT and creating a
regulatory framework for ICT-related activities” (ibid; v-vi).
Focussing on the policy initiatives in e-governance the report reasons, “Creating the macroeconomic environment for growth and innovation in ICT, including fiscal policies (cost,
innovation, investment, and venture capital), legal and regulatory environment (competition,
independent regulator, rule of law, intellectual property protection) and channelizing and
mobilization of resources for ICT is an important corollary to e-Governance as is
implementing an education policy for the right quantum and quality of manpower resources
for a network-ready economy-curricula, ICT training facilities and wiring/networking of
educational institutions” (ibid; vi). As there are differences within state in e-readiness, the
international digital divide is further replicated within the Indian context. Hence, a concerted
nation-wide initiative to bring uniformity in e-governance implementation is much required.
Therefore, in listing policy priorities, the Commission argues, “Addressing the „digital divide‟
domestically and internationally, giving signals to markets - articulating a national vision of
ICT, according national priority to ICT, undertaking large projects, promoting innovation and
risk taking through fiscal concessions and availability of venture capital; creating an
investment climate for domestic and foreign investment in ICT sector; championing national
interests in international forums etc. are equally important” (ibid; vi).
The Commission also identifies the lag between policy initiatives and accomplishments in
India and posits e-governance as a tool to bridge this gap. However, the Commission
reinforces that “in any e-Governance initiative, the focus has to be on governance reforms
with the technological tools provided by ICT being utilized to bring about fundamental
changes in the governmental processes” and in order be effective “e-Governance projects
have to be designed for specific contexts and environments” (ibid;176). In this direction, it
presents a host of recommendations covering different aspects of e-governance reform which
are summarised in the Conclusion of the report. These recommendations include: Building a
congenial environment; Identification of e-Governance Projects and Prioritisation; Business
Process Re-engineering; Capacity Building
Technological Solutions;
and Creating Awareness; Developing
Implementation; Monitoring and Evaluation;
Framework for Coordination and Sharing of Resources/Information; Public-Private
Partnership (PPP); Protecting Critical Information Infrastructure Assets; The Common
Support Infrastructure; Mission Mode Projects; Mission Mode Project on Computerisation of
Land Records; Passport and Visa MMP; Unique National Identity Number/Card; Legal
Framework for e-Governance; and Knowledge Management. 12
The 11th Report of the Administrative Reform Commission provides a holistic picture of egovernance in India by connecting earlier experiences of e-governance initiatives to the
present status of e-governance reform added with a future policy direction. The report also
provides substantial links between the international practices of e-governance and the Indian
ground realities. Though greatly laden with recommendation, this document nonetheless
presents a glimpse of governmental attitude towards overall e-governance reforms in India.
As it becomes evident from most of the policy documents discussed in this chapter, the
Government of India takes keen interest in e-governance initiatives and there is a gradual shift
in the way government functions. This shift is reflected in the continuous upgradation of the
policy and legal framework attuned to e-governance reform. There are many proposed
changes in the process to be integrated into the formal policy paradigm. The proposed EService Delivery Bill 2011 which has already been presented in the Parliament is one such
policy document which has the potential to usher in substantial shifts in the legal framework
for e-governance. Even though it is yet to become an Act, once ratified it would have serious
implications for institutionalising online public service delivery mechanism.
E-Service Delivery Bill, 2011
The E-Service Delivery Bill is one of the important steps towards establishing a legal
framework for the provision of electronic delivery of public services. Doubtlessly, it
envisages promoting efficiency, transparency, accountability, reliability and accessibility of
public services to a wider mass. The key features of the Bill are:
It compels the Government to publish a list of public services to be delivered through
electronic channels with 180 days after the commencement of the Bill
It also enforces the grievance redressal mechanism for such services
It sets a 5 years deadline for all public services to be delivered electronically with an
additional buffer period of 3 years
The Bill sets clear guidelines for simplifying the delivery processes of online services
and also provides for required assistance in availing these services
For a detailed understanding of the reports see the 11th Report of ARC 2008.
The Bill proposes for the establishment of a Central Electronic Service Delivery
Commission along with its counterparts in the State Electronic Service Delivery
Commissions to overlook the functioning of electronic service delivery specified
under this Bill
The Bill also provides for penalties in case of non-compliance with the Bill and in
case of failure to redress a complain
The Bill, once ratified, has the potential to introduce a radical shift in the way government
functions and the core principles of citizen-government interface. By providing strict
deadlines for online service delivery and providing penalties for non-compliance, the Bill
ensures efficiency and better accountability in the system. By making all public service
delivery through electronic channels a mandatory provision, the Bill promotes accessibility
and efficiency of the delivery mechanism. Finally, the 180 days deadline for publishing all
possible services to be delivered through electronic means along with the provision of regular
upgradation of such information enhances transparency of the system. Hence, the E-Service
Delivery Bill could possibly overhaul the entire public administration in India.
From Policy to Practice
In so far, this chapter has elaborated on the overall policy environment which has been
formulated and initiated in harmony with the strategic reform in e-governance. Such policy
environment is comprised of legal framework designed for e-governance, developmental
initiatives in terms of new projects, schemes and plans, planning documents with clear policy
directions, governmental reports and recommendations with e-governance as a core focus and
so on. All these policy documents view e-governance as a crucial area of strategic reform in
order to achieving good governance in the Indian context.
The basic standards of good governance that e-governance reform is expected to attain are
efficiency, transparency, accountability, reliability, equitability, responsiveness, inclusiveness
and reduced channels of corruption. According to the governance reform agenda of Indian
policy-makers, e-governance, by introducing information communication technology in
public service delivery mechanism, ensures promoting these qualities of governance and
thereby enhances the level of governance .
Across all the policy documents, the state recognises the importance of non-state actors, such
as the market and the civil society in governance as well as e-governance reform agenda. The
State plays the role of a facilitator and a leader whereas the non-state actors are treated as
developmental partners. There is an emphasis on cooperation among these different partners
and also an expectation that the market and the civil society should slowly take on many of
the State functions. The increasing influence of the non-state actors become quite apparent
across all policy documents, be it in legal provisions or in national schemes for e-governance.
The policy agenda of reform in e-governance also promotes the notion of citizen-centric
governance which implies increased participation of the citizen not only in terms of
accessibility of public services but also through active participation in decision-making. For
example, one of the main aspects of NeGP‟s vision is to make public services available to all
citizens in their locality. Therefore, e-governance reform facilitates the process of democratic
decentralisation and makes citizen participation an inherent trait of public service mechanism.
Given a holistic understanding of the overall policy framework in favour of e-governance
reform, it is imperative to investigate one of the e-governance initiatives undertaken within
such a grandiose national-level planning. Common Services Centres (CSCs) Scheme, which
forms one of the main pillars of National e-Governance Plan, is an appropriate example of the
massive initiative taken up by the Government of India spreading across all the States and
Union Territories. A case study method has been adopted to investigate to what extent CSCs
reflect the policy outlines espoused by the Indian state. Together with the policy analysis
(dealt with in this chapter), the case study of CSC serves as the testing ground of the
preliminary conjectures that form the basis of this research. The following two chapters
unfold the case study and the resulting findings.
E-Governance in India II: Case Study of Common Services Centres (CSCs) Scheme
E-Governance Projects in India: A General State of Affairs
The recent policy drive towards e-governance reform in India has been part of a major
developmental goal of taking IT to the masses. This clearly marks a shift from the earlier
policy paradigm. Madon (2008) aptly summarises the Indian experience of e-governance in
two phases; the first phase spanned from the late 1960s/early 1970s to the late 1990s; the
second phase started from the late 1990s and is still in progress. She further drew the
characteristic features of both the phases. In her own words,
In the first phase, efforts to develop e-government were concentrated on the use of IT for inhouse government applications with a principal focus on Central Government requirements
such as defence, research, economic monitoring and planning, and certain data-intensive
functions related to elections, conducting of national census and tax administration...the
introduction of IT in the public sector did not result in automation of many key departmental
activities. In the second phase, the implementation of the (N)ational IT Task Force and state
government IT policies symbolized a paradigm shift in e-governance policies towards using
IT for a wider range of sectoral applications reaching out to a large number of people in
rural as well as urban areas. Moreover, there has been a movement towards a greater input
of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and private sector organisations in providing
services to public. These projects have been influenced by the increasing focus of
international agencies such as DfID, G-8, the UNDP and the World Bank under the banner of
„E-governance for Development (Madon, 2008; 269).
The IT Act 2000 and National e-Governance Plan (NeGP) 2006 were the two important
developments in the policy domain of e-governance. They facilitated institutionalising egovernance initiatives and streamlining the investment in the field. National e-Governance
Plan introduces a holistic approach towards e-governance reform in India which was hitherto
a territory of isolated administrative innovations. Therefore, the NeGP can be easily labelled
as a watershed in the Indian e-governance trajectory. However, before NeGP there were many
significant e-governance projects operating across different parts of India which held
important lessons for subsequent planning and policy formulations. While some of these
projects yielded considerable success, some others failed to leave a mark. The 11 th ARC
Report on E-Governance dedicated one full chapter (Chapter 4) to elaborate on a few such
initiatives by classifying them into three main categories, such as, Government to Citizens
(G2C), Government to Business (G2B) and Government to Government (G2G). The objective
of the chapter was to sieve out some recommendations for future initiatives on the basis of the
experiences gained from these projects. Other literature also attempted to capture such
initiatives as a compendium of projects. Similarly, NeGP has led to many other initiatives as
part of the common infrastructure and Mission Mode Projects (MMPs). It is important to
present an overview of these e-governance initiatives here as it helps sketching the
background for the case study of the Common Services Centres (CSC) Scheme while
providing a sneak peak of the general state of e-governance reform in the country. However,
corroborating to the research focus, only G2C initiatives are discussed in some details.
Some Significant E-governance Projects: Pre National e-Governance Plan13
Computerisation of Land Record by Department of Land Resources, Government of
India: Starting from 1994-95, the Union Ministry of Rural Development in
collaboration with the NIC tried to implement a pilot project on Computerisation of
Land Records across 8 States of India in a selected pool of 8 districts. The project was
already conceived in 1985. The basic aim of the project was to make the land and
revenue administration more citizen-centric, transparent, efficient and reliable by
enabling landowners to retrieve authentic computerised copies of ownership, crop and
tenancy and updated copies of Record of Rights (RoRs) on demand. Through
subsequent scaling up during planning phases, the project base grew extensively.
During the Ninth Plan, funds were sanctioned for reaching out to 2787 tehsils/taluks
which was further accentuated in the Tenth Plan by adding another 1615 more
tehsils/taluks to the list. Different states have performed differently in the process of
land record computerisation, some have stopped manual issuance of RoRs, whereas
others have completed data entry of RoRs and some others have made these data
available on websites. However, despite attempts of scaling up and various
recommendations the project is yet to penetrate the entire land and revenue
administration of the country even after so many years. So far, only 582 districts, 4423
tehsils/taluks and 1021 sub-divisions have been covered under this project. There are
mainly two reasons attributed to the unsatisfactory outcome of the scheme; firstly, the
lack of holistic approach to deal with entangled and complex nature of different
Most of the facts presented in this section are retrieved from the 11 th ARC Report (2008) and Madon (2009). For further
citation details please refer to the Chapter 4: e-Governance Initiatives in India of the Report and Chapter 6: India:
Development, Governance and e-Governance in e-Governance for Development: A Focus on Rural India by ShirinMadon,
Palgrave MacMillan,UK 2009
administrative components and secondly, the inability to substantiate the existing land
records with the dynamic field realities.
Bhoomi Project: Online Delivery of Land Records, the Government of Karnataka:
Following the Union Government‟s efforts of computerising land records, many State
Governments undertook land record computerisation projects. Among such State
initiatives, Karnataka‟s Bhoomi project turned out to be one of the most successful
attempts and hence the Union Ministry of Information and Technology has announced
it be national model for country-wide replication. Starting in 2003, Bhoomi maintains
and delivers 20 million computerised rural land records through 177 public kiosks in
Karnataka reaching out to 6.7 million farmers. The land records were extremely
crucial for rural citizens as they contained data concerning ownership, tenancy, loans,
title, crops grown, irrigation details and so on. Before, the rural land records were
maintained by village accountants manually and therefore they held the monopoly to
change and manipulate these data. This led to inefficiency, non-transparency and
corruption into the system. Under the Bhoomi project, this inept system has made way
to online delivery of land records and online request for the change of titles in
exchange of a user fee. In order to safeguard the data a biometric finger authentication
system is introduced and also a back up of data was created through online replication.
Bhoomi is an ongoing project and is being continuously upgraded for example by
introducing digital signatures, linking Bhoomi to courts and banks, further
decentralising the issuance of RoRs and so on. The strong political will at all levels,
effective business process re-engineering, end to end computerisation, well-built backup mechanism, strong appeal to the rural mass, professional project management team
and holistic approach covering planning, implementation and escalation are cited as
some crucial factors behind the success and sustainability of this project. One of the
main criticisms against the project is that on one hand it exhibits considerable bias
towards rich and big landowners requiring bank loans or large sum of credits. On the
other hand, by eliminating village middlemen it prevents small farmers and landless
labourers to access bank loans and many other developmental schemes sponsored by
the State (Madon, 2009).
Gyandoot, Madhya Pradesh: In the year 2000, this telecentres project was initiated in
drought-stricken Dhar Distric of Madhya Pradesh to provide information and selected
public services to the rural citizens. The project started off by installing computers in
twenty village panchayat offices to which 15 more privately owned centres were
added later. These centres were called Soochanalayas and were operated by the local
rural youth called Soochaks. These centres were connected to the Intranet through
dial-up lines and were also connected to the District Rural Development Authority in
the Dhar Town. The services that were made available through these centres in
exchange of a nominal user fee were: daily agricultural commodity price, income,
caste and domicile certificates, lists of people below poverty line, public grievance
redressal, Hindi e-mail, Hindi Newspapers and so on. This initiative was not
sustainable for many reasons such as, poor accessibility of the centres, lack of
awareness, user fees for public services, lack of support from local administration,
lack of proper infrastructure, inadequate back-end processes and so on (Madon, 2009;
11th ARC Report, 2008). Another major drawback of Gyandoot project was that it got
entangled into local power structures and social inequalities which defeated the basic
motivations of a citizen-friendly e-governance reform (Sreekumar, 2008). Though the
project could not raise much sensation, its failure holds significant lessons for future
rural telecentres initiatives. It points out the importance of basic infrastructure such as
electricity, connectivity, e-readiness of back-end processes, etc. It also brings out the
role of local context in shaping the fate of an e-governance initiative. Lastly, engaging
citizens by simplifying the IT interface and by raising awareness is also considered to
be an important pre-requisite.
Lokvani Project, Uttar Pradesh: This project was initiated in 2004 at Sitapur district of
Uttar Pradesh to provide a single window outlet for some essential services to wider
rural population. The project was built on a public-private partnership (PPP) model by
turning already existing cyber cafes into service kiosks and 109 telecentres were
established throughout the district. The system was customised to suit the local
contexts by taking into account the use of local language, the factor of illiteracy and
lack of computer literacy. The major services available under the project were: land
record certificates, information about different government schemes, online
government forms, GPA account details for basic education teachers, details of
allotted funds to gram sabhas, details of food grain allotment to fair price shops, and
online registration, disposal and monitoring of public grievances. It is the latter service
which gained unprecedented popularity among the users. Hence, despite the
infrastructural bottlenecks and other structural issues similar to Gyandoot project,
Lokvani is touted as a success story due to intense response to the grievance redressal
component. Another reason for its sustainability is the successful implementation of
the PPP model for which no public subsidies, loans or capital expenditure was
Thiruvananthapuram district in Kerala and was later replicated in other districts in
2001-02. „FRIENDS‟ (Fast, Reliable, Instant, and Efficient Network for the
Disbursement of Services) provides a single window opportunity for citizens to pay
taxes and others dues to the State Government through Janasevana Kendrams located
across district headquarters. This project was launched despite the inadequate backend computerisation status of many government departments. Instead a hybrid system,
combining front-end computerised service delivery with manual back-end processing
was adopted. To ease the process, a government order was issued to confer similar
status to payment receipts acquired from FRIENDS counters as that of receipts from
the concerned departments. Given the success of the project further upgradation plans
were conceived.
Rural e-Seva, Andhra Pradesh: This project was initiated by district administration in
2002 in the West Godavari district. Rural IT-enabled kiosks operated by local
entrepreneurs and self groups trained by District Rural Development Agency were set
up to provide single window service solutions for rural citizens. The services included
payment of government bills, issuance of certificates, application for government
schemes and loans, accessing district authority bulletin and other public information,
public grievance redressal and so on. The project was financially sustainable
attributing to support from NIC and to low cost software built by local engineering
students. Regardless of the successful pilot phase, the project nonetheless, suffered
from lack of administrative institutionalisation and streamlining bureaucratic
processes. The public services offered depended highly on the intention and
enthusiasm of the incumbent of the District Collector position and thus rendered the
entire project volatile.
These e-governance initiatives by no means present an exhaustive account of all major egovernance projects in India. They simply put forward the experiences, processes and
methods associated with e-governance projects in India. Although implemented as isolated
efforts, all these projects, irrespective of their success rate bring out a few significant policy
Need for political ownership at all levels and a national vision with holistic approach
towards planning and implementation of e-governance reform;
The importance of basic infrastructure;
Seamless coordination between different sections of the government;
The emphatic role of PPP model
The need to disaggregate different components of e-governance and
phase out
The significance of local context in both planning and implementation of egovernance projects
The need to evaluate actual needs of the citizens
The importance of prioritising process re-engineering and change management over
technical issues of e-governance
Based on these realisations, the idea of an integrated programme approach guided by a
common vision, strategy and approach was exceedingly endorsed. The idea found more
support as it was believed to heavily cut down on the total outlay for e-governance initiatives
by creating shared infrastructure, interoperable standards and by averting duplications and
overlaps. Consequently, the National e-Governance Plan was formulated by the Government
of India with vision to create a seamless view of the government for the citizens. All the
initiatives undertaken in the NeGP share its common vision, approach and strategy.
Therefore, it becomes imperative to shed some light on the major initiatives undertaken by the
E-Governance Initiatives under the National e-Governance Plan: A Brief
The National e-Governance Plan can be described in terms of a three-tier structure (GOI,
2011, Saraansh). The First tier is represented by the Common Services Centre (CSCs) which
is the front end delivery point for providing a range of services to citizens in a transparent
manner, at a convenient location and at an affordable cost. Moreover, they create
employment/entrepreneurial opportunities for local youth who are running these centres. The
second tier of the NeGP is built by the common support infrastructure that links different
components of governments with each other and with the citizens. This infrastructure is
provided by the State-Wide Area Networks (SWANs) and State Data Centres (SDCs).
SWANs provide wide network support from all State/UT headquarters to the Blocks. This
serve as a backbone of network in providing G2G and G2G services under the National eGovernance Plan. The SDCs facilitate IT infrastructure to consolidate applications and data
hosted by the State. The third tier is comprised of 27 Mission Mode Projects (MMPs) which
seek to transform selected high-priority services from manual to electronic mode of delivery.
They are called „Mission Mode‟ for their definite timeline, clear process re-engineering plans,
specific service levels and an assigned project implementation team. MMPs are often
portrayed as the future of governance in India. There are 11 Central, 10 State and 8 Integrated
MMPs. A brief overview of these MMPs demonstrates the current state of affairs of egovernance initiatives in India. (Fact Sheets in the Annexure)
To illustrate further, 6 out of these 27 MMPs are discussed in some details. Two projects are
selected from each of Union, Integrated and State MMP categories. They are selected to
demonstrate the wide-ranging scope of these projects and their multi-faceted relevance for
different stakeholders. It is important to clarify that the selection of these specific projects in
no way intended to suggest any special preferential criteria. The objective is to grasp the
nature, extent and processes of e-governance reform under the NeGP.14
Income Tax: This Union Government MMP provides a set of 18 e-services from the
Income Tax Department to the tax payers all over the country. Some of the important
e-services under this project include online submission PAN and TAN application,
electronic filing of income tax returns, online payment of taxes, status tracking and
grievance handling of PAN/TAN application, online tax calculator, downloadable eforms, downloading challans and many more. The e-filing infrastructure has been
fully operation and provides key services to taxpayers. PAN application receipt,
digitisation and issue of PAN cards have been outsourced to service providers.
Primary Data Centre (PDC) in Delhi, Business Continuity Planning site (BCP) in
Mumbai and Disaster Recovery Site (DR site) in Chennai have been established for
consolidating database and integrating project roll out. Currently, The All India
Income Tax Network (TAXNET) covers all 710 offices distributed in 530 cities across
India and more than 13000 users under a single national database (GOI, 2011).
UID: The Unique identification project is an initiative to provide identification for
each resident across the country and once achieved it will serve as the basis for
efficient delivery of welfare services. It will also help different government
The facts and status of the projects are accessed from different documents published by the Government of
departments to effectively monitor its various programmes and schemes. This project
envisages making UID the single source of identity verification which will produce
and issue Unique Identity numbers to all the residents of India and will provide
authentication services. Under this project, the Unique Identification Authority of
India (UIDAI) will collect 10 fingerprints, a photo and an iris scan (eye scan) of
citizens as part of the biometric data collection exercise. The UIDAI will offer a
strong form of online authentication, where agencies can compare demographic and
biometric information of the resident with the records stored in the central database. It
will support registrars and agencies in adopting the UID authentication process by
assisting in defining the required infrastructure and processes. By such process of
uniquely identifying citizens, UID project which is also known as Aadhaar will help
sifting the actual beneficiaries of several public schemes. Hence UID is expected to
help in better functioning of developmental schemes such as NREGA, Sarvashiksha
Abhiyan, Indira Awaas Yojana offered by the Union Government and other such
schemes offered by the State Governments by minimising the possibility of identity
frauds which will further ensure efficient utilisation of funds allocated to these
schemes. The long-term outcome of this project is gradual reduction in total
expenditure on overall developmental schemes by avoiding duplication and overlap by
different departments. By creating a single repository of resident data with identity
information need to undertake fresh and frequent population surveys by individual
departments can be averted. This will imply a more concerted and cumulative
updating of the government databases and thereby a significant reduction in the
overall government outlay in generating and maintain databases.
For poor and
underprivileged residents, UID facilitates entry into the formal banking system and
enhances opportunities for availing public as well as private services. The UID also
helps migrants to acquire unique identity and hence alleviate the process of mobility.
UIDAI expects to issue UID numbers to 600 million (60 Crore) residents by the end of
five years of its operations.
Currently, the project is in the first phase of its
implementation and the budget for the next phase has already been approved.
e-Courts: This Integrated MMP is envisaged to transform the Indian judiciary system
with the use of ICTs. It has a clear-cut objective, which is “to re-engineer processes
and enhance judicial productivity both qualitatively and quantitatively to make the
justice delivery system affordable, accessible, cost-effective, transparent and
accountable” (GOI, 2011). The scope of the project is “to develop, deliver, install and
implement automated decision making and decision support system in courts all over
the country” by attaining “digital interconnectivity between all courts from the taluk
level to the apex court” (ibid, 2011). The services to be offered under this project
include, firstly, automation of case management processes for example case filing,
registration, allocation, court proceedings, disposal, transfer of case etc; secondly,
provision of online services such as certified copies of orders and judgements, case
status, case diaries and so on; thirdly, information gateways between courts and
government agencies such as exchanging information with police, prisons,
government departments and distant production/examination of under trial and witness
through videoconferencing.; fourthly, monitoring of pendency in the courts by
creating National Judicial Data Grid. All these services are expected to equally benefit
citizens, litigants, judges and advocates. During the first phase of implementation, the
site preparation has been completed at 10,299 courts in 1539 court complexes and
9536 Judges and 36605 court staffs have been given special training (GOI, 2011).
India Portal: The National Portal of India is an integrated MMP which offers a single
window unified interface for almost 6700 government websites in order to make
seamless access to government information and services a reality. It coordinates
between 35 States/UTs and 63 Central Ministries to develop and compile content on
the website. The portal is available in Hindi and English and it serves as a central
repository of documents, forms, services, acts, announcements, contract directories,
schemes and rules. It has also provided special web interfaces for NGO partnership
and RTI complaints and appeals. Besides acting as one-stop source of governmentrelated information, the portal also help in launching and implementing various egovernance initiatives endorsed by the Indian Government, facilitating public
participation in the process of governance and in creating policies and standards of
publishing information and electronic delivery of government information and
services. The National Portal has 70000 registered users and gets about 70 million hits
per month from all over the world (GOI, 2011).
Agriculture: Over the years before NeGP, the Department of Agriculture and
Cooperation (DAC) has taken up several IT initiatives such as AGMARKNET,
SEEDNET, and DACNET and so on. The States/UTs have also taken up similar
initiatives, for example AGRISNET under the broader umbrella of DAC. The
Agriculture is a state MMP which strives to integrate all such IT initiatives with the
Central Agri Portal (CAP) and the State Agri Portals (SAPs) conceived under the
NeGP. The broader vision of this MMP is “(t)o create an environment conducive for
raising the farm productivity and income to global levels through provision of relevant
information and services to the stakeholders” (ibid, 2011). The project aims to
improve the access of timely and relevant information and services by farmers
throughout the crop-cycle, to provide location specific and latest crop management
information, to improve government service delivery in agriculture, to better monitor
and manage schemes under DAC, to facilitate private sector involvement for the
benefit of farmers through integrated service platform. The services to be offered
under this project include information on crops, farm machinery, training and Good
Agricultural Practices (GAPs), forecasted weather, prices, arrival, procurement points,
irrigation and marketing infrastructure, soil health, pesticide and fertilisers, drought
relief and livestock management and other relevant information, electronic
certifications for export and import, monitoring, implementation and evaluation of
schemes and programmes. It will also provide online mechanism for stakeholders‟
feedback The project proposes to provide a multi-channel delivery of information, for
example through internet, Krishi Vigyan Kendras, government offices,
Kisan Call
Centres, Agri-Clinics, CSCs, mobiles phones and others. Implementation in the first
phase is rolled out and the second phase is under progress. This project is expected to
increase transparency in agricultural services, increase farmers‟ participation in
information sharing through penetration of information at the grassroots level, enable
customisation and personalisation of information suited to the local contexts, facilitate
engagement of academic institutions in generating and disseminating information.
e-District: This State MMP aims to support the administrative unit by enabling
electronic delivery of high volume citizen centric government services through backend computerization. This initiative will ensure optimal exploitation of the three
infrastructure pillars of NeGP, namely, State Wide Area Networks (SWAN), State
Data Centers (SDC) and Common Service Centres (CSCs) to achieve the ultimate
vision of the NeGP, that is, to deliver services to the citizen at his doorsteps. The
back-end computerization is expected to reach out up to the sub-district/ tehsil level to
e-enable the delivery of such high volume services through Common Services Centres
(CSCs) in a sustainable and time-bound manner. Traversing through different
components of NeGP, this project promises to create significant linkages between the
back-end and front-end mechanisms of service delivery. Although, it is still in the
pilot phase, this project is proposed to scale up and cover all districts in India. The 5
core services that e-District will initially offer are; issuance of different certificates
such as birth, death, marriage, income, domicile etc, social welfare schemes such as
pensions, scholarships etc, revenue court services, public distribution system and
ration card related services, RTI related services and grievance redressal. In the first
phase of implementation, district which has 70% operational CSCs will be selected for
pilot roll out. e-District pilot projects have been initiated in 41 districts across 16
States to bring high volume services at the District level, which are currently not
covered by any MMP under the NeGP. E-services are launched in 24 districts in
8States (6 in Uttar Pradesh, 5 each in Madhya Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, 2 each in
Assam, Bihar and West Bengal and 1 each in Jharkhand and Kerala). In Orissa,
Mizoram, Haryana, Punjub, Maharashtra, Puducherry, Rajasthan and Uttarakhand the
pilot project is being implemented at a high pace.
These MMPs under the NeGP demonstrate the overall of environment of e-governance
initiatives. They depict a positive and decisive trend towards diversified yet holistic attempts
of radically transforming the public service delivery mechanism and the system of
governance. However, this large-scale enthusiasm can easily be marred by the several
challenges that are encountered in the processes of implementation of these projects. Some of
these challenges are already accounted for the in the project planning, some are
unprecedented hitches arising from the everyday practices of execution. In order to fully
grasp these complex experiences of a project implementation process, a case study of CSCs
has been undertaken across a few states of India. The findings of the case study will help in
assessing the role of NeGP in transforming governance in India.
The Case Study of the CSC Scheme
Before proceeding to the details of the case study and the field experiences associated with it
is necessary to provide some insights into the CSCs scheme - its scope, strategies and
structures- the building blocks of the Scheme and also the real status of its implementation.
What is CSC?
CSC is the primary physical front-end of the service delivery mechanism which forms one of
the three pillars of e-governance infrastructure model as envisioned under the National egovernance Plan. The CSC scheme was conceptualised in May 2006 and was approved by the
Government of India by September 2006 with a budget allocation of Rs. 1649 Crores which is
shared by the Union (Rs.856 Crores) and the State (Rs. 793 Crores) Governments. The
objective of CSCs is to integrate private sector goals with government‟s social objectives
through a Public Private Partnership model and thereby establish a sustainable business model
for achieving vigorous socio-economic change in rural India through the use of ICT
(Information Communication Technology). The aim of the CSC Scheme is to establish
100,000 rural kiosks across the country with an equitable distribution - one CSC for every six
census villages- thereby reaching out to a network of 600,000 villages across the country.
The CSC Scheme is not just about rolling out IT infrastructure but it also act as an agent of
socially inclusive community participation and collective action. CSCs are expected to create
rural entrepreneurship and livelihood options by enhancing rural infrastructure and capacities,
to strengthen participatory governance by ensuring transparent dissemination of information
and efficient service delivery, to improve accountability of public services by eliminating
intermediaries and establishing direct links between users and providers. The incremental
value-addition of this Scheme is well captured in the figure below:
Entertainment, e-commerce, etc
Greater prosperity to
consume and improve
quality of life
Enhanced quality
of Life
Social Development
Build Incomes – Promote Livelihoods
Save Costs: Reduce Expenses
Education, Health, Training,
Market linkages and
other private sector
G2C &other
utility services
Figure: 5.1: Service Need Matrix of Rural India
Source: GOI (2010)
The CSC has 3-tier bottom-up implementation framework. The first level is comprised of the
local Village Level Entrepreneurs (VLEs) who are equivalent to a franchisee and work as the
kiosk-operator catering to the rural mass in a cluster of 5-6 villages. They act as a basic
contact point for the citizen and both the public and private service providers. At the second
level of implementation lies the private sector partner (franchiser) termed as the Service
Centre Agency (SCA). They build and manage the VLE networks and the business. They are
positioned to be the prime driver of the entire eco-system of the project. The State
Governments appoint the State Designated Agency (SDA) at the third level to facilitate
implementation of the scheme within the State, to select the SCAs within the State and to
provide policy and regulatory guidelines and other supports to the SCAs and to perform
overall monitoring of the project.
•State Designated Agency (SDA)
•facilitating implementation within the state along with policy dirction,
content and other support to SCA
•Service Centre Agency (SCA)
•operating, managing and building the VLE network and business
•Village Level Entrepreneur (VLE)
• serving the rural customer in the cluster of 5-6 villages
Figure: 5.2: 3-tier Implementing Structure of the CSCs Scheme
Source: Author
The capital expenditure for setting up the CSC and other infrastructure are borne by the SCA.
Even though no capital support is provided by the Government, government services (G2C)
are expected to cover a part of the cash flow into the CSC. However, to attain sustainability in
the face of delayed availability of G2C services, private services (B2C) could provide a viable
business solution. Moreover, to overcome problems of financial viability and sustainability, a
shared support is provided by the Central and the State Governments in the form of a
“Guaranteed Provision of Revenue from Government Services” (GOI).
Status of CSCs Roll Out in India: A Snapshot15
By September 2010, a total of 84, 830 CSCs had been rolled out across 30 States/UTs. In 21
States, more than 70% of the roll out had been accomplished whereas in Maharashtra and
Uttarakhand, the implementation crossed a 50% mark. However, due to lack of adequate
numbers of G2C services, termination of some SCA contracts and other challenges some of
the CSCs which had been already rolled out became non-operational. (GOI, 2010)
A total of 61, 384 (72%) of CSCs were connected by this time using multiple channels such
as public services by VSAT and BSNL, Data Card, WILL or GPRS provided by private
companies such as AirTel, Reliance and Tata Indicom. The scheme proposed to extend BSNL
connectivity to all CSCs by June 2011. CSC Online Monitoring Tool has been developed to
monitor the uptime performance of CSCs. By September 2010, 47728 CSCs were registered
under this tool whose performance could be monitored from various locations. (GOI, 2010)
A host of G2C and B2C Services were provided in the CSCs by September 2010. There were
many variations in such services from one State to the other.
G2C Services in Brief
Andhra Pradesh
Information services of Agriculture & Cooperation Department
Utility services (Electricity, BSNL bill payment), Online Form Filing,
Form submission,
CSCs as stamp vendor for selling of non-judicial Stamp and Stamp paper
Certificates, Pension, Grievances, Jamabandi, Utility services (Electricity
bill payment)
RTI service, Birth Death, Caste, Income and residential certificates ,
NREGA Services, Public
Grievance Redressal System
The status updates are extracted from the GOI documents (Background Papers, 2010) that present the status of
CSCs as on 30th September 2010. This date is carefully chosen to match with the commencement of fieldtrips in
November 2010 onwards. Some other survey data were available from a Mid-Term Assessment of the CSC
Initiative presented by IMRB International in February 2010.
Land Records, Utility services (Electricity bill payment), Birth
Certificate, Death Certificate, forms
Copy of Land Records, Caste, Domicile Certificates, Social Welfare
Schemes, Indira Gandhi Vivah Shagun Yojna (IGPVSY), Ration cards
Financial Inclusion (Banking Correspondents)
NREGA MIS Data Entry Service, Digitization of national 18th cattle
survey data, Jail Sakshatkaar, postal products, stamp vendor
Utility services (Electricity, BSNL, water bill payment)
Agricultural services
G2C Services in Brief
Madhya Pradesh
MP Online Services, Financial Inclusion (Banking Correspondents)
Land Records, Utility services (Electricity bill payment)
Birth and Death certificates, property tax, Utility services (Electricity and
BSNL), trade licence
Utility services (Electricity bill payment), Land Records
Tamil Nadu
Electoral services, Transport, Grievances
Uttar Pradesh
e-District services, Lokvani services , NREGA, Land Records
West Bengal
Registration, Employment Exchange, Awareness campaign, Utility
services (Electricity, BSNL payment), Postal services, Agricultural
Table: 5.1: Service Status of CSCs
Source: NeGP Background Papers, GOI (2010)
The noteworthy B2C services that were offered by the CSCs included financial services,
Mobile recharge, DTH recharge, Railway Ticketing, Matrimonial services, e-Learning etc.
State Bank of India (SBI), Punjab National Bank and other commercial banks started using
CSCs for delivery of financial products and services including banking and insurance. (GOI,
In February 2010, M/S IMRB International submitted a Mid-Term Assessment of the CSCs
Initiative. The first step of this assessment was a Rapid Assessment Round (RAR) for which
347 villages were visited across 13 States. Out of these 347 villages, CSCs in 226 villages,
that is, 65% CSCs were found to be operational. 62% of the CSCs which were found nonoperational had not started services yet. One of the major reasons for CSCs not being
operational was low footfall generated by the centre. The RAR observed that across all the
States villages with operational CSCs had almost double the population than where CSCs
were non-operational. In some cases, there were delays on part of the SCAs to provide
relevant support to the VLE, while in some cases the delay was caused by the termination of
SCA contracts. In some States, incidence of insurgencies kept the traffic to the CSCs low. In
States like Uttar Pradesh and Bihar issues of power supply and paved roads acted as limiting
The VLEs interviewed during the RAR were found to be well qualified as 98% had cleared
SSC/HSC, 54% of them were Graduates and above and 16% were Post Graduates and held
even Professional degrees. Only 64% received any training for operating CSCs and most of
these VLEs were not satisfied with the quality of training provided by the SCAs. On an a
VLE had invested about Rs. 75,000 as capital expenditure in setting up the CSC, while only
20% of them were able to get any loan or other financial assistance such as credit schemes.
On an average, a VLE was able to earn about Rs. 2700 per month which denotes about 13%
increase (from income before opening a CSC) in their monthly household income.
Nonetheless it was contributing only approximately 35% to their total monthly household
income. Despite a low income generation, 67% of the VLEs interviewed expressed their urge
to continue with a hope of better return in the future.
IT infrastructure inside a CSC was found to be satisfactory in the RAR, however, physical
space, power back-up and internet speed were found to be critical and required considerable
improvement. In terms of services offered, IT/Telecom services were offered by 95% CSCs
across States where as 59% of CSCs offered commercial and travel services. Financial and
educational services ranked third (44%) and fourth (38%) respectively. Government services
were offered by 30% CSCs and agricultural and health services ranked quite low in the list of
services. Around 59% of the CSCs during the RAR were able to generate traffic from 5 or
more cluster villages and on an average a CSC experienced 13-14 footfalls a day. A large
number of CSCs with higher footfall levels were found to be working beyond the requisite 9
hours. Though some promotional activities were adopted by a number of CSCs, they lacked in
innovation and depended mostly on village elderly to spread word of mouth.
Based on these above mentioned facts and figures, a qualitative case study of CSCs was taken
up from November 2010 to July 2011 across four States of India.
Why CSC? : Arguing the Validity of the Case Study
The purpose of this case study is to capture the practices of e-governance in India with a
pervasive approach and intricate details. Under NeGP, there were many e-governance projects
which could have been adopted for a case study. Any of the MMPs involving considerable
citizen interface could have served the purpose of this research. Notwithstanding this
understanding, however, the CSC scheme was deliberately selected for the case study. The
motivation for this selection was influenced by a few cogent factors.
The CSCs Scheme is the most important front-end physical delivery point for NeGP
The CSCs not only serve as one of the most pervasive Integrated MMPs but also build
the common support infrastructure for e-governance along with the SWANs and the
SDCs under the NeGP.
The CSCs are not only extensive in terms of its geographic spread but also intensive in
terms of its penetrative potential down to the villages of India.
The Scheme becomes a flagship project of the NeGP as it is designed with a bottomup approach to provide services to citizens within proximity of their households which
is the main vision enshrined in the Plan.
The project is conceived as a potential agent of social change where the spill over
effects of ICTs could be manifested in active community participation in the process
of governance. Therefore, CSCs serves a perfect case for assessing the wider impact
of e-governance reforms beyond mere technological upgradation.
A PPP Model, combination of rural entrepreneurship with market mechanisms and the
physical and technology infrastructure are considered to be the three most important
catalysts of change under the CSCs Scheme. Hence, CSCs presents a holistic view of
the e-governance initiatives involving all the possible nodes of reform.
Since CSCs have been actively engaged in absorbing other similar initiatives already
operating in some States and in collaborating with other MMPs, it also reflects the
states of e-governance in the States in general.
Finally, this Scheme conjures up all the crucial characteristics of e-governance
reforms in India discussed in previous sections and hence presents a complex yet
inclusive case of e-governance initiatives in India.
The Framework of the Case Study
Four States, namely, Rajasthan, Gujarat, West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh, were selected
keeping in mind their different roll out status as well as their geographical attributes. For each
state a minimum of 2 CSCs were visited while the selection criteria was based on the days of
operations. The basic idea was to reach out to CSCs which are considered to be operating
quite effectively. However, depending on time and other opportunities, some CSCs were
visited without any prior selection or plan. Hence the number of CSCs visited varied from one
State to the other. For example, while only 3 CSCs per state were visited in Rajasthan and
Gujarat, in West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh total 8 and 5 CSCs were visited respectively.
Methods of Sampling
The four states were chosen to as they all represent certain unique aspect as general
governance situation and as e-governance status is concerned.
Rajasthan is fairly underdeveloped state which is known for its strong traditional roots. The
general perception of governance situation is not very high. As far CSC is concerned, the
project was running on a high note even though the rate of roll out was fairly low.
Gujarat is one of the most successful states in India both in terms of economic as well as egovernance reform with relatively high level of growth rate. However, Gujarat is currently
governed by a democratically elected Hindu nationalist party Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP).
The charismatic leadership of Chief Minister Narendra Modi has been able to attract both
domestic and foreign private investment. However, this highly developed image of Gujrat is
often marred by authoritarian leadership of Modi and also by the poor track record of the state
in human development index especially in case of minorities and women. Notwithstanding all
these criticism, e-governance reform has significantly improved the public service delivery in
the state and Gujarat is one of the few states in India where CSCs roll out status has been
West Bengal lies on the other spectrum as it was governed by the democratically elected lefts
for the longest time in history (34 years). It represents a unique form of democracy where the
state machinery is often allegedly controlled by a highly organized party bureaucracy.
However, during the field trip the political environment was quite volatile as the state
assembly election was impending in two months and there was general trend of antiincumbency. This resulted in much political violence along with increasing Maoist influence
in some districts of the state. Within months after the fieldwork the Left front lost in the
elections and was replaced by a regional party Trinamool Congress (in alliance with
Congress). Status of e-governance can be said to have medium success (including CSCs).
Andhra Pradesh is the pioneering state of India as far as e-governance is concerned. The IT
sector has been the major growth engine for the state‟s economy. However, since the defeat of
ex-Chief Minister Chandra Babu Naidu, e-governance reform had taken a back seat as being
politically unpopular. This affected the state of e-governance reform in the state and
particularly the roll out of CSCs.
Beside these unique features, all the four states represent the wider geographical expanse of
India and at the time of the fieldwork they represented different stages of implementation for
CSCs. This variation is captured in the figure below (5.3). The sample states were chosen on
the basis of the information provided in this figure.
Figure: 5.3: CSCs Roll Out Status (Before Field Work)
Source: GOI (2010)
Methods of Data Collection
The methods of data collection were mainly qualitative interviews along all three levels of
implementing structures, i.e. with VLEs, representatives of SCAs and representatives of
SDAs. In addition villagers, especially those who visited the centre were also interviewed.
Minimum two CSCs have been visited studied in each state. Per Centre 1 Focused Group
Discussions (FGDs) was conducted with the villagers, including village leaders. Qualitative
Interviews with VLEs, field coordinators of SCA and other officials at both SCA and SDA
levels were conducted. While choosing the interview partners the attempt was to keep a
(villagers/citizens) and also within the project team a balance between public and private
partners was sought. The number of representatives from each of these groups differed from
on state to the other. This depended on the availability of such representatives during the field
visits. For example, numbers of VLEs interviewed in Rajasthan were more than the actual
centres visited. The reason behind this was that the field visit in the state coincided with the
VLE workshops held in the state capital which gave access to a large number of
representatives associated with the project. In another instant, in West Bengal, the numbers of
VLEs interviewed were highest (8) as the project team in Delhi insisted on some interactions
with CSCs that were not functioning quite successfully and divided the CSCs in a 4:4 ratio.
A group of experts are being interviewed mainly in Delhi. These experts ranged from
university teachers to independent consultant, from researchers to civil society activists, from
retired bureaucrats to state ministers, from technocrats in the central ministry to the World
Bank professionals specialising in the field of e-governance. The interviews with these
experts were not confined to the CSCs Scheme. Rather, the discussion during these interviews
revolved around the general issues of e-governance, implications of e-governance on the
overall level of governance, the current scenario and future of e-governance in India.
A. Case Study= 107
of Rajasthan
West Bengal
(Private 3
Other 6
B. Expert Interviews = 11
Policy Makers: 2
Technocrats: 3
Academic Experts:3
Civil Society Experts: 2
International Organisation: 1
C. Policy Documents& Different Project Documents
D. Secondary Literature
Table: 5.2: Sources of Data
Source: Author
All the interviews were conducted face to face. Since most of the interviews were purely
qualitative, the course of one interview varied considerably from the other. However, the
overall attempt was to focus on certain issues depending on the subject position of the
interviewee. Some of the interviews were tape recorded and some were not depending on the
situation in which the interview was conducted (e.g. in a crowded place) or according to the
comfort of the interviewee (e.g. some of the government officials did not feel comfortable
being recorded) or during the focussed group interviews with the villagers (as it involved
multiple number of respondents at the same time) or sometimes purely depending on the
technical reasons. In some interviews with VLEs and villagers, additional assistance for
translation in local language was required, especially in Andhra Pradesh. In such cases, field
coordinators served as the translators and interpreters. All the interviews were loosely
structured, that is, though certain core issues were addressed, questions did not follow a strict
sequence or pattern. The questions were asked in more open-ended fashion where the
interviewee could give their opinion more freely and elaborately on any of the relevant issues.
The qualitative interview data collected were further supported by several policy documents
and other primary sources including different project documents and photographs taken
during the fieldwork. Besides these qualitative materials some quantitative studies done by
independent market research groups and submitted to ministries were also accessible. These
quantitative studies on CSCs scheme were conducted mostly as interim assessment or as rapid
assessment surveys across the country. Access to these studies was crucial in developing the
preliminary conjectures (mentioned in the Introduction) that form the basis of this research
Qualitative interviews were selected as the main method of data collection for three specific
reasons. Firstly, the entire fieldwork was conducted as an individual endeavour with active
support from the project teams. In such circumstances, conducting a survey would imply
strong involvement of project members in collecting the survey data. This could have led to
serious concerns about the reliability of data collected as such. Secondly, given the time and
individual effort it was practically infeasible to collect an extensive amount of data.
Therefore, the focus was on the limited yet intensive and in-depth information about the field
and the project. Qualitative interviews with all the stakeholders representing different set of
interests served as the best available alternative. Thirdly, as already been mentioned, some of
the quantitative survey data conducted by independent research group was accessible before
commencing the fieldwork. The facts and figures available through these studies provided the
necessary points of departure for framing the case study of the CSCs Scheme and sieving out
the major issues to be covered by the qualitative interviews.
Methods of Data Analysis
The interviews which could be taped were transcribed. For interviews which could not be
taped, field notes were deployed for documentation. These transcriptions and field notes were
analysed to elicit certain patterns of responses, behaviour and issues across groups of
respondents. Such analyses often expanded beyond mere verbal communication. As most of
the interviews were conducted face to face, many audio-visual observations of the space and
social interactions were also documented through field notes. For example, most of the VLEs
were interviewed within their workspace. Hence, in addition to direct interview their everyday
practices in dealing with citizens, private partners (field-coordinators), panchayat officials,
their ability to handle the technology, the infrastructural capacity of the kiosks - all these
could be documented through close observation. Moreover, photographic evidences also
served as an important material of analysis.
The next step was to categorise these patterns in relation to different pre-defined indicators of
improved level of governance (Table 1.2, pp.33). As these indicators were well defined in
accordance to certain attributes, developing links between the data and the categories of
indicators were a rather adept process. For example, speed of delivery of services which
denoted predictability of services could be realised by observing the first had service delivery
processes within the kiosk and the number of footfall per kiosk which was an attribute of
increased participation by citizens could be verified by interviews across different sections of
villagers, VLEs and SCAs. Similarly transparency of information could be assessed by
availability of information of services as displayed by the individual VLEs and the
adaptability could be denoted by the use of local languages in such displays. The
photographic materials were crucial evidences in establishing these specific attributes of
certain indicators. These are only a few instances to demonstrate the process of analysing the
available data. It is important to mention here that these intensive qualitative data with a
rather small database could pose some problems of generalisability of the findings. However,
by acknowledging this issue this research findings should be taken more as indicative of
certain trends in governance practices rather than conclusive of any larger claims on the same.
5.5 Narratives from the Field: An Overview of the Four States
5.5.1 Rajasthan (November,2010)
Overview of the CSCs in the State
In Rajasthan the CSCs scheme was initiated in May 2009. As on August 2009, 500 CSCs
were commissioned with a future target of total 6626 CSCs in the State of Rajasthan. In
August 2010, 1831 CSCs were rolled out. According to the Report of Department of
Information Technology and Communication of the Government of Rajasthan, by end of July
2011, there are 1984 VLEs are providing a pool of G2C and B2C services in all 33 districts of
Rajasthan16. One unique feature of CSCs in Rajasthan is that the Government of Rajasthan
decided that women would be given priority for selection as VLEs in the state. At the time of
the visit, there were two SCAs were operating in the region, namely; CMS and Zoom. The
SDA was RajComp and in every district there was a District e-governance Society which
played an active role in implementing CSCs scheme across the state. One of the major
reference points for CSCs implementation team in Rajasthan was the successful
implementation of the e-mitra project which was geared towards the urban centres in the state.
However, the CSCs Scheme was much more extensive and complex in its scope and hence
challenges facing the CSCs were also different and dynamic in nature.
Selected Stories of CSCs:
Jaipur District: The centre in Jaipur district was located in a village market in Khejroli which
is about 65 kilometres from the city of Jaipur and took about 2 hours. The location of the CSC
was very good as it was a busy market place. Santosh, the VLE and some villagers around
were available for interview. However, the person who runs the centre was VLE‟s husband
and he was not available that day. Santosh was 10th passed and her husband has completed the
first year of graduation. Santosh seems uncomfortable talking in front of the strangers and she
did not have much idea about the operation of the kiosk. According to her there was not
much work to be done in there only except during the period of electricity bill deposits which
takes place every alternate month. During this period she comes to the kiosk to lend a helping
hand to her husband. Santosh‟s father-in-law had a garment‟s shop under the same roof. A
small portion of that was allotted for the operation of the kiosk. It had enough space to sit 3-4
people comfortably. The kiosk had one desktop computer along with a printer. The online
monitoring tool was installed and the centre was considered to be well operational in terms
opening hours and transaction.
Most of the villagers in the surrounding area claimed that they pay their electric bills through
the kiosk. It actually becomes quite crowded and they have to sometimes stand in the long
queue during the bill deposit period. Nonetheless, they consider it to be a better option and
want more G2C services such Land and Revenue Records (ROR), Caste Certificates and so
on to be available through the kiosk. They have to go to Chomu which is about 22 kilometres
away and government offices always required multiple rounds for the work to be done.
Government of Rajasthan:,
retrived on 1st September 2011
Udaipur District: In Udaipur, the pre-selected CSC could not be visited on account of „bad
roads‟. However, this reason was cited by the accompanying project team and was not
verified with any factual evidence. Instead a different centre at Sarada block, which was based
at a Tehsil level and was situated right opposite to the block administrative building, was
visited. This centre was about 62 kilometres from the Udaipur city. The VLE, Mukesh was 24
years old and had a Bachelor‟s degree in Information Technology. The CSC kiosk was in the
name of his sister, but she got married and moved, and hence he took over. He had a job in
the local panchayat office and was also working as the block coordinator for the CSC VLEs
in Sarada block.
There was quite a rush in the kiosk at the time of the visit. There were two systems along with
the printer. The kiosk also had a photocopy machine which attracted a lot of customers,
especially given its location opposite the block administrative office. According to the VLE,
the earning from the centre was not enough to sustain, only because of his job in the
panchayat office and his photocopy business that he can somehow manage. He also reiterated
that the good location and his personal contacts in the block administrative office and
panchayat proved to be very helpful in promoting his centre.
Mukesh‟s problem was a little different from the previous VLE in Jaipur district. Since this
kiosk was situated right opposite the tehsil office, villagers would feel reluctant to come to his
centres for most of the G2C services, except the electricity bills. So for him unless and until
G2C services are channelled only through CSC kiosks, it would be difficult for him to tap the
villagers for those services.
Summary of Observations:
The summary of observations is based on the conversations along all the levels of
citizens/customers, VLEs, SCAs and SDA. Additionally a VLE workshop in Jaipur was
attended for two full days. This workshop was organised by the State Department of
Information Technology and Communication and was attended by VLEs across the State,
representatives of the SCAs and the SDA.
They are as follows:
There was high demand for G2C services, but the only consistent G2C service
available across the State during the field visit was the electricity bill deposits.
The footfall varied from one month to the other. For example, in Rajasthan electricity
bills were deposited every alternate month. Hence, there was a rush in the centres
during the bill deposit dates.
Most villagers who have used CSCs recognised that it was more convenient than
going to crowded government departments and also saved the time and money spent
on their trips to administrative offices. However, some of the villagers interviewed
within the public service camp in a village school almost 5 km. Away from the nearest
CSC were not even aware of its existence. Interestingly most of these villagers were
women whose husbands were migrant labourers in some other states.
Though most of the CSCs franchises (VLE contract) were given to women as a result
of the special policy drive of the State Government, most of the VLEs at the ground
level were found to be actually male relatives of these women. The CSCs visited
reflected the same trend. Even during the workshop only a nominal number of women
VLEs were present.
There was a problem of connectivity across the state which mostly dependent on
BSNL. The state government is constantly negotiating with BSNL. However, the
bottleneck lies in reluctance among the ground level employees owing mostly to their
lack of awareness about CSC.
There was also a problem of power supply for which it becomes almost imperative for
the VLEs to arrange for back-up power sources, such as inverter or generator. This
definitely turns out to be an additional financial burden for most of the VLEs.
There was considerable amount of confusion among VLEs about the financial
management system run by the SCAs.
There was a problem of sustainability for VLEs given the slow arrival of G2C services
There was a growing frustration among VLEs as some of them had taken a loan to set
up the CSC and now running the shop at a loss.
In a number of cases, there was lack of coordination between departments of
government. For example, there were some centres which faced problems in collecting
electric because there was already the same service available at the electricity board
very close to their kiosks. Despite repeated request, this did not stop and the VLEs
were losing out on their customers.
In terms of the G2C services, VLEs also faced the problem of credibility as they were
perceived as merely private franchise lacking the authenticity of public offices.
5.5.2 Gujarat (December2010)
Overview of the CSCs in the State:
The eGramVishwagram project was initiated in 2003 in Gujarat by the State government.
Given the success of the project, the Government of India decided to integrate these e-gram
centres with the CSC scheme. By February 2010 13695 existing eGram centres were
integrated into the CSC scheme and CSC monitoring tool was being installed in all of them.
Since eGram started before CSC it followed a little different implementing structure than the
standard CSC structure. Each eGram/CSC is situated in the village panchayat office and the
VLE is known as Village Computer Entrepreneur (VCE). Then there is Technical Support and
Training Service Provider (TSTSP), which in addition to providing technical and training
support and assistance to roll out G2C and other e-services, monitor and implement
integration of eGram with CSC. They have a team of district level and taluka level
coordinators. The TSTSP team visit each centre every month and present a monthly MIS
report. There is a smooth communication chain from the state, to district, to taluka, down to
the village level and monitoring of the project is very high from bottom to top, mainly
through video conferencing.
As of December 2010, all 13,695 Village Panchayats had been equipped to provide a host of
G2C and B2C services through VSAT Broadband connected PCs (along with Printer, UPS,
Web Cam, VoIP Phone).G2C services offered at the time of the visit included Birth
Certificate, Death Certificate, Document for Caste Certificate, Income Certificate, Tax
Collection Receipts, Land Right Records Services (RoR- 7/12 & 8A), Application Forms of
various development Schemes through Gujarat Portal, ITI Application Form, Data Entry work
for Govt Departments like Health etc, Electricity Bill Collection. Some rolled out B2C
servicesduring this time weree-Ticketing of Railways, Airlines, Utility Bill payments
(Telephone, Mobile, DTHetc), Market linkages for Agriculture Commodities, DTP work.
Selected Stories of CSCs:
Gandhinagar district: This visit was not planned and more of an attempt to understand the
basic features of an eGram centre. This centre was in the gram panchayat of Vavol which was
only about 5-7 kilometres from the Gandhinagar Secretariat. The name of the VCE was
Jawesh Rawat. The Talati and some villagers were present at the kiosk which was situated in
the Vavol panchayat office. Jawesh, at the moment was giving only two G2C services,
namely, Land Record Certificates (ROR) and electricity bill deposit. The birth and death
certificates were also issued. He roughly makes 200 copies of Land Record certificates a
month. Only these two G2C services earned him about five thousands rupees a month. In last
one year the connectivity had improved considerably due to broadband instead of earlier dialup connection. Therefore, he would now focus on B2C services, such as e-ticketing for
railways, online application forms, telephone bills, insurance premium, DTH etc. He had been
running this centre for last centre for 4-5 years. Despite initial few years of hardship due to
infrastructural and technological issues, he had been able to sustain quite well, while in last
one year things have improved considerably. The strategic location of the centre and the
support from the talati and sarpanch helped him gain the credibility among the villagers.
Talati and villagers, all had the same opinion that this centre eased their life in many ways.
First, getting certificates through ICT tools made the system efficient and quick. Moreover, it
saved them the trouble of travelling to taluka office (which is about 5 kilometres away) where
things moved rather slowly. Villagers were looking forward to the B2C services such as
railway ticketing, online application forms for educational and employment purposes,
telephone bills deposit, some limited banking facilities, insurance. These services together
would make their lives self-sufficient within the village. The talati believed that there are a lot
more services which can be made available through this platform and which might be difficult
for the villagers to imagine at present.
Gujarat Industrial Development Corporation (GIDC) Area: This centre was located in the
Santej gram panchayat, almost equidistance from Ahmadabad and Gandhinagar in the GIDC
area. There were many factories on the way to the villages. Being within an industrial belt, the
village experienced a huge influx of workers from other parts of India, especially Uttar
Pradesh and Bihar.
The centre was as usual located inside the gram panchayat office and has been run by the
VCE, Jivanji Thakur for two and a half year. He finished his Bachelor‟s degree. Here also the
most demanded services were Land Record Certificates (ROR) and electricity bill deposits.
Being in the industrial area helped the centre in two ways. Firstly, the influx of labourers
increased the number of electricity bills along with the larger commission on the higher
electricity bills of the surrounding factories. Secondly, since the most of the villagers were
into agriculture, they all had their own land. At wake of industrialisation land prices have
gone up manifold leading to frequent land dealings which in turn increased the demand for
Land Record Certificates.
Beside these two G2C services, he also did entries for birth and death certificates and other
data entry jobs for the panchayat office. The villagers who were interviewed said they did not
have much idea about how the process worked. Nevertheless they did not feel uncomfortable
availing these services as they trusted Jivanji and also the fact that he sits in the panchayat
office. Jivanji earned up to fifteen thousand rupees per month. He earned most through Land
Record certificates. However, in his opinion in a small village where land is not so important,
it would be difficult for the VCE to earn that much.
Rajkot District: The centre visited in this district was in gram panchayat MotaGundala, which
was 70 kilometres from the Rajkot city and 12 kilometres from the Jethpur block town. The
name of the VCE was Kalpesh who was pursuing Bachelor‟s degree. At the moment he was
solely dependent on the electricity bill deposits which take place every alternate month. The
Land Record with thumb impression used to be available in the centre. But then it started
taking too long to arrive from the taluka office. Therefore, villagers started going to taluka
office on their own. There is a high demand for this certificate and they hope after the entire
process is digitised (end to end solution), it would ease their current problem and also
improve the VCE‟s conditions who is struggling to sustain. Even though, he was providing
some B2C services such as mobile recharge, there was hardly any demand for such services
from his centre. He was awaiting and looking forward to the NREGA data entry work.
Overall, Kalpesh seemed low on motivation and opened the centre only 4-5 hours a day.
According to the District level coordinator who, was present there during the visit, Klapesh
also took the minutes of gram sabha meetings that takes place every three months and put
them online that can be further accessed at the district and state level. He also projected
Government programmes and schemes to the villagers through the facilities available in the
centre. The talati said the VCE also helped with panchayat official work and he insisted that
his work pressure could be minimised by various services accessible via this centre. The level
of education and awareness appeared to be low in the village and hence the demand from the
centre was also low. The main demands of the villagers were ROR and electricity bill
Summary of Observations:
These observations are based on the conversations along all the levels of citizens/customers,
VCEs, Technical Support and Training Service Provider team at district and state level and
the representatives of SDA.
They are as follows:
The state government has played and still playing a very active role despite adopting
the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) model
Given the strong role played by the Gujarat government, there is commendable
implementation smooth
The bureaucracy appeared to be extremely organized and efficient, which also
reflected not only in the implementation of the project but also in the neatness of the
information available on the project
There is a strict centralized monitoring mechanism of the entire project
Availability of the sites were controlled so as to keep up the speed of connectivity
CSC/eGram centres thrived more on the G2C services
The general traffic to the centre was consistent, the location was convenient and the
VCEs were making profit.
Even though the project is running since 2003, only by 2009 all connectivity issues
were resolved
Overall, despite initial ups and down, the project is running with much success and
consistency in the state.
5.5.3 West Bengal (March 2011)
Overview of the CSCs in the State:
In West Bengal, the CSC scheme was initiated in 2007 by the name of TathyaMitra with a
target of 6797 centres across the state. According to the West Bengal Panchayat and Rural
Development Department sources, as of 31 st May 2010, 5211 CSCs had connectivity and
were operational. The main SCAs which were selected in the beginning of the project were
SREI Sahaj e-Village Limited and Reliance Communications Limited. They had a target of
4937 and 1860 centres respectively. However, at the time of the visit only SREI was working
as the SCA, since the contract with Reliance was already terminated in response to their poor
performance. CSCs in West Bengal were offering only two G2C services in March 2011, i.e.
Electricity Bill Deposit and BSNL bill deposit. Most of the other services offered were mainly
B2C. The main B2C services offered were: Internet Surfing, Digital Photography, DTP,
Computer Education, e-Learning courses, Railway Ticket Reservation, Mobile top ups,
Insurance premium deposit, Photo capturing for NREGA job card, etc. The Online
Monitoring tool had been installed in more than half of the operating CSCs in the state by
SREI by May 2010.
Selected Stories of CSCs:
District North 24 Parganas: This was centre was in the North 24 Parganas almost at the
outskirt of the city of Kolkata. The gram panchayat was called Ganganagar and the name of
the VLE was BiswajitMazumdar. He had been running this centre for 3 months. There was
one computer and one printer in the kiosk. The online monitoring tool was installed. He has a
parallel business as a private cable TV service provider. He came to know about this franchise
through personal contacts of his father in the local electricity board office. The only G2C
services he offered was electricity bill deposit. On a daily basis he deposited around 30 bills.
There are two problems that he mentioned about this G2C service. Firstly, he was receiving
some of the factory electricity bills of huge amount which he refused. The reason being, his
commission on the bill amount remained fixed irrespectively and hence he concentrated only
on household electricity bill deposit. Secondly, a lot of his customers came after the due date
which he is not allowed to submit. Therefore, he would have preferred a commission in a
certain percentage of the bill which would increase his profit share for the larger bill amount
and also he would have liked to be allowed to submit the bills beyond due dates. He could not
deposit BSNL telephone bill as the locality has the same exchange as Kolkata and that was
integrated into the system as yet. The B2C services that he provided was mobile top ups,
railway reservation (which was temporarily suspended during the time of the visit). But he did
not seem to be too keen on B2C services as he has his own business to look after. When
asked, he said he was running in loss. Nonetheless, since he has just started he would rather
give it some more time to take off and wait for other G2C services to arrive.
District Howrah: This centre belonged to block Uluberia II and gram panchayat of Baribaon
and the area was known mostly as Rajapur. The centre had a very good location inside the
premise of Block Development Office. The VLE, Imran Kazi was 21 years old and a student
of B.A. final year. He had been running the centre for last two years. He had two laptops, 2
printers and also a photo printer. He had both an inverter and a generator, but he said the
inverter had been more than sufficient. He was connected through VSAT. He would have
liked a Broadband connection which is currently beyond his affordability. He came to know
about the CSC franchise through a newspaper advertisement and went to the Howrah district
office to apply. West Bengal government‟s department of Panchayat and Rural Development
requested the erstwhile Block Development Officer (BDO) to provide Imran with some space
inside block office premise. Accordingly, Imran got this office space with a NOC (No
Objection Certificate) from the BDO. Since then he has to get the lease agreement every now
and then depending on the agreement he has with the BDO.
Like most other VLEs in West Bengal, Imran also offered electricity bill deposit as the only
G2C service. On a monthly basis he deposited 500-700 electricity bills. Initially this was not
the case. He used to get only about 250 bills per month. However, recently the nearby
electricity board office had been removed which increased his business. Though he earned the
most from electricity bill deposit, Imran also focussed on some B2C services. He offered
about 5 e-learning courses which cost 1000 INR per month each, insurance from NIC and
DLF, online form download and fill-up, result publications, print outs, etc. The current BDO
gave him some work on NREGA data entry and other office work including print out for his
office. However, Imran thought this is only temporary and could change any time if there was
another new BDO. According to Imran, he run the centre on a no profit no loss basis. He
would like to have more G2C services such as voter card, pan card, driving licence, ration
card, birth and death certificates. There was, in his view, high demand for these services and
this would definitely make the kiosk profitable.
Summary of Observations:
Although total 8 centres were visited in West Bengal almost all the VLEs narrated similar
experiences. An attempt has been made to summarise the issues on the basis of the experience
in all centres and conversations with all stakeholders related to CSCs in the state.
Though the project has been initiated in 2007, there were hardly any G2C services
available in the state.
There appeared to be a problem of e-readiness in most of the government departments
which delayed the process of channelizing G2C services through CSCs.
There was a temporary problem on the Sahaj Portal during the field visit which was
attributed to system upgradation.
There was mounting frustration among VLEs regarding G2C services.
The B2C services and especially e-learning was quite popular among the citizens.
There was a talk of turning CSCs into local banking agents.
Beside the Online Monitoring Tool, there was lack of strong monitoring mechanism at
the state level.
There was more room for training for the VLEs
5.5.4 Andhra Pradesh (July 2011)
Overview of the CSCs in the State:
In 2003, Government of Andhra Pradesh started an initiative to convert STD/PCO booths in
rural and semi urban area into ICT kiosks which are called Rural Service Delivery Points
(RSDPs). Service provider of RSDPs was AP Online which is a joint venture company
between Government of Andhra Pradesh and Tata Consultancy Services. Another initiative
called Rajiv Internet Village (RIVs) by the AP government started in 2005 in order to
establish 11000 ICT kiosks in rural areas excluding the RSDPs. Given this context in the rural
Andhra Pradesh, CSCs started in the state in 2008. Besides opening new centres under CSCs,
many of RSDPs and RIVs had been converted into CSCs and the process is still on. Right
now the SCAs operating in the state are CMS computers Ltd (in 11 districts) and
SreevenInfocom (in 3 districts). Sreeven was relatively new as they signed the contract only
Contracts with two SCAs, 3i Infotech and TIMES, operating previously have been
terminated. Therefore, the centres operating under these SCAs became non-functional and
delayed the roll-out plan of the CSC scheme in the state.
The G2C services offered in the state vary from one district to another. For example,
Visakhapatnam had more G2C services than any other district. In general, the most widely
available G2C service was electricity bill payment on revenue share basis between AP Online
and the SCA. The other common G2C services were BSNL bill payment and public service
commission challans. The district of Visakhapatnam offered revenue services such as,
Income certificates, land record certificates, residence proof, birth and death certificates.
These revenue services under G2C started online in this district since March 2011. The main
B2C services in the state were railway reservation, mobile recharge, post-paid bill payment of
mobile connections, DTH services, private insurances, Western Union money transfer
Selected Stories of CSCs:
Centre 1, District Visakhapatnam: This centre earlier used to come under the Madhurawada
gram panchayat, however, since 2008 Madhurawada was relocated under the Greater
Visakhapatnam Municipal Corporation (GVMC). Despite being known as such it is
surrounded mainly by villages and so the CSC here caters to these surrounding villages. The
centre was run by two VLEs in partnership namely, Lakshmi and Karuna. Both of them were
part of the state government run self-help groups for STD booths and were selected through
interviews for the RIV centre in 2004. This RIV centre was integrated into the CSC scheme in
2008. Both Lakshmi and Karuna had a B.A. degree. The centre had two desktops and two
printers. One was laser printer which also had a scanner. One of the desktop along with a
colour printer was given by the AP government and the other system and the laser printer
were bought by the VLEs. They had BSNL broadband connection and had the Online
Monitoring tool installed. They are open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day except on Sundays.
They have power-cuts only during summer months which last 1-2 hours a day. They don‟t
have an inverter or generator, but they have a ups which give them back up for 4 hours. The
space for the centre is given to them by the AP government on 800 Rs. monthly rents.
The G2C services they offered were electricity bill deposits, BSNL bill deposits, public
service challans, revenue services including land record, income certificates, birth and death
certificates, residence proof and so on. For revenue services, the citizen will come to CSC and
apply online and in return get an acknowledgment receipt with a delivery date. Then the
VLEs will collect the certificate from the Tehsil after all the required inspection is done. They
mentioned two problem regarding G2C services. Firstly, the government has opened a call
centre for electricity bills since last year affecting their revenue collection which was even
doubled by a collection centre very close to their centre. Secondly, there was no Joint
Collector for last 3 weeks (at the time of the visit) where as the new Collector joined only 3
days back. This coincided with many transfer in the local revenue office. As a result, revenue
services offered through CSCs were arrested temporarily causing delay in the process and
eventually agitation among the customers. Besides these two problems, there was also high
demand among the citizens for especially two more G2C services, namely, road tax and
driving licence.
Among B2C services they offered railway reservations, mobile recharge, DTH services, LIC
insurances. They earned about 10-15 thousand rupees per month. During March to June, due
to school and college admission season, their income might go up to 30 thousand rupees a
month. However, before the introduction of the revenue services they faced severe problems
in terms of survival.
Centre 2, District Vizanagaram: This centre came under the Mandal headquarter as well as
gram panchayat of Jami. The name of the VLE was K.Srinivasa, who had a B.A. degree. He
started the centre under RIV scheme in 2006 which was later converted into CSC in June
2009. He had two desktops along with the printers, one of which was bought by him and the
other was given by the state government. He had BSNL Broadband connectivity and he had
no complains about it. However, he was facing some problem with the CMS server. Powercuts were frequent during the summer months. Therefore he had arranged for a inverter which
lasts up to 6 hours. The space for the centre was privately acquired by Srinivasa on a monthly
rent of 1500 rupees. The online monitoring tool was not installed and he did not seem to have
much clue about it.
The only G2C service that this centre offered was electricity bill deposit. However, there was
another electricity bill collection centre, only half a kilometres away from the centre. Since
this centre catered around 10-15 villages, the VLE still got enough electricity bills to deposit.
Among B2C services, this centre offered mobile recharge, DTH recharge, railway reservation
and LIC insurance. The LIC was quite popular among the villagers around. The VLE earned
about 3000 rupees per month which is not enough for survival. According to him, without
availability of some G2C services, especially revenue service, survival of the centre will be a
serious concern.
Summary of Observations:
In total 5 centres were visited in Andhra Pradesh, 3 in Visakhapatnam and 2 in Vizanagaram.
Given the difference in services, these two districts exhibited quite different stories as far as
the CSC implementation was concerned. Nonetheless, some generalisation can still be drawn
on the basis of the conversations with SDA and SCA representatives in Hyderabad, district
coordinators of SCA, VLEs and also some interactions with the villagers.
There was discrepancy in the way CSC had been implemented in different districts.
For example, Visakhapatnam was much ahead of other districts in terms of providing
revenue services and therefore was touted as a success story. This again emphasized
the significance of G2C services in the effective implementation of the CSC scheme.
VLEs where G2C services were consistently available were making profits.
There was a prominent presence of women VLEs among the centres visited.
Villagers admitted to the convenience of availing services from the CSCs over
government administrative offices.
There was evidently lack of coordination between different governmental departments
which evidently slowing down the implementation process.
Most of the governmental departments in the Andhra Pradesh are much advanced in
terms of e-readiness and also have their services already available online. But there is
heavy reluctance on their part to bring these services under the purview of the CSCs.
Due to some malpractices by previous SCAs, there was a general air of mistrust
among government departments about SCAs, which became problematic for the
current SCAs in particular and for PPP model in general.
AP Online, which is a joint venture of the AP government and TCS, was proving to be
a rival for the SCAs as they had to share the commission of most of the government
services available online.
The AP government had similar initiatives before such as RSDPs and RIVs. This
overlap between state government schemes and the schemes like the CSCs initiated by
the centre created much confusion and in some places even conflict zones. Due to
strong resistance from RSDPs, some CSCs could not be opened while some are even
caught in impending court cases. In some isolated cases, there was also active yet
indirect resistance from intermediary brokers operating in public administrative
Delay in the availability of G2C services were causing frustration and agitation among
VLEs. During the field visit, a group of VLEs from Nizamabad district were in fact
voicing their frustration and protesting in the SCA headquarter in Hyderabad. .
5.6 A Comparative Account of the CSCs Scheme in the Four States:
On the basis of the field observations and critical scrutiny of project documents a comparative
account describing the differential status of the four states in the implementation of the CSCs
Scheme is drawn here
Name of the States Visited
.Status of
West Bengal
G2C services
ity Bills.
Document for
Caste Certificate.
Certificate, Tax
Land Right
Records Services
(RoR- 7/12 & 8A).
Forms of various
Schemes through
Gujarat Portal.
Application Form,
Data Entry work
for Govt
Departments like
bills Deposits
BSNL bill
ity bills
Health etc.
Bill Collection.
B2C Services
There were no
B2C services
across centres.
The most
common were
mobile top
ups, print outs,
of Railways,
Airlines Utility
Bill payments
Mobile, DTH etc),
linkages for
Utility Bill
(Mobile , DTH
etc.), e-learning
Utility bill
courses, railway
(Post paid
mobile, DTH
top ups,
DTP work.
Union money
VSAT Broadband
Not standardised,
(No problem of
some were
(there were
however, controls
through VSAT,
was not a
complains of
on availability of
some through
Broadband. Ones
with broadband
did not have
much problem of
The space was
Gujarat had most
Space was
Most of the
centres were
arranged by
infrastructure in
according to the
acquired by
the VLE,
terms of location in
contacts of the
everyone had
panchayat office,
VLE, some were
privately, each
at least one
in BDO or
centre had one
PC and a
panchayat office
PC and printer
Printer. One of
connectivity and
and some were
given by the
the main
other facilities
problem was
acquired, every
electricity as
centre had one
and the rest
everyone could
PC and a printer,
were arranged
not afford an
other systems and by themselves
inverter or
equipments were
arranged by the
of VLEs without
With G2C services,
It seemed to be a
any other
most of the VLEs
were in a
m, VLEs were
business of
without much
fighting for
their own was
position, some even
G2C, some VLEs
finding it
earning quite well
were fighting for
which led to
difficult to be
survival. While
some others were
doing well
relying only on
B2C services
problem was
conflict with
other projects
run by the
Role of the State
The state
The role of the
There seemed
government played
state government
to be some
played an
the most active role
seemed to be
kind of
active role
in all levels of
much in the
through the
implementation and
within the state
SDA in
operation of the
government in
motivating the
VLEs as well
Role of the Despite some
Role of the SCAs
SCA played a
SCAs were
were more of a
very active role
trying to play
Sector (SCA)
SCAs worked
facilitator to the
in the project
an active role
closely with
albeit in not so
the state
agencies in
ns of CSCs
Status of the Both
State had much
SCA, the private
There was a
PPP Model
stronger role
partner had a
lack of
despite the adoption
more visible
of the PPP model
presence than the
between the
seemed to have
public agency in
equal stake,
the PPP model
hence more of
(except the
a cooperation
SDA) and the
between public
SCAs, which
and private
was a
hindrance to
the PPP model
within the CSC
General Awareness
and participation
awareness level
awareness and
was low.
were both quite
was substantial
Demand was
yet the
was high in
high for G2C
participation did
centres where
services which
not match the
attracted most
level of
services were
of the traffic to
the centres.
However, the
availability of
G2C services
were limited
Table: 5.3: Comparative Status of the CSCs in the Four Sample States
Source: Author
This table summarises different status of the CSCs implementation in the four sample states.
The categories of evaluation in this table are selected carefully according to their relevance to
the overall level of governance. An attempt has been made to combine purely technical
criteria such as infrastructure, connectivity with that of more qualitative aspects of governance
such as participation and awareness level. However, it is important to acknowledge that this
comparative table does not present an exhaustive account of different issues involved in the
CSCs implementation in these four states. Nonetheless, this comparative account provides
some crucial insights into how differential implementation status and strategies can possibly
reflect on the level of governance in these particular states. The detailed analysis of these
findings from the field unfolds in the following chapter.
5.7 Conclusion: Limitations of the Case Study
CSC is a pan Indian project with a much wider scope and a great many stakeholders. The
scale and depth of such a project render it to be complex in terms of the structure,
organization and process. Doing a case study of such a project is, therefore, trifled with many
complexities as it requires both extensive and intensive methods of analysis. As this case
study was conducted by a single individual, only 4 states within the project could be covered
over a 9 months period. However, this lack of a larger frame was somewhat balanced by an
attempt to gain in-depth overview of the project. A serious attempt of intensive scrutiny of the
CSC was taken up through qualitative interviews with representatives of all the stakeholders
that include private sector (SCA), public sector (SDA), consumers/citizens, and
intermediaries (VLEs).
Despite sincere efforts, this study nonetheless is impaired with a few limitations.
The scope of the study is limited to only four states where CSC is being implemented
Even within these four state only two districts per state was covered under this study
A limited number of CSCs were visited per state as a representative sample of all the
The time line of the study is rather wide which might lead to discrepancies in findings
as different states were at different levels of implementation
The focus was more on the qualitative aspects of the project, such as awareness among
villagers about the services, rather than on the quantitative aspect, such as the number
of transactions
Number of representatives of stakeholders differed from one state to another which
might have led to disparities in the findings
All these limitations were already accounted for while planning this case study and therefore
also been addressed carefully while analysing the findings. For example, while choosing the
four states, it has been tried to make them as representative as possible in terms of their
geographical span (North-South and East-West span of the country), and also in terms of the
roll out status of CSC. All the states represented in the study covered almost all broad
geographical areas of the nation and each of them had a different roll out status ranging from
very high to very low.
The limited number of CSCs per state was balanced by the insights gathered from SDA and
SCA representatives about the general status of CSC implementation in the state. Therefore,
the specific narrative of each CSC visited was further supplemented by a general overview of
the state-level realities. On the basis of these complementary set of views, a comparative
understanding of the states could be established.
The qualitative nature of the interview helped understanding the complexities of the situation
in different states. For example, every state adopted a PPP model. However, the exact nature
of such a partnership model is difficult to be evaluated through mere quantitative analysis.
This case study has been put forward by an individual effort and hence is purely based on the
researcher‟s observation and interpretation albeit backed by much secondary research on the
subject. Given the awareness of its limitations, this study has been careful to present its
findings and formulate its analysis. There might still be some significant aspects of CSC
project, which have been overlooked at the expense of others. Therefore, by no means this
case study claims to be an exhaustive study of the CSC Scheme. The sole aim of this case
study is to assess the overall impact of the scheme on service delivery mechanism and thereby
on the level of governance.
A Comprehensive Analysis of Policies & Practices: Assessing the Impact of EGovernance Reform on Governance in India
6.1 E-Governance to Governance: A Relational Matrix
In order to assess the impact of e-governance reform on the level of governance, it is important
to establish the clear relationship between the two. The four basic theoretically informed
conjectures serve to build this link between e-governance reform which is the independent
variable and the level of governance which is the dependent variable. Each of the four
conjectures is formulated to indicate certain improvement in the level of governance. The list of
indicators facilitates the process of evaluating the quality of governance. The table below
presents the relational matrix which connects the four conjectures to the respective indicators
and ultimately to the level of governance.
Relation to the level of
C 1: E-governance reforms that
participation of
make public service more easily
citizens, predictability
and regularly accessible for
and transparency
citizens will improve the level of
increasing participation
effectiveness of policy
higher level of governance
C2: Improved coordination among
transparency of rules and
all the stakeholders of e-
proceedures and clear
accountability structures
governance reform will improve
the level of governance.
smooth coordination among
higher governance
C3: E-governance initiatives that
adaptability and
take social and cultural factors
embedded in the specific context
higher participation
effectiveness of policy
into consideration improve the
higher level of governance
level of governance.
C 4: E-governance reforms that
predictability and
improve the delivery mechanism of
public service will improve the
increasing efficiency
level of governance.
(legitimacy) of the public
higher governance
Table 6.1: Frame of evaluating governance in terms of e-governance reform
Source: Author
6.2. Analysing E-governance Reform in India: Evaluating the impact on governance
Along with the above table (6.1), the analytical framework mentioned in the Introduction
(Table: 1.2) are important reference points to understand the way the evaluation process is
conceived in this study. The data on e-governance policies and practices are analysed
according to these analytical structures. As the data collected is of qualitative nature,
inferences drawn from them do not claim any statistical precision about the impact of egovernance reform on the level of governance. However, some quantitative patterns are
drawn from the qualitative data.
In order to follow a systematic pattern of analysis, each
conjecture is evaluated in their respective order in accordance to their indicators whereas each
indicator is defined in terms of a set of attributes (Table: 1.2).
6.2.1 C1: E-governance Reforms that make public service more easily and regularly
accessible for citizens will improve the level of governance
In order to evaluate this conjecture three indicators of governance are deployed, which are:
increased participation by citizen in the e-governance reform initiatives, predictability of the
services offered through the e-governance initiatives and transparency in the system of public
service delivery initiated through e-governance reform. A few patterns can be projected from
the case study of the CSCs Scheme.
Across all the CSCs visited in all four states, a direct correlation was found between
the provision of public services offered and the overall footfall in the kiosk.
Gujarat and the Visakhapatnam district of Andhra Pradesh, where the number of
public services (G2C) offered were higher in comparison to other locations,
experienced a higher traffic into the CSCs. For example, in Visakhapatnam where a
number revenue services were offered through CSCs, all 3 Centres visited experienced
on an average 100 footfall per day.
Across all the states, public services (G2C) were in higher demand than other private
(B2C) services among the citizens who visited the centres. In Gujarat most of the
VLEs earned 80% of their income from G2C services. One of the VLEs in Gujarat
even said that he does need any more services as long as he can provide already
available services more efficiently. Similarly in Visakhapatnam district of Andhra
Pradesh, the traffic to CSC increased substantially after the introduction of revenue
services. One of the VLEs in Visakhapatnam district, in Andhra Pradesh commented,
I started the centre as a RIV (An AP Government Initiative) in 2004. In those days the
electricity department were collecting the payment on their own despite the availability of the
kiosks. I personally visited the relevant offices and fought for its withdrawal. I had to struggle
a lot in the initial days...Now since the revenue services have been introduced; there has been
a steep increase in the number of customers. Most importantly, people do not have to go to
Mandala (local administrative unit) revenue offices and deal with the brokers anymore.
Almost all the citizen respondents (91.3% of 58 respondents) who had visited the
CSCs for availing public services said they preferred coming to the CSCs over other
local administrative offices. Some cited long queues and over crowdedness as the
reason for their preference whereas some other cited petty corruption and ambiguities
of government offices as the probable reason for the same. For example a respondent
in Jaipur district of Rajasthan reasoned:
I submit my electricity bill through the kiosk. It is much easier as I do not have to travel much
to do this and waste half of my day. Though there are sometimes long queues in front of the
kiosk during bill deposit period, it is still quicker. I wish the RORs for Land Records and
Caste Certificates were also available here. Now, we have to travel all the way to Chomu
which is about 20 km. away for all these services. You can see the state of local transport
here. It is not so easy to travel such distances. On top of that, our work is never done in one
trip. We have to make several round of trips to the administrative offices, bribe
inconsequential people such as gateman, peon etc. and face unnecessary harassment for
getting simple things done.
In the CSCs where hardly any public services were available, VLEs faced a serious
problem of sustainability despite providing quite a few other services (B2C). Though
B2C services were availed by the citizens, they could attract as many villagers. There
were mainly two reasons for this; firstly, the demand for a wide range of B2C services
was limited in village areas and secondly, many of the B2C services offered through
the CSCs were already easily available in other places. For example, mobile recharge
facilities were already easily available even before the arrival of CSCs.
As has already been found in earlier assessment studies on the CSCs (IMRB, 2010), there was
a lack of innovativeness in promotional activities of the CSCs and the majority of promotion
relied on word of mouth. Despite these shortcomings, there were two factors which worked in
the popularity of the CSCs; firstly the location (within village panchyatoffice or in a busy
market area) and secondly the availability of public services.One of the field executives from
the SCAs in West Bengal had a opinion that
There should be as many G2C services as possible in the CSCs. Government services might
not be very profitable (for the VLEs or the SCAs) but they help increasing the popularity and
credibility of the CSCs. Public response (for G2C services) is very high”.
The electric bill deposit, which was a public service available in the CSCs across all
the sample states, demonstrated that citizens needed less time in the CSCs than in
regular electricity offices. As it further decentralised the process, the pressure on
public offices was also reduced. For example, according to Gujarat Government
sources, the number of electricity bill collection centres have taken a quantum leaps
from 7in 2005 to 430 in 2008 (e-Gram Pamphlet, 2010).
In Gujarat and in parts of Andhra Pradesh where more public services were available
through the CSCs, the G2C services were provided in a time-bound fashion. For
example, in Visakhapatnam district the citizens while applying for a revenue service
get an acknowledgement receipt with date and time of application and also a specified
delivery date. The VLE goes to the Tehsil office and collect the documents after the all
the back-end verification process is over. One of the VLEs in Gujarat explained that it
takes now 2-3 days after application to get a copy of ROR (Land Record Certificates)
and after the entire the process is digitised (which was in progress), then one can get
the copy immediately.
The online availability of public services also standardised the service delivery. For
example, the CSCs followed almost the same delivery design across all the states with
minor variations. An Online Monitoring Tool has been installed across most of the
CSCs (including the ones visited) in order to monitor its operation hours and
transactions records. In addition to this standardised tool, different States have taken
additional measures for monitoring the project. For example, in Gujarat “Village level
gram sabha meetings can now be monitored online from the control room in
Gandhinagar. An online standardised reporting mechanism has been developed which
provides information on aspects such as the number of villagers and official present,
and the issue raised and resolved at these meetings” (eGram Brochure, Government of
Gujarat, 2010). These claims of the brochure were confirmed by the villagers and the
VLEs and also the control room in Gandhinagar mentioned in the Brochure was
visited. There are also other guidelines which are followed in standardising service
delivery. For example, a prototype of Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed
between the RajCOMP (SDA in Rajasthan), the District e-Governance Society
(Society formed under the chairmanship of district collectors in Rajasthan for
implementing e-governance projects) and a SCA demonstrate the standards
formulated for service delivery. Along with other provisions, this MOU also fixes the
standard service rates and revenue shares between the private and public partners. As
the MOU clarifies, Rs. 5 per transaction (inclusive of taxes) to be recovered from
citizens for Information services whereas 10% of the transaction charges to be paid to
SCA/VLE will be retained by the respective e-Governance Society. Similarly for
utility bill and other government dues Rs. 3.95 per transaction (inclusive of taxes) is to
be reimbursed by the concerned department and 10% of the transaction charges to be
paid to SCA/VLE will be retained by the respective e-Governance Society.
As already mentioned, the availability of public services through CSCs cut down on
the uncertainties of the citizens. For example, the unending trips to administrative
offices, unpleasant encounters with officials, intimidation by illicit brokers could be
avoided by switching to the CSCs.By offering public services through a single
window solution, CSCs could eliminate too many intermediaries operating in different
public offices. 100% villager respondents (58) spoke about these intermediaries and
the resulting hardship in attaining public services. Also the cases of nepotism while
providing particular services could be checked by availing services through the CSCs.
70% of all respondents (107) thought that the CSCs play catalytic role in curbing
nepotism in public service delivery.
All the VLEs interviewed suggested that the speed and quality of service delivery has
improved and has become more consistent over the time. However, the two major
hitches have been the erratic power supply and internet connectivity. Most of the
VLEs interviewed had arranged for a power back up within the CSC. All the states
visited showed considerable improvement in connectivity through different phases of
implementation. For example in Gujarat, the SDA actually monitored the availability
of sites in order to resolve the issues of internet speed.
All the CSCs visited had a board outside the centre describing all the services
available at the centre in the local languages (Figure 2 & 3).
Figure: 6.1: A Typical CSC Banner in Rajasthan
Source: Author
Figure: 6:2: A Typical CSC Banner in West Bengal
Source: Author
53(91.3% of all citizen respondents) citizen respondents, all of whom had availed
services from the CSCs said they did not have problem availing information on
services in the CSCs. However, almost none of them understood how exactly the
online system worked. They relied on the VLEs to get information and services and
almost all of them have been satisfied with the information they accessed. In fact, all
the VLEs interviewed found to be too eager to disburse as much information as
possible for their own interest. For example, one of the VLEs in Gujarat stated that in
the beginning he tried to make an announcement with a loudspeaker throughout the
village. Later he has been taking help of the panchayat office, the Anganwadi staffs
and local school to spread the information about his Centre.
Channelling information about public services through the CSCs provides an
additional source of information for citizens and they did not need to go all the way to
government offices and depend on the discretion of the government staffs anymore.
Moreover, the provision for downloading different types of application forms through
the CSCs renders it easy for the villagers to access public services.
Availing public services through the CSCs simplified the process of service delivery
for most of the citizen respondents. The public services that have been made available
through the CSCs require them to submit an online application with the assistance
from the VLE against which they receive an acknowledgment and in some cases with
a specific delivery date. In the current phase, the VLE had to go to the local
administrative office to collect the documents. But with further upgradation of the
system an end-to-end solution was sought. This implies acquiring certificates and
copies of required documents online sometimes even instantly. In Gujarat, such a
solution was already under progress in case of Land Record Certificates.
Another aspect of availability of information was evident in the manner in which a
wide-ranging pull of documents related to the projects was made easily accessible.
These not only included project reports but also service level contracts, the
administrative records, bidding documents and so on. This was possible across all the
sample states as well as at the central level project office in Delhi, though the quality
of services varied from one state to another.
Key Finding 1: There is a direct association between the availability of public
services and the increasing citizen participation with the CSCs Scheme.
Key Finding 2: E-governance reform initiative as manifested through the
implementation process of the CSCs Scheme demonstrates increased predictability
of public service delivery to the citizens.
Key Finding 3: E-governance reform initiated through the CSCs renders
information about services more easily accessible to citizen, provide alternative
channels of getting information about services and provide regular services in more
simplified manner.
6.2.2 C 2: Improved coordination among all the stakeholders of e-governance reform will
improve the level of governance
Transparency and accountability are the major dynamics on the basis of which better
coordination can be achieved amongst public sectors, private partners and citizens.
Use of ICTs renders the financial management of public offices more transparent. For
example, in Gujarat a computerised rural accounting management system has been
installed for PRIs at all levels since 2007. As the project documents indicates, “This
system tracks movement of funds for every transaction and monitors how savings are
utilised and when withdrawals are made, thus leading to greater transparency” (eGram, 2010). Similar systems were also available in other states. In West Bengal,
softwares were installed to publish monthly financial reports of the PRIs in the
financial year of 2008-09 which could be easily accessed for monitoring purposes.
The system was being upgraded to make these reports available in the public domain
and a Gram Panchayat Management System (GPMS) software was being developed
simultaneously (Annual Report,P&RDD, Govt. Of WB, 2008-09). In Rajasthan and
Andhra Pradesh similar initiatives has been undertaken. These IT-enables
management tools were also part of the CSCs scheme where all the transactions were
automatically recorded online and were readily available for monitoring.
During the field visits all the project information and documentation such as MOUs,
service contracts, status updates, Government Orders and so on were easily available
from the websites. The financial transactions were easily traceable and were shared
without hesitation. Most of the VLEs could demonstrate the way a transaction was
documented while delivering services.
The terms and conditions of contracts (including clear structures of revenue share)
between different stakeholders were also made readily available. (Annexure: Exhibit
of Service Contracts)
Citizens-interfaces were simplified due to use of ICT tools (examples cited under C1)
68 out 107 of respondents (63%) thought that overall transparency would increase due
to introduction of ICTs.
The PPP model adopted under the CSCs Scheme was based on clear division of labour.
The roles and responsibilities and also the jurisdiction of their influence were clearly
set out at the onset. The Service Level Agreements further elaborated the details of the
partnership between the SDAs and the SCAs.
In order to bridge the gap in accountability (that usually emerges with the involvement
of private service providers in public service delivery mechanism) the SDAs takes
special measures to put pressure on SCAs to perform in accordance with terms and
conditions mentioned in the MOUs. Correspondingly, some of the SCA contracts had
been terminated in Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal in the face of serious complains
against them.
Though VLEs are appointed by the SCAs, the SDAs indirectly oversee VLE activities
as well by ensuring legal contracts between the SCAs and the VLEs and by
monitoring transactions made by them. Similarly, despite the fact that imparting
training to the VLEs falls under the SCAs‟ responsibility, the SDAs organises
workshops and campaigns to sensitise VLEs. In both Rajasthan and Gujarat, the SDAs
take keen interest in integrating and handholding of VLEs.
One of the major problems that the CSCs team encounters is the non-cooperation from
lower rungs of the bureaucracy. In Rajasthan, this problem was dealt with much
seriousness and several measures were being taken to sensitise lower level staffs of
public offices. For example, some of the local bureaucratic representatives who joined
the Jaipur workshop organised by the SDA were publicly questioned for their actions
and even rebuked for their reluctant attitudes. In Gujarat, the coordination between all
levels of bureaucracy was much higher and the flow of information between different
stakeholders appeared to be seamless. In West Bengal the relationship between the
VLEs and SCAs were strained as they could not channel as many services through
CSCs as they promised. The SCAs in turn were helpless as getting public services in
the CSCs depended more on the State Government. However, the SDA representative
interviewed during the field visit recognised this problem and opined that it is a longterm procedure of business process re-engineering and change management. In
Andhra Pradesh where the general state of PPP model was very advanced, the CSCs
faced a few issues of coordination. As there were already some big private players in
the public service domain, new private players faced steep competition. Moreover,
some of the government departments were reluctant to channel their services through
CSCs as they were all independently providing these services online. These created
frustration among VLEs and they regularly pleaded and protested to the SDA. The
SDA was trying to lobby with departmental heads and resolve the bottlenecks.
The CSCs Scheme to a great extent has succeeded in eliminating intermediaries in
public service delivery mechanism. 91.3% (out of 58) citizen respondent thought that
the CSCs will help them to avoid unnecessary intermediaries. 70% (out of 107)
responded thought CSCs will eliminate intermediaries and will curb nepotism in
public services.
The CSCs placed VLEs as a substitute of multiple intermediaries in different public
offices. As the VLE is selected from the local youth, the credibility of the kiosk is
ensured. Having his personal interests linked to the CSCs, the VLE takes additional
efforts to attract citizens and serve them better.
Key Findings 4: E-governance reforms make interactions between different
stakeholders more transparent.
Key Findings 5: More than just technology, business process re-engineering and
change management under e-governance reforms make stakeholders accountable
to each other.
C3: E-governance initiatives that take social and cultural factors embedded in the
specific context into consideration improve the level of governance
This conjecture can be evaluated through two indicators such as adaptability of the egovernance initiatives to take local needs into consideration and increased participation of the
citizens into e-governance initiatives. The shows following trends:
Using local language has been one of the policy guideline for e-governance in India.
For example the Tenth Five Year Plan clearly describes,
“Creation of softwares for establishing an inter-face with the diverse Indian languages used
in India poses a real challenge. In the Tenth Plan the endeavour will be to develop suitable
software and technologies to enable people to interact and use computers in local languages.
Internet accessibility and content creation in local languages will be promoted” (Tenth Five
Year Plan, GOI 2002-2007; 188).
The use of local languages is evident in the interfaces with citizens under the CSCs
Scheme. The images projected above in Figure 2 and 3 are testimony to this fact.
Use of software in local languages was also encountered within the CSCs visited.
Availability of information in local languages are prevalent also in other MMPs under
the National e-Governance Plan, for example in National Service Delivery Gateway
Special policy initiatives have been adopted by the State governments to integrate
special social groups into the project implementation. For example, the Rajasthan
Government‟s policy focus to give out VLE contracts under the CSCs Scheme to only
women showcased an attempt to incorporate gender development goals into the egovernance initiatives. In a state like Rajasthan where women as a group has been
considerably marginalised such a policy could act as a social catalyst by providing
entrepreneurial opportunities to women. Even though, in reality the women were not
much visible within the CSC project in Rajasthan, it nonetheless provided impetus for
women to own the franchise and gain a platform for income. In fact, 4 out of 6 VLEs
interviewed in Rajasthan were women. Two out of those four VLEs ran the centre by
themselves whereas one shared the business with her brother and the other stayed
mostly outside the centre and only occasionally assisted her husband.
The designing of the CSC Scheme as rural telecentres/IT kiosks exhibits innovation on
part of the policy makers to suit the Indian context of mass illiteracy and to deal with
concomitant digital divide. The VLEs under the CSCs Scheme act as a link between
illiterate masses and the public authorities. These VLEs were found to be competent in
dealing with this responsibility. The educational qualifications of VLEs were found to
be quite satisfactory as described by the Impact Assessment Survey (IMRB, 2010).
The same trend was reinforced during the case study as all the VLEs interviewed had
completed school and 15 out 22 (68%) had a university degree. There was also special
training imparted to them for running the kiosks from the SCAs. However, the quality
of these trainings could not be fully assessed during the case study. During the
workshop in Jaipur, many VLEs expressed their discomfort and incapability in
understanding the system operation. Some VLEs in West Bengal complained about
technological problems for which they had to continuously seek assistance from the
SCAs. These ratifications by VLEs indicate further need for training of the VLEs to
enhance their digital skills.
To address this need the Department of Information and Technology (DIT),
Government of India has approved (with funding) an initiative to certify VLEs of the
CSCs Scheme under the DOEACC Society‟s Course on Computer Concept (CCC).
VLEs receive the course certificate by successfully passing the exam and an
authorisation from DOEACC Society to impart the same training to citizens.
initiative envisages to facilitate VLEs to further train citizens in their locality and to
enhance their own service capabilities and income. It also helps standardising the
digital literacy level of VLEs across India which is recognised by government
Under the same initiative DIT has also approved a pilot on Women‟s Literacy Scheme
by giving special incentives to trained VLEs for imparting skills under the CCC to
women in their locality. The initiative started in 2010-2011 in the selected states of
Assam, Bihar, Jammu & Kashmir, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Sikkim,
Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal. None of the CSCs visited in Rajasthan
and West Bengal were found to be involved in the initiative. This initiative though
embedded in the larger framework of the CSC Scheme just started rolling out in 2011
and hence would have been too early to reflect any actual patterns of transformation.
Another instant where other social and developmental schemes has been integrated
into the e-governance initiatives was turning CSCs into data entry units for MNREGA
and also related tasks of wage disbursement, job card application and MIS updating.
In 36.8% of total CSCs (19) visited such embeddedness was evident particularly in
Rajasthan, Gujarat and West Bengal.
In implementing CSCs, different SDAs adopted different strategies. For example, in
Gujarat the e-Gram Mission which was running from 2003 with similar objectives was
converted as CSCs and hence all the CSCs in Gujarat are located in gram panchayat
office which helped establishing the credibility of the VLEs among citizens and
thereby popularising the CSCs in the State. Similarly, in Andhra Pradesh, the Rajiv
Internet Village Scheme was running since 2004 and these RIVs were being converted
later into CSCs. This prevented duplication of service channels and also provided
some resort to address resistance from VLEs of earlier projects. In another instance in
Gujarat computers were installed in village schools to increase digital literacy among
village children and these were also used for spreading awareness about CSCs among
village households.
Beside several attempts made at the state and central policy levels to integrate social
needs into e-governance initiatives, there were innovations on the part of the VLEs
and SCAs to integrate business goals with local social needs. For example, in Gujarat
matrimonial services were offered as a B2C service in one of the CSCs whereas in
West Bengal almost 50% of total CSCs visited offered e-Learning courses as a B2C
service which was not only in high demand among the local youth but was also one of
the major sources of earning for the VLEs. Another major determinant of services was
the rural-urban dynamics. CSCs which were closer to towns had different need than
remote rural areas. For example, in a CSC in Andhra Pradesh which was surrounded
by many residential engineering colleges, the VLE developed a parallel set up of cyber
cafes which attracted quite a number of citizens, particularly the local youth. Some
VLEs provided assistance in making resumes, in writing applications for public
offices, in filling out forms and so on. In this regard, an ex bureaucrat commented,
“What old post-offices meant for rural India, tomorrow the CSCs will take that place
in villagers across the country”.
Use of local language in spreading information of services help in reaching out to
a wider mass and this reflects mostly in case of e-governance initiatives focussed
in rural areas. More citizens in the rural areas became aware of the services
available through the CSC.
Using local youth as VLEs created trust among villagers. Therefore the VLEs‟
role as an intermediary between the rural mass and the government becomes more
pertinent. With their educational qualifications and additional digital skills VLEs
could mend the lack of literacy and digital divide in rural areas and helped
villagers in accessing services and in their everyday interaction with the state
authorities with a customised approach. Most importantly all these facilities could
be provided to the citizens within the close proximity of their villages.
Introducing gender-specific policy initiatives as manifested through the pilot
project of Women‟s Literacy Scheme of the DIT at the Union Government level
and Rajasthan Government‟s programme to promote women VLEs, garner wider
participation by women into such schemes particularly in areas where women
have substantially lagged behind in developmental trajectories. A successful
example of women‟s incorporation into the CSC scheme became apparent in
Andhra Pradesh where 3 out of 6 VLEs were women. All the women VLEs
interviewed in Andhra Pradesh were running the CSCs quite successfully; they all
exhibited remarkable entrepreneurial skills and conducted themselves with much
confidence. One such confident VLE was K.Sujatha in Visakhapatnam district
who appeared to be a extremely energetic and proactive young lady. In her own
After attaining a B.Com degree I enrolled from an M.Com. But I had to quit after one year
due to some family problems. Then I saw the announcement in the newspaper and applied to
DRDA for the RIV centre. Initially someone else was selected. However, I eventually got the
contract as she withdrew. I started the centre as a RIV (An AP Government Initiative) in
2004. In those days the electricity department were collecting the payment on their own
despite the availability of the kiosks. I personally visited the relevant offices and fought for its
withdrawal. I had to struggle a lot in the initial day...Now since the revenue services have
been introduced; there has been a steep increase in the number of customer. On an average
there are 300-400 people visiting my centre per day and I can make a net income of about 1012 thousands rupees a month.
By encouraging women‟s engagement into e-governance initiatives, the government
promotes rural entrepreneurship among women and hence facilitate integrating social
sector goals within the private sector interests.
Incorporating developmental schemes such as MNREGS activities within the CSCs
operations helped increasing its credibility amongst villagers and hence their
engagement with CSCs.
Providing additional services, keeping the local demand in mind increased traffic to
CSCs as in the case of e-Learning courses in West Bengal CSCs.
Key Finding 6: E-governance policy rhetoric and practices of the CSCs Scheme
demonstrate sufficient adaptability within the local social contexts.
Key Finding 7: The CSCs Scheme provides different modes for engaging with the
C4: E-governance reform that improves the delivery mechanism of public service will
improve the level of governance.
Increased predictability at the supply side of the service delivery, that is, within government
departments and the increased accountability on the part of the service providers are the two
major indicators of an improved public service delivery mechanism.
As different narratives from the case study suggest, the public services which are
available through the CSCs showed higher predictability in terms of speed of delivery,
compliance with time-bound delivery and standardisation of delivery mechanism.
Even though a very few public services were available across all the states, they were
delivered in a more or less predictable manner. Right before the launch of a new
service, one of the representatives from DOIT&C of the Government of Rajasthan
Using ICT tools needs business process engineering and change management. It is a long
term process but we are slowly getting there...We are going to launch IT-enabled end-to-end
solutions for bonafied certificates very soon. It will be 100% online, with digital signature,
barcode and all other security features. Citizens can apply online and forward all the
enclosing documents to the concerned authority. This authorised department can then process
the application online and deliver the certificate online...ICT tools also provides us with
better monitoring mechanism with which we can regularly monitor SCAs and VLEs and this
monitoring is entirely online and hence extremely transparent...while taking the ICT tools to
the rural areas, we face resistance from village accountants and gram pradhans and other
local representatives. This stems from their ignorance about the technology. But as soon as
they realise these technologies can ease their workload, they will be co-opted in the
implementation process. For this we need continuous sensitisation campaigns at the local
level. And most importantly, we need strong political will at the highest level which I think
we have.
The point raised by the Rajasthan official was also reflected in the experiences of
CSCs in Gujarat. For example, in Gujarat panchyats was completely co-opted in the
process of implementation. Not only had they provided space for the CSCs, but also
they worked in close cooperation with the VLEs. This not only worked for the
sustainability of the CSCs but also helped panchayat offices to update their data and
their communication with upper level of administration. For example, in 3 out of 4
sample states, MNREGS data entry was done through the CSCs. In addition, to
mainstream IT in government departments, the State took some measures. As one of
the SDA representatives in Gandhinagar informed,
Now every state department has an IT budget for hardware, software and staff training. The
Gujarat Informatics Limited (GIL) [which is part of the Department of Science & Technology,
Government of Gujarat] works for the capacity building within the State Government and
also manages regular training programmes for the staffs. For Class 3 staffs 16hours of
training and for Class 1&2 staffs 100 hours of trainings are being provided since last seven
years and the process is still on.
As public services provided under the CSCs increased in number, the public
authorities were impelled to become more and more standardised in the delivery
mechanism. Resultantly, the speed of delivery also improved. As was evident from
citizen‟s testimony, public services which were offered through the CSCs had a timebound delivery. It was expected by the VLEs, SCAs and SDAs with technological
upgradation and complete automation of the back-end process, end-to-end solutions
will be available and that will ensure fast and absolutely time bound delivery. The
examples were already available in Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat where partial
automation of the processes for many public services were.
This brings us to the question of e-readiness of different state departments. This
basically reflected the capacity of the state departments to roll out services to the
citizens.17E-governance initiatives under the NeGP put pressures on state governments
to enhance the level of e-readiness.
The DIT of the Government of India regular publishes e-readiness assessment report covering all the
States/UTs. According to the e-Readiness Assessment Report 2008, Andhra Pradesh was placed among the
leaders, Gujarat and West Bengal were labelled as aspiring leaders and Rajasthan managed to reach only the
level of average achievers. However, in terms of the e-governance ranking of the same report, West Bengal
had a lower ranking in comparison to its e-readiness ranking. On the other hand, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat
and Rajasthan had better ranking in e-governance in comparison to their respective ranking in e-readiness.
This implies that e-readiness of the departments did not automatically lead to better e-governance
With the help of ICT tools in application, tracking, monitoring, appeal, grievance
redressal become more standardised and fast and create direct interface with the
citizens. Most of the MMPs rolled out under the NeGP, including the CSCs has a
public grievance redressal mechanism. For example in Lokvani initiative discussed
earlier in this chapter pointed out the relevance of such provisions for citizens. The
provision of RTIs on the websites of major NeGP initiatives also creates channels of
holding the government accountable.
Integrating private partners in public service delivery can create problems of
accountability in the system. However, the public-private partnership model as
adopted in the CSCs Scheme addresses this issue. For example, the SDA signs a MOU
and a Service Level Agreement with the SCAs and VLEs are further appointed by the
SCAs. Therefore, the Government has no direct influence in the selection of VLEs.
However, they indirectly try to minimise the possibilities of dispute by dictating the
terms and conditions of the agreement with the SCAs. For example, the SDA ensures
the enforcement of legal contract between the SCAs and the VLEs; the SDA fixes the
service charges including tax and the revenue share structure and integrate them in the
service level agreements with the SCAs. Moreover, SDAs overlook the entire project
through Online Monitoring Tools and Online Financial Management Systems.
Monitoring is also done at the central level with the help of such IT-enabled
monitoring tools. The SCAs were compelled to perform not only in terms of business
interest but also in terms of precision of their conducts. In West Bengal, Andhra
Pradesh some previous SCA contracts were terminated due to complains of illicit
conduct and poor management.
Under the case study of CSCs it was observed that attitudes of the public servants
were either changing or they were forced to change due to pressure created by the
introduction of ICT tools and change management. For example, there were many
representatives from local administrative bodies present during the workshop
organised in Jaipur. Besides dealing the problems of VLEs, this workshop also
intended to sensitise these public servants. During the course of the workshop, they
were asked to provide reasons for their certain actions and in some cases were directly
held responsible for delays in project implementation. In another case, in Gujarat there
were regular meetings held between different government departments in order to
establish link between state, district and village level administration and to carry out
strict monitoring of the project. In some cases the favourable attitudes of local
administrative officers acted for the benefit of project.
As already described in the narratives of VLEs and villagers alike, there were too
many inconsequential intermediaries who operated in local administrative offices and
who took advantage of the ignorance and the exigencies of the citizens. In all states,
elimination of intermediaries in availing public services was cited as a major benefit
emerging out of the CSCs Scheme. Respondents associated with the project and
experts as well shared the same opinion. VLEs acted as the authorised legal
intermediary between the state and the citizens whose conducts were regularly and
automatically monitored through different mechanism.
The appointment of VLEs from among the local youth under the CSCs served two
major purposes. Firstly, as most of the VLEs were born and brought up in the villages
where they run the kiosks, it created trust among citizens because of their familiarity
with the person. Secondly, despite being a private franchise the VLE could easily be
traced by the villagers they stayed either in the same village or in the nearby villages.
These factors pushed the VLEs to engage in more responsibly in managing the kiosks.
Key Findings 8: E-governance reforms ensure higher predictability within
government departments for the delivery of public services.
Key Findings 9: E-governance reform creates clearer and stricter structures of
accountability across all service providers.
In an attempt to evaluate the basic conjectures about e-governance reform and the general
level of governance, the policies and practices of e-governance have been analysed so far. A
case study of the CSCs Scheme added to the matrix of this analysis. The analytical models
adopted in dealing with this wide array of data were rooted in the neo-institutional model of
governance and social constructivist paradigm. While the former explains why and how
certain policies and practices were initiated at a specific time and space, the latter shows how
these policies and practices were actually realised in the specific contexts of the sample states.
Besides the key findings that emerged out of such analyses, there is an important dimension
of e-governance in India that needs further attention. It is the regional variations of the Indian
case that adds to the complexity of governance analysis. As Jenkins argues,
“...[L]iberalization is increasingly implemented in the form successive micro-reforms in
different states, at different times, and under different political circumstances” (Jenkins, 1995;
42) Hence a comparison of the four federal states studied during the course of this research is
imminent to further establish how contextual realities play a crucial role in the realisation of
the same e-governance initiative.
6.3 A Comparative Regional Narrative: (e) Governance in Context
While in the previous chapter a comprehensive account of the CSC implementation across
four sample state was charted out (Table 5.2), this section examines how the contextual
realities of each state affect the process of e-governance reform in general. The contextual
realties are manifested through myriad political, cultural and social factors. However, in
comparing the e-governance reform in these four states a set of four criteria are deployed
here. They are namely, policy drive, the status of bureaucracy, political will, and the local
socio-political dynamics. They demonstrate how each of these factors played a crucial role
while implementing a national project thereby leading to different outcomes in different
states. These criteria of analysing context-specific (e) governance are in no way extensive,
but they nonetheless quite straightforwardly explicate the importance of the context in
harnessing the governance through e-governance.
Policy Drive: Given the federal structure of India, the state governments enjoy relative
autonomy in policy-making in number of areas. This led to different kind of policyorientations in different states. In case of CSCs, the diverse nature IT policy and
particularly e-governance orientations of the state governments in all four states
influenced the implementation process in a significant manner. For example, Gujarat
and Andhra Pradesh has made much progress in developing the physical infrastructure
and wider IT environment due to consistent track record of favourable IT policy
environment in the states, whereas Rajasthan the policy focus on IT infrastructure and
e-governance is fairly new. These differences reflect in the way CSCs are rolled out in
these states as Rajasthan‟s infrastructural issues act as deterrent in the level of IT
penetration among masses. Conversely, in Andhra Pradesh, despite initial thrust on IT
sector during Chandra Babu Naidu‟s tenure (1995-2004), the IT took a back seat in
state policy framework after his electoral debacle. This attitudinal shift was quite
evident in the interviews with all the state officials in Andhra Pradesh and the slow
pace of implementation of the CSCs in the state was partly attributed to this policy
In another instance where a state policy found to be conducive for the effective
outreach of CSCs, Gujarat government‟s strategy can be cited. The state‟s initiative to
establish e-gram centres in each panchayat office building proved to be an successful
strategy as it ensured more visibility of the project, more accessibility for village
populations as well as increased the credibility of the VLEs despite their private
franchise status. In addition, the co-existence with panchayat office led to better
cooperation between the public and private partners on one hand, and to higher statemonitoring of the project on the other. Even though, Gujarat shows an intense state
control over the public-private partnership model, nonetheless such a strategic policy
position of the state government was effective in increasing the outreach of the
The Status of Bureaucracy: A direct impact of the state government‟s policy
orientation reflects on the functioning of the bureaucracy. The status of the
bureaucracy is represented by both its capacity to absorb change and its attitude
towards change. E-governance reform hinges heavily on both these aspects. Barring
Gujarat, in all the other sample states either of this aspect was missing which further
impacted the implementation process of the CSCs. For example, in West Bengal, the
capacity of the bureaucracy was a major hindrance towards channelling government
services through CSCs even with much infrastructural advancements. There was
severe lack of coordination between different governmental departments as well as
between public and private partners. In Andhra Pradesh, where the e-readiness and
capacity of the bureaucracy was a non issue, coordination and cooperation between
departments posed considerable challenge. The departmental initiatives were mostly
run by a champion-driven vision and innovations which did not trickle down to lower
levels of the bureaucracy. The similar trend was evident in Rajasthan as well where
the non-cooperation of the lower bureaucracy across departments was one of the main
bottlenecks experienced by the CSCs team in the state. One of the reasons behind such
non-cooperation was aversion to change. The local bureaucracy in village areas
enjoyed considerable authority without much need of an accountability. Introduction
of public services through CSCs challenged this sphere of authority not only through
digitisation of services but also by demanding greater transparency and accountability
in public service delivery mechanism. In Andhra Pradesh as well, the VLEs where
CSCs were running successfully complained about such non-cooperation from local
bureaucracies in the initial stages. In Gujarat, bureaucracy appeared to be more adept
to e-governance reform. For example, the organised and efficient functioning of the
bureaucracy was already witnesses even before making the field trip to Gujarat. This
was evident in the way the field-visits (of just an ordinary academic researcher) were
planned and coordinated as well as communicated in an efficient and systematic
manner. In case of CSCs, where the centres were well integrated into Panchayat
operations, the local bureaucracy as well as village panchayats facilitated the process
of implementation. Another factor which was made much difference in case of Gujarat
was the pressure from higher political authority. This factor brings us to the next
criterion of political will.
Political Will: The idea of a political will is closely related to the role of state political
elites and interest groups which are again a by-product of the federal structure of the
Indian state. This criterion is also closely related to the policy domain as the political
elites and interest groups within the state exert enormous influence on the policy
orientation of the state governments. In case of e-governance reform also this political
will plays a crucial role and it was time and again reiterated during the interviews with
the experts as well as state officials. For example, in case of West Bengal, the political
leadership of erstwhile Left-front government found itself in the midst of
controversies and political opposition (within and outside the party rank and file) in
the face of their pro-growth developmental stance. This led to a general environment
of suspicion and ambiguity around reform policies and practices of which egovernance was also a victim. Especially, during the field visits in West Bengal in
March 2011 with state assembly elections approaching in two months (May 2011),
either CSCs, or e-governance in general did not seem to appear on the priority list of
the political leadership in the state. A similar narrative was encountered in Andhra
Pradesh, where IT is considered a jinxed topic for much of the political leadership
particularly after the decline of Chandra Babu Naidu. During his tenure as a Chief
Minister massive policy reform was introduced in the state with much hype and
publicity. Andhra Pradesh made significant progress in the field of Information
Technology and e-governance andthe capital Hyderabad was often touted as the
Silicon Valley of India. However, Naidu‟s defeat in 2004 assembly election was
attributed to the backlash of his reform strategies that focused more on technologydriven Hyderabad-centred development at the expense of the rural mass. Hence, the
political leadership since then maintained the rhetoric of pro-poor social policies.
Though e-governance continued to receive state-funding, it did not remain in the
priority list of the politicians. Quite on the contrary, e-governance received much
attention of the highest leadership in Gujarat and Rajasthan, even though both these
state were not quite at the same level of e-governance development. In Gujarat,
political leadership put e-governance reform in their top checklist of the overall
development agenda of the state. Consequently, they took several policy measures to
incapacitates the bureaucracy and embed e-governance reform to the lowest unit of
state administration. The clear mandate from the political leadership and the pro-active
demeanour of the Chief Minister Narendra Modi provided the much-needed impetus
for the reform and hence accelerated the pace of reform albeit some significant
criticism. Hence, Gujarat government‟s initiative of e-gram was already advancing at a
fast pace when the CSCs scheme was conceived at the national level and
acknowledging the success of the state initiatives CSCs were incorporated in to the egram centres. In Rajasthan the political leadership has now rose up to the significance
of e-governance reform in improving public service delivery model. This reflects in
the earnest effort of the policy makers of the state and the subsequent push to the
bureaucracy in implementing CSCs in the state as well as other measures to improve
public service delivery mechanism.
Local socio-political dynamics: Local social as well as political factors also play a role
in the implementation processes as they has the potential to leverage the role of the
political elites, the policy framework as well as the bureaucracy. The local networks of
power involving administrative personnel, village leaders are key players in any
effective reform process. For example, secondary literature on many e-governance
projects in India has displayed how these power networks worked against the
sustainability of the initiative (Sreekumar, 2008, Panda, 2007). In case of CSCs, local
social as well political circumstances act as both an impediment and an incentive in
different states. Some of the political factors particular to the states and their role in
CSCs implementation process are already mentioned in the discussion on other three
criteria. Furthermore, in states like Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal, the volatile
political situations acted against the roll out of e-governance reform. In Andhra
Pradesh, the separatist movement of Telengana affected the general reform agenda in a
significant way as it preoccupied a considerable amount of political and administrative
attention, thwarting the pace of institutional reform. This coincided with other form of
protests within the CSCs project itself. During the time of the visit, the VLEs of
Nizamabad district demonstrated in the capital against the slow roll out of public
services through CSCs and the reluctant attitude of the state government. Reportedly,
similar protests had taken place in earlier occasions as well. Another point of
contestation in Andhra Pradesh CSCs was the existence of similar internet kiosks from
previous initiatives of the state government. These kiosk operators not only took legal
measures to prevent rolling out of CSCs in their locality, some also took recourse to
violent measures. As a result, many CSCs in Andhra Pradesh remained nonoperational in spite of being officially opened. In West Bengal, political violence in
some of the district was on upswing (as observed during the field trip) accounting to
Maoist insurgency, political rivalry between the incumbent allies and the opposition
parties. The state assembly elections were impending and the exit of the long-standing
Left government was almost imminent and there was a general air of massive political
and institutional change riding on the success of the regional party the Trinamool
Congress. However, the process of change was fraught with much aggression and
violence on both sides. This wider regional political situation led to a sense of
instability within the political institutions which was only likely to increase given the
future change of the state cabinet. The volatile regional political contexts rendered not
only the process of CSCs implementation difficult at bureaucratic level but also in the
everyday practices of the centres. In many places Centres could not operate due to
such incidence of political violence. Another example of political influence was
witnessed in West Bengal, where some VLEs got their contracts through their political
connections at the local level. During an interview, one of the field executives
mentioned that some of the Panchayat heads and BDOs were known for such
favouritism, in some cases there was action against them but most of the time it
continued as business as usual. In Rajasthan, regardless of the highest political will,
the local contexts at times played out quite differently. For example, despite the state
policy women VLEs were hardly visible on the scene and this went quite openly
without stirring much irks among the officials and politicians. The gender inequality
within the state of Rajasthan was acknowledged in the rhetoric of state policy,
however without insistence on enforcement of the same policy. In another instance,
the tension between the local representative of private sector players and their public
sector counterparts added to the complexities of the implementation process. For
example, in Jaipur the field executive of the SCA and the official of the District egovernance office shared a mutual understanding of the local situation and admitted to
the shortcomings of both the public and private partners, whereas in Udaipur the
situation was quite reverse as the partners were busy blaming each other. The local
contexts display even more diversity in the ways local panchayats or block
administrative units extended their hands to the CSCs. In Gujarat, they were mostly
supportive, whereas in other states the situation differed on case to case basis even
within one district. The entrepreneurial qualities of the individual VLE and their
personal relationships to the local elites also added to the diverse CSCs narratives
across regions.
These comparative regional narratives do not intend to merely evaluate the performance of the
state in implementing e-governance reform. Instead, they demonstrate how each region
differed in their experiences of the same reform initiatives. This section attempted to present a
few main factors behind such diverse trajectories of e-governance reform with an ultimate aim
of bringing in the significance local contexts in the national frame of public policy. These
contexts-specific narratives also hint at a broader analytical question: how the agency of the
actors affects policy processes and institutional structures? Hence, the policy prescriptions,
project implementations processes, and new institutional set ups emerging in the form of
internet kiosks - all together pose a larger analytical challenge to explain how structure and
agency confront each other and ultimatelye-governance reforms bridge the state and society.
At this point hybridity both as apolitical strategy and as an analytical tool can provide a few
6.4 Hybridising (e) Governance in India: Bridging State and Society
E-governance involves the use of sophisticated information communication technology in
building up a well networked institutional system. Like other developing countries, in India
such technologies came as a baggage of modernization with a visible time lag in comparison
with its developed counterparts. Even though the attempts to introduce ICT tools in the public
sector date back a few decades, the upsurge of e-governance as major reform area gained
prominence since late 1990s. Given the backdrop of economic liberalisation in the early
1990s, there was a strong impetus from the international donor agencies such World Bank, the
UN, DFID and so on to focus on e-governance for larger agenda of governance reform and
developmental goals. In fact, the role of international organisation was also not new in this
field as the National Informatics Centre (NIC) was established with funding from the UNDP
already in the 1970s. There are two basic features of the larger governance reform agenda
which are also extended to the domain of e-governance reform. Firstly, e-governance is
geared towards public sector reform through ICT tools; secondly, it strives to combine
developmental goals with market mechanisms in promoting ICTs among citizens. So far it has
become quite apparent from the above analyses of the data that e-governance initiatives in
India (both in policy orientation and in applications) are following these two parameters.
Now the questions arise, are these reforms initiatives are mere replications of the international
best practices? Are these initiatives received as such without any resistance? Do these
initiatives change meaning on their way from policy documents to everyday practice? One of
the probable answers that this research offers is that despite apparent attempts to live up to the
global standards of „good governance‟, e-governance reforms in India shows considerable
shifts from those very standards. Some of such digressions are products of deliberate
strategising by elites; some are results of resistance and still some are unintentional effects of
a process of adaptation. In short, they are by-products of a continuous yet non-linear interplay
between structure and agency and hybridity as a heuristic device adds much value to the
explanatory framework. For this purpose a few examples from the case study conducted under
this research endeavour are pulled together to present a holistic picture.
The very design of the CSCs scheme hints at a hybrid political strategy on the part of
the policy makers to combine social and market objectives. The concept of a village
youth serving his fellow and neighbouring villagers through an internet kiosk is
conceived to deal with illiteracy and digital divide prevalent in the rural India.
Moreover, while outsourcing the delivery mechanism to private companies and
individuals, the State tries to create employment opportunities for rural youth and
develop better infrastructure in the villages. Despite drawing inspiration from
international experiences, the overall framework of the scheme was customised to suit
the ground realities of India. Interestingly, in the policy rhetoric the scheme was
promoted more than just an ICT roll out or e-governance project. It was viewed more
as an agent of social change based on community needs. It can well be argued that a
policy document does not reflect the reality. Nonetheless, on the other hand such
terminology indicates the level of awareness among policymakers about the ground
realities and hence their efforts to innovate. These strategies adopted by policy makers
help adapt alien institutional models into the local soil. Hence CSCs can be labelled as
a hybrid institutional set up created through strategic policy-making. The hybrid
policy-making is further extended to practices of CSCs where certain hybrid methods
were adopted to set up and run the kiosks. For example, in Andhra Pradesh many
beneficiaries of an earlier self-help group initiative by the State Government were
incorporated into the CSCs implementation. As a result, a group of enterprising
women made their entry into this e-governance initiative. There are a few more
examples of such strategic policy making embedded within the CSCs Scheme.
In an attempt to address the problem of digital divide among the mass and to raise the
digital competence of the VLEs at the same time, the Department of Information and
Technology (DIT), Government of India has started an initiative with substantial
funding to certify VLEs of the CSCs Scheme under the DOEACC Society‟s Course on
Computer Concept (CCC). VLEs receive the course certificate by successfully passing
the exam and an authorisation from DOEACC Society to impart the same training to
citizens. This initiative envisages to create a chain of beneficiaries through a single
initiative where VLEs cantake advantage of their skills to further train citizens in their
locality and to enhance their own service capabilities and income. It also helps
standardising the digital literacy level of VLEs across India and mainstreaming them
with government-recognised computer skills. As an extension of the same initiative
DIT has also approved a pilot on Women‟s Literacy Scheme. Under this scheme the
DIT gives special financial incentives to the trained VLEs for imparting the special
digital skills (learnt under the CCC programme) to women in their locality. The
initiative started as a pilot in 2010-2011 in the selected states of Assam, Bihar, Jammu
& Kashmir, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Sikkim, Tamil Nadu, Uttar
Pradesh and West Bengal. This initiative though embedded in the larger framework of
the CSC Scheme was a later policy innovation which started rolling out only in 2011.
In one such initiative education, gender and livelihood issues become enmeshed. This
example again draws our attention to hybridity as a political strategy at the hands of
the policy makers to combine developmental goals with business incentives and
integrate both of them within a so-called ICT project.
Another such gender oriented strategic intervention was induced by the Rajasthan
Government. While implementing the CSCs Scheme in the state the Rajasthan
Government made it compulsory for SCAs to give out franchise only to women and
termed them as Village Level Women Entrepreneurs (VLWE). Rajasthan is well
known for its conservative social structures and backward status of women. This
policy is yet another example of combining strategic reform initiatives in social sector
with that of e-governance reform. Such hybridising tendencies at the policy level lead
to further hybrid practices that reflect both resistance and adaptation to the same
policy. In Rajasthan, all registered VLEs are women, yet a VLE workshop in Jaipur is
a male dominated fair. They are all male relatives of those registered VLWEs and run
the kiosks on behalf of their sister, daughter, wife, mother and so on. This indicates a
strong resistance from the society to adopt a policy dictum of the State. However, at
the same time there were a few women who actually took control of the CSCs and ran
it quite successfully. Some of them even travelled by themselves to Jaipur from
remote areas. One such VLWE was found to be felicitated by the State during a VLE
workshop in the state capital. In some other cases the women shared their
responsibilities with their male relatives which gave them some exposure at the least.
This example clearly shows how certain policies acquires different connotations while
being implemented and lead to hybrid practices which neither completely embrace nor
completely reject them. This also underlines the political agency of affected actors and
the importance of local contexts and culture in shaping structural forces. None of the
state representatives interviewed during the case study seemed to be taken aback by
the outcomes of this policy. These divergences were somewhat predictable for them.
In fact, they believed such policy impetus is absolutely necessary to initiate the
process of transformation in a piecemeal way without threatening the underlying
social structure.
Moving from social policy dimension to private sector goals, the PPP model as
espoused under the NeGP as well as in the CSCs Scheme sheds more light on the
hybridisation of practices and institutions. As the Government of India already
acknowledged that given the complex state of development, it is not possible for the
Indian State to take a minimalistic role in the matters of governance. Therefore, even
though adopting the PPP model at large the State still spearheads the reform initiatives
in e-governance. As experienced under the CSCs Scheme, the SDAs informally assert
a lot more influence on the project than is visible from project outlines. It can also be
argued that in States where the state has more control over the project implementation,
the outreach of the project has also been wider. For example, in Gujarat the State plays
an extremely instrumental and influential role in the overall management of CSCs and
as a result the CSCs are much more embedded into the Panchyati Raj Institutions
(PRIs) within the State. The private partners such as BhartiAirtel, in fact operate out of
the SDA office in Gandhinagar. The VLEs in Gujarat are also more dependent on
G2C services than B2C services. Though the CSCs were operating out of village
panchayat offices, there was a strong centralising tendency in Gujarat as far as the
implementation of the CSCs Scheme was concerned. Similarly, in Rajasthan in some
divisions the District e-Governance Society which is founded under the chairmanship
of the District Collector for implementing e-governance projects act as the SCAs. This
again indicates a pervasive role for the state agencies. VLEs in Rajasthan were also
more interested to be labelled as government agents as it helped them gaining
credibility within the village community. Moreover, the strong presence of the state
also ensured the sustained participation of the SCAs and VLEs amidst various
difficulties. One SCA representative in West Bengal opined that if government was
not involved we could have just chosen 10 successful CSCs and run them in order to
make profit. But the goal of this project is not just to make profit but also reaching out
to the masses. These everyday practices of the scheme points the supremacy of public
institutions in rural areas irrespective of the arrival of private players. Hence the PPP
model adopted under the scheme has given birth to hybrid practices as described
above to adapt a grand model into the local matrix of bureaucracy and rural
The agency of the stakeholders is again witnessed in the selection procedures of the
VLEs. A large number of the VLEs interviewed during the case study revealed that
they already knew either the local SCA field executives or other VLEs in the nearby
villages and it is through them they got the VLE contract. When cross-verified with
those SCA representatives, these stories were reiterated. According to these field
executives, they used their personal network to find VLEs as they were put under
tremendous pressure to achieve their VLE quota within a stipulated time period.
Hence, they deemed it absolutely appropriate to tap into their contact base as all the
VLEs they selected fulfilled the minimum eligibility criteria. Neither the VLEs, nor
the SCA field staff view these practices as act of nepotism. Evaluating from a
transcultural perspective, these developments can be explained as hybridisation
process of project practices as enabled by the agency of the involved actors ensconced
in their particular contexts. Rather than viewing them as anomaly, these practices need
to be understood in their contribution to sustain the project. For example, in rural India
it could be a difficult task to find educated young people who are willing to risk their
capital in a field as innovative as e-governance. Therefore, through a process of
hybridisation, the SCA field executives have created a well-knit network of VLEs in
their locality who can share their experiences and voice their concerns as a group to
different authorities.
A close look at the everyday practices of the kiosk yields some interesting
observations. In order to gain their foothold in the community the VLEs were found to
be improvising the services they could offer from the kiosks. In case of B2C services,
some VLEs provided online matrimonial services, some provided e-learning courses,
some assisted in developing resumes and writing applications, some provided
insurance and banking services. In West Bengal, one of the VLEs ran a photocopy unit.
The centre was located inside the block administration office premise which
experienced constant traffic of people in need of instant photocopies of documents.
Moreover he got photocopy piles from the block office as well. As the G2C services
available in the State at that time were very few in numbers, this service made his
centre sustainable. In another instance, one VLE in Andhra Pradesh ran a parallel unit
of cyber cafe as this service attracted customers from the nearby engineering colleges.
Instead of perceiving these myriad services as aberration from reform focus of egovernance, hybridity explains them in terms of the agency of the VLEs and the
citizens. VLEs business interests intermingled with citizens‟ need shape the service
patterns of the CSCs and render them hybrid practices. Therefore, an ex-bureaucrat
aptly described the CSCs as equivalent to the old post-offices in rural India which was
much more than just a post-office.
These examples drawn from the case study aid in understanding how the e-governance policy
outlines are materialised in everyday practices of e-governance projects where actors from the
state and society interact with each other. On the one hand, hybridity as a political strategy is
deployed by the state to formulate reform-oriented policies. On the other hand, hybridity
manifests the political agency of the actors in a particular society. As an analytical category
hybridity explains the processes of adaptation as a continuous yet non-linear dynamics of
structure and agency. Thus, hybridisation as a discursive process negotiates the gap between
policy and practices and thereby acts as a bridge between the state and the society.
6.5 Revisiting the Analytical Strategy
The analytical strategy adopted in this chapter is based on the framework of analysis (Figure
1.3) laid out in the introduction. The findings are extracted from the detailed introspection of
the policies, practices and the case study of the CSCs Scheme. As the sources involve the
Union government, regional governments, International organisations, bureaucracy, private
players, citizens and experts, the findings are expected to present an all-encompassing view of
e-governance in India. However, it is important to mention here that this study was based on
inter-subjective interpretations of a rather small sample. Furthermore, the CSCs Scheme
which was chosen for the case study is an ongoing project and was at different stages of
implementation in different states. Hence the overall patterns abstracted from this analysis are
only indicative and not conclusive of the relationship between e-governance reform and the
level of governance as such.
As the analyses demonstrate, the evaluation of each conjecture elicits important insights into
the relationship between e-governance reform and the level governance. These insights need
to be placed into the broader research questions that this study undertakes to address, that is, if
strategic reform help to enhance the level of governance; why some strategic reform succeed
while others fail and lastly does the gap between intent and implementation of e-governance
denote a legitimacy deficit. These broader research questions are addressed in the following
chapter (Conclusion) on the bases of the general observations connecting e-governance to the
ultimate goal of analysing governance. This conclusive chapter not only establishes how
governance research can facilitate from research on e-governance but also explicate how a
context-specific analysis of India‟ governance contribute to the general theory of governance.
Conclusion: (e)-Governance at the Intersection of Politics, Technology and Contexts
Impact of e-governance on the level of governance in India: Summary of
The endeavour to study e-governance in India started with a simple aim to measure its impact
on the quality of India‟s governance. Consequently, this research is based on four basic points
of departures which serve as the link between e-governance reform and the overall level of
governance. These basic assumptions are clearly laid out in the form of four basic conjectures
and complex set of categories to evaluate these conjectures at the onset of the study. The
previous chapter evaluated each of these theoretically informed conjectures on the basis of
concrete data collected through extensive fieldwork and other secondary sources. Now, having
analysed the primary and secondary sources on e-governance policies and practices in India, it
is imperative to infer a few general patterns of e-governance and it concomitant impact on the
level of governance in India. For this purpose, in this section the four basic postulations are
revisited on the basis of the general observations drawn from the analysis of policies and
practices of e-governance.
One of the key assumptions behind studying e-governance reform is that as a strategic reform
it improves the life-conditions of the citizens and thereby improves the level of governance.
The findings clearly indicate there has been major shift in the policy paradigm of egovernance. In the drive to take IT to masses the legal framework has been reformed, a
national strategy has been adopted with a vision to take services to the doorsteps of the
citizens. As it becomes evident through the case study of the CSCs Scheme, there is a high
demand among citizens to avail public services without hassle, to acquire information about
services without interruption and to voice their concerns and grievances without intimidation.
E-governance initiatives such as the CSCs and other MMPs under the National e-Governance
Plan strives to provide for these needs of the citizens. Field narratives from the CSCs show
how citizens can actually benefit and how their experiences in availing public services can
improve through the scheme. It minimises the time to avail services, reduces the trips to
government offices, curtails the frequency of bribes and cases of nepotism. Thus, it can be
argued that e-governance initiatives create avenues for citizen-centric governance and hence
have a positive impact on the level governance.
The second major assumption about e-governance is that as a strategic reform it caters to the
overlapping benefits of all political and non-political actors and as a result improves the level
of governance. According to the policy network of e-governance (Figure: 3.3) there are five
major stakeholders, namely International Organisations, state or the public sector, market or
the private sector, citizens and civil society. The role of the state has been to co-opt all the
major players into the broader framework of e-governance reform. The secondary literature on
IT policies in India and primary sources on the same uniformly suggest the strong presence of
International Organisations such as the World Bank, the UNDP, DFID and so on under the
broader agenda of good governance and e-governance for development. All the major policy
documents in India are fraught with the idea of e-governance reform to achieve good
governance and also with examples of best practices as espoused by the major International
Organisations. These organisations actively engage in the policies and processes of egovernance in India. The World Bank representative interviewed as part of the expert group
confirmed the support that his organisation provides to the Union as well as the State
governments in terms of technological solutions and policy advice. The private sector goals
are also integrated into most of the e-governance initiatives taken up by the State. The overarching model on which the NeGP is constructed is the public-private partnership (PPP).
Similarly one of the guiding principles of the CSCs Scheme is to integrate developmental role
of the State with the market orientation of the private sector players. As a result all the CSCs
are run by private companies (SCAs) to provide both G2C and B2C services through
individual rural entrepreneurs (VLEs). Hence, through a sole initiative it creates opportunities
for livelihood in villages, plug into private resources to build infrastructure in rural areas and
brings a single-window front-end service delivery channel to rural mass. In terms of civil
society organisations, no particular instance was found during the case study. However, a few
such organisations were visited in Delhi. They mostly worked in the field of digital
empowerment and e-governance promotion. They provided consultative support to the State
on different policy and implementation issues. Furthermore there is a continuous emphasis
within the public sector for capacity building and better coordination among different
departments and wings of the government. These varied examples from the case study reveal
the manner in which the state relentlessly tries to accommodate all the interest groups and
devise policy solutions. In particular instance, the CSCs implementation clearly demonstrates
how successful policy outcomes and hence better levels of governance could be accomplished
by proficiently assimilating conflicting interests.
The ability of macro-policies to accommodate embedded values and norms with a local
context is directly proportionate to the level of governance. This broader assumption fits
perfectly well into the e-governance policy responses in India. The ability to adapt into
everyday life of citizens is one of the guiding principles of the CSCs Scheme. The very design
of the scheme is developed keeping the illiteracy and digital divide in mind. In a country with
low literacy rate, CSCs act as mediator between the State and its citizens. VLEs‟ familiarity
with the local context works as an added advantage. The intention of the broader policy
framework is reflected in the numerous efforts to deal with illiteracy, digital divide, education,
health, financial inclusion and so on. As part of the broader goal of community development,
CSCs create livelihood opportunities for village youth; encourage women‟s participation
through various associated initiatives, build concrete village infrastructure. Beside central
initiatives, state governments under the federal structure of India adopt several measures to
cater to the specific need of its populations. One of the prominent examples of such measures
was Rajasthan government‟s policy to introduce the scheme of village level women
entrepreneurs (VLWEs) under the CSCs Scheme. This measure helps to promote women‟s
involvement in the project in an otherwise strictly patriarchal state. There are many such
examples which enhance the adaptability of the scheme across diverse contextual realities of
India and hence the resilience of the system of governance.
The final major postulation is that capacity of the state machinery to absorb institutional
change resulting from strategic reform and to deliver policy results manifests in the improved
level of governance. This impels us to look at the supply side of the public service delivery.
The policy papers, government practices experienced during the case study and expert
interviews suggest that public sector reform is one of the major focus areas of the egovernance initiatives. There are special projects undertaken for this specific purpose under
the NeGP. The CSCs Scheme strives to integrate ITC-enablement with business process reengineering and change management that will change the face of public administration. No
doubt, there is strong resistance from the lower rungs of bureaucracy as it threatens to
diminish their sphere of influence. There are regular trainings, capacity development and
sensitisation programmes to make the public servants more aware of the benefits of the ICT
tools for their own work. However, examples from the CSCs scheme shows where there has
been simultaneous change in the bureaucratic capacities, the project goals have been more
effectively fulfilled. For example, in Gujarat there was seamless coordination between
different departments, clear line of authority and responsibility shared within all levels of
bureaucracy, and a strong political will at the highest level. All these factors make Gujarat one
of the successful implementers of the CSCs scheme. Evidently, this establishes a strong
relation between the higher state capacity and improved level of governance.
Politics of Governance Reform and the Role of E-governance: The Indian Scenario
As e-governance reform in India demonstrate substantial impact on the level of governance, it
would be appropriate to locate e-governance in the broader context of strategic reform which
in turn falls under the rubric of a transnational agenda of governance reform. It has been
reiterated since the beginning of this research that a major shift has taken place in governance
discourse since the end of the Cold war which has reconfigured the relationships between state
and society in most post-colonial and post-communist states. India has been no exception in
this global trend. Although the initial push came from a transnational agenda of good
governance, the domestic politics in India was also conducive for such ideas to flourish.
Stagnant economic growth, problems of poverty, inept state bureaucracy, growth of regional
parties, and development of a strong civil society – all contributed to the burgeoning interest
in wider reform in the system of governance. Thus ensuing currents of good governance or
governance reform agenda followed after the economic liberalisation in early 1990s and
manifested in major policy reforms across different sectors. All these reforms have not only
significantly changed the way the state functions but also impacted the nodes of state-society
interaction leading to considerable rise of market and civil society in the matters of
E-governance as a major sector to facilitate the wider goals of development and good
governance thrived within such shifting contours of reform discourse. E-governance reform
encapsulated not only the technological promises to improve the interaction between state and
society (including market, civil society and citizens) but also the political potential to address
the parameters of good governance, such as transparency, efficiency, predictability and so on
across all sectors. Therefore, e-governance slowly and steadily moved into the national
agenda of policies and planning which manifested in new legal frameworks, growing
emphasis in policy dialogues, and ultimately in a national planning strategy. The burgeoning
interest in e-governance reform reflected many trends of the wider agenda of governance
reform. Firstly, it emphasised a market concept of equality among citizens by empowering
them with increasing access to public services and information. Secondly, e-governance
reforms propagated such concepts of equality by projecting state as a service providers and
citizens as consumers and clients. Thirdly, e-governance reform in India is widely based on a
public-private partnership (PPP) model where private sectors take on many roles previously
performed by the State. Fourthly, such reforms revolve around the concept of citizen-centric
participatory governance with seamless and increasing interaction between state and extrastate spheres. Fifthly, with its ability to reach out to the remotest corner of the country, e221
governance contributes to the process of decentralising administration. Finally, e-governance
reforms cater to both technical as well as developmental capacity of the state. All these
characteristics of e-governance render it a coveted sector for strategic reform. Hence, postCold War trends of governance reform made a strong presence in the policy framework of
post- economic liberalisation India and e-governance lied at the forefront of such reform
discourse. However, it is important to remember that by no means e-governance is the only
sector to witness this impetus for strategic reforms. On the contrary, e-governance reforms in
India are only symptomatic of emerging currents of governance reform within the broader
context of post-liberalised Indian political economy.
Connecting Governance and Technology: Is e-governance a means to an end or an
end in itself?
E-governance is promoted as a strategic reform because of its probable positive impact on the
overall quality of governance. The above observations clearly show how e-governance can
lead to better levels of governance. However, this research also emphasises that this
connection between the technology (ICT in this case) and governance is not automatic, but is
in fact mediated through other factors such as politics, society, culture and contexts. As
Sreekumar reiterates,
The idea that ICT is inherently a liberating technology, and hence e-governance, is a new way
of transcending inept and inefficient bureaucratic systems, which empowers „end users‟,
appears to be completely inaccurate in the rural societal setting.... [Therefore] E-governance
delivered simply as an improvement in the pragmatics of governance exemplified in the efforts
to make service delivery quicker or more accessible, would probably end up in reproducing
technological practices, which hinges for its existence on the crucial technology component
rather than its social dimensions and would help the consolidation of and centralization of
power in the hands of those who directly or by proxy own, control or manipulate the
technology (Sreekumar, 2008; 185)
Therefore a holistic understanding of e-governance needs to closely examine the relationship
between technology and governance by putting governance at the intersection of politics,
technology and culture. This brings us to a rhetorical question that often forms the underlying
assumption of most of the e-governance initiatives: Is e-governance a means to an end or it is
an end in itself? Although, most of the literature stress the fact that e-governance is not a
panacea for better governance and only one of the tools for improving governance, often in
practice technological determinism overshadows the political dimension ensconced in the
concept. The other aspect of this problem is that a certain standard of governance seems to be
a prerequisite for technological innovations to sync into the system. Though there is no fix
formula to set these prerequisite, they are usually a mix of political, social and cultural fabrics
embedded in a context. The other issue is that e-governance reform often violates standards
that it should ensure by default. All the issues posit an intertwined problematic indicative of a
caveat in the conceptualisation of the link between technology and governance and thereby
need some close introspection.
The first issue engages in asking to what extent information communication technologies are
treated to be a means to attain broader goals of governance. As mentioned in the outset
(Introduction) e-governance is usually promoted as a means to achieve „good governance‟. As
a matter of fact, both „good governance‟ and e-governance parameters in India draw heavily
on Western standards of technology and governance. Hence in a modernising quest to catch up
with higher technological advancement, the local political, social and cultural dimensions
more often than not take a backseat. As already discussed (in Introduction) in correspondence
to the „good governance‟ paradigm, this developmentalist approach towards technology also
suffer from a hegemonic universalism. The inability to account for the gap between such
universal ideals and realities of developing countries are considered to be the most important
reason behind massive failures of e-governance projects in transitioning societies (Heeks,
2003). In this approach the incorporation of latest technology in service delivery and building
of technological infrastructure in rural areas becomes an end in itself, an empty yet symbolic
signpost of development. This study takes a critical stand against such modernising notion of
governance albeit its initial research goal of connecting the developmental jargon of
governance with the social science perspectives of the notion. This study argues that, strategic
reform of e-governance improves the quality of governance when it purports to trickle down
into everyday practices of social and political life. That is to say, it is not enough to introduce
new technologies, but there is further need for innovation in institutions and practices to use
these technologies in particular contexts.
The catalytic nature of the context points towards the other related issue which questions what
are the pre-requisites of a context-specific and effective e-governance initiative. There are no
simple answers or no readymade recipe for success. However, besides understanding the
complex dimension of e-governance, some structural factors are also required for realising the
potential of e-governance. A few examples of such factors would be an efficient and
supportive bureaucracy, a strong leadership, legitimacy of rule and ruler, deeper understanding
of citizens‟ need and the local context. Although this list does not include all such factors,
nonetheless absence of any of these can pose serious challenge to e-governance reform. The
analysis of e-governance reform (Chapter 6) in India has already illustrated in details how
these factors vary from one region to another thereby reflecting on the varied pace of reform
in these regions. For example, Andhra Pradesh started on a high note on e-governance reform
in the state in late 1990s; however the pace of reform was baffled by the electoral demise of
the government that spearheaded such reform. It also stated a clear public mandate against the
leadership and their reform policies. This is a clear example where despite an efficient
bureaucracy and a visionary leadership was not enough to gain legitimacy among the citizens
as their needs were not catered to through such reform agenda. In another case, Gujarat has
made substantial advance in taking IT to the masses in rural areas amidst intense criticism
against the government for massive human rights violations and for subjugation of minority
communities in the state. Though this research do not investigate the reasons of Modi
governments‟ electoral success vis-a-vis Naidu governments‟ electoral debacle, the
trajectories of e-governance in these states nonetheless raise important questions in this
direction. Similarly, in case of West Bengal the overall reform agenda professed by the Left
Front experienced a major setback by ousting of the longest-standing government in the state.
Whether the reform was one of the reasons behind this demise or there were other underlying
factors need a separate and deeper analysis. Nevertheless, these examples show e-governance
or any strategic reform, for that matter cannot inevitably mend the legitimacy deficits unless
they take all the relevant political, social and cultural factors into consideration.
Another point of contestation in e-governance reform is the way such reforms are introduced
and consolidated. This is a problem in general with the entire governance reform agenda as
they often reinforce the characteristics of governance that they espouse to eliminate
themselves. For example, even though increasing transparency of the public service is one of
the aims of e-governance reform, the way e-governance policies are incorporated are far from
being transparent. While discussing the conceptual tension within the „good governance‟
agenda, Jenkins (1995) has focussed on the ability of the state and political elites in India to
adopt non-transparent strategies for consolidating policy reform. According to him, “These
include strategies to soften the edge of political conflict by promoting change amidst the
appearance of continuity, and to arrange accommodation among groups who perceive reform
as a threat. In other words, governance capacity of democracies need not rest solely on the
transparency of decision-making or relationships.” (Jenkins, 1995; 38). Mahadevia (2005) in
his analysis of Gujarat economic reform raised similar concerns and label it as „reform by
stealth‟, where public debate over policy priorities were consciously avoided. He further
linked these trends of policy reform with the rise of communal politics in the state. As already
mentioned in the Introduction, therefore, a vast literature on the political economy of India
post economic liberalisations focus on the issues of Hindu nationalism, identity politics as
simultaneous developments besides policy reform (Jayal, 2001; Harris and Corbridge, 2000;
Mooij, 2005; Ruparelia et al, 2011).
While applying these concerns in the field of e-
governance, the basic argument remains that with an overwhelming fascination with
efficiency of service delivery, other criteria of e-governance such as accountability,
transparency are often overlooked. The pursuance of efficiency often relegates citizens to
mere customers and turns the state into just one of the service provider without much heed to
the notions of justice and social inclusiveness. As a result, governance just becomes a technomanagerial fix of increasing efficiency. These biases are ingrained in neo-liberal ideals of
„good governance‟ and hence unavoidable as long as e-governance reforms are merely viewed
as a tool to achieve those ideals. This not only calls for changing the ways policies are framed
but also the way policy processes and policy impacts are analysed. This implies stepping out
of the „good governance‟ paradigm and scrutinise the politics of reform taking place in the real
political context.
The real political context unfolds in the relationship between the governed and those who
govern, this includes not just a few policy makers and the citizens but an entire policy network
(Figure 3.3). All the actors in this network, in their particular context and capacity assert their
agency in accordance to their particular preference and interests. Therefore, without denying
the differential power distribution, this research examines how these myriad agencies together
transform the system of governance.
Hybridising (e)governance Reform in India: Contradiction or Consolidation?
The basic analytical framework of this research conceives e-governance as an independent
variable with a probable impact on the level of governance. The above observations exhibit
how e-governance reforms are slowly taking root in the Indian political contexts. On the one
hand, the neo-institutional model of governance explains how institutional designs and elite
strategies together facilitate the process of consolidation of these reform measures. The elite
strategies which Jenkins calls “political skills”, Mitra (2006) refers to as “room to manoeuvre”
are embedded within a political structures of Indian democracy. The capacity to contain
political conflict manifests in the constitutional design, in the federal structures and also in
elite competition. On the other hand, the social constructivist approach elucidate how local
contexts as characterised by a mix of political, social and cultural factors have the potential to
subvert the technological impact on governance by generating reactionary forces within the
However, e-governance is an emerging field of reform initiated in India in the recent past. Its
absolute impact is far from being properly understood let alone being fully realised. There is
clear paradigm shift in the policy discourse turning it towards favourable conditions for egovernance reform initiatives. Yet, state-led e-governance reforms in India are going through
a process of transition which is confronted with strong resistance from the society. This
constant tussle between structure and agency mark the process of change with conflict and
rupture which cannot be fully captured within the neo-institutional or social constructivist
approaches of understanding e-governance reform. Hence, the concept of hybridity adds to the
basic propositions of this analytical model discussed above. In its transitory phase egovernance initiatives go through a process hybridisation and generate hybrid institutions and
practices which are far from policy prescription yet grounded in local cultural contexts. On
one hand, the CSCs Scheme stands out as one such example of hybrid e-governance
institutions that emanates from the hybridising tendencies of the State to leverage the
relationship between state and society. On the other hand, everyday practices of the same
scheme show further processes of hybridisation by state and society to better accommodate
local interests, norms and needs.
The CSCs scheme is a state-driven top-down initiative to combine private sector interests with
developmental goals. The designing of CSCs are done in a manner to address the issues of
illiteracy, digital divide, rural employment, rural infrastructure and service delivery to rural
masses. In its own right it is a hybridising political strategy on part of the policy-makers to
accommodate conflicting interests of market, of donor agencies, of local political elites and of
citizens. It not only shows how elites adapt the imported categories of governance reform into
the innate political contexts, it also exhibits how the hybridity of already existing institutions
in turn facilitate the elite strategising tendencies. As for example, the federal structure of India
helped the national elites to minimise the possibilities of opposition by deflecting reform
through regional political structures. The policy drive of the regional governments differs from
each other. As on one hand Gujarat shows a dominant role of the state government within the
general rhetoric of PPP model, on the other hand Andhra Pradesh government took a rather
reluctant stance in influencing the reform. However, at same time the overall implementation
in all the states indicates that despite stressing the PPP model, state elites and state institutions
work as the driving force behind this mammoth initiative. Furthermore, CSCs can easily pass
on to the pool of hybrid institutions that already exist in the Indian context. Like its
predecessors, the internet kiosks help harnessing the gap between alien standards of egovernance and the Indian reality. Thus, the process of e-governance policy formulation and
implementation in India are produced through continuous yet non-linear process of
hybridisation and further produce hybrid institutions. In this way, the neo-institutional model
of elite strategy attains a new analytical edge through the conceptual prism of hybridity.
The regional narratives (Chapter 6) demonstrated the different course that the same scheme
took in the particular contexts. The relative autonomy of the states within the federal structure
of Indian polity not only ensured smoother consolidation of reform policies but also led to
different strategies by stakeholders in the face of such reforms. These differential experiences
also attest the context as the catalyst. The policy focus, the political will of the highest
leadership, the mindscapes of the local bureaucracy, and finally the minute details of political,
social and cultural fabrics of these states affect to what extent and how e-governance reforms
are absorbed into these regional contexts. There are instances where the state takes innovative
hybrid policy measures to integrate e-governance reform with other social dimensions as in
the case of Rajasthan government‟s policy to promote women VLEs or VLWEs. This
particular policy again goes through a process of hybridisation when the male relatives of
these women beneficiaries take over their responsibilities. Here, the cultural values of
patriarchy embedded deeply in the social structures subvert the top-down policy solutions.
Nonetheless, this policy also led to a hybrid institutional space within CSCs in Rajasthan,
where some women VLEs co-existed alongside their dominant male counterparts. Similarly
visibility of women VLEs in Andhra Pradesh can also be attributed to the hybridising
tendency of state government‟s policy to integrate self-help groups into CSCs scheme. The
scheme also gives ample opportunity for VLEs to improvise the institutional space by
asserting their entrepreneurial skills. Therefore, even though the public services were more or
less standardised across CSCs in a particular state, the private services varied substantially
from one centre to the other. The educational qualifications of VLEs, the local politics of
selecting VLEs, the personal relationships of VLEs with local bureaucracy and village
panchayat leaders- all were differently played out in different contexts leading to continuous
process of hybridisation and hybrid institutional structures and spaces. The broader political
contexts and the organisation of bureaucracy from upper ranks to the lowest levels also
differed not only from one state to another, but sometimes from one district to the other. These
varied trajectories are sometime produced through deliberate assertion of stakeholders‟ agency
as they engage in actively negotiating the processes of e-governance reform. At other times
they are merely unintended by-products of such processes of assimilation and consolidation.
Subsequently, the practices of e-governance reforms differed considerably from the policy
dictum. However, such gaps between policy and practices did not necessarily denote a
contradiction in the reform process but rather the consolidation of the policies by negotiating
through contextual realities. Here, hybridity strengthens the social constructivist approach by
adding a productive political agency to all the stakeholders who in continuous interactions
with each other not only overcome the legitimacy deficit but also gradually shift the structural
parameters of governance.
Thus, through hybridising, e-governance reform conjures up the neo-institutional model of
governance with that social constructivist analysis of technology. In doing so, e-governance
brings governance and technology as two intertwined theme under the same analytical frame.
As the focus of this research is on governance, nonetheless it is worthwhile to comprehend
how governance research can gain from this broader analytical framework.
Researching Governance through the prism of e-governance
The relationship between technology and governance is a pertinent yet relatively under
researched field of study. In last two decades there has been an unprecedented upsurge in the
use of Information Communication Technologies (ICTs) geared towards good governance
goals both across developed and developing countries. For developing countries it has also
been popularised by International Organisations under the banner of “E-governance for
Development” and eventually has taken an important position in governance reform agenda of
the national governments. This study, based on an extensive fieldwork in rural India critically
examines the impact of e-governance as a strategic governance reform agenda and its
resultant impact on the overall system of governance. Drawing closely on the policies and
practices of e-governance in India, this study views (e)governance as a hybridising experience
grappling with the intermingling issues of politics, technology and culture, as embedded in
the wider context of the society which further produces hybrid institutions and practices of
The novelty of this research lies not only in its subject matter but also in its methodological
approach. As far as the subject matter is concerned, while analysing the impact of strategic
reform on the level of governance, the study takes up e-governance reform which is an underresearched field of enquiry within social sciences. Even within the studies of technology and
governance, e-governance has attracted only limited serious academic attention. Most of the
studies on e-governance reflect either techno-managerial perspectives, or institutional
management approach, or policy outcome studies or developmental perspectives. In dealing
with e-governance as part of a research on governance theory, this study demanded some
methodological innovations.
In analysing the entire spectrum of e-governance reform -
starting from the policy formulation to implementation, from reception of reform initiatives to
consolidation of reform - the study deploys a novel combination of neo-institutional model of
governance from Political Science, a social constructivist approach from Sociology and an
analytical category of Hybridity from Postcolonial and Transcultural perspectives on politics.
This interdisciplinary theoretical and methodological approach enriches the context-specific
understanding of governance as viewed through the lens of e-governance where technology,
governance and cultures are relentlessly enmeshed within everyday practices of reform.
As already been mentioned throughout the discussions in the Introduction, literature reviews
(Chapter 2) and theories of governance (Chapter 3) , governance as a concept not only
transcends scholastic boundaries of social sciences but also capture the fancy of development
practitioners to civil society activists, from policy makers to political leaders. Given such
widespread interest in and engagement with governance, the term at times tends to lose the
conceptual clarity. This ambiguity around the notion of governance often stem from the fact
that experts working on governance in their respective field talk pass each other rather than
talking to each other. The development consultants working in the ambits international aid and
development community formulate their own idea of „good governance‟ and espouse
prescriptive governance reform agenda for universal application across all developing
countries. Policy makers and political leaders in the developing countries, either under the
pressure from donor agencies or in an attempt to incorporate into the global neo-liberal
economic network, promote these governance reform agenda in their respective political
context at least rhetorically. Since policies are being viewed more and more as the key to
institutional/governance reform in developing countries, the donor agencies in recent times
have shifted their attention from direct intervention to policy facilitation. As a result, the
International Organisations like World Bank or the UN frequently serve at the advisory
committees of policy-making and planning in developing countries. The policy prescriptions
and solutions that emerge from this spectrum are usually coded in an ideal type construction of
governance and a quick techno-managerial fix to achieve this ideal. However, undoubtedly
these ideals of governance are fetched from the realities of the receiving countries and are
thereby doomed to fail almost without exception. What is worse is that such governance
paradigm being a far cry from reality often leads to counter-productive forces by reiterating
the evils it wants to eliminate to begin with. The lack of transparency in governance reform
policy processes in India already explicated this point. The civil society, though fiercely
promoted by this popular governance reform agenda, often finds itself at loggerheads with
both the state and the market over the implications of „good governance‟ paradigm for the
ordinary citizens. Hence the position and role of civil societies in the system of governance
becomes further complicated given their complementary yet contesting relationship with the
state. Amidst all these cacophony of ideas and agendas the academic engagement with
governance becomes even more pertinent as the need to re-establish governance as a political
and social problematic instead of a mere development jargon is ever more pressing. Still, this
does not imply ignoring the debate that emanates from these other perspectives on
governance. Instead the aim of this research is to address this very debate in regaining the
centrality of governance as a political and social concept.
The burgeoning pre-occupation of the international development community with governance
is symptomatic of a wider trend of shifting from government to governance as experienced in
different political contexts of the developed and developing nations. This shift in the
developed nations was brought through the popularity of New Public Management theories of
public policy and public administration. The result was the emergence of policy networks of
different actors reducing the influence of the public sector. In the developing counterparts, the
shift was an immediate outcome of the changing domestic and foreign political environment
of the post Cold War times. The manifest impact was the popularity of „good governance‟ or
governance reform agenda focussing on the expansion of market and civil society and the
reduction of the sphere of state. As these governance reform agenda has become rampant
throughout most post-colonial and post-communist societies, it becomes extremely important
to unravel the impact of these reform agendas on the state institutions and on the society at
large. However, the realities of the developing countries do not necessarily reflect this trend
even while adapting state institutions to this broader governance reform agenda.
In order to understand why such a gap still exists despite consistent deliberations by
international donor agencies and national policy, we need to turn to the concept of governance
as social and political problem. At this point, it is worthwhile to briefly point out the major
connotations of the term in the social science research. Governance is predominantly a field of
study in the discipline of Political Science albeit conceived differently by the sub-field of
public policy, international relations and comparative politics. However, one common theme
that runs through all these different fields of study is that they all view governance as a
broader concept than government and engage with institutions as the site of interactions
between different actors. In this way, most of the governance research is governed by
overarching panoply of Institutionalism and focuses on how institutions affect actors and their
behaviour and how institutional change occurs. Hence, governance as a concept dwells on the
interaction of the institutional structures with the agency of the actors. In other words, it can
be described as the interface between state and society (Figure1.1). This conceptualisation of
governance conjures up all the actors in its fold at the same time: the state, the market, the
civil society and the citizens. It is within the institutional spaces created by the state that
market, civil society and citizens interact with each other and as well with the state. While the
state institutions determine these interactions, the institutional set up also get transformed
through these interactions. Taking this view of governance facilitate understanding the
conceptual tension within the „good governance‟ definition of governance and its technomanagerial solution of governance reform. At the same time it is important to keep in mind
that academic and developmental perspectives on governance are not formulated in complete
separation and isolation. In fact there are enough instances of overlap. For this purpose, the
related concepts of efficiency, accountability and legitimacy (already discussed in the
Introduction) become crucial as they lie at the overlapping zones of these different
conceptualisations of governance. In the Political Science literature on governance, legitimacy
of rule sets the basic premise of governance in a democracy, whereas efficiency and
accountability (though not always mutually inclusive) serve significantly to manipulate the
legitimacy of rule and thereby the nodes of democratic governance. Similarly, all these
concepts are integral parts of the governance reform agenda which takes democracy as a
necessary but not a sufficient condition for „good governance‟. These intersecting concepts
associated with governance discourses further reveal the complex and interconnected nature of
governance as a concept which can easily traverse scholastic boundaries. The flaccidity of
these concepts also hints at the difficulty in analytically separating the techno-managerial
perception of governance from its academic roots.
This brings us back to the basic aim of the research that was explicitly laid out in the
beginning, that is, how strategic reform of a techno-managerial variety influence the notion of
governance that hinges upon the relationship between state and society. In finding answers to
this basic research question a neo-institutional model of governance (Figure 3.2) has been
adopted as it explains why and how strategic reforms affect the level of governance. 18 To
deepen the understanding of strategic reform, the focus has been narrowed down to a specific
sector of reform that is e-governance in this case. E-governance can be described as the use of
Information Communication Technologies (ICTs) in leveraging the relationships between
state and society and is comprised of two distinct yet interrelated dimensions such as
technological and political. It is the interaction between the two that determines how egovernance is going to influence the quality of governance. Therefore, in addition to the neoinstitutional model of governance, governance research will attain further analytical depth by
turning to the relationship between technology and governance. The relationship between
technology and governance has been studied here from a social constructivist interpretation of
technology. The social constructivism of technology defies technological determinism and
argues that the impact of technology is not automatic and neutral. Rather the impact of
technology is mediated through social processes and practices. Now the use of a social
constructivist understanding of technology in a neo-institutional model of governance can
raise some scholarly doubts. However, our analysis of the e-governance reform in India can
provide a simple answer to such apprehensions. While e-governance policies and projects are
planned by policy-makers and political elites, the appropriation of these new technologies are
shaped by the different stakeholders depending on their respective subject positions within the
system of governance. A social constructivist approach is therefore necessary to understand
how ICTs initiated by the state received by the society. Here the society includes all the
stakeholders affected by the e-governance reform. Such an approach not only explicates the
relationship between technology and governance but also affirms how this relationship is
mediated though an array of political, social and cultural factors. In other words, social
constructivist analysis of the e-governance reasserts the context-specific analysis of
Given the qualitative nature of this study, the findings only indicate a difference in quality of governance rather
than showing a quantitative scale of the level of governance.
The underlying assumption of governance presupposes a differential distribution of power
between those who control the state and those who inhabit the society. Technologies of power
and governmentality (Foucault, 1980) ensure the legitimacy of the rule despite the hiatus
between the governed and those who govern. Based on this view of power and governance,
sanctions and welfare become a two-track strategy of the elites to ensure the legitimacy of the
rule (Mitra, 2006). In this way, e-governance becomes a strategic reform aimed at attaining
better governance through welfare. However, such a power dynamics does not imply seamless
reception of dominance by the powerless. For that reason, the neo-institutional model of
analysing e-governance as a strategic reform and the political, social and cultural factors as
discussed within the social constructivist approach towards e-governance- all together hint at
the notion of agency inbuilt into the understanding of governance. This notion of agency is
assigned to all the actors or in other words stakeholders who implement and are implicated
through e-governance reform. It is through the analytical category of hybridity that this
research illustrates how each stakeholder exerts their agency to negotiate the state-initiated egovernance reform and in turn affect the institutional arrangements of e-governance.
Researching governance through the prism of e-governance often runs into the risk of shifting
focus of analysis. In other words, while originally e-governance reforms were intended to
serve as analytical tool to ameliorate research on governance, it could might as well taken as
the end in the process of enquiry. Although this study on e-governance reform in India might
have a few policy implications, these are not simply the ultimate aim of this research. Instead
of just focusing on the policy outcome of e-governance policies, this research takes on a
broader aim of unravelling governance through strategic reform. Hence the implications of
this study spills not only beyond the study of e-governance but also beyond its specific
geographical contexts of India.
Transcending the Context: From Area Studies to Theory of Governance
In studying the impact of strategic reform on the level of governance, it has been asserted
time and again that the context of reform is of prime significance in fully capturing its
implications. For this purpose the analyses of e-governance reform- starting from policy
formulation to policy implementation, from project design to reception of project, from
introduction of reform to consolidation of reform- in this research has been firmly grounded
in the context of India‟s governance. One of the broader assumptions behind understanding
India‟s governance through e-governance is that governance is a key to the resilience of the
democratic system in India (Mitra, 2006). The theoretical and methodological dispositions
have been arranged accordingly to demonstrate how India‟s governance has been enhanced
through e-governance reform and further contributed to the resilience of the system. However,
does it imply that the findings and observations derived from the Indian context will be
confined only to the understanding of India‟s governance? Does the understanding of India‟s
governance say anything of governance that can spill beyond its context? Does this research
have any implications for theories of governance in general? These are the questions that
compel us to transcend the context to find out the general theoretical implications of this
research, in other words, to move beyond Area Studies to theory-building.
There are two distinct yet related aspect of this research which can be linked to the broader
issues of governance research; first the theme or subject matter of the study and second, the
methodological approach adopted to analyse the theme. The first aspect that deals with the
theme of this research relates to the issue of e-governance and its ramification for governance
research. The concept of e-governance hinges upon the relationship between technology and
governance as it deploys Information Communication Technologies (ICTs) in harnessing the
interplay between state and society by refurbishing the public service delivery mechanism. As
the term suggests e-governance is comprised of a technical as well as a political dimension,
which together aim to transform governance. Therefore, e-governance can be studies both as
the politics of technology as well as a technology of politics. On one hand, the politics of
technology shows how the broader political context of neo-liberalisation and the concomitant
agenda of governance reform push the recent upsurge of e-governance in most developing
countries in last two decades. This reflects in the way policies of e-governance are formulated
and initiated through policy networks (Figure 3.3). The national, regional and local politics
further influence the way such technologies are percolating through the system. On the other
hand, e-governance as a strategic reform serves as political tool in the hands of the elites to
control the system of governance. Therefore technology policies have been an important area
of enquiry for political scientist and sociologists. Social Construction of Technology,
Sociology of Science and Science, Technology and Society (STS) studies have studied the
myriad ramifications of technology from a sociological and philosophical perspective.
However, this research views the relationship between technology and governance from
disciplinary approach of political sociology. Though social, culture and contexts have been
added to the analytical frame; the focus still remains on politics. In this way this research on
e-governance not only shows how strategic reform aid to the system of governance but also
elicits important observations on the relationship between technology and governance.
Undoubtedly, such insights go much beyond the Indian context and contribute to the larger
research on governance.
The second aspect of the research that displays wider connotations lies in the theoretical and
methodological approach of the study. In evaluating the impact of strategic reform on
governance, a dynamic neo-institutional model based on elite strategy (Figure 3.2) has been
deployed. This model forms the analytical grid of this research. However, as the specific
strategic reform selected in this case is e-governance, this model needed to be strengthened
with further dynamism which could facilitate understanding the interplay of technology and
governance. Here, the social constructivist approach to understand the relationship between
the two has served this purpose. However, both the neo-institutional and social constructivist
approaches leave a few gaps in their analysis despite the prevalence of agency and context in
their methodology. The neo-institutionalism as being an essentially a Euro- centric theoretical
model presupposes a methodological individualism which might fall short of fully analysing
the post-colonial and other developing societies. Similarly, social constructivism of
technology, though focusing on political, cultural and social dimensions, explicates the
transformative processes more in terms of policy deficits. While these analyses successfully
point out the problems of universalism in particular contexts, they also contain the risk of
indefinite relativism. Such approaches could turn the governance of a post-colonial society
either into an exotic aberration or a unique case in itself without much scope for
generalisation. To counter this epistemic gap, a transcultural perspective of politics has been
introduced in studying e-governance. A transcultural methodology of politics serves two
purposes in this study; first it demonstrate how even a seemingly most local phenomenon is
entangled within the broader political, social and historical trajectories; second it provides a
analytical tool box to understand the process of such entanglement and its implications. From
this methodological stance, e-governance is understood as a part of wider political context of
neo-liberal agenda of governance reform which has been proliferating across developing
countries in last two decades even though its local consequence differs considerably from one
context to the other. Unlike the modernising developmental theories, these local variations are
not analysed in terms of deviation or exoticism. Instead, a transcultural methodology helps
understand the local manifestations of e-governance in their own rights. Based on this
methodological perspective, this research makes use of the analytical category of hybridity19.
Hybridity is usually deployed in Political Science literature to denote special categories of state which lack the
pure characteristics of either democracy or autocracy and hence fall in between in the measurement scales of
democracy. In this research a hybridity is used to understand the transcultural perspective on politics. Even
Hybridity aids in our analysis of (e)governance in many ways, such as, by explicating the
application of e-governance as a hybrid political strategy of reform by the elites; by
unravelling the political agency of the different stakeholders through hybridisation of egovernance institutions and practices at the local contexts.; by demonstrating how egovernance as a strategic reform leads to hybrid institutions which can further enhance the
level of governance; and by adding explanatory value to the structure-agency dynamics with
the matrix of governance. Thus, hybridity serves to analyse how broader theoretical models
takes root in the local contexts through multi-layered processes of entanglement. In a postcolonial context, hybridity can explain how governance is generates by bridging the hiatus
between imported institutions and inherited social norms.
So, evaluated both on the bases of its subject matter and methodological outlook this research
transcends much beyond its specific context of India. Without disregarding the significance of
the context-specific analysis of governance, this research illustrate general theoretical
implications; firstly in terms its analysis of the relationship between technology and
governance and secondly, in terms of its unique yet holistic methodological approach
addressing the entanglement of politics, technology and culture in the complex whole of
governance. Furthermore its focus on the Indian context leads to general understanding of
governance reform agenda and its subsequent impact on the post-colonial and postcommunist societies of the developing world.
Further Research:
E-governance is a burgeoning field of strategic reform to achieve higher standards of
governance. Undoubtedly, its popularity has increased in developing countries in last two
decades as a direct outcome of the governance reform or „good governance‟ paradigm. Given
its recent upsurge and emerging nature, the academic study of e-governance is at a very
nascent stage. Furthermore, most of the studies done on the topic are either rooted in the
development literature or in the techno-managerial field of information management or purely
technological study of IT system development and upgradation. These studies focus mostly on
the technical and administrative side of e-governance. The sociological and political
implications of e-governance are relatively under-researched topics so far. Some literature
with critical analysis of e-governance projects do exist and has been extensively consulted for
this research such as, Sreekumar (2008), Madon (2009), Panda (2007) and a few more.
though essentially the term denotes an impurity of concepts in both the cases, unlike democracy theorists,
transcultural understanding of hybridity renders all conceptual categories as essentially impure.
However, there is clearly a deeper need to understand the policies and practices of egovernance for its myriad implication in political, social and cultural fabrics of the society and
its impact on the institutions and practices of the state.
Furthermore, as being closely
connected to the field of technology, the evolution of e-governance is fast and ever-changing.
For example, in Indian context the next step of e-governance is towards mobile governance
which intends to take advantage of the extensive usage of mobile phones amongst Indian
population. Recognising its growing importance, the Department of Information Technology,
Government of India has published The Framework for Mobile Governance in January 2012.
Therefore, there are constantly emerging new fields of enquiry in which e-governance can be
studied. The e-governance, or in other words the use of ICTs is transforming the local
governance which also needs more academic attention. Gender and ICTs and its impact on
local governance, the problem of digital divide, e-governance and rural development are some
of the related and relevant research field that this research briefly touches upon without going
much deeper into their analysis.
In a final note, it can be said that this research explores e-governance as a strategic reform for
its impact on the overall level of governance. While doing so it draws on an array of political,
social and cultural issues which lie much beyond the scope of this study. However, grappling
with these interconnected themes, this dissertation indicates many ways that e-governance
research can lead to. Furthermore, by drawing balance between universal versus contextspecific understanding of governance, it stretches applicability of this research to other
societies beyond India.
Methodological Appendix
Case Study:
Case study of the Common Services Centres (CSCs) scheme as being implemented under the
National E-governance Plan of the Government of India across 29 states of India is being
conducted, on the basis of a selected sample of some already operational kiosks.
Objective of the Case Study:
How far the better level of governance could be achieved in a particular social context
through a planned intervention of e-governance initiatives?
Strategic Sample:
1. Rajasthan,
2. Gujarat,
3. West Bengal,
4. Andhra Pradesh
Timeline of Field Trips: (September 2010 –August 2011)
October 2010 –August 2011: Expert Interviews in different places
November 2010- Rajasthan
December 2010- Gujarat
March 2011- West Bengal
July 2011- Andhra Pradesh
Qualitative Interviews and Focussed Group Discussion:
Most of the interviews were purely qualitative and therefore the course of one interview
varied considerably from the other. However, the overall attempt was to focus on certain
issues depending on the group which would in turn help evaluate the indicators. Some
interviews were taped; some were documented through field notes. The interviews usually
lasted from 20 minutes to 1 hour, sometimes even more. In case of villagers, mostly focussed
group discussions were deployed. The number of focussed group members varied from 5-12
from one state to another. Other than FDGs, villagers were interviewed while they were
availing services in the kiosks, or in marketplaces and panchayat offices around the CSCs.
Questions varied depending on the group of stakeholders. Some sample questions are
elaborated below. However, it is important to remember, as part of the qualitative interviews
the course, sequence, presentation and framing of these questions varied from one person to
the other.
For Villagers (including panchayat members, school teachers):
1. Do you know about CSCs (different names in different states were used)?
2. How did you come to know about them?
3. What do you think they do?
4. How often do you visit a CSC and why?
5. Do you know what all services available here?
6. Are you satisfied with the services you get here? You want any more services?
7. How do you perceive CSC? Is it a public or private enterprise?
8. Why do you choose to go to a CSC, if at all?
9. How can you be sure of availing public services from this individual who is
not a public servant?
10. Do you think that you need the help of middlemen any less in acquiring
government services?
11. Will it be fine with you if these CSCs are removed from your village?
12. What do you think are the most pressing need of your village?
For VLEs:
1. How did you come to know about the CSC franchise?
2. Why were you interested in being a VLE?
3. What are the procedures you had to follow to become a VLE?
4. How long have you been running this kiosk?
5. What did you before this for leaving?
6. How did you promote your centre?
7. Do you have an online monitoring tool installed in your system?
8. What are the services that you are currently providing and what are most
demanded services? Can you classify these services under G2C and B2C
9. Are you planning to start any services on your own other than waiting for
further G2C services?
10. What is your educational qualification? Did you get any training before
starting off the centre? Do you think that training was enough or you would
like to get some further training?
11. How are your relationships with SCA coordinators? Do you see them often?
12. Do you know any other VLEs in your surrounding area, district or state?
13. Are you satisfied the way the centre is functioning? Do you earn enough to
14. What do you think about the future of your business here? And what do you
think about the future of such centres anyway?
15. What are the main problems you are facing in running the kiosk?
For SCA:
1. How did you get the contract for CSC in the state?
2. How do you select and train VLEs?
3. How is your experience with government collaboration?
4. There seemed to be a lot of misunderstanding as far as the financial system is
concerned? Are you aware of it? If yes, how is it been tackled?
5. Ho w do you visualize the future of CSC?
Along with these interviews, there have been prolonged conversations with SCA field
coordinators who accompanied almost all of the field visits. These conversations were
not taped and were carried out in a casual manner in between other interviews.
However, all these conversations were extremely insightful as some of these
coordinators were more than willing to share their problems, frustrations, and hopes
without any inhibitions.
For SDA:
1. What do you think are the main strengths of CSC?
2. How is CSC different from other e-governance projects?
3. What do you think are the main hindrances in its implementation?
4. How do you describe the role of state government in CSC?
5. How the partnerships with the private partners in e-governance have been so
6. What is the general state of e-governance in the state and why do you think it
is relevant?
7. Do you think there has been any significant change in the e-governance
scenario in the state post NeGP?
For experts:
1. How long have you been associated with the field of e-governance? How did you
become interested in this field and how did you acquire expertise in this area?
2. What is e-governance according to you? How is it different from common understanding
of governance?
3. Why do you think there is such a buzz around e-governance these days?
4. What is the status of e-governance in India, in your view?
5. To what extent it is a technological and to what extent it is a political issue?
What should be the state of balance between the two?
6. How do you describe the role of public, private and civil society sectors in egovernance in India?
7. Do you think in India e-governance is driven by a more state-centric top-down
8. Do you think there has been any significant change in the e-governance scenario
in India post NeGP?
9. What is your take on CSC? Do you think it is different from other government
projects of e-governance? If yes/no, why? Do you think it would be sustainable
in the Indian context?
10. Do you think PPP is a suitable model of implementation in the Indian context?
What do you think about the accountability of private partners?
11. Do you think a e-governance project (e.g. CSC) has the potential to tackle the
issues of corruption, transparency, accountability, participation and efficiency?
12. In your opinion, what are the main issues of hindrances in India to successfully
implement e-governance reform?
13. To what extent do you think ICTs can really improve the level of governance in
14. How would you compare the Indian experience of e-governance with other
developed and developing countries?
15. What is your take on the issues of digital divide and e-governance reforms in
Gram Sabha
Panchayati Raj
Challan means the requisite form filled to pay cash, cheque, Demand draft
in a bank, tax department, government office etc. This also means in simple
terms official receipt of payment.
A political label under which formal Untouchable caste in India are
Village Council Meeting
People Service Centres
Local self-governments in India.
Institution of local self governments in India
Head of the Panchayat
Mass Education Campaign
Information Centres
Village Accountant
A Revenue Unit at the Village/District Level
Administrative Unit at the District Level
Administrative Reform Commission
Business to Citizen
Business Continuity Planning
Block Development Officer
Below Poverty Line
Business Process Re-engineering
Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited
Bahujan Samaj Party
Central Agri Portal
Community based Organisations
Course on Computer Concept
Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs
Corporate Identity Number
Computer Maintenance Company
Committee on Non Plan Expenditure
Chief Software Architect
Administrative Unit at the District Level
Centrally Sponsored Schemes
Department of Agriculture and Cooperation
Department of Administrative Reforms and Public Grievances
Department for International Development
District Information System of the National Informatics Centre
Department of Electronics
Department of Electronics and Accreditation of Computer Courses
Department of Information Technology and Communications
Department of Telecommunications
Disaster Recovery
District Rural Development Authority
Electronic Computers of India Limited
Expenditure Finance Committee
Focussed Group Discussions
Government to Citizen
Gujarat Industrial Development Corporation
Government of India
Gram Panchayat Management System
General Packet Radio Service
Greater Visakhapatnam Municipal Corporation
Information Communications Technology for Development
Information Communication Technologies
Indira Gandhi Vivah Shagun Yojna
Indian Institute for Management Ahmadabad
International Monetary Fund
Inter-Ministerial-Standing Committee
Indian National Rupee
Local self-governments in India.
Life Insurance Corporation of India
Market Enhancing Governance Structure
Management Information Systems
Mission Mode Projects
Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act/Scheme
Memorandum of Understanding
Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices
National Association of Software and Service Companies
National Development Council
National e-Governance Plan
Non-governmental Organisations
National Informatics Centre
New Public Management
National Rural Employment Guarantee Act/Scheme
National Rural Health Mission
National Service Delivery Gateway
Personal Account Number
Public Call Office
Primary Data Centre
Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana/ Prime Minister Rural Road Scheme
Public Private Partnership
Panchayati Raj Institutions
Revenue Agent‟s Report
Rajiv Internet Village
Land Record Certificates
Rural Service Delivery Points
Right to Information
Structural Adjustment Programmes
Service Centre Agency
Scheduled Castes
State Designated Agency
State Data Centres
Simple Knock Down
Subscribers trunk dialing
Software Technology Parks
Scheduled Tribes
Science and Technology Studies
State-Wide Area Networks
Tax Account Number
Transnational Computer Companies
Technical Support and Training Service Provider
Unique ID
Unique Identification Authority of India
United Nations Development Programme
United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation
Universal Service Obligation Fund
Union Territories
Village Computer Entrepreneur
Village Level Entrepreneurs
Village Level Women Entrepreneurs
Voluntary Organizations
Very Small Aperture Terminal
Worldwide Governance Indicators
World Trade Organisation
Zero Based Budgeting
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