At a time when the entire country is facing unprecedented challenges due to coronavirus outbreak, the government agencies are on their toes to aid the Central, state and district agencies to continue rolling out essential citizen services.
The rapid spread of COVID-19 has forced many countries to use cutting edge technologies to fight against the pandemic, keep an eye on the citizens and keep them indoors to contain the deadly disease.
On March 24, Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared a 21day lockdown to arrest the spread of the Covid-19 in the country. Lockdown was a need of the hour. Since then, right from government to private organisations and up-to every single individual, are extending their support to contain the spread of the virus.
In such times, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology’s (MeitY) technical arm, Tempemail Informatics Centre (NIC) is leveraging technology at its best to assist the government-run institutions to carry out essential tasks during the lockdown. It is supporting the government during this hour of crisisthrough its ICT solutions and infrastructural capability. Through its technology-enabled services and platforms, NIC has been successful in creating a sustainable ecosystem to a large extent. This technology powered ecosystem which the government and its organisations have embraced over a period, is helping them combat these challenging times.
As soon as the lockdown was announced, services such as, video conferencing, started creating a huge positive impact across ministries and departments, both at the Central and state government level. Prime Minister is leading the way by extensively using video conferencing service to connect with the administration at all levels and the citizens at large thereby monitoring the entire COVID-19 situation closelyand assuring them of all possible support by the government.
NIC’s video conferencing has been used extensively by cabinet ministers to chief ministers, cabinet secretary, state ministers, other secretaries and government officials. In March itself, NIC helped in facilitating over 2,300 video conferencing sessions of over 60,000 hours across the country, held at all levels of governance. Besides video conferencing, various dedicated COVID-19 war rooms have been established where senior government officials are monitoring and reviewing COVID-19 preparedness and planning further course of action in their respective regions. At a time, when staying at home is the need of hour, NIC’s video conferencing service and war rooms are helping government officials to connect effectively with each other, thereby ensuring minimum physical contact and exposure.
Similarly, the Public Financial Management System (PFMS) team worked towards providing round the clock assistance, facilitating smooth functioning of the financial machinery of the government. PFMS achieved a major milestone recording the highest number of transactions in a single day on March 30, 2020 of 2.19 crore transactions surpassing the earlier mark of 98.19 lakh on March 28, 2018 which was so far the highest. PFMS also crossed the figure of 100 crore transactions in a financial year on March 30, 2020, a quantum leap of more than 55 per cent over last fiscal year’s transactions of 69.69 crore.
NIC’s eMail services form the primary backbone for all communications in the government catering to a userbase of over 2.7 million users. Since the day the government announced a nationwide lockdown and employees started working from home, NIC’s email services have ensured smooth communication for the government with features such as communication of messages, sharing of files both as attachments (allowed file size of 25 MB) and briefcase (allowed size of 1 GB).
A senior official from NIC explained how business continuity was ensured even when daily email transactions climbed from 2.13 crore on March 21 to 4.58 crore on March 24, recording an increase of about 115 per cent in the overall traffic. Similarly, as the government launched significant awareness campaigns through SMSfor preventing the spread of corona virus, the average SMScount per day after lockdown increased to 7.2 crore from around 3.3 crore a day before lockdown.
Not only the Centre but many states have also benefitted from NIC’s ICT initiatives. Various state level services, backed by NIC’s state and district level teams, are also working tirelessly to create the impact that will help in containing the COVID-19. Meghalaya’s COVID-19 transmission chain prevention, developed by NIC, has enabled Meghalaya citizens who had returned to the parent state (students and professionals) to self-register themselves during their entry to the state and also the tourists who had visited the Meghalaya before the closure of all the tourist spots. It enabled health department officials like medical volunteers and district surveillance team members to reach out to registered individuals through the automated IVRS calls to capture their health status, especially COVID symptoms and update the information in the portal.
NIC is also associated with immigration and visa services at all Indian immigration check posts in the country and Indian Embassies across the world through its Immigration Visa Foreigners Registration & Tracking (IVFRT) service. As soon as the cases of coronavirus infection were reported in the country, NIC ensured all time service continuity at immigration check posts and data centres. The team at NIC, made necessary modifications in the IT applications for temporary suspension of all Indian visas and restricting passengers at all check points across the country.
In its endeavor to support the government with the best of ICT services, NIC has recently developed a website ‘Lifeline Udan’ for the Ministry of Civil Aviation to ensure seamless coordination among various agencies for transportation of items, including COVID-19 reagents and other medical equipment. The website allows state governments and airlines to upload their consignment and flight details in advance.
In its fight to efficiently monitor and track the spread of COVID-19, the Centre has launched AarogyaSetu-a mobile app. It is aimed to connect health services and citizens. The app is privacy-first by design and is currently available in 11 different languages. Within a few days of its launch, more than one crore individuals have already downloaded it. This app will enable the citizens to self-assess the risk of catching the coronavirus infection, at a preliminary stage. It will calculate a health score based on an individual’s interaction with others, using cutting edge Bluetooth technology, algorithms and artificial intelligence.
As the nation shows a steely resolve and fights the challenge to minimise the impact of COVID-19, technology has substantially proved to be a useful ally for not only the citizens but also the organisations.
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