CIOs' Take On CIO - IT Secretary Collaboration

The concept of Public Private Partnership (PPP) has been around for some time and applied in many sectors. The partnership involves the collaboration of Government agencies with particular departments of private organisations. An avenue that has been unexplored so far is that of a partnership between CIOs and IT Secretaries of various states. Collaboration at this level holds scope for mutual benefit and if done right, can bring about radical changes.

There is a scope of a CIO - IT secretary level collaboration. However, joining of hands between the public and private sector has its pros and cons, says CN Ram, Group CIO, Essar Group, at the recently concluded Computer Society of India (CSI) event -Collaboration For Inclusive Growth - held in Mumbai.

He opines the CIOs and IT secretaries work at a totally different tangents. Nonetheless, if and when they decide to work together, it's necessary to fix the rules of engagement. "The important question that needs to be answered by the CIO before collaborating with personnel from the public sector is what's in it for his organisation? And the CIO should only take a step forward after he is thoroughly clear," says Ram.

CIOs have vast experience of technology implementations and technologies, per se. This knowledge can be very useful when applied to the public sector. "The CIO - IT secretary relationship should be synergistic wherein MNCs such as TCS can share implementation frameworks drawing on their knowledge of setting operations in various countries, which can be well adapted to the requirements of different State Governments in India," says Alok Kumar, CIO, TCS.

The Government is in the business of providing public services with a not-for-profit approach. Whereas, commercial interest is always overarching for the private sector. "There are lessons to be learnt for both sides by coming together and sharing knowledge to achieve societal goals of serving the common man and enterprise customers. In such a way, interests of the Government as well as the private sector can be safeguarded. None of the sides - Govt and the private sector - will have to let go or compromise on their objectives of bringing societal change and commercial interest respectively," says Ashok Sinha, Former Chairman and MD, BPCL.

The role of CIO - IT Secretary level partnership is acknowledged by both sides. But the acceptance and usage of technology is not well taken by all stakeholders in the Government.

"CIOs and IT secretaries have a pivotal role to play in the successful collaboration between the public and private sector," says Anil Srivastava, Principal Secretary, Government of Madhya Pradesh. However, the flip side to using information technology is that it brings transparency in the state of the affairs, much to the discomfort of people with certain vested interests. This is because they can no longer engage in hiding information or influencing decision-making or stalling free flow implementation of projects," observes Srivastava.

While the above mentioned bottlenecks are always going to be around, it's important to consider how these challenges can be overcome. Efforts have to be made by, both the private sector and PSUs in leveraging on its technology expertise.

Avenues For Collaboration

"Enterprises can share expertise on various ways of using the digital platform for delivering public services," suggests Sinha "The Government has an obligation of providing basic services to citizens residing in the remotest areas of the country. The challenges in doing so should be identified by the private sector and enterprise CIOs should come forward with ways to overcome them by strategic use of IT solutions and products," says Sinha.

For example, the UIDAI project can be leveraged by the private sector to design and develop applications targeted for Government usage.

"Enterprises have a structured organisational framework that is critical for its smooth functioning. Whereas, the loose structure of the way Governments operate is a major factor in unsuccessful IT implementations. This demands change," states Srivastava.

"Just because of the sheer scale of deployment needed, the public organisations' major challenges are pertaining to the actual implementation of a proposed project. For e.g., the digitisation project of land records that was started with much aplomb hasn't been much of a success in any of the Indian states," he adds.

For CIOs to bring a synergistic collaboration with the IT secretaries, both should link the interest of their stakeholders for the relationship to be mutually beneficial. The primary target for the Government are the citizen and it's the customers for the private entities. "The collaborative understanding should be such that it serves the interests of the customers and the citizens at large," ideates Srivastava.

Ram, an IT stalwart in the banking space, takes a strand from his past experience and suggests, "IT secretaries can act as intermediaries for banks. For example, the banking community needs land records for various purposes which the IT secretaries can arrange for the banks to serve its customers. The bank's technology teams on their part can design applications for Government outlets such as the Common Service Centres (CSCs) and post offices for the Government to better service the citizens at large. And enterprises can use such outlets as a medium to expand its customer base and reuse the same applications in the process," explains Ram.

The private sector can also help the PSUs in doing selective and sensible automation by employing used and tested frameworks.

"Technology is always available, what holds importance is to plan the people and process around it for getting the desired Return on Investment," opines Kumar. If not at a CIO - IT Secretary level, institutions from the private space can partner with premium Government educational institutions such as IIT, IIM, etc.

Rajesh Doshi, Senior Executive Director, NSDL, gave an example of how his company collaborated with IIT Bombay to come up with its IT infrastructure which was not only platform-agnostic but also database-agnostic. "This also avoided getting stuck with one vendor and thus provided agility and flexibility to the organisation to move forward in its expansion exercise."

Assuming and hoping the UIDAI project is a success, it can open up a whole lot of opportunities for both - the public and private sectors - to cross leverage citizen data for inclusive growth, although as mentioned before, with specific rules of engagement.

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Updated Date: Feb 02, 2017 23:25:30 IST