Karnataka established a Centre for Smart Governance (CSG), a non-profit Society under Section 3 of Karnataka Societies Registration Act 1960, on 1 February 2019, which will act like the State government’s own Software Development Centre (SDC). The centre has become active now and is in the process of onboarding people.
According to Rajiv Chawla, additional chief secretary (e-Gov) and Director-General, CSG, “We’ve set up CSG in Karnataka as a learning from the Telangana government. Earlier, we faced a big problem while writing software for our e-governance projects. Hence, we thought that we should have our own development centre.”
With the State government’s demand for IT/ICT rising exponentially, it was felt that the vendors are unsustainable. Usually, vendors move out of projects after their contracts end or they demand higher fees for unjustified project extensions. In some cases, intellectual property rights (IPR) are created by vendors who also own the source code. Such an arrangement makes it difficult to enhance and manage these projects.
Also, the cost and time to award a project to a private company is rather high as tenders are required to comply with the Karnataka Transparency in Public Procurements Act, 1999.
“We’ve given an exemption to the CSG under the Karnataka Transparency in Public Procurements Act. We cannot give direct work to bodies like the National Institute for Smart Government (NISG) or the National Informatics Centre Services Inc. (NICSI) as per the Transparency Act. The exemption will also ensure that there is an alternative to National Informatics Centre (NIC) in the State,” Chawla says.
The CSG will be involved in the development of software applications and allied activities for various e-governance projects in the State. It will also look into allied services like change management, requirement gathering, capacity building, preparation of Software Requirement Specifications, etc., to the government departments, public sector companies, boards, corporations, autonomous institutions and other organisations established under the State and Central acts.
“If the department thinks that their work can be done by the CSG, then they can be directly entrusted with it. But if the nature of the work is more complicated, which requires a system integrator or a big software company, then the tender will be issued,” Chawla says.
Currently, the projects are developed and managed by outsourced agencies. The Centre for e-Governance (CeG), a society set up by the State government’s Department of Administrative Reforms (DPAR), provides and manages the core IT infrastructure required for various e-governance projects, and has implemented core enterprise applications across various state government departments.
“The CeG is a government-run body that manages the implementation of hardware and software projects. While the CSG is a tool to write software and can evolve as one of the consumers of the CeG,” Chawla adds.
Initially, 50-60 people will be hired by the CSG and institutions such as the SeMT, CeG, NIC will continue to perform their role.
The CSG’s core objectives are software development, providing application support services, application integration services which include inter-operability of departmental applications. It will promote operational excellence especially in the areas of IT service delivery, develop new IT products and related services, promote process improvement and increase cost efficiency, deploy prototypes to demonstrate the feasibility of building smart governance applications and also undertake consulting assignments for third parties on smart governance and e-governance projects.
The CSG will have in-house technical teams. Also, it will have project managers on deputation from other departments.