– By Asha Krishnakumar, IFMR Finance Foundation
The Technology Advisory Group for Unique Projects (TAGUP), which was set up by the Ministry of Finance in June 2010 under the chairmanship of UIDAI Chairman, Nandan Nilekani, recently submitted its report to the Government of India.
The Group was set up primarily to provide a framework to address critical issues in the country’s complex Information Technology (IT) systems, particularly in the tax administration and financial governance system that have the potential to accelerate India’s growth.
The Group comprising six experts in the relevant fields – C. B. Bhave, Chairman, SEBI; R. Chandrasekhar, Secretary, DoT; Nachiket Mor, Chairman, IFMR Trust; Dhirendra Swarup, former Chairman, PFRDA; S. S. Khan, former Member, CBDT; and P. R.V. Ramanan, former Member, CBEC – focused on five high-impact Government projects – Goods and Services Tax, Tax Information Network, Expenditure Information Network, National Treasury Management Agency and New Pension System.
Observing similar patterns and challenges across complex projects, the Group has come up with an overall framework to address challenges in complex IT projects in general, and has then applied this framework to review and recommend interventions in the five high-impact projects.
Among the Group’s key recommendations is evolving a set of institutions under the National Information Utilities (NIUs) framework which will work in partnership with the Government. Under the NIU framework, the government will focus on policy formulation and enforcement, while the NIUs (private companies with a public focus) would be responsible to coordinate and implement the projects. The Group has gone into great lengths to identify ways of ensuring coordination, sustainability and continuity of complex projects across various Government departments, at different levels of the Government and various stages of projects. The report provides detailed suggestions on mechanisms to address transparency, accountability and security of IT systems, as also protection of individual privacy and open IT system standards and architecture.
The report has a number of suggestions concerning the banking sector. For example, to enable the reach of Government programmes to all intended beneficiaries, to minimise errors in identifying beneficiaries and to ensure fool-proof ways of authenticating transactions, the report recommends giving top priority to the provision of ubiquitous connectivity and access to bank accounts. And to tide over the problem of establishing identity and address proof while opening bank accounts, it recommends dovetailing efforts with the Aadhaar initiative (UIDAI).
The report recommends a single, holistic, rule-based, platform-oriented system design to reach Government programmes to all intended beneficiaries, as in the case of the core banking system (CBS) which holds all bank accounts in a single platform but can be accessed in a number of ways – bank branch, m-banking, ATM, and debit card. Similarly, to integrate all Government payments with internal processes, the report recommends a uniform banking interface for the Government.
The TAGUP report, which provides a number of examples and case studies from India and the world, can be accessed here.