Private Sector And Government Can Learn IT From Each Other

This one has been a long time coming.

Most private sector banking, insurance and other applications purporting to be online give up their online nature quickly and degenerate into “click and mail” applications the moment it comes to forms and signatures.  While they tell you that you can complete a form online, most often, all you get is a Word document that you must download, print, fill out by hand, sign in wet ink and snail-mail to some postal address. One of the most ludicrous examples I’ve ever come across is this one from a leading private sector automobile insurance company, which promises instant policy issuance on its PPC ad on leading websites, only to land you upon its website where you need to complete a form and wait for 48 hours to be contacted by one of their representatives. Let alone instant policy, you don’t even get an instant quote!

In sharp contrast, I’ve come across many e-governance applications in India and overseas that are almost 100% online.

Take for instance, my application to the Registrar of Companies for incorporating GTM360 Marketing Solutions. The application was filed on the website of the Ministry of Corporate Affairs (India), under whose jurisdiction the ROC falls. The application had an editable PDF form into which you could simply enter all the information, save the PDF form and submit it. That’s it – no downloading, printing, handwriting and posting involved. This, as well as the Income Tax Return application on the UK government’s HM Revenue & Customs ministry’s website, issue a digital signature at the very beginning, so that they can dispense with the need for “wet ink signature” that undermines an application’s online nature.  

Thanks to these  experiences, I’ve been peeved with half-baked attempts from the private sector and delighted with some excellent examples from the government when it came to with online web-based applications.

I’ve been convinced for a while now that there’s ample scope for the private sector to learn a few things from the government on how to go about building online applications. I’ve been meaning to write about this for sometime and decided not to postpone it any further after coming across a recent article, which argues that since individual ministries have launched good IT applications by themselves, there’s no role for the Department of Information Technology (DIT) under the Ministry of Communications and IT, which should therefore be immediately dismantled.

While I believe that this article jumps to an unwarranted conclusion, it made me recognize that, when it comes to governance, organization structure, and roles and responsibilities, the government might find a few useful things to learn from the private sector.

In many private sector companies, finance, marketing, sales, HR and other functions tend to develop point systems on their own. Done from time to time to gain greater flexibility and faster time to market among other reasons, these applications do not always have the fullest involvement of the company’s IT. However, that doesn’t negate the importance of a corporate IT function as a standards-setting body. Likewise, instead of dismantling the Department of Information Technology, the government can restrict its mandate to setting broad IT standards while leaving the actual implementation of those standards to individual ministries.

2 Responses to “Private Sector And Government Can Learn IT From Each Other”

  1. Pramod says:

    Very interesting ! Specially the bit about online filing with the Ministry of Corp Affairs. I must find out more about how Digital Certificates work ! I’ll call you Ketha :)

  2. […] the other hand, I’ve also raved about some excellent implementations of consumer IT by the public […]