Automating Government with e-Governance
Linux was selected as the technology of choice for the Delixus e-Governance Platform as it best satisfied technical and legal requirements. More specifically, Linux servers provided an optimal level of security and cost effectiveness, as well as supported the language requirements. Support for open standards enabled Linux to serve an interoperable e-Governance application that is accessible from Linux, Windows and other desktop operating systems.
The benefits of Linux had to be expressed from two different viewpoints. First, the benefits to government operations and second the benefits to widows, pensioners and farmers. Government operations had to improve by:
Lowering the cost of operations.
Providing scalability for future growth.
Following open standards for interoperability with other applications.
Providing a robust and stable system to support ongoing government operations.
Simplifying system maintenance and management.
Much has been made of which OS has a lower total cost of ownership (TCO), Linux or Windows. However one views the argument over TCO, many governments appear to be weighing in with their opinion that Linux is the right solution in terms of cost, performance and security. Proof of this lies in the moves by the Texas, Canadian and Chinese governments. Numerous other governments have made similar moves to Linux and open-source software.
A major business value provided by Linux to governments is freedom from outside influence by a foreign corporation, namely Microsoft. Linux provides governments with the freedom to change vendors as needed, the freedom to audit code for spyware and support for open data formats that are accessible to lower income citizens who cannot afford the expense of proprietary software. Protection against spyware is vital in security conscious government departments.
OpenSSH provides a secure method for system administrators to instantly access and manage the Linux servers located in the most remote of local government offices. OpenSSH is an open-source implementation of the SSH protocol that enables system administrators to log on securely to a remote Linux server over the Internet. The speed with which an administrator could access and repair each office's Linux server greatly reduced system maintenance expenses and improved system uptime.
The lives of citizens had to improve by:
Reducing the time between submitting an application and picking up a check.
Enabling citizens to remotely check on the status of their applications.
Notifying applicants when their checks were ready for pickup.
Shortening the time required to process applications is a central benefit of the Delixus e-Governance Platform. The old manual process required government officials to locate large numbers of files for each applicant. The vast number of applicants made the process of locating each applicant's files time consuming. The Delixus e-Governance Platform reduced the search time for an applicant's files from weeks to a few seconds. A simple search of an applicant by name instantly provides the government official with immediate access to all of an applicant's files.
A Web-based interface provides the ability to remotely check on application status from any Internet-connected computer. As a result, widows, pensioners and farmers easily can check the status of their applications from any Internet cafe. Automated e-mail notifications are sent to field officers upon the approval of an application. Field officers then can notify the applicant that his or her check is ready for pickup.
The Delixus e-Governance Platform leverages the strengths of Linux to improve the lives of Indian citizens through more timely access to information and to their pension checks. Linux servers located in each local government office power the e-Governance application and provide a robust decentralized processing model. The use of separate Linux servers in each office removes the risk of having a single point of failure that would cripple government operations. Importantly, the decision to put a separate server in each office was cost justified through the use of low cost open-source software.
The servers at each local government office are designed to communicate with a central computer at the state government offices. Communication and internetworking with the state-level computers is facilitated through the use of open-source applications that support open standards. Specifically, the PostgreSQL database server, the Apache Web server and the Postfix e-mail server easily integrate with other open-source software, commercial software and one another.
The Delixus e-Governance Platform uses a Web-based user interface to allow applicants to access the e-Governance application from any Internet cafe. In addition, the same interface is fully accessible by government officers who access the application from their internal network. The Web-based interface provides a unified and consistent user interface that can be accessed from any Web browser that supports Kannada, including Linux and legacy Windows desktops.