Implementing e-Office at the district level

The District Magistrate’s Office (DMO) at Barasat, North 24 Parganas district in West Bengal suffered from problems that afflict many other government offices in India -inability to provide public services promptly with an average application requiring six to eight months for disposal, poor document storage and retrieval with files frequently being lost or damaged, lack of transparency and accountability resulting in corruption, poor monitoring and evaluation, and inefficient coordination between departments in the Collectorate. The primary reason for these problems was a manual system for file management which made it difficult to trace the movement of files and delayed official procedures.

To overcome the problems caused by the manual system of file management and given the fact that this problem exists across most government offices in India, a Mission Mode Project (MMP) known as eOffice was launched under the National e-Governance Plan (NeG P). The objective of the eOffice project is to enable offices to transition from manual systems to digital ones. eOffice is a suite of applications designed by the National Informatics Centre (NIC) and covers the entire gamut of office administration. It has a File Management System (eFile), Knowledge Management System (KMS), Personnel Information Management System (PIMS) and applications for tours and leaves as well as communications among functionaries. However, it was designed only for central and state level offices.

eOffice was implemented for the first time at the district level in North 24 Parganas in August 2011. In order for this to happen, two innovations were undertaken: (i) the suite was customised for use at a district level office, and (ii) the country’s first and only District Data Centre was established at the DMO in Barasat to provide a backbone for the system with Information and Communication Technology (ICT). The suite’s two main applications, eFile and KMS were selected for implementation and it was piloted in four sections of the DMO. Following the success of the pilot, the system began to be upscaled, a process which is still underway. The main stakeholders involved in the design, implementation and management of the project are the eOffice project division of NIC Delhi, the NIC district headquarters of North 24 Parganas and the DMO itself.

eOffice has resulted in a complete transformation in the functioning of the DMO. There have been drastic improvements in terms of both efficiency and effectiveness of the departments. The average time required for processing files has come down from eight months to four days and average employee productivity in terms of files worked upon per day has increased by 400 percent. The number of employees required for file processing has been reduced from twenty to five. Overall, the initiative has proven beneficial not only to the citizens being served by the Barasat DMO but also to employees of the DMO who have benefited from the convenience it has brought to their own work.

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