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  • Business
    Potential of e-government for reform

    D. Murali

    Chennai: In isolated pockets, innovative e-government applications are on, but the real challenge is to achieve a wide-scale impact, says Subhash C. Bhatnagar in one of the essays included in ‘The Governance Discourse: A Reader,’ edited by Bidyut Chakrabarty and Mohit Bhattacharya (www.oup.com).

    “Making e-government widespread entails bridging the digital divide, enabling access to the Internet in rural areas and setting up information kiosks,” the author suggests.

    He rues, however, that except for a few political leaders and civil servants who believe in the idea of reform and who have initiated innovative applications, the vast majority is yet to awaken to the potential of e-government for reform.

    “Whereas some of India’s state governments have reengineered administrative processes to improve service-delivery time, reduce corruption, and increase transparency, others appear to be more interested in only appearing to be modernising, while making only half-hearted attempts to reform government functioning.”

    Worth a detailed study, especially if you are development-oriented.

    Space electronics

    Electronic systems play a significant role in tracking, telemetry and telecommand, writes Mohan Sundara Rajan in ‘India in the Space Age’ (www.publicationsdivision.nic.in). Electronic devices also regulate a wide range of functions from simple power supplies to sophisticated guidance and control, he adds. Heartening it should be to know that “right from the early days of sounding rockets, telemetry and telecommand systems were developed indigenously.”

    Packaging electronic devices into a small volume of space inside a rocket poses the problem of mutual interference among them, explains Rajan. “Just as the ignition of a car in the neighbourhood may produce streaks on the TV screen, electromagnetic interference may cause problems in electronic equipment.”

    With the coming of multi-stage rockets, one of the critical roles of onboard electronics is in ‘timing the ignition of rocket motor or stage separation and steering the rockets along the prescribed path.’

    Immensely educative material.

    Prepared for prepaid

    Major revenue of a telecom company comes from the sale of prepaid recharge vouchers, but its accounting is complex, says ‘Technical Guide on Internal Audit in Telecommunications Industry’ (www.icai.org).

    Collections against sale of prepaid cards and refill vouchers are recognised as revenues only after customers utilise the services or on expiry of grace period, subsequent to expiry, the publication explains. It informs that many telecom operators have in place the IN (intelligent network) system to monitor the usage of prepaid services on a real-time basis, using which the operators can disconnect services when customers utilise their available talk time balance to the fullest extent. “Thus, for prepaid services, revenue recognition is based on reports generated by the IN system.”

    The Guide advises the internal auditor to be conversant with the complex prepaid billing systems and the various interfaces of the systems with other network switches.

    Imperative addition to the practising professionals’ shelf.

    Go Ajax

    Asynchronous JavaScript and XML, or Ajax, is a set of techniques for creating highly interactive web sites and web applications, writes Steven Holzner in ‘Ajax: A Beginner’s Guide’ (www.tatamcgrawhill.com). “The idea is to make what’s on the Web appear to be local by giving you a rich user experience, offering you features that usually only appear in desktop applications.”

    The author explains that the emphasis in Ajax applications – as for example, in Google Suggest that shows a drop-down list in the browser – is to work behind the scenes and use data fetched from the Internet, without refreshing the web page in the browser.

    The acronym ‘Ajax’ – as one umbrella of technologies that already existed – was created by Jesse James Garrett, president of Adaptive Path, in a February 18, 2005 article, informs Holzner.

    A must-buy for developers hungering to add value.

    Tax computing

    The Sales Tax laws of almost all States have become complicated over a period of time, and computer is a convenient tool in the Sales Tax Department, observes G. Sundaram, former Secretary to the Government of India, in ‘Plight of Honesty: The untold bureaucracy’ (www.manaspublications.in). Sales Tax is important because it accounts for 60 to 70 per cent of the tax revenue of the state governments, he informs.

    When the rates on different items are changed every year in the Budget, it is necessary to know the exact impact, and this is possible only through IT. The situation in 1986 was that punch-card operators had been appointed and the main computer of the Government was being used, though data collection and analysis were a few years behind, the author recounts, from his experience in Gujarat as the Commissioner of Sales Tax.

    “Since I had spare time, I could also learn operating the computers… ‘iNDEXTb’ undertook the computerisation of the Department; they also taught me for a month or two. In this regard, as a part of IAS compulsory training every year introduced by P. Chidambaram, I did computer courses in the well known CMC, New Delhi…”

    Engaging narrative, encompassing a variety of areas.

    Dysfunctional meetings

    As leaders, we should not look at meetings as an opportunity to showcase our own talents and superior knowledge, although this is often what happens, rues Penny Ferguson in ‘The Living Leader: Become the leader you want to be’ (www.researchpress.co.in). Meetings should, instead, focus on creating an environment that allows the whole team to contribute and work towards generating the best possible outcome, she insists.

    “Most meetings tend to follow a particular pattern. Those with the loudest voices and the most confidence are the ones who do nearly all the talking, half the time not listening to each other.”

    The result, as Ferguson describes, will be confusion after the meeting as to exactly what actions have been agreed. “And there will be some people who rarely or never contribute at all. Does this sound at all familiar?”

    Key takeaways.

    Inside innovation

    What is innovation? “If we were to ask young consumers for an example of a new idea in use, most will immediately think of new communication technologies such as the BlackBerry handheld, the iPod or other consumer electronics,” write the authors of ‘Strategic Human Resource Management: Building research-based practice’ (www.jaicobooks.com).

    “Other people will think of new services introduced less than a decade ago such as buying airline tickets online or Internet banking.” But ‘innovation’ encapsulates more than these, the authors observe.

    “The innovation literature distinguishes roughly between two categories of innovation: the first, called product innovation, refers to new products and services; the second, called process innovation, relates to the introduction of a new element to the production or service operation…”

    An example of process innovation in services reads thus: “An organic farm that used to receive customer orders through the phone established an Internet website that allowed customers to place their orders online…”

    Comprehensive treatment, with a good grounding in research.

    Tailpiece

    “We put our downsizing exercise on a fast track by posing a simple question on the intranet.”

    “What question?”

    “‘Do you think technology is a pain-point? Yes or No.’ And those who answered in the affirmative had a pink slip delivered to their inbox.”

    BookPeek.blogspot.com


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