India.gov.in

India.gov.in – This looks like the best effort on the Government’s end to present one common e-face to the nation. I’m still exporing this site, but it sounds promising. Here’s what the “About this portal” page says:

This is the Official Portal of the Indian Government, designed, developed and hosted by National Informatics Centre (NIC), the premier ICT Organisation of the Government of India under the aegis of Department of Information Technology , Ministry of Communications & Information Technology.

The Portal has been developed as a Mission Mode Project under the National E-Governance Plan of the Government. The objective behind the Portal is to provide a single window access to the information and services being provided by the Indian Government for the citizens and other stakeholders. An attempt has been made through this Portal to provide comprehensive, accurate, reliable and one stop source of information about India and its various facets. Links at various places, too, have been provided to other Indian Government Portals/websites.

The content in this Portal is the result of a collaborative effort of various Indian Government Ministries and Departments, at the Central/State/District level. It is our endeavour to continue the enhancement and enrichment of this Portal in terms of content coverage, design and technology on a regular basis.

I’m praying, and hoping against hope that this endeavour takes off into something that really makes a difference to our lives. So far, it’s just a pretty design (which is actually a huge step forward), and what looks like a lot of documents and vision statements. Overall, the purpose of the site appears to be a common front-end to most government sites.

Over the next couple of weeks, I’m going to have posts about what I’d like to see on this site, why and how we can get it done. In two words – content and applications. Not just words, something that’s useful. Using next-generation web technology to make it one of the best in the world. Examining how we can use the power of the individual citizen to make a difference to this website.

Two points which struck me right now: the “maps” section of the site is Bad. These are primitve maps found in school textbooks, and (although probably up-to-date), are about 20 years inthe past in terms of technological innovation. I challenge the Indian government to be bold enough to embrace Google Maps, work with Google to provide better and more detailed maps of India, and make use of the map API to link these maps with Government databases such as demography, road and rail links, natural resources, and the like. Access to the National Spatial Database is for “Authorised Users Only”, which smacks of the control-freak mentaily of the 70s and 80s. Why can’t I, as an Indian. have access to maps of my own country?

Speaking of road and rail links, the Indian Railways website needs an urgent, massive overhaul. It can’t do a thing right, and the UI is Horrible, and the HTML is not standards-compliant. It looks like it was designed by a monkey with a copy of Frontpage.