E-Governance Health Policy

Integrating Health Policies with Digital tools through the medium of E-Governance

E-Governance initiatives have been taken by the countries around the globe to attain efficiency in governmental functioning and to ensure transparency and redundancy in transactional costs. It would not be wrong to state that the government is a network and through governance, it interacts with the stakeholders in society. These stakeholders consist of citizens who are concerned about their rights, privileges, policies, etc.; businesses worried about trade and related policies; and governmental agencies adapting to the new regulatory framework of operations. The aforementioned interactions which can be augmented with the use of ICTs as follows:

Government to Citizens (G2C): G2C is a case of an interface between government and citizens about the effective and efficient delivery of public services. The USA has formulated an initiative “Expanding Electronic Government” to facilitate this interaction, in 2001. Under this initiative, the Federal government integrated information technology applications to provide one-stop, on-line access to all the citizens including individuals, businesses, employees of the government, etc. against every agency of the government.

In the context of India, under the broad paradigm of Digital India, Common Service Centers 2.0 Scheme has been launched in 2015 to make available all the schemes launched for the benefits of citizens by the Central Government and respective State governments available at one stop.  The aim is to deliver a universal technology platform, making e-services accessible to citizens’ pan- India.[i] This move by the world governments expands the availability of public services and also improves the quality of the same and renders a choice to the citizens regarding when, how, and where the interaction with their representatives should happen.

Government to Business (G2B): The interaction between the business community and government can be facilitated with e- governance mechanism, red-tapism, operational costs, and time are checked and transparency upheld. Examples of such interaction are the grant of license, revenue collection, etc. The federal government in the USA has used this e-interaction to reduce the cost of keeping separate records of the businesses for separate transactions with different departments of the government. In India, an initiative of the Ministry of Corporate Affairs to record the information of all the businesses, small or big, registered or unregistered is a step ahead.

Government to Government (G2G): The interaction between the levels of government can be vertical or horizontal in nature. The use of ICT in such interactions helps in reducing the governmental cost of maintaining records, transacting records, and taking records. The fundamental benefit of ICT in G2G interaction is the resultant efficient output and performance.

It has to be noticed that governance is being embodied in the government, unlike the actual and modern difference that the two terms present. The United Nations survey on e-Government also suggests the same, but when the indicators of the survey ranking include benefits to the people from online services, adequacy of digital infrastructure, human resource availability in the promotion of ICTs, and the available contents and services online it actually submits for the governance. Basing it on the indicators, a country will be said to foster e-Governance only when via the means of ICTs its government renders online services flourishing transparency and accountability along with the varying nature of the process.

Internationally, India stands at number 100 from a total of 193 countries in the E-Government Development Index, 2020, with E-Participation rank 29. The country has seen a downfall in both the indexes from 2018.[ii]

Embracing the Denmark and U.K. Model

Looking into the Denmark model of e-Government that brought it to the top, the most obvious reason is its mandatory digital policy for businesses, with the digital post, community mails to interact with government, national e-Identity that helps in securing quality government services, a national citizen data register, a national building data register to store all the addresses, etc. All this has been possible for Denmark because of the robust ICT infrastructure that it developed with the help of government and private cooperation. However, the common ICT infrastructural arrangement was easy for Denmark given its population, Human Development Index, and geographical size, apart from the actual efforts that the government took.

On the same pathway, the United Kingdom’s digital strategy took its pace with the publication of the 2012 Government Digital Strategy under the Government Transformation Program. The entire program and strategy were citizen-centric to deliver government services online. The UK got the application of ICTs to transform the way in government delivery services and further incentivized e-Government with full citizen, full government, and internal government transformation. The core idea was educating and empowering citizens with technology which it has achieved to a great extent. 

E-Governance a crucial component of Good Governance

After analyzing a few models of e-Government, it can be stated that India, with its large population, lower-income category, less internet availability has to travel a long journey to transform itself into top-ranked e-Government. Despite this setback, the Indian government has introduced various policies under its Digital India program. The answer to whether the moves taken by the Indian government so far via schemes, policies, etc. under ‘Digital India’ drive, are e-Government or e-Governance lies in the analysis below.

Needless to say, e-Governance, especially normative e-Governance, has become a component of good governance. With the growing understanding of citizens about their rights and government’s duties, transparency, and accountability along with the faster response system has become a need. With this understanding, India also took a path towards governance with the use of ICT systems.

The Planning Commission of India in its report under the ‘Tenth Five-year plan’ called out for ICT to introduce SMART (Simple, Moral, Accountable, Responsive, and Transparent) governance in country. Achievement of this model requires the use of ICTs in a) Exchange of information with the stakeholders, b) Efficient and speedier delivery of government services, c) Efficiency improvisation in the internal functioning of the government, d) Reduction in the transaction and other transitory costs, e) Process restructuring, f) Improved quality of services. The following actions of the government towards policy development with the use of ICTs have served the half purpose, however, there are improvements and practical solutions required.

The application of technology to facilitate the health and wellness of individuals by covering everything from wearable gadgets to ingestible sensors, mobile applications to the inclusion of artificial intelligence, evolving further to bring in robotic cares, the healthcare sector has evolved.

The International Telecommunication Union submitted in 2019 that around 53.6 percent of the global population uses the internet out of which 83 percent have mobile or cellular handsets. With the growing consumption of telecommunications, the government of India along with other nations came up with the strategies to strengthen health systems by the deployment of Health services to reach the Millennium Development Goals related to health.

Analyzing Health Policy with digital tools

In India, the major policy breakthrough came with National Health Policy, 2017, wherein, digital tools were introduced to enhance the treatment and aftercare facilities at hospitals by the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, India. The policy has introduced maintenance of Electronic Health Records through the Integrated Health Information Platform to facilitate interoperability amongst public health centers, and continuous and efficient care in the whole country. A Personal Health Record Management System has also been configured to keep a centralized record of all the medical history of oneself. Further, the policy has given National Identity Numbers to the public hospitals under the Health Mission. All these ICT related developments are furthered within the bounds of National Digital Health Blueprint, 2019.

In addendum, a statutory body ‘National eHealth Authority’ (NeHA) has been established along with the NeHA Act to monitor the e-Health developments.  India has been also thriving to engage in machine learning and skills i.e., Artificial Intelligence in healthcare. Several organizations, startups, etc. are working on funding and researching AI for healthcare. National Health Plan, 2017 and the e-Health drive under Health Mission establish a strong base for the growth of AI and Machine Learning in India. The step is a major move of the government towards establishing e-Governance by changing the process of decision making by the clinicians, by connecting public hospitals, and by introducing AI and machine learning, etc. for efficient research and treatment of diseases.

Way Forward

While it can be said that the inclusion of AI and ICTs will make healthcare facilities in India accessible and affordable, given the internet capital of the country, and digital infrastructure, the problem of the digital divide will persist. There is a recommendation by WHO analyzing ratio of 1:1000 for doctor: patient when, India, have one government doctor over 10,189 people, moreover, nurse: patient ratio suggests a two million shortage. The core governance lies in developing public infrastructure to adapt the ICTs and other policy transformation that the government is planning to bring. In order to attain Universal Health Coverage, the aim of government should be to provide for the infrastructure accessibility and affordability for the poor and rural population of the country.

[i] Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, Common Service Centers Scheme Portal, Government of India.

[ii] DPIDG & UNDESA, UN E-Government Knowledgebase, The United Nations Organization.


ABOUT THE AUTHORS

Niyati Nagar

Niyati is a fourth-year law student at Maharashtra National Law University, Nagpur. She is a co-founder at Business, Financial and Technology Law Review (BFTLR).

Simran Bais

Simran is a fourth-year law student at Maharashtra National Law University, Nagpur. She is a co-founder at Business, Financial and Technology Law Review (BFTLR).

2 comments on “Integrating Health Policies with Digital tools through the medium of E-Governance

  1. I have been reading many articles on the same issue but found this one uniquely written. You covered almost every point over the topic.

    Liked by 1 person

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