Union Cabinet meetings will soon go paperless. The government is finalising a plan to put all Cabinet notes on Kindle devices, which ministers will use at meetings and return to the Cabinet Secretariat immediately after.
The government’s technology arm, the National Informatics Centre (NIC), has been instructed to implement this within six months.
Apart from cutting down paper use, the Prime Ministers’ Office believes the move will block what it sees as “leakage of information” on critical issues to the media before decisions are taken on them.
Once the system falls into place, minutes of a Cabinet meeting including any dissent note would not leave any paper trail in the future either.
According to a source, ministers and secretaries, who would not carry any paper to a Cabinet meeting, would each receive a Kindle loaded with Cabinet notes and annexures by the Cabinet Secretariat when they arrive. The Secretariat would be handed back the devices after the meeting.
Kindle was picked as the preferred device after the NIC did a comparative study of the alternatives. “Ease of access and absolute secrecy were the two things we evaluated all options on,” another source said.
To ensure an additional level of security, the notes in Kindle would get erased if there was an attempt to access its ports with a wire (USB link) or if there was an attempt to copy the information even through wireless using technologies like Bluetooth.
Since each minister would have a digital signature, they could also sign on the Cabinet decisions.
The ministries would continue to use paper though to communicate among themselves while drafting Cabinet notes. Those paper notes would be circulated to every ministry as per the current practice.
The transfer to the electronic format would happen once all the ministers had offered their comments and the file reached the cabinet secretary. The paper files would not leave the Cabinet Secretariat. Decisions taken in the Cabinet would remain with it in electronic format for eventual release to the Press Information Bureau or other agencies.
The idea is partly modelled on Andhra Pradesh, where the N Chandrababu Naidu government has moved to an e-cabinet mode.
Denying any knowledge of the Centre’s Kindle plan, J Lakshminarayana, adviser to the government of Andhra Pradesh (e-governance, electronics and IT), said at the TechSabha organised by the Express Group that the e-cabinet mode had helped faster decision-making. While Cabinet notes in the state are right now available both in paper and electronic format, Naidu’s ministers use their own devices to access those.
The Central government model would not allow that option.