Panchayats linked through virtual private network that allows unlimited data sharing among them

Kerala has become the first State in the country to have a digital super highway that is likely to revolutionise functioning of local bodies.

Information Kerala Mission (IKM), the flagship e-governance project of the State government aimed at strengthening local self-governance through the Information and Communication applications, has established the digital super highway for all panchayats in the State.

IKM in association with the Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited has made this possible through an exclusive VPN (Virtual Private Network) over broadband that enables unlimited data sharing without the need to avail normal internet bandwidth.

This is by far the largest VPN network established in the State. The network was launched by the Minister for Panchayats and Social Welfare M.K. Muneer at a function held in Thiruvananthapuram on Thursday.

“The digital superhighway will enable local bodies to function independent of operating platform and rule out the need for installation of various applications in each system. One of the major handicaps faced by local bodies was that majority of its applications were stand alone. The adoption of digital highway undo that problem,” K. Anvar Sadath, Technical Director, IKM, told The Hindu on Friday.

It would be possible for local bodies within the VPN connection to experience a data transfer mode with the efficiency and speed of transfer between two adjacent computers in a lab and that too with increased security features.

The State Data Centre, which is part of this VPN cloud, would enable unlimited data sharing among local bodies at a higher speed without having to face hurdles such as jamming of internet bandwidth etc.

The new form of internet data transfer, termed as VPNoBB (VPN over Broadband), will function as a private virtual network in MPLS (Multi Protocol Label Switching) cloud.

“The VPN was on test phase for around 2 years with the MPLS link having 512kbps speed. Now this has upgraded to 40 times faster speed (20 Mbps) and more and more local bodies were added to this network,” said M. Samsudheen, Chairman of IKM.

Major advantages of VPN include enhanced efficiency in data storage and recovery and security of data. “Data will be transferred in encrypted form, making it difficult to be hacked,” said Mr. Sadat. ‘Sulekha,’ which is the plan monitoring software designed for the formulation and monitoring of the nearly two lakh annual decentralized plan projects of local governments, is the first application to use the digital super highway. Gradually, all the applications used by the local self-government bodies will be brought in to the VPN.

“Now with the VPN facility other applications developed for revenue and licences, disbursement of social welfare pensions, work flow, file status monitoring, building permits etc can also be made make available through this network with a fast and secure mode of data transmission,” said Mr. Sadath.

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