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Volume 18, No. 3, October 2008


Table of Contents

 

Common Services Centers (CSC) Scheme - Marching Ahead!

 

Dr. Monisha Borthakur

Assistant Vice President, IL&FS

monisha.borthakur@gmail.com

Believing that the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) intervention can go a long way in meeting the expectations of the people in the villages as well as empower communities by providing them information and knowledge, the Government of India (GOI) has launched the Common Services Centers (CSC) Scheme in 2006 as a part of its initiative for National e-Governance Plan. The CSC Scheme aims to improve the quality of delivery of services to the citizen especially those living in rural areas. Covering 6 lakh villages in the country, over 100,000 (one lakh) internet enabled service centers in rural areas have been envisaged to be established in an equitable distribution - one CSC for every six census villages. The CSC Scheme is not just about rolling out IT infrastructure but to build a network of 100,000+ rural businesses across India. The CSC Scheme with such a geographical spread is a unique scheme, which is being implemented on a Public Private Partnership (PPP) framework and attempted for the first time in the World.

Two years since it was approved by GOI in September 2006, the CSC is a familiar scheme all over the country now and the state governments are geared up to launch the programme matching with their existing initiatives. The beauty of the scheme is that it is open to capturing the diversity and varied features of the states; and these are being factored in, whilst developing the state-wise implementation roadmap.

Although the CSC Scheme started with a mandate to launch 100,000 rural kiosks across the country, it has been observed that after the state governments have finalized the strategies to be adopted, the actual numbers would cross the targeted figure and we would be having around 113,000 CSCs across the country. Out of this, the implementing agencies or the Service Center Agencies (SCAs) - have already been finalized for setting up of more than 103,000 CSCs by mid-2009. Twenty states are in the rollout phase where the state governments have signed contracts with the private parties (SCAs) to set up 101,000 CSCs. Here, it is also worth mentioning that every attempt has been made to reach out to every corner of the country in a uniform manner, no matter how challenging or tough that area may be. For example, upon due consideration of the special features of the state, Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) has selected the J&K Bank as an SCA for establishing 1,100 CSCs in the state, and upon due modifications, seven north-eastern states have completed the SCA selection process and the remaining one state is in the final stage of issuing the Request for Proposal (RFP). They are unique from the perspective of development intervention and there is a strong relationship between the environment and the livelihood of the mountain population. The challenge is to throw up different thoughts and different models and different ideas, which would have the adaptability and acceptance of both the people and the SCAs.

In terms of actual rollout, over 18,000 CSCs across thirteen states have been rolled out till date. Haryana is the first state in the country to complete 100 percent rollout by three SCAs (3i Infotech, Comat Technologies and SARK Systems). The states of Gujarat and Jharkhand are on the verge of completing the rollout. States like West Bengal, Bihar, Assam, Meghalaya and Uttar Pradesh have geared up with full cooperation from the respective state governments. Understanding the vastness and the complexity of the project at the ground level, it would take more than what was envisaged to achieve the completion of rollout within the defined timeframe. However, the Government along with the private parties is committed to reaching its goal as planned. To understand the implementation issues and the support required by implementing agencies, the Department of Information Technology (DIT), Government of India calls upon the state governments and selected SCAs from time to time, and extends full support and cooperation for timely implementation of the project. A range of private parties has shown interest in implementing the project in various states. Few of them are SREI Infrastructure Ltd, 3i Infotech, Comat Technologies, AISECT, Zoom Developers, CMS Computers, etc. Few of the SCAs are heading towards meeting the deadline of the rollout as prescribed by the state governments. A snapshot of the CSC implementation across India is given below.

Snapshot of CSC Implementation across India

Meanwhile, as the process of rollout is progressing, attempts have also been made to bring together all CSC stakeholders, including the service providers, to enable drawing up of the CSC roadmap ahead, keeping in view the various implementation challenges faced by the first mover SCAs. Dialogues with various players have been carried out right from the initiation of the CSC scheme with the understanding that a sustainable CSC can only emerge out of continued partnerships with a range of service providers, technology vendors, academic institutions, community organizations, etc. both from the public and private sectors. A positive response has been received and commitments have come from various stakeholders to make the project a success.

Various government to citizen (G2C) services like delivery of land records, registration, issue of certificates, applications for government schemes, road transport services, pension schemes, issue of ration cards, electoral rolls and utility services are planned to be offered through the CSCs for which the modalities are being worked out. States like West Bengal, Jharkhand and Haryana have already signed Memorandum of Understanding (MOUs) with government departments/ agencies for providing a few identified services through pilot initiatives. Flagship projects like the National Rural Employment Act (NREGA), Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan and National Rural Health Mission (NHRM) are being linked up with the CSCs to reach out to the beneficiaries. The CSCs have also emerged as the medium for agricultural extension services aimed at reaching out to the farmers, and are also being linked up with the Department of Posts. Similarly, various private services (B2C) like railway ticketing, utility payment, online education, banking services, agriculture services and telemedicine facilities are being offered through the CSCs. The telemedicine project in Tripura is one of the first initiatives in the north-eastern states to have received wide appreciation in the region.

Pragya Kendra CSC in Jharkhand

6

Ekal Seva Kendra CSC in Haryana

The CSC Scheme is the first of its kinds to have been attempted in the world. It is based on the principle of a centralized initiative with decentralized implementation. It captures the diversity and varied features of different states in the process of implementation. The successful and timely implementation of the scheme is to a large extent dependent on the ownership and initiative displayed by the respective state government. So far, the response and support from the state governments has been quite encouraging. However, a lot needs to be done for delivery of G2C services to the citizens through the CSCs. The scheme once implemented will redefine the process for delivery of government services to the citizens across the country and also empower them by providing the opportunity to avail non-government services at their doorstep.