The Indian government’s initiative of providing e-governance to villages is gathering some momentum: as of June 2009, the rollout of Internet connected Common Service Centers has been completed in the states of Jharkhand (4562), Haryana(1159) and Sikkim(45), and almost complete in Gujarat.
A CSC essentially is a kiosk in a rural district, which allows online bill payments, booking tickets, applying for jobs, searching for market information and selling of local produce. CSCs are going to be managed by a Village Level Entrepreneur (VLE), which serves as the nodal point for services and government schemes. The CSC rollout is a part of the National E-Governance Plan (NeGP).
In the states where the rollouts have begun, a total of 104,881 are expected to be installed. Of these, 40,750 CSCs are operational, according to India’s Department of Telecom. The rollout, however, has not yet begun in the states of Punjab, Karnataka, Arunachal Pradesh and Kerala, and the union territory of Pondicherry. The Request For Proposal (RFP/Tender) has not even been issued for Punjab. State of the rollout:
According to the Union Budget last year, Rs. 75 crores was allocated towards the setting up of CSCs. Broadband connectivity for CSCs was to be provided by BSNL and the rollout was is the form of a public private partnership. Sahaj, a subsidiary of BSE listed SREI Infrastructure Finance, was among the companies that won a bid, for six states – West Bengal, Bihar, Assam, Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.
In our opinion, this won’t really help broadband coverage since villages won’t get direct access to the Internet. Instead, the CSCs appear to be more on the lines of a post office, where villagers can go to get printouts of information. Access to information will still be controlled by the VLE running the CSC.
Details of the implementation of State Wide Area Networks (SWANs) are as follows: