Interview

Q & A : Dr. M. Velayutham, Executive Director, MSSRF

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What is the difference between Citizen Information centres, Citizen Service centres and Citizen Knowledge centres? Operationally, I would consider all of them as one and the same. Eventually the first two you mentioned will merge into a total village knowledge centre as they go along. Initially they may have different names to start with but the totality of the service and interaction comes when you link the knowledge centre to cater to the entire population of the village in terms of their needs.

What kind of services are you planning to deliver through these knowledge centres?
It will essentially give information and knowledge for skill-training, better farming practices, better management of the enterprises that they are doing or intend to do. If these knowledge centres have to be financially viable then you have to add on certain service providing facilities that the knowledge centres can take such as issue of birth and death certificate, land records, examination results, payment of electricity bills, payment of other bills, fax, etc.

How are you ensuring sustainability of the knowledge centres in the long-term?
It will be primarily based on business model, but not from the day one. Each one develops a business model, suiting their service and revenue generation avenues and capacity for maintaining and sustaining the centre. In the beginning it will be in terms of public service, demand driven needs and knowledge delivery. Slowly its viability and its institutional structure will ensure that it has to come to stay in a village for ever as a knowledge centre. Thereafter additional income-generating activities as mentioned above can be innovated by the village entrepreneurs assisted by the village society and panchayat institution.

How would the trust be created in citizens for these kind of services for their reliability and authenticity?
One of our recommendations is that each of the service centre should be backed up by a scientific consortium consisting of government departments, colleges, research centers available in the district. If they build a consortium and work with their support for content development then there will be confidence that the information that goes out of the knowledge centre will be reliable.

How are you going to achieve the target of 1,00,000 village knowledge centres by 2007? What is the implementation process?
It will be done through multi-stakeholder partnerships. 60 to 70 percent of Alliance partners are corporate. The National Alliance has started State level chapters for Mission 2007. This process of decentralizing, making cohesive groups who will start this process and identifying villages have already started in collaboration with NABARD and State Governments. So it is a truly multi-stakeholder participatory task and with the power of partnership the task can be accomplished.

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