Workshop for review of ICTD projects
United Nations Development Programme's (UNDP's) country programme for India has set as its priority 'the goal to work towards promotion of sustainable human development and elimination of human poverty and inequalities'. Along with Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MoCIT), Government of India, UNDP conceptualised the project ICT for Development (ICTD) for the period 2003-2007, laying emphasis on the vital role that ICTs can play in achieving Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
Thirteen pilot initiatives are being funded through this project under four themes, namely – Integrated Citizen Services, Rural Livelihoods, Governance and Women Empowerment. These pilots are being implemented by project partners like state governments and non-government organisations.
The National Institute for Smart Government (NISG) is responsible for project management and monitors the progress of these projects. To find out possible gaps between targeted goals and those achieved so far, a review workshop for project partners was conducted at the Indian School of Business (ISB), Hyderabad in Andhra Pradesh on May 8-9, 2006. The workshop was attended by senior officials from MoCIT, Government of India and UNDP, along with representatives from each of the project partners.
ICTD pilot projects: Status and Issues
In the inaugural session, on the first day of the workshop, Ashok Krishnan, Vice President, National Institute for Smart Government (NISG) welcomed all the participants and highlighted that the key objectives of the workshop were to present the current status of projects, indicate the challenges encountered and identify potential solutions to overcome those challenges.
A brief summary of various projects presented at the workshop, their key discussion points and outcomes have been enumerated below.
Project Ashwini, Andhra Pradesh
P. K. Madhav, Director, Byrraju Foundation along with his colleague P. Ramgopal, presented the status and progress of Project Ashwini, which seeks to enable a platform for multi-dimensional interaction between experts and service providers in towns/cities and the defined target segments in thirty two villages in West and East Godavari districts of Andhra Pradesh.
The project aims to empower rural population by providing timely access to an array of high quality services such as – healthcare, education, agriculture, livelihoods training and e-Governance to the chosen villages.
Currently, Ashwini is operationalised in 17 centres, of which 6 centres were virtually inaugurated by A P J Abdul Kalam, H.E. the President of India on January 09, 2006. Robust broadband wireless connectivity across the Ashwini villages has been established to facilitate virtual delivery of services. These services are being delivered to the Ashwini centres through studios at Bhimavaram and Hyderabad. Inter-village community interaction is also achieved between the villages paving way for virtual market exchange and enhanced utilization of resources among the various rural communities.
Some of the major challenges faced in the project include – optimum utilisation of the infrastructure, lack of adequate content, low level of literacy in the community and technological problems due to existence of unfriendly terrain (humidity). By the end of July 2006, the Ashwini centres will be opened in all 32 locations.
A concern was raised regarding lack of a clear business model for project sustainability. It was advised that a partnership be developed with Taraahat to make use of the rich content that Tarahaat has generated for rural India.
Village Information System (VIS), Gujarat
Village Information System (VIS) – a project undertaken by Gujarat Informatics Limited (GIL) and the state government of Gujarat was presented by Shashikant Chudasma, Deputy Director, Office of Development Commissionerate, Government of Gujarat and Anand Barot, Executive, Gujarat Informatics Limited. A detailed presentation was delivered on the progress and current status of the project, which targets the rural population of Gujarat to infuse five 'E's of good governance, namely – 'ease', 'economy', 'efficiency', 'effectiveness' and 'ethics'. The project aims to achieve this objective by establishing rural kiosks and integrating services of other similar projects such as e-Gram, e-Dhara, Mahiti Shakti and Gyan Ganga, through use of Gujarat State Wide Area Network (GSWAN). VIS will provide services such as