It is time to take stock of the ICTD project since the project is now moving into its final phase with only a few months to go before the project ends. This workshop focused on the lessons learnt which would be useful for replication and upscaling.
The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) country programme for India has set as its priority 'the goal to work towards promotion of sustainable human development and elimi-nation of human poverty and inequalities'. Along with the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MoCIT), Government of India, UNDP conceptualized the project ICT for Development (ICTD) for the period 2003-2007, laying emphasis on the vital role that ICTs can play in achieving the Millennium Deve-lopment Goals (MDGs).
Thirteen pilot initiatives are being funded under four themes, namely – Integrated Citizen Services, Rural Livelihoods, Governance, and Women's 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. A Review Workshop was held at Shimla on May 3-4, 2007 to assess the current status of all the pilot initiatives and focus on the Plan of Action for the pilot initiatives for the next 6 months and the steps to be taken by partners to move towards project closure and assessment. The workshop was attended by senior officials from MoCIT, Government of India and UNDP, along with representatives from each of the project partners.
A brief summary of the various projects presented at the work-shop, their key discussion points and outcomes have been enu-merated below.
DRISTI, West Bengal
Hindole Dutta, DPRDO, Burdwan and Ranjit Maiti, Joint Secretary, Dept. of Panchayat Raj, Govt of West Bengal presented the status of the project DRISTI, which seeks to create IT-based solutions for all major functions of the Panchayats (village level governance units), including micro planning at village level and providing updated information to all the stakeholders for promoting transparency and accountability. The project is being piloted in Burdwan district and is being implemented by the Panchayat Raj and Rural Deve-lopment Department, Government of West Bengal.
The components of the project such as Gram Panchayat Manage-ment System (GPMS) and Integrated Fund Monitoring & Accounting System (IFMAS) have been installed in 129 Gram Panchayats (village level) and 31 Panchayat Samitis (block level) respectively. The applications help in generation of Debit and Credit Vouchers, cash book, ledgers, subsidiary cash books for schemes, cheque issue register, cash analysis, receipts, and payments amongst others. The use of these systems has resulted in better fund mana-gement, better utilization of fund, reduced number of CAG audit objections and has facilitated in systematizing the budgetary exercise.
The project has also facilitated in improving the efficiency of delivery of citizen services. Various G2C services such as Issue of Birth & Death Certificates, Issue of Trade Licence, Registration of Carts & Carriages, Permissions for Cultural Programs/ Fairs, Provident Fund for Landless Agri-cultural Labourers (PROFLAL) payments, Generation of House Tax Bills, Lease Rent/Market Rent Deposition, Caste/Residential/Income/Character Certificates, Docketing Complaints, and status of disposal are being offered through the DRISTI project.
The project has ensured that key steps are taken to institutionalise the initiatives taken under the project. To ensure a support system for project implementation, posts of Block Informatics Officer (BIO) and Data Entry Operator (DEO) have been created. Women SHGs are being trained and necessary government orders have been passed to sustain the practice.
The Department has conducted a Rural Household Survey for the entire state and the results are being incorporated into the GIS module to help in improving micro-planning at the Panchayat level. The systems are being rolled out in other GPs and PS's of Burdwan district and also in other districts of the state. Work on the GIS component has to be intensified in the coming months.
Ashwini, Andhra Pradesh
The Ashwini project is building a reliable and stable service delivery platform offering voice, video, data and web facilitating information, interaction and transaction of urban quality @ rural prices. Being implemented by the Byrraju Foundation across 32 villages in West & 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, agri-culture, livelihoods training and e-Governance to the chosen villages. The community owns the buildings where the Ashwini centres have been set up and are also using the platform to interact with other villages.
Seated L-R: Manish Garg, Director, IT, GoHP; Deirdre Boyd, Country Director UNDP, and A.K. Balani, Director DIT.
While presenting the status of the project, Ramgopal from the Byrraju Foundation highlighted that the project has implemented a low cost video conferencing device at the village level. Emphasizing the need for community involvement, owner-ship and partnership, he stated that along with the 32 villages across West & East Godavari districts the project is also expanding to other districts of Andhra Pradesh namely Visha-khapatnam, Rangareddy, Nellore, Nizamabad and Nalagonda. Virtual liveli-hood training and tele-medicine from New York are some of the new services that have been provided on the Ashwini platform. The National Geographic channel has also showcased the Ashwini project.
The project aims to increase the loading at the Ashwini centers to 10 hours per day with 200 participants by September 2007. Sixteen Ashwini centers will also be tested for sustainability by December 2007. Providing new and innovative livelihood services such as beautician courses, fabric painting will also be initiated under the project.
The project 'e-Krishi' – a market driven agricultural initiative through IT-enabled agri-business centres in the state of Kerala is being implemented in Mala-ppuram district by Kerala State IT Mission (KSITM). Anvar Sadath from the KSITM and Prof. C.K Peethambaran, Consultant (e-Krishi) stated that the initiative is an attempt to address the gap in agricultural flow and transaction management. The e-Krishi project rides on the Akshaya platform which is a network of 330 IT information centres equipped with broadband connectivity in Malappuram district. As of date 130 Akshaya centers have been upgraded as e-Krishi information centers in Malappuram district. A portal (www.e-krishi.org) to bring together all buyers and sellers of agricultural produce as well as agriculture service providers has been designed.
Farmers of e-Krishi have been forming Bhoomi clubs in Mala-ppuram that meet every month to discuss agri-culture related issues. Many farmers in the district have been selling their produce such as paddy, coconut, arecanut, vege-tables, banana, etc. through the Internet using the e-Krishi portal.
KSITM has focused on capacity building, conducting awareness programmes and established strong linkages with the agri-culture department, IIITM-K, VUAT, NGOs and local self government institutions to enhance the success of the e-Krishi initiative. Apart from the portal, a toll-free trade call centre manned by three agricultural graduates and supported by more than 120 agricultural experts is also available to answer the farmers' queries. All e-Krishi centers are equipped with books, IEC materials, videos to enables farmers to learn about good agricultural practices.
The portal has been enhanced and now facilitates buyers and sellers to see category wise postings and also provides search options. 21,800 major farmers have so far posted on the e-krishi web portal for selling their commodities. In order to meet large volume demand, supply aggregation is being done by establishing collection centres. One of the major transactions that has taken place through the portal is the procurement of 3,000 tonnes of paddy from the farmers in Malappuram by the Civil Supplies Corporation (Supplyco) resulting in a profit of INR 45 lakhs to the farmers.
Project e-Krishi presentation in progress
Future plans for the project include setting up an incentive scheme for both field coordinators and entrepreneurs, if they close a transaction. A state-wide rollout of the project is also on the cards and the plan includes extending it to seven other districts of Kerala across 700 Akshaya centers. The Kerala State IT Mission has decided to continue financial and implementation support to e-Krishi, after the UNDP funding comes to an end.
During the discussions that followed, there was a general consensus from the other ICTD partners present that there is a need to maintain metrics or an MIS to track the tran-sactions and results from the e-Krishi project to facilitate other states to learn from the project. The impact of the entry of private retail food chains in the market also needs to be assessed in the coming months on the e-Krishi project.
Grassroots e-Self Gover-nance is the theme of Project Mahiti-Mitra, being implemented by Kutch Nav Nirman Abhiyan, an NGO based in Gujarat. Sushma Iyengar and Manoj Solanki from Abhiyan highlighted that out of 18 Mahiti-Mitra centers that were to be set up across 380 village clusters, 17 are operational.
Mahiti Mitra centres have facilitated the citizens to access the entitlements due to them which were earlier difficult to access. GIS Based Decision Support System, GIS Based NRM Planning System, Household & Village level Databank and Decentralized Cluster level Planning have been developed as tools for better developmental planning. The GIS application has enabled Gram Panchayats to protect their village land rights (grazing and sweet water zones) in the face of increased land allocations for industrial activity. Fishing communities from 11 fish harbours (10,000 persons) used the information from the GIS application and maps from Mahiti Mitra, and an allied community radio initiative (also sponsored by UNDP) to get organized, and successfully restore access to sea which was cut off by one of the SEZs in the region. More than 1500 poor families, left out by the BPL list, used the Mahiti Mitra successfully to get the BPL lists revised, and include them through an application to revise BPL certificate.
During the coming months focus will also placed on developing inter-personal communication skills of Mahiti Mitra operators. Future plans for the project revolve around developing creative content for non-literate users as well as context-specific content for cattle breeders, artisans etc. and to implement a gender specific strategy and content for women users.
The status of the project 'e-Justice', being implemented in the districts of Mahabubnagar (one of the least developed districts) and Krishna District (one of the progressive districts) of Andhra Pradesh state, was presented by Satyajit Rao and Vishnu from the Centre for Good Governance. This project aims to generate awareness among rural and semi-urban citizens about legal provisions, roles and responsibilities of government functionaries, legal support agencies and groups and their activities.
Project Mahiti Manthana
presentation in progress
Rural citizens can approach the eight e-Justice kiosks set up in the two districts with their legal problems. Forty-five key laws have been simplified and translated into the local language Telugu. The queries are forwarded to agencies like the Legal Services Authority (LSA), which facilitate access to the justice delivery system. Additionally, paralegal volunteers are being trained and around ten agencies working in the field of social justice have been linked with.
There is a need to increase the uptake of e-Justice services. In this regard, various strategies to publicize the project are being explored such as through kalajathas, PRIs, paralegal volunteers and educational institutions. The issue of citizens demanding immediate redressal of their legal issues at the e-Justice kiosks still remains. The sustainability of the kiosks after the project funding ceases needs to be addressed and hence it is envisaged that the e-Justice software will be installed in other community outreach projects like e-Seva, RajIV (Rajiv Internet Village), LSA (Legal Services Authority) etc. to help in creating awareness among citizens on legal issues & demand for rights.
Due to lack of space all the project presentations could not be carried in this issue. The remaining project presentations will be featured in the next issue.
NISG and i4d jointly hold the copyright to the articles printed in the ICTD section of the i4d magazine and website. For permission to reprint the articles please write to the Editor i4d.