August 2007

CSCs: An overview

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Introduction

Under the National Common Minimum Programme adopted by the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) Government, high priority was accorded to improve the quality of basic governance, service delivery  and to ensure transparency and accountability. e-Governance as conceived under the National e-Governance Plan (NeGP), aims to improve the delivery of Government services to citizens (G2C) and businesses (G2B) by shifting from the paradigm of governance to e-Governance, thus embracing new developments in technology. In order to pursue the above-mentioned objectives, on June 14, 2006, the Department of Information Technology, in a major initiative, unveiled various components of the ambitious National e-Governance Plan (NeGP) covering 27 Mission Mode Projects (MMPs) and ten support components to be implemented at Central, State, and Local Government levels, at an estimated cost of INR 23,000 crore over the next five years. At the State-level, the Mission Mode Projects (MMP) would include services pertaining to road transport, land records, commercial taxes, employment exchanges, agriculture and horticulture, civil supplies, treasuries, land registration, policy and education, while at central level, it will cover areas such as insurance, Central Excise, National ID, pensions, e-Posts, banking, visa and income tax.

Opportunities

Under the NeGP, the Government has planned to establish 1,00,000 broadband-enabled Internet Common Services Centres (CSCs) in rural areas of the country so as to connect the citizens of rural India to the World Wide Web. An outlay of INR 5742 crore has been earmarked for the CSCs scheme, and the scheme would be implemented in Public Private Partnership (PPP) model. The CSCs scheme is expected to create one lakh direct jobs and 2-3 lakh additional indirect jobs. Through the CSCs, the Governments at the National, State and Local levels are expected to provide e-Services such as registration of birth, death and marriage certificates; providing information on weather conditions and prices of various agri-commodities to rural farmers; issuing of electronic ID cards for farmers, which will possess all information about the citizen/farmers etc. The CSCs are expected to be run by village-level entrepreneurs or members (preferably women) from self-help groups who are being financially backed by NGOs or co-operative banks/MFIs. For the states of Assam and Tripura, request for proposal (RFP) has been issued for 4520 CSCs. For the state of Punjab, bid evaluation has taken place for 10,576 CSCs. For the state of Jharkhand, West Bengal and Haryana, either MSA has been signed or letter of intent (LOI) has been issued. In fact many of the states are at different stages of implementation.

Haryana comes in the top bracket in India in the implementation of State Wide Area Network (SWAN), CSCs' e-Disha Ekal Sewa Kendras and State Data Centre, and will be ready to launch the National e-Governance Plan (NeGP) by March 2008. CSCs are considered as one of the infrastructure pillars of the National e-Governance Plan and are expected to serve as the physical front for delivering government and private services at the doorsteps of the citizens.

Under the NeGP, it is proposed to create State Data Centres for the States to consolidate services, applications and infrastructure to provide efficient and effective electronic delivery of G2G (government to government), G2C (government to citizens) and G2B (government to businesses) services. These services can be provided by the states through common delivery platform seamlessly supported by core Connectivity infrastructure such as State Wide Area Network (SWAN) and Common Service Centre (CSC) connectivity extended upto village-level. In order to make the CSCs operational, the Government has approved a scheme for establishing State Wide Area Networks (SWAN) across the country in 29 states/ 6 UTs at a total outlay of INR 3334 crore with Central Assistance component of INR 2005 crore over a period of 5 years.

These SWANs are expected to extend data connectivity of 2 Megabits per second upto the block level in all states and Union Territories (UTs) in India. The block level nodes in turn will have a provision to extend connectivity further to the village-level using contemporary wireless technology.

The CSC scheme has a three tier implementation framework

a. At the first (CSC) level, there would be existence of the local village level entrepreneur (VLE

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