My Country…My Land…My Home! Whatever be the language they get expressed in, these invariably evoke strong sentiments and nativity feelings among humans. Wars have been waged and won to establish one possessions, over one’s own country and land. The strong feelings of kinship and bonding become all the more powerful when one is amidst a group of fellow country men or when one is away from one’s land, either by design and or by force.
Providing a forum where one can speak about one’s place with pride or a forum to express, rekindle and revive nostalgic thoughts is the project ‘Entegramam’ of Kerala State IT Mission (www.itmission. kerala.gov.in), the nodal IT implementing agency of the Government of Kerala based in the capital city of Trivandrum. As the Father of the Nation, Mahatma Gandhi, rightly remarked decades back, “India lives in its villages”. This continues to be true even after sixty years of India’s Independence. Data has it that nearly 70% of the population continues to live in rural areas (Source: http://hetv.org/india/ population-2001.htm).
IT FOR RURAL MASSES
The 21st century India has seen the rapid diffusion of IT in various fi elds and applications. Consequent to this development, there was also the emerging thought among IT practitioners that the benefi ts of IT should not be restricted to urban and the IT-savvy people alone. It was felt that the fruits of IT should be spread to all sections of the population, including the majority living in rural areas and villages of the country.
The State of Kerala, a champion in many aspects of development including literacy, has also led the country with regard to taking IT to the rural masses. A major course of action in this direction has been the implementation of the
project ‘Akshaya’ in 2002 to promote e- Literacy in Kerala. The favourable results shown by the project prompted the Kerala Government to launch more ICT based projects for the empowerment of the rural masses.
VILLAGES OCCUPY CYBERSPACE
Considering that the majority of India’s population lives in rural areas, it can be rightfully stated that a wealth of India’s resources and knowledge base exist
among the rural population. To ensure that these resources and knowledge get represented in a larger sphere, the Government of Kerala launched a project called Entegramam. The project aims at taking Kerala’s villages to the cyber space and give the rural population adequate representation and deserving opportunities in the present global order.
The word ‘Entegramam’ in Malayalam stands to mean ‘My village’. The project was launched in 2008 with the fi nancial support of UNESCO in nine Grama Panchayats (Azhikode, Muzhappilangadu, Pinarayi, Vengad, Maloor, Srikantapuram, Eramamkuttoor, Pappinisherry and Payam) and one Municipality and Kannur district. Following the lapse of UNESCO funding, the Government of Kerala took over the project and extended it in all local bodies of Kannur. An updated web portal that covers all the 72 Grama Panchayats and five Municipalities of the district has been launched.
Through these web portals in Malayalam, the communities can easily share and gain information on various aspects pertaining to their area. Each web portal covers detailed information relating to the Panchayat. This includes information relating to the history of the village, information relating to local resources, information on Government and public services. These apart, information on agricultural resources in the village, health resources, educational institutions, labour resources, industries, tourism, and culture are also made available. Locally relevant news and announcements are also displayed on the portal. The portal comes equipped with features for providing comments, feedback and blogging thereby preparing the community to a more participative, empowered and democratic knowledge society of the future. Unicode encoding is used to adhere to the universal standardisation, which also enables the user to search for this content on the web.
Interactivity is a highlight of these web portals. This is enabled through features like blogging, ‘Ask the Police’ and ‘Ask the Panchayat President’. The community can pose questions, which are readily replied by the concerned authorities. Such a facility has helped in ensuring transparency of governance at the local level. It also has instilled a feeling among the citizens that they really matter to the Government!
The implementation of the Entegramam project is being done by Akshaya in association with the Society for Promotion of Alternative Computing and Employment (SPACE) However an interesting facet about the Entegramam project is that Akshaya centres only serves to mobilise the community and produce local content. The community is at the core in the Entegramam scheme of functioning. Working to mobilise content from the community are the Content Facilitators or Social Animators, who are also natives of the particular village/ region. The content so generated is passed to Content Editors for editing and uploading. The Akshaya centres work to ensure timely and correct updation of content. The Panchayat (local body) also takes active interest in generation and updation of content. Thus, the Entegramam community web portals are truly community managed. Such a model wherein the community takes ownership and actively engages itself in the process of management of the project is a signifi cant step towards ensuring longterm viability and sustainability.
Encouraged by the response accorded to the portals in Kannur, the Government of Kerala decided to pilot launch the portals in the districts of Malappuram, Trichur and Kollam. Accordingly, portals for 16 local bodies and District Panchayat of Malappuram, 14 local bodies and District Panchayat of Kollam and 9 local bodies and District Panchayat of Trichur are now are under pilot implementation. The Government is also exploring adding new features like dedicated labour portals with the rural economy in mind.
DR RATHAN U KELKAR IAS, DIRECTOR, KERALA STATE IT MISSION, GOVERNMENT OF KERALA
Dr.Rathan U.Kelkar, a 2003 batch offi cer of the Indian Administrative Services, took over as Director, Kerala State IT Mission, the nodal IT implementing agency of the Government of Kerala, in July 2008. He anchors the 35 plus citizen-centric e-Governance projects of KSITM and is especially committed to taking ICT to the grassroots. Empowering the physically, mentally and socially disadvantaged classes through introducing multitude benefi ts to them, falls among his special interests. His background training as a doctor also makes him a strong votary for ICT-based health applications for effective health service delivery.
REMA SUNDAR, PROMOTIONAL CONSULTANT, KERALA STATE IT
MISSION, GOVERNMENT OF KERALA
Rema Sundar, currently with Kerala State IT Mission as the Promotional Consultant, has been involved in creative and technical documentation for IT Mission projects, preparation of project proposals, case studies and other promotional materials. She has experience in content development for both the print and the new media, including freelancing for The Hindu. Her articles and reports have been included in state level, national level and international forums.
ZOOM BRINGS e-GOVERNANCE IN NDMC
New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) is one of prime municipal local body in the country. It has been ranked very high on cleanliness and maintenance of its services in various surveys carried out from time to time. NDMC is divided into 16 zones and each zone is allocated to a zonal inspecting offi cer whose duty is to periodically inspect the area and report any problems found to respective executive authorities for rectifi cation. This ensures that even before grievance arises the problem is sorted out. The whole reporting and resolution cycle is paperless. The offi cials use a software called ZOOM (zonal offi cers observation and monitoring). It provides an intuitive report card of both inspecting offi cers and executive offi cers on the home page and automatically keeps tab on their performance. The homepage reports performance of all the offi cers on a single page and therefore keeps a pressure on non-performing offi cers to complete their job. Its dashboard creates a competitive environment between all its offi cers and has resulted in as an excellent e-Governance initiative which directly benefits the citizen of the NDMC.