Interview

Common Services Centres in west Bengal

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A Subbiah
Principal Secretary – Information Technology
Government of West Bengal

“Lack of sufficient awareness about electronic delivery of services and slower execution of government procedures leads to delays in the rollout of e-Governance services,” says A Subbiah, Principal Secretary – Information Technology, Government of West Bengal

What kind of progress has been made in the setting up of Common Services Centres (CSCs) in your state?

In West Bengal, the mission mode project (MMP) was commissioned in April 2008. SREI Sahaj e-Village Ltd. was appointed as the Service Centre Agency (SCA), as the implementing partner and Panchayat and Rural Development Department, as the State Designated Agency (SDA). Over the years, both the parties have worked closely to make the project a success in the state. The project was commissioned with a target of 6797 CSCs in the entire state. As of August 2012, 6119 CSCs out of the total target of 6797 CSCs have been set up in West Bengal.

How will you rate the progress?
In terms of number of CSCs, the SDA along with SCA has been able to setup 6119 CSCs in the entire state of West Bengal. With almost 90 pecent of CSCs in the state being operational, CSCs are now serving citizens in the remotest part of the state. Hence, it can be said that the progress has been great but could have been better.

What kinds of services are the CSCs offering?
In West Bengal, CSCs are offering Governmentto- Citizen (G2C), Business-to-Citizen (B2C) and Utility Services to the rural population. In Jalpaiguri and Bankura, e-District project is being implemented on a pilot basis. Major G2C services being offered through CSCs are Domicile Certificate, Income Certificate, Industrial Licenses, and RTI applications. However, Domicile Certificate applications are the most commonly availed services so far.

Apart from e-district, there are other state government department services are being offered through CSCs like Registration of new employment exchange card, issuance of duplicate card and renewal of existing card; Submission of online application for West Bengal Staff Selection Commission; Capturing of Mother and Child Tracking System data through CSC. Since the G2C services provided by CSCs are very few, CSCs are running as IT kiosks for rural population providing utility payment services and B2C services.

What is the total transactions volume so far?
In the financial year of 2011-2012, total online transaction volume made by the village level entrepreneurs (VLEs) is INR 5,572,908. However, VLEs do much more transaction in offline mode which does not reflect in the online monitoring tool of SREI Sahaj e-Village Ltd.

Lessons Learnt

The journey of 4 years of CSC MMP has not been easy. There has been many learning for the state government. However few of the major learnings are being highlighted below:

  • Due to lack of enforcement of actions prescribed to be taken under NeGP, both at central and state level, e-Governance is still remaining as an optional activity to proceed towards good governance.
  • Lack of institutional mechanism in capacity building of different stakeholders for implementation of e-Governance. This is proving to be a major limiting factor in developing internal human resource to cater the huge demand. Development of institutional mechanism for imparting training on e-Governance in government and also for other stakeholders in accordance with set act/rules/national ICT policy should be of high priority.
  • Lack of a single integrated policy to encompass the entire ICT initiatives at government level. This increases the cost of implementation and interoperability and scalability is going down. Development of a unique and integrated ICT framework for the entire government sector is much needed.
  • Definite plan of action encompassing institutional training, framing policies and performing administrative reforms, implementation and monitoring through a centralized and integrated mechanism referring a national activity calendar. Presence of a central authority could be helpful.
  • Lack of sufficient awareness and faith on electronic delivery of services and execution of government procedures. Most
    of the people still insist in doing things conventionally.
  • Providing G2C services in electronic mode could have been much faster, had there been a unique policy on e-Governance in the state in place.

How has been the response from the citizens?

Although CSCs are being setup as the front-end desk for G2C services of the Government of West Bengal, it can be easily said that the VLEs have been providing B2C/ utility payment services to the citizens in rural areas. The citizens have gained confidence in the VLEs in availing B2C/ utility payment services like payments of electricity bills, booking of railway tickets, financial inclusion services, etc. which involve cash transactions. Citizens are realising the benefit of availing services from CSCs, as it saves their time and wages/ earnings. With more and more G2C services being lined up by the State Government departments to be offered at the CSC level, this confidence is bound to grow many folds.

Do you think e-District project will have an impact on the CSCs?
As the CSCs are now present in the remotest part of the state, providing these citizen centric services through e-District project will be the game changer in e-governance initiative of the state. e-District is now being implemented in the state as a pilot project. The state government has identified 10 categories of citizen centric services which shall be provided through e-District platform at the state wide rollout stage.
The same shall have huge impact on both the citizens and the VLEs. Rural based citizens need not travel to District head quarters for availing those services which shall reduce his response time immensely and also saving day’s wage/ earnings. More and more services are being provided at CSC level will have a direct impact on the income of the VLEs, making it a more profitable and sustainable venture.

“Lack of sufficient awareness about electronic delivery of services and slower execution of government procedures leads to delays in the rollout of e-Governance services,” says A Subbiah, Principal Secretary – Information Technology, Government of West Bengal

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