The Chhattisgarh government is very proactive in terms of adoption of e-governance initiatives. The general acceptance of digital initiatives in the State is also very good, says Alex Paul Menon, Chief Executive Officer, Chhattisgarh Infotech Promotion Society (CHiPS) and Joint Secretary- Information Technology, Government of Chhattisgarh in conversation with Arpit Gupta of Elets News Network (ENN). Excerpts:
What has been the role of CHiPS in setting up robust IT infrastructure in Chhattisgarh?
CHiPS has been paying constant attention on the IT infrastructure of the State. We have prepared our own proposals and submitted to the Government of India. Multi-protocol Label Switching (MPLS) is the most advanced data architecture for laying Optical Fibre Cable (OFC). Where installation of OFC is not possible, we take alternative means to reach Gram Panchayats. We plan to complete this work in next two years.
The second work we are involved in is for mobile towers. Here CHiPS is putting up a grand scheme called Sanchar Kranti Yojana (SKY). Under the SKY, we are proposing the distribution of around 45 lakh smartphones. We have tried to increase the mobile phone penetration. We have 60 lakh households out of which 45 lakhs are already covered. We are getting the additional benefit of improving our network coverage from what it is today to every village, having a population of 1,000 and above.
This 45 lakh smartphone subscriptions will go to one mobile company. They will have a tie-up with a mobile network player. They have to jointly produce mobile network coverage
The third project we are involved in is the creation of Wi-Fi hot spots. Wi-Fi at Chhattisgarh Mantralaya is one of the best. We have been trying to put better Wi-Fi at government facilities, public places and educational institutions.
CHiPS has provided digital infrastructure for Wi-Fi hot spots in around 50 colleges. In Raipur, Wi-Fi is already active at six places.
Bastar Net project is taking care of the absence of fibre cable in Naxal affected areas. Mobile network companies are not able to expand in Bastar. So, we are laying optical fibre cable of 832 km across the length and breadth of Bastar. Mobile network companies can directly implant towers and increase connectivity in these areas.
The software initiatives are another key digital infrastructure. We want to enable citizens using digital platform. We are also trying to put up a Common Service Centre (CSC) in every panchayat. We have been able to create more than 7,000 active CSCs across panchayats and are also leveraging urban choice centres.
Our dream is to have one service centre in a ward. This involves creation of human resource, digital set up etc. We have also found out alternative means of providing internet like Very Small Aperture Terminal (VSAT). Panchayats can now pick up internet directly through VSAT. It costs around Rs 40,000 per annum, which is quite cheap. We have successfully introduced video conferencing facilities in every block including the Naxal affected blocks.
How well has the government officers and general public accepted the e-governance and m-governance initiatives?
Chhattisgarh has been known to be the champion of e-governance. The leadership is also very proactive in terms of adoption of e-governance. The general acceptance of e-governance is very good. We can call our State, an e-champion of e-governance. We have been aggressively pushing and digitising things. Chhattisgarh is one of the few states which has a digital Secretariat.
Our mining auction was done digitally. We are doing 100 per cent eprocurement. We are putting Lok Seva Kendras in every headquarter through which a person can come and apply and take digital services. We are trying to push the number to 200. E-governance has been the one core driving engines for the state.
States like Andhra Pradesh, Telangana are talking more about the Cloud and Internet of Things (IoT) infrastructure, what is your opinion about it?
Technology is a great enabler. If IoT serves purpose here, we are ready to adopt it. We are going to put one digital tablet in each Public Distribution System (PDS) shop. Chhattisgarh was one of the first States to adopt computerisation of PDS system. Naya Raipur is a Smart City which is using IoT.
What opportunities do Chhattisgarh have for startups?
We were one of the two institutions selected by NITI Aayog for funding under the Atal Rejuvenation mission to put up a startup space. We are starting innovation incubation centres. This is a 40,000 sq feet space where 200 desks will be given to startups. We also have tie ups with Stanford University for getting medical IoT. We got a tie up with Wadhwani foundation for budding entrepreneurship. It is like creating a whole ecosystem so that the startups can flourish. Entrepreneurship skills need to be inculcated. Our first batch of around 15 startups has started.
“We are going to put one digital tablet in each Public Distribution System shop. Chhattisgarh was one of the first states to adopt computerisation of PDS system.”
Vocational training has been taken up in over 300 elementary schools. There have been laboratories established for this purpose.
Unlike Chhattisgarh, cities like Bangalore, Pune, and Hyderabad have well- established IT ecosystem. They have better educational institutions, banking, corporate, culture etc. But still we are improving day-by-day.
Being a Naxal affected state, how has been the response of the investment in Chhattisgarh? What are your future plans to attract investment?
With the advent of Naya Raipur, we made the announcement to the world that we have arrived. With our digital infrastructure, a lot of investments are flowing in the BPO sector. We have got both local and global players established here. They all are expanding slowly. For IT hardware, our focus is to put up an Electronic Manufacturing Cluster (EMC). The focus is on LED lights, switches and routers. More than 35 proposals have been cleared where the payments are even being made online. We are fourth in terms of ease of doing business in the country continuously for the past three years. We are putting up a thriving ecosystem for investment to come. But taking in consideration the level of education in the state, the size of the state, we are still making a lot of progress. We are providing basic facilities including the land at a cheaper cost. This will help us to gain growth momentum in the State