The Indian arm of International Business Machines (IBM) is going for the West Bengal government's pilot networking project that will wire all gram panchayats in a district, hence taking connectivity to the last stage of the administration. In the first phase of the Rs 11.2-crore pilot project, to be financed by the Union government, will wire all the 256 gram panchayats in the state's largest district, Burdwan.
Since the IT major is investing heavily in the state by expanding development centre and working closely with government projects like computer education in schools, state is favourably inclined towards IBM's proposal as pointed by the senior official.The latest project, which is a part of the West Bengal State Wide Area Network (WBSWAN), will create a public network for the entire district from the district headquarters to panchayat adminstrative blocks. At present, WBSWAN has reached down to the headquarters of all the 17 districts and nine sub-divisional towns. Tata Infotech Ltd has implemented the first stage of the WBSWAN project, which was completed by mid-2002. According to official sources, the government has sent the Burdwan proposal to the Union ministry of information technology, taking the cue from Union IT minister Arun Shourie's promise that it would support one district network project. “The ministry is studying the proposal and we could be getting the go-ahead signal in a few weeks,” they said. IBM officials, when contacted, declined to comment. “We will not be able to confirm the development which is based on speculation,” said the IBM spokesperson from Bangalore. At present, the problem for the state government is to find the money to expand the project to cover the gram panchayats. “The Union government has extended its helping hand for only one district. For the next 16 districts, IBM can help the government find the funds needed to wire up the entire state,” a senior government official said. The project is a chance for IBM to be involved with an e-governance project.