Now public call office (PCO) in Karnataka on its way to becoming e-kiosks.BSNL has tied up with Intel to upgrade PCOs into electronic information and transaction kiosks.These hundreds of PCOs in the city and elsewhere in Karnataka which are now set to be upgraded into e-kiosks will now provide multiple utility services to customers like booking travel tickets, pay a variety of taxes, chat, browse and much more.
The state-owned Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd., (BSNL) has tied up with Intel, the world's largest chip-maker, and the Karnataka PCO Owners Association to enable PCO operators to upgrade into electronic information and transaction kiosks.
With this agreemet in place any PCO operator having a BSNL connection can upgrade to e-kiosks by making a token investment. With an upfront investment of Rs.10,000 in hardware and software; which would amount to about Rs. 35, 000 in case of setting up of a new e-PCO or scaling up the present one, an operator can provide services like voice calls, Internet, chat, e-mail and video-conferencing. One e-PCO will be set up in each of the 29 districts across the state. Existing PCO operators having BSNL connection will be given a rental-free broadband link to convert their booths into e-kiosks.
Commenting on these e-PCOs T. S. Kuppuswamy, chief general manager, BSNL, Karnataka circle said “The e-PCOs will be equipped with a full-fledged information system with a PC, a webcam, a broadband link and a printer to provide a host of online services in English and Indian languages.” “With a multiple pre-paid card from ItzCash, even customers who are not computer-literate can buy bus, railway and airline tickets at a nominal service fee from any e-PCO with the help of its owner/franchisee who will be trained by Intel to operate the system,” he explained.
President, Karnataka PCO Owners Association, S. V. Rajendra, said that these e-PCOs will also be permitted to transact utility payments for water, electricity and telephone. In addition, they will also be equipped to re-charge mobiles, sell insurance and banking products and offer online transactions for cinema tickets, cable subscriptions and video communication.”There has been an overwhelming response to the upgradation offer from PCO operators and workshops will be organized for the operators to familiarize with the system. A PCO owner can earn a fair income for every e-transaction as he can charge a fee for accessing any information through Internet, browsing, chatting and e-mailing on minutes/hourly basis,” he said.
Rajendra further added that the e-PCOs will not only bridge the digital divide with the latest technologies, but also generate self-employment to thousands of educated youth in semi-urban and rural areas of Karnataka with increasing IT adoption. “This e-initiative would prevent the closure of PCOs, whose numbers have been dwindling over the years due to the rapid penetration of mobile connectivity in the state”, he added. As per the official statistics, as against one million PCOs with BSNL phones across the state a decade ago, only about 4,00,000 were operating currently as revenues have come down sharply.