Connectivity Down to Village Level Necessary for e-Readiness : Suresh Chanda, IT Secretary, Andhra Pradesh

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Suresh Chanda is an Indian Administrative Officer of the 1985 batch. He has held several administrative positions in the government of Andhra Pradesh (AP). He was the Special Commissioner, Commercial Taxes Hyderabad and Secretary to Chief Commissioner of Land Administration, Revenue Department, Government of Andhra Pradesh. His current responsibilities include implementation of e-Governance in AP, providing IT Infrastructure for Government and citizen services through IT.

What is the approach adopted in implementing the Mission Mode Project (MMP)? What is the progress of the implementation?

In Andhra Pradesh, we are implementing four Mission Mode Projects, one is the Common Service Centre (CSC), other is the State Data Centres (SDCs), third is G2G State Wide Area Networks (SWAN), which are Government to Government Wide Area Networks and the fourth is the e-Districts. Our CSCs are in an advanced stage, for which a tender has already been passed and very soon we will be selecting the implementors for the CSCs. We have already started the construction for housing the State Data Centres. The e-Districts are still in an initial stage but we have identified the districts for e-Districts projects and are now waiting for government clearance on it. For SWANs, we already have the consultants on the job. The SWANs would be available from headquarters to districts to mandals (blocks) and from mandals to villages, which will also be done on the basis of Public Private Partnership.

What are the services being delivered or planned to be delivered through the Common Service Centres? What are the steps being taken for a better user experience?

The Common Service Centres Scheme is now being implemented throughout the country. Andhra Pradesh, however had an exactly similar scheme in 2005 itself. We called it the Rajiv Internet Village Scheme. Under the CSCs, there is a subsidy component which is implemented by the Government of India. But under the Rajiv Scheme there was no subsidy component. Other than that, in terms of content and spread, the Rajiv scheme was exactly like the CSCs. However, our experience with the Rajiv Scheme was not that good. We had planned about 8000 kiosks to be set up in Andhra Pradesh. But we could not do more than 450-500 kiosks in the rural areas. The number of transactions taking place was very less, so the viability itself was a big question. We have realised that we can use IT kiosks as an outlet for providing other services and not only IT services. We could also look for services beyond government services as Rajiv Scheme concentrated on government services and government services are limited in rural areas.

So our experience is that CSCs could focus more on B2C services in rural areas of Andhra Pradesh. Another issue we faced during the Rajiv Scheme was the problem of connectivity, any service can only be provided if there is connectivity between the kiosk and the government department or any other agency. For the success of CSCs, in my view the State Data Centres are very important. Without SDCs like we experianced in Rajiv Scheme, connectivity of CSCs is a big issue. Therefore, connectivity, State Data Centres and focus on services that are beyond government services like B2C services certainly make the CSC Scheme more viable.

What is the status of SDCs and SWAN in your state?

We started the SWAN in 2000 itself and we were one of the first states to start it. We had connectivity from state headquarters to districts but it stopped at the districts and it did not go beyond that. We are using the SWAN for videoconferencing, data connectivity, Internet and applications but now we are going for a higher level of G2G SWAN with Government of India funding through the districts upto the village level which will be able to come by December 2008.

As far as the SDCs are concerned, we have already requested the Government of India for clearance of SDCs . In the mean time we have already started the civil construction work as the construction is to be done by the state government and the electronic part will come under National e-Governance Project.

Could you tell about some of the best PPP practices in your state?

From the very beginning we have been using the PPP model. e-Seva was the fi rst project that  we had put up on a PPP model which was started in Hydrabad and now we are planning to take it to 190 municipalities. This project was done with no funding from the government’s side. Except for the infrastructure, all the other things came from the third party. Our e-Procurement system is also entirely on the PPP model, wherein the server, the application  and connectivity is all provided by the third party. We believe that any service, that is a  citizen centric service, where there is a possibility of transactional charges, should go for a PPP  model. The third party will put its investment which is recovered over the time through transactional charge.

Could you tell us about the capacity building programmes
being planned or implemented in your state?

That is a very important area and we have been working on it since 2001. We have been  training the offi cers, through what you call the CIO programme- the chief information officer. Every department should have atleast one CIO offi cer, who will be trained in  management of IT services. This is a three month programme that has been funded through the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad and partly done at our other institute in Hyderabad where our offi cers are sent for training from time to time.

What are the challenges that you are facing in
implementing the e-Governance projects? How are they overcome?

Basically it is the mind-set that is the biggest challenge. Leadership is required at the highest level. As long as the vision that IT is useful, is available at the highest level, things can move very smoothly. There will still be the challenge of changing the mind set at the middle and the upper middle level. In my view, we here are trying to create a stakeholder, for example in railway reservations. Once the citizen realises the advantage of IT in it, the project becomes  much more sustainable.

What is going to be your main focus over the next
few years?

Our focus in the coming years will be on citizen services. We are identifying what are the services provided by each department for the citizens and whatever has to be done to provide those services. The focus is on citizen services rather than computerisation of the departments. We start with identifying the services and work at the entire cycle with providing those services. Since most of the services are available through Internet, we will be working on providing connectivity upto the village level. For G2G services, connectivity through the SWAN connecting all the departments is planned. Thirdly we will be working on the State Data Centres, as that is a critical point to provide good services.

How would you rate your state’s progress towards making it an e-Ready state?

For any state to be e-Ready, it needs to have connectivity down up to the village level and a good internet penetration, the human resource without which it is very difficult to sustain IT  initiatives and the PPP model, which is also very important to make the model sustainable.  We have done a good job in terms of connectivity. We have a good human resource and we have a good system of PPP. So, all the elements important for making a state e-Ready are already available in Andhra Pradesh. However, connectivity still has to reach beyond the district level. We also have to go a long way in changing the mindset of the people.

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