Mega e-governance project Common service centres set to fail; Rs 5,742-crore going down the drain
Wednesday, 11th May 2011
A mega e-governance project, which is setting up 1.26 lakh common service centers (CSCs) across the villages, is facing meltdown. The government started this project to take connectivity and e-services to villagers at a cost of Rs 5,742-crore a few years ago.
Even before the project rolled out there were skeptics. How do you maintain hardware and software in remote dusty villages, which are only fleetingly kissed by electricity.
The government is not able to ensure that teachers attend village schools regularly. So it was always a tall order to make available technical staff and managers to run the CSCs regularly.
It takes imagination and experience to make sure the right applications and services are served through these centers. Again, a task beyond the known managerial capabilities of the government.
But the government said the answer to these questions lied in the Public-Private Partnership. It invited private players to invest in and run the CSCs.
There were known cases of similar projects failing elsewhere. In the 1990s projects to introduce telecenters in African villages had failed. In Madhya Pradesh, a pilot CSC project named Gyandhooth, failed in 3 years. The government ignored both skeptics and history and decided to flush Rs 5,742-crore down the drain.
A Financial Express report gives an update on the project:
Until March 2011, 94,786 CSCs have been set up
10% have shut down due to insufficient footfalls, only 70% have internet connectivity
Broadband wireless access (BWA) spectrum was expected to be the backbone of the CSC project. A year after the auction no mobile operator has finalised plans for their rollout
Monthly net operating income per CSC was below R3,000, keeping potential investors away.
The laggards in CSC implementation have been large states like Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.
Meena Chaturvedi, CEO of Srei Sahaj e-Village explains: �There is an inherent resistance within the government to give government-to-customer (G2C) services as it will bring transparency into the system. The problem is that services are not coming, besides electricity and connectivity issues. In fact, companies did not understand the rural market at all before getting into the scheme.�
Publication : Financial Express
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