Friday, August 22, 2008

Digital Review of Asia Pacific 2007-2008

Publishers: Orbicom, International Development Research Centre (IDRC), Sage Publications

ISBN: (e book) 978-0-7619-3674-9Pages: 373

The biennial Digital Review of Asia Pacific is considered as a comprehensive guide to the state-of-best practice and trends in the world of Information and Communication Technologies for Development (ICT4D) in the Asia Pacific region. The present third edition for the period 2007-2008 covers ICT4D initiatives and trends in 31 countries and economies, including North Korea for the first time. Each country chapter, which have been authored by experts from the government, academia, industry and civil society, presents key ICT policies, applications and initiatives for national development. In addition, five thematic chapters provide a synthesis of some of the key issues in ICT4D in the region, including: Overview of emerging issues in the field of ICT4D; Mobile and wireless technologies for development in Asia Pacific; Role of ICTs in risk communication in Asia Pacific; Localisation in Asia Pacific: Key policy issues in intellectual property and technology in Asia Pacific; and State and evolution of ICTs: A tale of two Asia's. The book finds that in the era of globalisation, the spread of ICTs in the Asia-Pacific region is greatly influenced by an entire gamut of factors, which include: impact of ICTs on economic and social development; policy issues and regulatory framework related to broadband, Internet governance, convergence, et al.

Digital Review of Asia Pacific provides a deeper analysis on the interconnectedness between ICTs and education, in the sense how investment in ICTs and education can lead to human capital formation, and how that leads to inclusive and equitable growth in the long run. The report finds that the dominant approach to ICT4D in Asia Pacific tends to be patterned after the approach adopted by advanced economies, with its focus on new technologies that might make older structures obsolete, limited discussion of potential risks or unexpected consequences, and little attention to cultural and social issues that are critical to project success. The report explains that the wireless local area network (WLAN) is a relatively new technology, which got started developing in 1990 by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc., a US-based professional engineering society, to exploit the Industrial, Scientific and Medical (ISM) frequency band for high-speed networking. Unlike mobile phones where the equipment supplier base is relatively small, the number of manufacturers supplying WLAN equipment is much longer. It also says that the simplest Wi-Fi system is just a Wi-Fi card plugged or pre-built into a computer, establishing radio contact with a nearby Access Point (AP), which then provides onward connectivity to the global Internet. It has been said in the report that the countries hailing from the Asia-Pacific region should develop its own set of culturally sensitive and national priority-consistent policies. There is the need to take into account non-ICT related factors (political, social and cultural) while formulating policies, the report argues.

The report has provided some highly innovative applications, especially of mobile phones, in Asia Pacific, including distance education via SMS, small value transactions and e-Governance. There are barriers to use of mobile and wireless technologies in many parts of Asia Pacific, which are caused by language and literacy, according to the report. The report highlights the importance of ICTs in disaster management. ICTs are used in various countries from the Asia Pacific region to deal with serious public health emergencies such as the SARS and avian flu outbreaks and natural disasters such as the Asian Tsunami, volcanic eruptions, typhoons and other natural disasters that have recently occurred in the region with dramatic and tragic dimensions. The report asks for governments' attention in creating ICT infrastructure. The report highlights on the unavailability of affordable hardware and connectivity in the Asia Pacific region. The issue of localisation of content has been stressed in this particular report. Giving attention to content created in local languages has been one of the main challenges before countries from Asia Pacific. The issue of copyright and intellectual rights, which is going to have impact on access to knowledge and technology, has been discussed. The importance of flexibilities despite having strong intellectual property enforcement, has been well discussed in the report. The importance of regional and multilateral approach to trade negotiations too has been discussed.

Report of the seminar titled 'Right to Education-Actions Now'

The seminar titled 'Right to Education-Actions Now' was organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), Shiksha India, Aspen Institute and Institute of Quality, on 19th December, 2007 in Maurya Sheraton, New Delhi, India. The main sponsors of the seminar were: Ambuja Cement, Bajaj Group of Companies, Bharti, GMMCO, Haldia, Thermax, Sona, SRF, Organosys and Patton.

The centre of attraction of this seminar was Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen, who called for accountability in delivery of elementary education and public healthcare services, effective use of resources and co-operation with unions in these sectors. Prof. Sen underlined the importance of expansion of inclusive growth. He suggested deployment of more economic resources in education and better organisation of public services. Prof. Sen said that resources generated from economic growth should be used for public services and public goods in general, rather than being absorbed only in private consumption. He also highlighted the issue of diversity. He said that India should ensure efficiency and accountability in delivery of public services through organisational reforms. Despite economic reforms, the slowness of progress on school education has been taking much longer to remedy. He observed that there has been some reduction in the proportion of poverty-stricken people. But the process could have been much faster if growth achievements are combined with ways and means of more widespread sharing of economic opportunities. Prof. Sen said that India has been catching up with China in life expectancy and infant mortality, but there is still a long way to go. Prof. Sen expressed concern at the shocking incidence of absenteeism and neglect on the part of many teachers, who come from elite background and who care less for students from disadvantaged sections of the society. He pointed out the poor state of school inspection system in India. To tackle these problems, he suggested positive collaboration with other social groups and particularly the unions of primary school teachers and health care workers. He said that an educated population can make even better use of democracy. He talked on the importance of democracy. He asked for the need for female literacy as it can have positive impact on their economic and social status. He said that education can have powerful effects on quality of life of even the poorest of the poor. Prof. Amartya Sen mentioned that the nature of education is extremely relative. He also praised the $100 computers-for-kids initiative by MIT Media Lab. He said that peer learning is essential. He said that the quality of food provided in the mid-day meal scheme (MDM) is poor in certain states of India. He said that there is need for looking at education for producing skilled labour force, which can be tapped by the IT, ITeS and other services sector. He said that poor people should be provided coupons, which can be helpful in accessing education. He said that education is something more than literacy. He mentioned that in Bangladesh, there is a law which says that the wife of every husband should read and write.

Rakesh said that public-private partnership for constructing school buildings is need of the day. He said that there is need for concentrating on the 'Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan'. Vijay Bhakara talked on the accountability of the education sector. He said that there is need for measuring the quality of education. He mentioned about one census assessment report on quality of education. He said that the competency level of the children needs to be assessed, which has happened in Karnataka, India. He also mentioned about the School Adoption Scheme, which is running in Karnataka. Kalyan Banerji said that the quality of textbook is very poor in India. There is thus the need for good quality content, so that it enhances the quality of the children-the future of India. S Bhattacharya said that there is need for better implementation of already existing educational schemes. Governmental schemes cannot be substituted by other initiatives. Teachers' commitment and empowerment is extremely essential. India produces less number of engineers. There is a need to check why more and more students are taking commerce and management related subjects, instead of science/ technology. There is also the need to see why the system of Aanganwadi has collapsed in most states of India. He also mentioned that the pre-nursery school education system has collapsed. Drop-out is happening due to socio-economic reasons, he added. Students coming from rural background have hidden talents. Teachers must have the potential to tap the talent present in school children. There is also need to assess why there exists much focus only on English. He said that there is need to look at how to ensure accountability in educational schemes. S Bhattacharya said that the unhealthy competition in education need to be reduced. One of the biggest problem in Rajasthan is the transfer policy for teachers since every teacher want to be transfered to his/her native place.

However, Rajasthan has performed well in implementing the mid-day meal scheme successfully. During the 11th Five Year Plan, more allocation of financial resources with have been made on education, he added. He asked for passing of the Right to Education Bill by the Parliament of India. Jamshyd Godrej, Chairman, Shiksha India, talked on the importance of e-Learning tools to impart education at primary and secondary levels. He asked for the need of inputs from all sections of the population in order to make concrete progress in the field of education. He said that CII has been making positive efforts to promote education.

Gautam Thapar, Vice-Chairman, The Aspen Institute India, said, "In the context of globalisation, education assumes greater meaning. Greatness of a nation should not be measured by its ranking in global economic order, but by its ability to provide quality education. If we don't address the issue of education, our demographic dividend may turn into demographic disaster." He added that the Aspen Institute India is ready to contribute to the promotion of education. The day-long session was attended by 200 participants from Indian industry, NGOs, principals of various schools across the county, teachers and students. The session included an interactive session with Prof. Sen during which he dwelt on an array of issues. The participants discussed future course of action to improve elementary education in India. Madhav talked on the need for educational initiative in rural India. He said that there is need for employing the rural unemployed in educational sector. In this respect, the educational initiative of the the NGO Pratham, was mentioned by him. But there is need for scalability of the Pratham initiative, he said. Anil Bordia, talked about the need for working with the Anganwadi workers. He mentioned about the Lok Jumbish. There is need for contribution by the citizens, he said. Education should not be made absolutely free, he added.

During the conference it was mentioned that the National Sample Survey is one of the the best surveys conducted by the Government of India, which provides a different picture than the statistics provided by the Department of Education. Motivation of teacher is extremely important for having a good quality education system. There is the need for developing a transparent and accountable institutions in the area of education. The focus of the discussion was on the mid day meal scheme and the purposes it serves.

During the post lunch session, group discussions (comprising more than 15 groups) were held, which revolved around several topics. Suggestions were provided by various groups on various topics, which include: ensuring better school adoption system, bridging gaps in education in rural India, developing teacher skills, team learning, etc.

* The article has been jointly written by Narinder Bhatia, Anaam Sharma and Shambhu Ghatak

Source of the image:

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Livelihood - A macro level intervention

The term 'sustainable livelihood' was used as a development concept in the early 1990s for the first time. As per Chambers and Conway (1991), a livelihood is environmentally sustainable if it maintains or enhances the local and global assets in which livelihoods depend, and has net beneficial effects on other livelihoods. A livelihood is socially sustainable provided it can cope with and recover from stress and shocks, and provide for future generations. Sustainable Livelihoods Approaches (SLAs) which are followed by various donors (like HIVOS, the World Bank, DFID etc.), NGOs and civil society organisations are centered on people and their livelihoods. Livelihood security is very much related to poverty reduction and gainful employment generation. For the corporate sector including commercial banks who are engaged in the area of livelihood security, sustainability means economic viability, profitability as well as social and environmental sustainability.

In the following paragraphs, I would try to see how much India has performed in terms of employment-generation at a macro-level (economic sector-wise) vis-a-vis other South Asian nations, both during the 1980s and the 1990s. The present write-up would also look at various interventions undertaken by the Central and the State governments in order to attain the objective of livelihood security. However, there are arguments and counter-arguments provided by various economists, social scientists et al, regarding the approaches undertaken by the successive governments under a democratic set-up regarding generation of livelihood security. Due to unavailability of space, the present article cannot provide a literature review on the debates surrounding the size of budget expenditure and revenue generation, made by successive governments on gainful employment generation. Some have said that livelihood generation is nothing but providing 'safety net' to the poor in the face of economic reforms and financial stabilisation, which is very much related to the much discussed and debated Washington Consensus (a term coined by John Williamson).

From the 'Technical Report on Linkages between International Trade and Employment in Asia and the Pacific', UNDP, Asia Pacific Regional Centre, Colombo, Poverty Reduction in South Asia, through Productive Employment, one finds that employment growth rates increased in between 1980s and 1990s in the case of Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. However, in the case of India, and South Asia as a whole, employment growth rate declined in between 1980s and 1990s. Growth rate in GDP went up for Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka. However, the growth rates declined for India, Pakistan, and South Asia as a whole. The employment elasticities increased in the case of Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and South Asia as a whole between 1980s and 1990s. However, employment elasticities declined in the case of India.

From the table 1, one gets the idea that employment elasticity in agriculture in the case of Bangladesh was 0.16 in 1980/ 90, 0.84 in 1990/ 00 and 2.02 in 2000/ 04. Employment elasticity (in percentage) in agriculture in the case of India were 0.52 in 1980/ 90, 0.01 in 1990/ 00 and 0.003 in 2000/ 04. This particular phenomenon in India has been termed by many as jobless growth , which is due to the deflationary economic policies, which was being pursued. Employment elasticity in agriculture in the case of Sri Lanka were 0.1 in 1980/ 90, -0.01 in 1990/ 00 and 0.1 in 2000/ 04.

In India, the incidence of poverty (expressed as a percentage of people or population below the poverty line) declined from 54.9 per cent in 1973-74 to 'supposedly' 26 per cent in 1999-2000. One must mention here that there exists an entire body of literature surrounding the methodology on how to measure poverty. However, the pace of reduction in poverty varied considerably during this period with a large decline in the percentage of the population below the poverty line throughout the 1980s, a slowdown in the pace of poverty reduction in the early 1990s, and a reported but contested sharp 10% decline in poverty in the second half of the 1990s. However, no such secular decline occurred in the absolute numbers of poor.

Gender-discrimination aggravates the impact of poverty on women due to unequal allocation of food (within the household), lower wage rates, and lack of inheritance rights. Even in households that are above the poverty line on an average, women may suffer severe deprivation of various forms. Economic dependence is extremely high especially among elderly women and a large proportion of older persons suffer chronic illness and some form of disability. In rural areas of India, women have more chances of being poor. Mobility across various occupations by women is limited. Women may be hired as agricultural workers, but are commonly paid only a half to two-thirds of the wage received by men performing the same work. The bargaining capability among women workers is quite low, except for few cases where they have formed unions such as Self Employed Women's Assoociation (SEWA), AIDWA etc. The combination of low entitlements, dependency and societal limitations that prevent realisation of their capabilities due to denial of access to, for example, literacy and education combined with 'market-discrimination' result in their being concentrated in the low-paid end of the market. Women, are thus employed more in the informal sector and get lower wages and remunerations. Due to lack of training and skills, women cannot move up to better valued and technical jobs. Even those who are employed in the better-skilled jobs face the problem of 'glass-ceiling'. It has been found and said that activities, which are in the male domain such as ploughing, irrigation, levelling etc. are paid more. Those which are considered to be in the female domain, e.g. weeding, transplanting, winnowing etc. are paid less. Operations, which use machinery and draught animals are performed more by men. Those occupations which demand direct manual-labour are performed by women. In rice cultivation for example, seeding, transplanting, weeding and threshing are considered as women's jobs. Ploughing is done by men. In mining and quarrying, women are engaged as irregular casual workers. In the household-based industries women work as helpers. In construction work, men do the skilled work of brick laying while women mix mortar and carry head-loads. Some may point that this is due to the fact that women are biologically suited to such works. However, one should also need to consider the element of economics and gender-based ideology behind such reasoning.

Best Practices in work and employment is essential to pose before us models which can be replicated elsewhere in the rest of the country, in tandem with the existing labour laws and contract labour laws. There are different models such as that of the SEWA where poor women have united themselves to protect themselves from exploitation, and to voice their demands related to wages, gender equality and other human rights related issues. Some of the models initiated by NGOs in various parts of the country are based subject to culture specific geographical set up and hence cannot be scaled up. The government sponsored Employment Guaranty Act which will initiate in 200 of the most backward districts, in India and will later spread to rest of the districts, have come out with some provisions where PRIs (Panchayati Raj Institutions) and local community organisations can play an effective role to reduce corruption and ensure transparency in the scheme. It is essential to mention that the role of 'Right to Information' is crucial to reduce corruption in development related works. 'Majdoor Kisan Shakti Sanghathan' in Rajasthan has clearly played positive roles regarding Right to Information.

The question is: Under what circumstances efforts like EGA (by government) and that of NGOs and CBOs (including unions), for both formal and informal employment (using or without using subcontracted labour), can be scaled up with the least possibility of leakage of public money? What to do in those areas where NGO presence is low, or where the NGOs have themselves become part of money stealing activities?

This is to mention about "Designing of Grain Banks for Enhanced Food Security" that such a concept is quite 'old' and had existed in India (and probably elsewhere) if one looks at history. Contribution of grains by farming households for the construction of grain bank as per one's economic strength would be essential in many ways: (i) During the time of drought, the villages/ villagers (particularly rural hinterlands) do not have to wait for disaster relief coming from the government, thus saving time and transportation cost; (ii) In a way, villages become 'self-sufficient' not only during distress but also during normal seasons (dependence on ration shops will be reduced); (iii) Loss of crops often lead to a situation where farmers do not have seeds to sow in the coming season (Increased dependence on market sometimes lead farmers not to save seeds for sowing). Grain banks in such case can act as 'seed' banks; (iv) Various nutritional programmes like mid-day meals programme can be linked with grain banks to ensure food security; (v) Villagers can sell grain from grain banks in the market for buying important gadgets like computers for various development related work in the village.

However, one should not forget the existing social fabric of rural India, where caste and gender based discrimination exists, which can affect the collection and distribution of grain from the grain banks.

Present challenges

Available data suggests increased feminisation of poverty over the last decade. The increasing feminization of poverty has translated into indebtedness, especially in the rural areas; decrease in food intake thus creating vulnerability along with gender-discrimination. In fact, one can see that distress migration and displacement of families have resulted in human trafficking and prostitution along with single-motherhood (female headed household). The burden of providing for the family and care of the old and disabled have increased many fold for the poor women. Rising food insecurity, limited access to natural resources like water as a result of increasing privatisation, alienation from lands, forest resources and usurpation of property rights have adversely affected the lives of poor women. One can see increased presence of women in unprotected, sub-contracted labour market. A large number of programmes have been initiated by the Government of India for generating livelihood opportunities and creating infrastructure in the rural areas in India during the 10th Five Year Plan and the 11th Five Year Plan (based on the approach paper). (Even various state governments have started their own schemes for creating livelihood opportunities). Some of the schemes which have been started by the Government of India are as follows: a. Bharat Nirman Project; b. Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM); c. IT Mission 2007; d. National Rural Employment Guaranty Scheme (NREGA); e. Rajiv Gandhi Grameen Vidyutikaran Yojana (RGGVY); f. National Rural Health Mission (NRHM); g. National Social Assistance Programme.

This is to mention some of the key factors (given below) to be looked at with regard to the success of NREGA:

• Ratio of men to women as rural manual labourers should be according to the law • Payment of minimum wages, which is hassle free

• Unemployment compensation

• Presence of first aid in case of minor accidents

• A sexual harassment free environment

• Completion of a particular work with the right kind of material • Cooperation from the panchayats, district level authorities, and officials

• Presence of some researcher/resource person who can be of help to provide knowledge about the NREGA to the public, particularly through Adult Literacy Campaigns/ Missions.

• Role of IT to feed data into the computers/ intranet facility for NREGA- the software prepared by Microsoft could be an example. Also, GIS/MIS could be of use.

• Provision of incentives--giving the villages/panchayats some kind of monetary compensation, if they have successfully implemented the NREGA, compared to the rest--though identification could be a difficult task here

• Release of timely funds and food grains by the State/Centre

• Seasonality and weather condition

• State of the local economy- multiple cropping; kind of crops grown; alternative forms of

• employment other than depending on agriculture; kinds of occupation, income and savings

• level; role of micro credit and small and micro enterprises; Successful running of other programmes such as the ICDS .

Some states like Orissa, Madhya Pradesh and Andhra are supposed to be performing well in terms of implementing the NREGA. But grassroots level reality needs to be highlighted to substantiate this fact as successful implementation is a difficult task.


Livelihood security has been considered to be important not only for reduction in the levels of poverty and inequality but also for internal and external security. A central theme of Dr. Sanjaya Baru's book 'Strategic Consequences of India's Economic Performance' is that, "it is not economic growth in itself that holds the key to India's global profile and power, its strategic role and relevance and its national security, but the nature of that growth process and the manner in which the economic challenges it faces today are addressed". Countries from East Asia, Africa and Latin America (including Russia) got devastated due to poor governance and lack of maturity on the part of their governments. Hence, for a pragmatic government the main objectives to be attained are: clear out social and economic evils and all forms of discriminations embedded in the society, economic and social empowerment of the vulnerable sections of the society, ensuring transparency and accountability in the services provided by both the public and private sectors, providing basic services and amenities in the area of education, health, water supply and sanitation, effective evaluation and monitoring of the publicly and privately funded programmes and projects etc. Last but not the least, while speaking about livelihood security one should bear in mind the Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSPs), which are being prepared by the member countries through a participatory process involving domestic stakeholders as well as external development partners, including the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.

Friday, August 1, 2008

The change ahead

Under the National Common Minimum Programme adopted by the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) Government, high priority was accorded to improve the quality of basic governance, service delivery and to ensure transparency and accountability. e-Governance as conceived under the National e-Governance Plan (NeGP), aims to improve the delivery of Government services to citizens (G2C) and businesses (G2B) by shifting from the paradigm of governance to e-Governance, thus embracing new developments in technology. In order to pursue the above-mentioned objectives, on June 14, 2006, the Department of Information Technology, in a major initiative, unveiled various components of the ambitious National e-Governance Plan (NeGP) covering 27 Mission Mode Projects (MMPs) and ten support components to be implemented at Central, State, and Local Government levels, at an estimated cost of INR 23,000 crore over the next five years. At the State-level, the Mission Mode Projects (MMP) would include services pertaining to road transport, land records, commercial taxes, employment exchanges, agriculture and horticulture, civil supplies, treasuries, land registration, policy and education, while at central level, it will cover areas such as insurance, Central Excise, National ID, pensions, e-Posts, banking, visa and income tax.
Under the NeGP, the Government has planned to establish 1,00,000 broadband-enabled Internet Common Services Centres (CSCs) in rural areas of the country so as to connect the citizens of rural India to the World Wide Web. An outlay of INR 5742 crore has been earmarked for the CSCs scheme, and the scheme would be implemented in Public Private Partnership (PPP) model. The CSCs scheme is expected to create one lakh direct jobs and 2-3 lakh additional indirect jobs. Through the CSCs, the Governments at the National, State and Local levels are expected to provide e-Services such as registration of birth, death and marriage certificates; providing information on weather conditions and prices of various agri-commodities to rural farmers; issuing of electronic ID cards for farmers, which will possess all information about the citizen/farmers etc. The CSCs are expected to be run by village-level entrepreneurs or members (preferably women) from self-help groups who are being financially backed by NGOs or co-operative banks/MFIs. For the states of Assam and Tripura, request for proposal (RFP) has been issued for 4520 CSCs. For the state of Punjab, bid evaluation has taken place for 10,576 CSCs. For the state of Jharkhand, West Bengal and Haryana, either MSA has been signed or letter of intent (LOI) has been issued. In fact many of the states are at different stages of implementation. Haryana comes in the top bracket in India in the implementation of State Wide Area Network (SWAN), CSCs' e-Disha Ekal Sewa Kendras and State Data Centre, and will be ready to launch the National e-Governance Plan (NeGP) by March 2008. CSCs are considered as one of the infrastructure pillars of the National e-Governance Plan and are expected to serve as the physical front for delivering government and private services at the doorsteps of the citizens.Under the NeGP, it is proposed to create State Data Centres for the States to consolidate services, applications and infrastructure to provide efficient and effective electronic delivery of G2G (government to government), G2C (government to citizens) and G2B (government to businesses) services. These services can be provided by the states through common delivery platform seamlessly supported by core Connectivity infrastructure such as State Wide Area Network (SWAN) and Common Service Centre (CSC) connectivity extended upto village-level. In order to make the CSCs operational, the Government has approved a scheme for establishing State Wide Area Networks (SWAN) across the country in 29 states/ 6 UTs at a total outlay of INR 3334 crore with Central Assistance component of INR 2005 crore over a period of 5 years. These SWANs are expected to extend data connectivity of 2 Megabits per second upto the block level in all states and Union Territories (UTs) in India. The block level nodes in turn will have a provision to extend connectivity further to the village-level using contemporary wireless technology.
The CSC scheme has a three tier implementation framework
a. At the first (CSC) level, there would be existence of the local village level entrepreneur (VLE—loosely analogous to a franchisee), in order to service the rural consumer in a cluster of 5-6 villages.
b. At the second/middle-level, there would be the existence of an entity termed the Service Centre Agency (SCA—loosely analogous to the franchiser) in order to operate, manage and build the VLE network and business. An SCA would be identified for one or more districts (one district would cover 100-200 CSCs).
c. At the third level, there would be the existence of the agency designated by the State—the State Designated Agency (SDA)--so as to facilitate implementation of the scheme within the state and to provide requisite policy framework.
Under the CSC scheme, in order to enable the state-specific implementation plans to benefit from such economies of scale, aggregation of best practices, content providers, etc. the DIT would be appointing a National Level Service Agency (NLSA). Apart from the NLSA, a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) has been proposed for regular monitoring of the CSC scheme.
The major challenges before the Governments (as discussed in eINDIA 2007 Conference) in order to deliver e-Services via the CSCs are as follows:
a. The amount of funds allocated for the CSCs scheme is quite large. One may question whether such an allocation by the government may lead to lowering of allocation for other important services (given the fact that there must not be wasteful expenditure on the part of the government which affects the fiscal scenario) such as pertaining to basic amenities—water supply and sanitation, public distribution system, housing facilities for the destitute and displaced, health care and immunisation, etc.
b. For the CSCs to continue working in the rural areas, there is need for electrical power. Rural electrification and availability of alternative sources of power can lead to the successful operation of CSCs. Without such arrangements, CSCs would fail to deliver.
c. The motto of the CSCs scheme is to provide rural population (citizens and businesses) e-Services which is efficiently and effectively delivered at affordable rates. However, this requires not only adequate infrastructure (connectivity, broadband, etc.) but also a trained pool of manpower and capacity-building of the rural masses. Rural youths and members from self-help groups (SHGs) who are literate but not adequately trained for recruitment in the CSCs, can be provided IT-based training (in both hardware and software). Similarly, rural masses (say, for example, one member from one household, as it had happened in the case of Akshaya, a Kerala state IT mission initiative) can go through capacity-building sessions so that they know the importance of e-Literacy, e-Commerce, usage of Internet, etc. Unless the rural masses realise the utility of CSCs, e-Governance becomes a word without meaning and purpose.
d. The CSCs scheme has been given adequate importance by the current UPA government. But one needs to take into account the problems surrounding the successful implementation and replication of CSCs. There are alternatives to the proposed CSCs scheme under the NeGP. One can raise question whether the existing unique socio-economic fabric and feature of a village, allows for further replication in another village (or elsewhere). Although much of the emphasis has been given on decentralisation, but in reality panchayats have been also termed as institutions laden with power, hierarchy, etc. The pertinent question is how can technology overcome such challenges in order to reach the objective of transparent and accountable e-Service delivery at the doorsteps of rural families.
e. For the successful implementation and replication of CSCs, there is need for alternative technologies. A technology which is suitable to one terrain may not be suitable for another terrain. The opportunity cost of adopting one technology over another needs to be checked.
f. There is clearly a need for co-ordination and management (for financial, technical, human resources development and other purposes) amongst the VLE, SCA, SDA, NLSA and SPV.
g. There is need for looking at the long term financial sustainability of CSCs.
Under the NeGP, it has been envisaged that each centre (CSC) would be Internet-enabled centre, located mostly in rural area. Each centre would cater to roughly six villages and would provide services offered by the government and the private operators. The CSC scheme, as approved by the Government of India, envisions CSCs as the front-end delivery points for Government, private and social sector services to rural citizens of India, in an integrated and holistic manner.
The CSCs are thus seen not merely as service delivery points. Also the entire gamut of services desired at these centres is a loadful. Not all of these services are ready to be deployed. They are considered as Change Agent/s that would promote rural entrepreneurship, build rural capacities and livelihoods, enable community participation and collective action for social change—through a bottom-up approach. However a bit of education on driving change from there too might be in order.
Guideline for the Implementation of the CSCs Scheme in States, Department of Information Technology, Government of India,