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In accordance with the National e-Governance Plan (NeGP) of government of India, 100,000 Information and Communications Technology (ICT) enabled e-Kiosks will be set up across the country. Interestingly, West Bengal emerged as the first state in India to finalize the Request for Proposal (RFP) and to sign the Master Service Agreement (MSA).

Under the NeGP - announced by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh - implementation of Common Service Centers (CSCs) is the most important of the 4 pillars of the NeGP.

The government of India will be setting up CSCs across the states in India. These centers will become the delivery point for all e-governance and other services to the rural people. IT-based rural information services will be developed to provide rural information and services such as agriculture, education, vocational training, health, and hygiene. The idea is to provide sustainable digital access to rural communities.

smartBridges - a provider of wireless connectivity products - and SREI - a private sector infrastructure equipment finance, infrastructure project finance, and renewable energy product financing company - have partnered together for this project. While smartBridges will be looking after Research and Development (R&D) and rural connectivity project implementation expertise, SREI will look after the successful implementation of CSCs.

E-governance, information, utility, payments, deposits, insurance, and other financial services, along with a host of e-information and e-learning facilities will be delivered through these CSCs. There will be a single CSC for every 6 villages covering about 9,500 populations.

According to Sabahat Azim, CEO (Sahaj e-village) of SREI, the initial value of the project is Rs.100 crore. This project aims to positively impact the livelihood opportunities and living standards of rural communities.

Apart from SREI, the 6 contenders for this project in West Bengal were Zoom Developers, Wire & Wireless, Grasso, WEBEL, Reliance, and United Telecom.

Azim added that in accordance with the terms and conditions laid down in the RFP, the CSC needs to be operational within 1 year from the date of signing the MSA. It has been signed between SREI and West Bengal State Rural Development Agency on 5th April, 2008.

SREI and the government of West Bengal entered into an agreement for 4 years, with revenue support from the government of Rs.11.49 crore per annum for 4937 CSCs, which will be reviewed after 4 years.

SREI in technical collaboration with WIPRO Infotech, would implement the CSC project. The CSCs will be managed by 14 Regional Control Centers (RCCs) to be set up in the West Bengal districts - Darjeeling, Jalpaiguri and Cooch Behar, Uttar Dinajpur, Dakshin Dinajpur, Malda, Murshidabad, Nadia, South 24 Pgs, Howrah, Hooghly, Bankura, Midnapore (E), and Birbhum. A Central Control Center (CCC) in Kolkata will monitor these. A Data center/help line will be set up to manage and monitor.

With this project, 5000 entrepreneurs will be created all over the state, who will be the owners of kiosks, enabling a minimum of 5000 families to be the first beneficiaries of the project.

This project will also benefit the retailers, wholesalers, Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCGs), and services sector. Corporates, Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs), banks, service providers, and commercial houses can sell their products through these CSCs.

Azmi informed that other places in India are also scouted for this project. As a matter of fact, SREI is eyeing on rolling out 50,000 CSCs in India, but this number may go beyond 50,000. "We are already awarded Letter of Intent from Bihar Govt. to roll out almost 5500 CSCs in Bihar," said Azim.

With such projects, the digital divide will be conquered and in many areas, millions of people will surf the internet for the first time.

Autor(en)/Author(s): Anuradha Ramamirtham

Quelle/Source: CXOToday, 04.04.2007

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