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eGovernment Forschung | eGovernment Research 2001 - 2017

There is no internet connection. This message that pops up on a browser at the Mazgaon-Nandgaon village office’s single computer just about shows where things stand with Maharashtra’s attempt at e-governance in its gram panchayats.

In village after village of the State’s Raigad district that BusinessLine recently visited, not a single panchayat office had a working internet connection.

In its 2011 Maharashtra State e-governance policy, the government had decided to network all offices till the village level. About the same time, the National Optical Fibre Network policy, with similar targets, was rolled out. By this, a wide area network was supposed to connect State headquarters with all districts, talukas and divisional headquarters and provide a network for data, voice and video interaction.

Every office, the policy said, should have internet connectivity, preferably broadband, and a video conferencing facility so that communication would be seamless between departments and for citizens needing to get official work done.

As of January, 1,357 blocks and their panchayats in Maharashtra had been connected to the world wide web. To be fair, the villages that BusinessLine visited did have the equipment in place – a computer with a modem and camera, a printer-copier-fax, and a solar power unit. With no internet connectivity, all of this is reduced to simple data entry for the panchayat’s cash book.

No job so far

Four years ago, Mandar Gaikar joined MahaOnline, a joint venture between the State government and TCS, to deliver digital governance services.

Today, of the 845 panchayats in Raigad district, Gaikar oversees the digital initiatives at 24 of those. But with no internet and irregular maintenance of the equipment, he doesn’t have much work to do. Add to that the fact that all those recruited on contract by MahaOnline – the obligatory data entry operators at every panchayat and Gaikar, who oversees their work — haven’t been paid their salaries for over a year. With no income, Gaikar spends most of his day running his own computer hardware repair business in Raigad’s Murud zilla.

Gaikar is among those better informed about computers and modems. The tehsildar at Murud’s block development office is unaware that an e-governance system exists, let alone whether it is a success or failure. At the panchayats that BusinessLine visited, the rural development officers don’t know why the equipment has been set up or who sanctioned it. The data entry operators don’t know what they’re supposed to do with the computers and the training they’ve received when there’s never any internet.

Delay in NOFN project

When BusinessLine reporters visited villages across the country in 2014, the reasons for the delay in implementing the National Optical Fibre Network project at the ground level were very clear – lack of coordination between agencies, low awareness of internet and non-availability of a viable business model. Two years later, BusinessLine went back to the same villages along with some of the new ones connected by the optical fibre cable and found that nothing much has changed.

When contacted Vijay Kumar Gautam, Principal Secretary, IT, Maharashtra government, said, “All the 372 services notified under RTS Act, 2015, are being provided online through Aaple Sarkar portal run by MahaOnline. To the best of my knowledge, no staff was employed under Sangram Centre,” the mail said in reponse to a query on non-payment of salaries, and added that the operation was outsourced to MahaOnline which had a contract with individuals as entrepreneurs who were provided compensation to deliver certain mandated services.

In Bhoighar village, the sarpanch – Rajshri Vane – is more comfortable talking about the prices of the betel nuts she sells than e-governance. Her husband, Ramji Vane, said there really wasn’t much communication infrastructure in the village. There is no cellphone tower in the vicinity and the internet connection at the panchayat office was never fully set up. And now, the computer has conked off. So Digital Indian and e-governance have come to naught here. If you live here and you need to make an entry in the official birth and death registers, or get a no-objection certificate for your business, a residence certificate or a water connection, then pen and paper are your friends.

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Autor(en)/Author(s): Tanya Thomas/Rajesh Kurup

Quelle/Source: The Hindu Business Line, 01.02.2017

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