Ashis Sanyal, currently working as an independent consultant in the areas of e-Governance Capacity Building and Information and Communication Technologies for Development ICT4D, was a senior director in the Department of Electronics & Information Technology, GoI and was a significant contributor in firming up government policy and framework for core e-governance infrastructure in rural areas. In an interview with Mohd Mustaquim, he talks on CSC’s operations, challenges and future roadmap
Kindly share the major objectives of Common Service Centers with our readers?
Common Services Centres (CSCs) were conceptualised as the bottom-most tier service delivery architecture conceived in National e-Governance Plan, to provide government services to the common citizen, located especially in the remote and rural areas.CSCs are, therefore, envisaged to serve as common service delivery outlets for government and private sector services to the common people. In this business model, it was estimated that 67 per cent of the business would come from B2C services and 33 per cent business from G2C services. For government services it was felt essential that delivery departments would get integrated to the CSCs for smooth delivery for G2C services so that the platform becomes front-end delivery point for government services to rural people, especially in social sector services. Furthermore, it was aspired that CSC operators would evolve as 'change agents' for rural India with the help of their IT knowledge and also by bringing in information, knowledge and empowerment to the rural people enabling them to have more choices for their livelihood.
How can CSCs change the face of rural India in the coming future?
CSCs have great potential to become a 'game changer' in the rural India. Entrepreneurship driven by the Village Level Entrepreneurs (VLE) and supported by continuous capacity building and training by the Service Centre Agencies (SCA) has the power to undertake dramatic changes in rural governance and business landscape of the country. An internet-enabled rural kiosk having a basket of wide-ranging G2C and B2C services and a properly trained VLE can completely change the rural service providing landscape. It is therefore, considered that if CSCs are built and operated with true entrepreneurial aptitude, CSCs have all potential to change the face of the rural India.
What operational challenges CSCs have to face in their functioning?
Lack of quality power and scarcity of the adequate bandwidth in most of the CSCs hamper smooth operations, especially for bandwidth-intensive services of CSCs. There are some extension types of jobs done by some CSCs across the country viz. job cards for MNREGA, National Population Register, PDS, Electoral Registration and so on. However, it is felt by most operators that cumbersome payment procedures and delay in the payment seriously hamper their financial operations.
What revenue models are applied for CSCs in rural India and what would you like to suggest for improvement?
Basically, transaction-based revenue model is followed in most of the CSCs for both G2C and B2C services. At the beginning, there was some thought for revenue-sharing model for some of the services. At the time of conceptualising the scheme and estimating revenue model for the CSCs, we had suggested both transaction-based and revenue sharing models. In my opinion, both models are equally viable provided you get adequate volume of transaction in a month. For that, what is required is to conduct a proper survey on community service needs in the catchment area for a particular CSC. Unfortunately, that has not taken place in most of the cases.
What according to you are the methods that can make them more effective?
Closely integrating G2C services to every CSC is the first immediate recommendation from my side. Training on rural business development techniques for the CSC operators by the SCAs is the second important suggestion. We have to remember that the quality of service at the CSCs is as effective as the quality of VLEs running them. Selection and proper training of the VLEs, therefore, play a vital role in making the CSC most effective.