Government Plans Common Service Centers To Bridge Digital Divide

The Economic Times: India’s federal government plans set up Common Service Centers (CSCs), something like Internet kiosks with broadband connectivity and so on. The Department of Information Technology (DIT) has received nine proposals from the private sector – like IL&FS, ICICI Bank, Tata Consultancy Services and Reliance Infocomm – to steer the Rs 3,000-crore mega initiative. About 100,000 such centers are planned by 2007.
So what are CSCs? Bearing a common logo and name, CSCs will offer both government and private services across 15 areas including agriculture, animal husbandry, citizen services, health, education, employment, panchayat programmes, tourism and entertainment. Depending on location, CSCs may be plain cyber kiosk-like operations with computers and broadband connectivity, photo-printing quality printer, digital cameras with zoom, telephones, UPS with four-hour battery backup, software licence and generator set. A second category could add equipment for edutainment, entertainment and other specialised services, while the third would boast of wireless equipment, antenna, tower and so on.
It’s expected to be run on a franchisee model; village-level entrepreneurs will be trained and supervised by service centre agencies (franchiser) at the district level.
The content would be in the local language and would cover at least 40% of the gram panchayat locations in each block.
On the technology front, the CSCs will use the State Wide Area Network (SWAN) free of cost up to the block level, and wireless connectivity below the block level to deliver services to the rural citizens. ISP and terminal equipment costs will have to be borne by the agencies.