| 4. In which ways is the initiative creative and innovative?
This was started as a pilot project in the Wankhdu village of Bhavnagar, Gujarat. As part of the eGram Vishwagram Project, the plan was to connected all the 13685 Gram Panchayat villages under a single umbrella for standardized service delivery.
The strategy was to divide the problem into smaller stages and complete the activities in a phase by phase approach. Initial stage was to ensure that the Gram Panchayats framework and non-technical infrastructure is in place. Power is a basic infrastructural problem in many parts of the state; hence the second stage was to ensure that all the Gram Panchayats have required power connectivity and are electrified. Once the basic infrastructure was ready, the next leap was to ensure that all technical requirement in terms of hardware and software is available at the eGram centers. In stage 4, connectivity was achieved through VSAT considering that all the centers are in rural areas without any wired connectivity. The final stage was to create the software and roll out the services through the software solution at the eGram centers. Initial project funding was made by the Government as part of the planned budget of the state. Initial ICT Capex funding for 5 computers, 4 printers and 5 webcams at each Gram Panchayat and VSAT connectivity funding was done by the Panchayat Department through its SPV eGram Vishwagram Society.
The revenue sharing model makes the system self sustainable and hence all the further fund requirements and Opex are managed from the revenue generated from the project.
A large network of 13,685 eGram Centers in 26 Districts are managed by eGram Vishwagram Society (eGVGS) for better governance and operational control. Focus on employment creation and entrepreneurship through the Village Computer Entrepreneur (VCE) Model. All eGram Centers are installed with best in class hardware solutions and VSAT connectivity
The final stage was achieved through a two-step approach in the implementation of the project. Initially, the project was started as a pilot in few Districts. The learning from these Districts were relayed to the team which conceptualized and developed the project and the software solution. This was integrated to the new software solution, which was later used for the second phase of the project in the rest of the districts. The second phase was implemented at different Districts in a staggered manner to avoid any issues due to multiple changes happening at the operational level.
Another important aspect that is important for the success of project is training and capacity building. Initial training program, provided to a new VCE, is structured keeping in mind that the VCE may be from a non-technical background. The training program educates the VCE on basis computer awareness, apart from the detailed course on usage of the software solution for service delivery. VSAT connectivity is also used to provide ongoing online training. Training is also broadcasted on scheduled time table on the society’s own channel - PAWAN. eGram broadband VSAT connectivity network is also known as PAWAN (Panchayat Wide Area Network) Network which is Asia’s Largest Public Domain VSAT network.
With the help of Google, eGram Society has created 29397 user account and now every District is having its own District Group Account as well as State Group account, this facilitates information dissemination and communication directly up to village level by different department.
Information dissemination through eMail is carried out by Irrigation Department, Water Supply Board, Health Department, Polytechnic Colleges, Disaster Management Center, etc
| 5. Who implemented the initiative and what is the size of the population affected by this initiative?
The major stakeholder in this large project is mentioned below
• Panchayat Department, Government of Gujarat – Key stakeholder and sponsor of the project
• eGram Vishwagram society – Owner of the project who conceptualized and implemented the project in all Gram Panchayats
• Village Computer Entrepreneur (VCE) – Entrepreneur with very basic education qualification and drive to service citizens for Government Services
• National Informatics Center (NIC) – Software Development
• Airtel – Connectivity through VSAT
• Firm such as HCL ,APTECH,CMC,CMS,NIIT,ITI – Technical Support and Training Service Provider (TSTSP) – facility management service
• IL&FS – Third Party Auditor VSAT Connectivity Solution
• Private service providers such as Google for email and other communication solutions
| 6. How was the strategy implemented and what resources were mobilized?
Initial project funding was made by the Government as part of the planned budget of the state. Initial ICT Capex funding for One computer, printer, Scanner and webcam at each Gram Panchayat and VSAT connectivity funding was done by the Panchayat Department. The project works on Village Computer Entrepreneur (VCE) model with 80%-20% share between VCE and Local Gram Panchayat based on the Public Private Partnership concept. The VCE is a private party and manages the show at the eGram centers. Through a legal contract and SLAs, the VCE is made responsible to ensures that quality services are delivered at the eGram centers. The revenue sharing model is structured in a way to ensure that the VCE would be able to run the shop and the project is self sustainable. The project also generates revenue for the gram panchayats, which in turn ensures that the quality of services are maintained.
To support such large project Technical Support & Training Service Provider (TSTSP) appointed at eGram, blocks, District and state level (total 575 IT professionals) whose core work is to provide hardware and software support and capacity building of Village Computer Entrepreneur (VCE) for Technical Support and Training Service to them. Connectivity Network is supported by trained VSAT engineers team (250 engineers) and audited by third party auditors (IL&FS).
Training modules were specially designed in the vernacular language and all user employees of the PRIs have been provided hands on training in the use of applications in Gujarati. Professional computer training has been provided to nearly 10000 VCE with special focus on e-gram and close to 12000 Panchayat officials trained under E-Gram Specific Training module on e-gram panchayats.
Availability of skilled manpower and the cost involved was always an issue. However, having a planned approach in getting skilled local manpower helped to control this issue.
Ministry of Information and Telecommunication, Government of India recognized eGram as eGram CSC Center from 4th Feb 2010 and in compliance of that already e GVGS installed 12161 OMT SMART Tool.
| 7. Who were the stakeholders involved in the design of the initiative and in its implementation?
One of the most successful outputs of the project is that eGram centers have become the single point for delivery of all services. Currently, all the eGram Panchayats are having following Government to Citizen services through Broadband connected Computers -
1. Birth Certificate
2. Death Certificate
3. Farmer’s Status Certificate
4. Caste Certificate
5. Income Certificate
6. Tax Collection Receipts
7. Application Forms for Various Development Schemes under Government
8. Land Records Services
9. Data Entry Work of Different Departments
10. Gram Swagat program for Public Grievance and Disposal
Before eGram no body is thinking of village market as a potential but today condition is different, Business Companies are coming with proposal to launch product in eGram Centers. The service delivery at rural level has generated response and now generating demand to add more services to the basket based on the citizens faith in the initiative.
Previous to this project rural citizen has to come block and district headquarter to get services of daily uses which finally consumes their money as well as time. Today farmers are getting their land right record in their village itself.
Now citizen of rural area are not to travel block level to fill their electricity bills, job applications, gas bill payment, etc.
Now some of VCEs are also generating revenue by offering Business to Customer (B2C) services as follows:
1. e-Ticketing of Railways, Roadways and Airlines
2. Utility Bill payments (Electricity, Mobile ,GSPC Gas bill etc)
3. Online exam results related services
4. Employment forms and computer education documentation service for various schemes
5. Matrimonial Services
6. Market linkages for Agri Commodities
7. Recharging of Mobile and Satellite TV and etc.
8. DTP Jobs
9. Resume Writing
Farmers in the rural areas are a very important benefactor of this project since now they are getting records related to agriculture land at the village itself. This enables them to avail agriculture subsidies and other benefits much faster and easier.
Multiple B2C services such as mobile / Direct To Home TV recharges, electricity bill payment etc are currently available at the village level. This has enabled the rural citizens to have better access to such services and has therefore improved the life of the citizens.
The transformation of the rural market is another indirect output that has come out of the project. Many organizations used to consider rural market as a low growth market and hence never used to venture into any business. However, mission eGram has changes the face of the villages by bringing in more entrepreneurs and technology through the implementation of the project.
eGram Connectivity Infrastructure is having unique dedicated facility of training through PAWAN Channel (Bandwidth Provision – 4 Mbps) where continuous program broadcasted through it , following is sample list of program which is broadcasted on daily basis along with different other Informative programs like Feel Gujarat Visit Gujarat, Operation Savdhan, Online Ration Card Training for VCEs, Adobe Software Training, RTO Learning Licensee Training for VCEs, Financial Inclusion Training, etc.
| 8. What were the most successful outputs and why was the initiative effective?
The project is now self sustainable and on auto-pilot mode. Various mechanisms have been built in the system to ensure that the performance is monitored. Self correction methods used ensure that the errors identified in the system are relayed to all the stakeholders and action is taken to rectify the same.
Concepts such as Technical Support and Training Service Provider (TSTSP) - selected through a detailed evaluation process ensure that the technical infrastructure of the project is monitored on a periodic basis. This is important since business continuity at a Block level is ensured by such service providers. Also, any issue in the system is highlighted to the senior stakeholders without any delay or any damage to the system.
Also, services of third part auditors and frequent field visits by the government officials ensure that the project is on track as per the project plan. There are performance targets assigned to the VCEs and they are monitored on a periodic basis by the stakeholders.
The MIS reports and status reports available in the software solutions enables the government officials, auditors and senior stakeholders to keep a constant track of the project performance. This includes MIS based on the level of administration and authorities of the stakeholders. Different types of MIS include
1. Status of overall applications and total revenue generation
2. Share of different stakeholders
3. Pendency at any level for applications
4. Certificate wise and office wise pendency reports.
Third party Auditor is appointed to monitor, guide & resolve issue by visit of 25% of total village every year & also supervise all the centers closely through NOC at Gandhinagar. NoC administers the total operational and working eGram centres and also help ensure continuity of operations.
Ensuring performance and service level adherence: As services at village level available at during office hours. Maximum IT infrastructure uptime is ensured through separate service level agreement made between Vendors and Government. Similarly about 12000 nos. of VCE’s are appointed on contract to run& manage state owned service centres.
| 9. What were the main obstacles encountered and how were they overcome?
1. The project was not only the change in infrastructure and way of working of the administration but at times called for even changes in certain rules / laws in place to accommodate this change. This large project posted a herculean task in terms of managing all these changes.
2. Infrastructure Challenge- Proper Building with electrification done in systematic manner. The major challenge that was faced in this project was about the change management from the existing framework to a new system based on technology.
3. Connectivity Technology Challenge – Another practical challenge was regarding availability of infrastructure and connectivity. Although usage of a phased approached minimized this problem, nevertheless this created lot of bottlenecks during the implementation phase. Usage of VSAT as a connectivity solution was critical for the success of the project – considering that the project is targeted at the rural areas.
4. Changing the mindset of the people – both government and public was the next challenge. It was also important to ensure that all the stakeholders involved understand the change and acknowledge the reason behind the change. Providing proper information and training to all stakeholder, including public was instrumental in getting this buy in.
5. ICT Service Support Challenge – Technical support Provider Team deployed across all state from Village to state level
6. Training Challenge – Content development in local language
7. Another challenge in terms of being in the rural area was regarding requirement of all content in local languages – be it training, trainers for the training or software content.