Concept Note on Setting up 100,000 ICT-enabled Common Services Centers (CSC) across Rural India
 

The Development Trap:

Rural incomes are low because of lack of enough income generating opportunities. Low incomes, in turn, result in an inability to access information, knowledge, goods or services, which can help them earn more. Such a development trap can be attributed to lack of access to three essential resources necessary for development viz., Information, Infrastructure and Services.

Access to information, backed with relevant infrastructure and services, can not only allow rural villagers to improve their quality of life but also support and supplement their existing incomes in a sustainable way.

Therefore, what Rural India needs is a new social contract - in which there will be reliable infrastructure, provided at commercial prices rather than given for free. Access to information and services like e-Governance, micro-credit, literacy, education, health, etc. through such infrastructure, can provide a solid foundation for the economic prosperity of rural India

The CSC Scheme:

The Department of Information Technology (DIT), Government of India proposes to facilitate the establishment of a network of more than 100,000 internet enabled Information and Communication Technology (ICT) access points termed Common Service Centres (CSC). The CSCs are meant to provide high quality and cost effective video, voice and data content, in the areas of E-Government, Education, Health, Tele-medicine, Entertainment as well as possible government and private services. The CSCs are proposed to be rolled out by end of year 2007.

The goal of the CSC Project is to empower the rural community and catalyze social change through modern technologies. With a large and heterogeneous geographical area, the private sector, if sufficiently encouraged, can play an active role in development and implementation of the CSC Project in supplementing the Governments' efforts to realize its vision for the project.

THE APPROACH TO ICT-ENABLED COMMON SERVICES CENTERS (CSC)

A Bottom-up Model: The CSC envisages a bottom-up model for delivery of content, services, information and knowledge, that can allow like-minded public and private enterprises - through a collaborative framework - to integrate their goals of profit as well as social objectives, into a sustainable business model for achieving rapid socio-economic change in rural India. It is the community participation and collective action, not ICT alone, which will lead to a behavior change for a sustainable socio-economic change and long-term rural prosperity

THE PROPOSED FRAMEWORKS

Proposed Infrastructure Framework :

There are two major components of the CSC infrastructure - Physical Infrastructure and Digital Infrastructure:

Physical Infrastructure would include the site and space for the CSC as well as other infrastructure like furniture, storage, security, UPS, Genset, wireless equipment, telemedicine equipment, etc.

Digital Infrastructure would comprise of all onsite technology equipment, such as PCs, Printers, Scanners, Projectors, Digital Camera, Software, Television, etc.



Proposed Services Framework :

End-to-end Services : The key driver for the selection of content and services would be their end-to-end applicability. This means that a specific content/ service should be in a marketable format for it to be selected as a part of the service network in the CSCs.

Broadly, the services selection would be on their ability to impact the consumer through saving cost, helping Income Generation and enabling socio-economic development.



Figure 1: Services Framework




ROLES OF RESPONSIBILITIES OF PRIMARY STAKEHOLDERS

The Scheme would be rolled out to establish CSCs across the country with an equitable geographical spread, to the extent feasible, through a three-tier structure for the States. At the first (CSC) level would be the local Village Level Entrepreneur (VLE- loosely analogous to a franchisee). At the second/middle level would be an entity termed the Service Centre Agency (SCA loosely analogous to a franchiser). At the third level would be the agency designated by the State to facilitate implementation of the Scheme within the State.

Since the implementation of a mission-oriented project of this size and scope would pose significant challenges of project management at the national level as also in exploiting opportunities to achieve significant economies of scale, a National Level Service Agency (NLSA) will be appointed to assist the DIT & the States in carrying all work related to pre-implementation & implementation phase of the Scheme. The NLSA would work with the DIT to develop a Public Private Partnership framework for the Scheme, coalesce diverse stakeholders to work through common institutional and contractual frameworks, harness national level resources, loop best practices, enable transparent and inclusive process of participation across stakeholders, undertake to underwrite resources for the Scheme, standardize design, content and processes into a replicable collaborative framework and so on.

The structure of the Public Private Partnership (PPP) arrangement, and the roles of the various stakeholders are as follows: