Reboot common service centres

Use them for government services as originally planned

samirsachdeva

Samir Sachdeva | December 30, 2010



The central government has scaled up its plan to open common service centres, from one lakh villages in its original vision for e-governance to a centre in every village across the country. These centres are meant to make government services available to the common man. So the decision to scale up seems a step in the right direction. But the fact remains that most of the existing centres are still not functional for a variety of reasons, the most important of which is that the back-end support has not yet materialised.  

The project can still be salvaged if only the government addresses some key issues. To begin with, the entrepreneurs running these centres need to be educated better on the various government services available on the internet which can draw customers – passport forms can be downloaded, for example, or appointment at regional passport offices can be fixed online. Besides, these centres should be integrated with the state government portals, as is the case with MP Online and AP Online. The centres need to be integrated with the panchayats as well so as to disseminate information on state and central welfare schemes. The centres can also be used for online courses in collaboration with distant education universities like the IGNOU. Villagers should be allowed to submit their applications under the Right to Information Act here, along with their grievances and complaints against the local authorities. These centres can also serve as registration offices for UID, voter ID etc. The government can also use these centres for better implementation of schemes like the MNREGA. Video conferencing through the webcam can be used for providing information related to agriculture and tele-medicine to the rural population.

In areas where these centres have not yet been established, the post offices can be used for the purpose, thereby saving considerable investment on infrastructure. It might also help if these centres are given a common name across the country – instead of e-Disha Ekal Seva Kendra in Haryana, Vasudha Kendra in Bihar, Lok Mitra Kendras in Himachal Pradesh and so on.

As the government rushes to scale up the scheme, it will do well to remember that the success will be measured by the number of people who make use of government services available at these centres and not merely by the number of centres established. Most of these centres are surviving by providing DTP services, IT education, digital photography etc, which is not why they were set up.

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