The high-level delegation from 14 African countries on Thursday visited two Common Service Centres (CSCs) in rural parts of Eastern Indian state of West Bengal.
The CSCs in West Bengal are being set up as per a tripartite agreement between the state government, a private firm which is responsible for providing software and hardware for CSCs and village level entrepreneurs who will eventually run the CSCs on the day to day basis. West Bengal plans to set up a total of 6797 CSCs in rural areas and another 700 in urban areas of the state.
The state government has mandated that there should be
at least one CSC for every 10,000 people and if the population in a local administration area (which is called Gram Panchayat in local parlance) exceeds 10,000, there should be an additional CSC. It is also warranted that if local panchayat office can accommodate, the CSC should be located there. The delegation’s first visit was to a telecentre in Nasibpur in Hooghly district, which is about 40 kilometres away from the state capital of Kolkata. The centre uses V-Sat for connectivity and offers a large number of G2C and B2C services, apart from imparting e-learning. It also offers offline services such as digital photography, desktop publishing and photocopy. The centre accepts payments towards electricity, telephone and insurance premium. The needy can also use the CSC for buying their train and air tickets.
Ms Usha Mishra Hayes, Vice President of Sustainable Development and Media Business for SREI Sahaj e-Village Limited, the private firm which is rolling out the services together with a village level entrepreneur at each CSC, briefed the delegates about operational details of the centre. According to her, what is important is that the telecentre’s power requirement has been kept to minimum by using laptops rather than desktops as the rural areas suffer unannounced power outages and more often than not need to use generator for functioning.
The next stop for the group was Dasghara, another village in Hooghly district. The Dasghara CSC is located in a local administration office, unlike the Nasibpur CSC which is operating from a private commercial property.
Subsequently, the delegation visited the headquarters of state-owned electric utility WBSEDC in Kolkata to understand how the service provider which uses the CSCs to receive payment towards electricity bills. The WBSEDC officials said it has signed an agreement with SREI Sahaj e-Village. Under the agreement, it ahs authorised the CSCs to accept the bill payment on its behalf. Anybody who pays the electricity bill at the CSC will receive a receipt which carries the logo and stamp of the utility company. The utility company officials said they pay about 1.7 per cent of its revenue collected online are given back to the CSCs, which is shared equally between SREI and local entrepreneur.
SREI Sahaj e-Village CEO Sabahat Azim and West Bengal IT Secretary Siddarth gave a detailed account on how the CSC rollout is taking place in the state. SREI Sahaj e-Village is also setting up CSCs in five other states, apart from West Bengal.