The National e-Governance Plan (NeGP) of Government of India plans to bring Government services to citizens in an affordable and sustainable manner. To achieve the access to services and knowledge on government program, Common Service Centers (CSC) were established across India. CSCs are more than service delivery points in rural India. They are positioned as change agents, promoting rural entrepreneurship and building rural capacities and livelihoods. They are enablers of community participation and collective action for engendering social change through a bottom-up approach with key focus on the rural citizen.
CSC program is the world’s largest telecentre program with 2,71,211 centers including those at Gram Panchayat level as on 31st Dec 2017. Almost all CSCs are run by an entrepreneur, who is well versed in local understanding. Therefore, the offerings at CSCs are custom designed to suit local conditions. The gamut of available services at CSCs span across telecommunication, banking and financial services, utility payments, FMCG, educational services, agriculture advisory and information services etc. CSCs also support government in data gathering and data processing for government schemes.
“CSC project is playing a pivotal role under Pillar 3 of Digital India Programme. Pillar 3 is for ‘Public Internet Access'”
A 3 tier structure is promulgated to execute the program. The CSCs are run by Village Level Entrepreneurs (VLEs). The VLEs are chosen by Service Centre Agencies (SCA) after due diligence. These SCAs have entered into a Service Level Agreement (SLA) with State Designated Agency (SDA) in Public Private Partnership (PPP) model. A Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) called CSC e-Governance Services India Ltd. Has also been established to oversee these centres and handhold VLEs. The training responsibility of VLEs also lies with SCAs.
Contrary to the common belief, that availability of smart phones would impede growth CSCs, it is observed that mobile phones are rather complementing visits to CSC. With the information made available through phones, people are more willing to avail government services through CSCs.
Noted Challenges in CSC 1.0
While CSCs have proliferated significantly, It has been observed that there are some issues related to sustainability and quality of services from CSCs. Some of these have also been identified in “Impact Assessment of Indian Common Service Centers” report from ITU to MeitY in May 2013. The report calls out:
- The lack of sufficient capacity building measures in terms of training by SCAs or SPV, peer connect or common forum for reaching out impacts the quality of services from CSCs.
- There are not sufficient value addition opportunities for VLEs to charge for services, as a result they resort to other means for sustaining CSCs. The CSCs are also given the liberty to meet community needs, and not just confine to government services.
There is a definite need to fund capacity building means for CSCs. E-Governance is a means towards achieving SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals), and CSC play an important role in the same. Looking at the demands of government services from a populous country like India, e-governance has a bigger role to play to deliver the services on time.
There is also potential of transforming Community Service Center into hub of potential multi-services leveraging centers such as e-Health, e-Education, e-Government and e-Commerce at community level and therefore CSCs can help India leapfrog in e-Readiness.
Key achievements of the CSC program*
*Figures as on 31st Dec 2017
Towards CSC 2.0
From learnings in implementation of CSC 1.0. and basis ITU report, government introduced CSC 2.0 in 2016 which envisages a transaction based and service delivery-based model. The new model in addition to enhancing CSC centres has stronger focus on image building and sustenance. Some of the salient initiatives in the new version of CSC 2.0 include:
- Creating and strengthening the institutional framework for the rollout and project management, thereby, supporting the State and District administrative machinery and handholding of the VLEs through local language Help Desk support.
- Enablement and consolidation of online services under one technology platform, hence, making the service delivery at CSCs outlets accountable, transparent, efficient and traceable, with a technology-driven relationship between all stakeholders.
- Increasing sustainability of VLEs by sharing maximum commission earned through delivery of e-services and encouraging women as VLEs.