CSC as a Change Agent:
The CSCs cannot be seen as mere service delivery points in rural India. The CSC has to be positioned as a Change Agent - that will promote rural entrepreneurship, build rural capacities and livelihoods, enable community participation and effect collective action for social change - through a bottom-up model that focuses on the rural citizen.
ICT in isolation cannot undertake such monumental socio-economic change. However, Rural Entrepreneurship driven by Government, Private and Social sector agencies, and supported by continuous capacity building and training has the power to undertake dramatic changes in rural incomes as well as attitudes. The intensity of national goals fueled by local entrepreneurial vigor can act as a powerful catalyst to empower rural India.
ICT for Rural Empowerment
ICT as an Enabler:
ICT can be a powerful enabler of developmental goals as its use can dramatically improve communication and exchange of information for strengthening and creating new economic and social networks. ICT is pervasive and can be applied to the full range of human activity-from personal use to business and government. ICT is multifunctional and flexible, allowing for tailored solutions to meet diverse needs of the population. ICT facilitates disintermediation, as it makes it possible for users to acquire products and services directly from the original provider, reducing the need for intermediaries. ICT is fair, equal and transparent as it does not differentiate on the basis economic status, religion or castes of its users.
The Development Challenge:
About two-thirds of India’s predominantly rural population having agriculture as its primary occupation, account for less than one-third of the National Income leading to disparity in incomes in rural and urban India. Government agencies, domestic and international institutions associated with development, and NGOs have been engaged in addressing this persistent development problem, each in their own space and time, armed with their respective development ideologies and tools. Traditional rural development interventions have centered round:
a) Rural development programmes and schemes launched either at central, state or local government level;
b) Decentralization of Planning;
c) Better enforcement of land reforms; and,
d) Greater access to credit
The strategy has been evolving with changing times and taking into its fold new approaches such as participatory local governance, community development, technology diffusion, and rural entrepreneurship. While the participatory local governance and community development approaches have been well absorbed and adopted by the Government agencies, NGOs and the grassroots alike, the induction of ICT and ‘rural entrepreneurship’ into the rural development domain has been more or less unorganized (despite the promising growth in ICT infrastructure and information system in urban areas).
The work on this ambitious NeGP programme is in progress and currently states are in the process of selection of SCAs. In fact in some of the states like Jharkhand, West Bengal, Haryana, Bihar and Tripura the SCA selection has already been completed. The CSCs would be set up by private franchisees called as Service Center Agencies (SCA) – to be appointed by respective States. The SCAs would further appoint Village Level Entrepreneurs (VLE) to run and manage the CSCs in pre-defined locations. The Scheme would be implemented in a Public Private Partnership Framework with a Focus on Rural Entrepreneurship & Market Mechanisms.
The CSCs would focus on content customization and multi- lingual delivery of end-to-end services for income enhancement in rural areas. These (CSCs) are being designed as ICT-enabled retail distribution outlets for delivery of Government, Social as well as Private Sector services in the areas of Telecom, Agriculture, Health, Education, Entertainment, FMCG products, Banking and Financial services, Utility payments, etc. Each CSC is expected to serve a cluster of 6-7 villages, thereby covering more than six lakh villages across India.