Himachal Pradesh - a brief Introduction
Himachal Pradesh is a sparsely populated State with difficult topographical and climatic conditions. The people have to travel large distances on foot or by road to reach the appropriate level of administration to get their jobs done. Moreover, certain things can be got done at tehsil level whereas for others, a person may have to go to sub-division or district head quarters. Besides this, within a place, he may have to go to different offices for various kinds of jobs. This results in substantial wastage of time and money of an individual. Therefore, ICT can play an important role in providing services at the doorstep of rural community by bringing all citizen related services and information under a single roof cutting across different tiers of administration. The unique feature of this project is that the submission of documents and collection of required certificates/ licences etc. can be done even at a place other than the one where sanction is to be done (except where physical presence is necessary as per law).
The experience of Himachal Pradesh Government with similar experiments in providing G2C interfaces has shown that people are willing to pay user charges if they are assured of quick delivery and objective decisions. So the project will be economically viable. The project is technically sustainable too as quite a few software packages already exist. Some other packages are under development. Availability of sufficient band width (nearly 1/3rd of the total road length in the State has n x 2mbps connectivity) right down to the Panchayat level is another reason that makes the project technically viable. Now, the State Government has issued a right of way policy wherein provision of bandwidth of up to 2 mbps even at Tehsil/ Block level has been envisaged. Besides this, assets and hardware from different sources are proposed to be pooled together to strengthen the project.
A group of locations will be put up for tenders as far as recurring cost of manpower/consumables and a small part of civil infrastructure are concerned. If the bidders are asked to provide the capital cost of entire infrastructure, his operations may become unviable due to very small population (and hence limited number of transactions) of this State. In case of non-availability of private players, personnel belonging to the Government Departments/Organizations will provide the actual services. Every counter will be multipurpose.
The application forms, web-interface and contents for touch screen kiosks will be developed, as far as possible, in Hindi.
Keeping all these things in mind, it is proposed to setup one i-CoSC centre (having PCs, Printers, Scanner, Web Camera, UPS etc.) in a District covering all Tehsils/ Sub-Tehsils, Sub-Divisions and District Headquarter of that District. These centres will be interconnected using leased/ dial up lines. The transfer of data with the line departments will be instantaneous or periodic (at least once a day) depending on connectivity, criticality of data and volume of transactions.
i-CoSC Centre at Tehsil will have real-time environment for all those services which can be processed at Tehsil level and will be executed as soon as relevant documents are furnished by the citizen. However, all those services which are either related to Sub-Division level or related to District Headquarter Level, can be availed online from Tehsil centre i.e. user can apply online for a particular service from Tehsil centre and the relevant documents can be submitted there itself. There will be no need of repetitive visits to Sub-Division/ District Headquarter. Instead, the user will get the status of his application (or even delivery) at Tehsil centre or through a web portal or even through SMS on mobile phone or IVR on PSTN line. A definite date and mode of delivery for the completion of the task will be indicated.
i-CoSC Centres at all the levels (i.e. tehsil, sub-division and district headquarter) will have similar setup and same services at all places.
One touch screen kiosk will also be installed at each i-CoSC Centre to give free access to information. Only actual cost of printing through a coin operated printer will be charged.
Most of the Project Services have already been got developed by the individual departments, which are operational in isolation. This project aims to integrate/ upgrade these services and to bring the same closer to the people at larger scale. So the project can take off easily once the funds are made available for infrastructure at these G2C centres. The cost of developing applications and providing requisite hardware in various departments will be arranged by the State Govt.
In order to make this project self sustainable, user charges will be imposed for availing the services or accessing Internet/ E-mail. Our experience with some district level centres (in transport sector) in the past has shown that the people are willing to pay the service charges. However, considering multiple services under a single roof, these service charges will be rationalised further to make it affordable for the citizen without diluting the viability for the entrepreneur (selected through a competitive bidding process) running the centre.
The project implementation team will be headed by the Deputy Commissioner at the district level and by the Secretary IT at state level.