It wasn't so long ago that senior citizens of rural Karnataka spent money and the better part of two days travelling to the district pension office at the taluk headquarters, to collect money or process documents. Nemmadi has provided them with the solution, telecenters that link the remotest rural areas and increase connectivity.
- Project Nemmadi is a Rs 30-crore public-private initiative is an extension of the celebrated Project Bhoomi that computerized 2 crore rural land records in 2001
- By February 2007, the basic infrastructure was ready in almost 30,000 villages across Karnataka’s hinterland
- Today, there are 755 telecenters operational with rural digital service provided across 55 taluks
- As of now, the telecenters provide 37 services ranging from utility payments to processing of documents apart from RTCs
- Developing technology infrastructure in the hinterland
- How everyone can win with public private partnerships
- Value at the bottom of the pyramid
Over time, Project Bhoomi received criticism for centralizing land records at the taluk level. It still required villagers to travel up to the nearest taluk. To improve their reach, the state government put in place a rural telecenters project, better known as Nemmadi. It has certainly saved the rural residents the long commute as they can access records from the nearest tele-center.
The e-governance department actually began the telecenter initiative in 2004 with a pilot project at Mandya in a town called Maddur to determine its efficacy across villages. The pilot showed a high probability of success, paving the way for the rollout of Namma kiosks.
The operation model for Nemmadi has been stringent in its SLAs. As Ashim Roy, VP for technology at Comat Technologies, says, "3iInfotech are providing us support in terms of procurement and so on. But in terms of architecting the solution and managing the deployment, that's totally our responsibility." On its part, Comat has built, deployed and maintained the telecenters, referred to as rural business centers (RBC), for the first five years of the implementation. These RBC kiosks offer both G2C as well as B2C services. Comat has also taken up existing Bhoomi kiosks, and scaled them up from being centers dedicated to land record-related services to B2C-friendly RBCs. Each RBC possesses backup power and is equipped with one computer, printer and camera.
The government has fixed different charges for different services, depending on the area and nature of service, among other factors.
Project Nemmadi required us to use technology in rural areas, and also enable the locals there to use it.
Comat has developed a Global Services Infrastructure (GSI) that provides a common platform to deliver the diverse services. The rural digital service application collects data and issues certificates online, but can function even offline by writing data into the local queue. Once online, it's synced with the central database at the state data center. The Karnataka government has also set up the Nemmadi Monitoring Cell (NMC), which receives 3 percent of the share of all B2C and G2C service charges. At the village level, the tele-center sources data from the state data center. So, in the case of Bhoomi land records, for instance, citizens can access RTC data online using the RTC-on-Web application.
NIC had provided the software for the RTCs. But for the others, we had to create the software," says Roy. Comat had developed GSI that provided a common platform for delivery of all RTCs. Another huge problem Comat faced was breaks in connectivity. "Any break in connectivity affects the RTC printout. We have to keep track of all the papers. At the end of every month, we have to give a report to the government listing out the RTCs that have been issued, and those that got damaged," asserts Roy. To counter the problem of breaks in prints causing security or authenticity issues, measures like holograms that identify the documents' origin and authenticity have now been introduced.
However, change management continues to be the biggest challenge, even from a citizen's point of view. Optimization of time has been tried out in Nemmadi processes. There is one SLA, which states that no paper can be kept pending for more than two days. Thereafter, it basically functions on a first -come- first-served basis. Despite being burdened by criticisms and riding on the success of Bhoomi, the Namma Telecenters are running in 55 taluks. By October-end, there are plans to cover all 177 taluks. Of course, the champions of the project - both public and private partners - are prepared for more resistance from middlemen, who will be eliminated with the success of the telecenters.