The Government of India is planning to float a new company CSC e-governance Services India Ltd to provide back-end services to the huge network of 1,00,000 telecentres (common service centres), across the country that have sprung up to take IT to rural India. The company, a special purpose vehicle (SPV), being set up by the department of information technology, will be a first of sorts for the government in the IT sector where it has largely avoided venturing except for specialised bodies. Senior officials of the department of information technology said the proposed company would be listed and it will harness the best of private sector enterprise to provide cheap and large-scale services to India’s population which has still not benefited from the IT boom.
Headquartered in New Delhi, the company will have a 44.5% stake from the state governments, 44.5% stake from all the service centre agents— essentially companies that have bid for CSCs with the rest 11% stake on offer for institutional investors — both domestic and foreign. The company is expected to start functioning within a month.
This will introduce the economies of scale in the working of the CSCs which have been bid out to companies like Reliance Communications and 3i Infotech. At present these companies enter into agreements with each service provider to offer services like banking, mobile services and e-learning at the CSCs. But the scale of the projects is often too small to make them viable for the companies to bid for. FE had earlier reported that some firms like Reliance Communications are shutting down their CSCs in West Bengal, as a result.
So, the new company will take on the services on offer from the private and government companies and distribute them like a large back-end operation of a national retailer to the country-wide network of CSCs that are coming up.
The target is to set up 2,50,000 such centers spanning all villages with a panchayat level body, within the next three years. “This entity will take care of the interest of both the players who run the CSCs and the government bodies. Moreover, it will bring a certain amount of uniformity to the table.
According to latest figures released by the department, 40% of the total 100,000 CSCs have been rolled out till now and only three states – Haryana, Sikkim, and Jharkhand have been able to achieve 100 per cent roll out. It is expected that all the CSCs will be rolled out and be operational by mid-2010. The government also plans to link up these telecentres to act as interface centres for national level programmes like National Rural Employment Guarantee Programme and National Rural Health Mission, etc.