Today, e-governance is helping people, businesses and governments get closer to one another and provide each other mutually beneficial and value-accretive services. However, when it comes to rural India, people often have to go to the nearest small town for the smallest of chores: be it for paying their electricity bills, getting themselves registered for voter id cards, submitting a government job application, and the like. What makes this process even more irksome for the villagers is the meager transport facilities they have access to. E-governance could be a great means to get rid of these inefficiencies. We’ll discuss here how the Common Service Centers (CSCs) initiated by the government can help revolutionize e-governance in India.
Common Service Center (CSC)
A Common Service Center (CSC) is a terminal operated with information and communication technology (ICT), and seeking to extend various services provided by the government to the villages. There are about 160,000 CSCs dotted across more than 600,000 villages in India, according to official estimates.
How CSCs work
CSCs are operated on the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) model, entailing an agreement between a public agency, such as a Union, State or local government agency, and a private sector entity. The local entrepreneur establishes the center, and provides the necessary infrastructure, such as housing and computer terminals, along with an Internet connection. The entrepreneur gets paid when people come and make transactions.
The government’s decision to introduce cash-on-delivery mode into its Government-to-Citizen (G2C) program is likely to make the CSC more relevant. This will happen as people will start heading to the nearest government offices in fewer instances, choosing instead to visit these centers.
What CSCs do?
CSCs are coming to the aid of people in rural areas in many ways, facilitating several key services.
Aadhaar card application
The CSCs offer Aadhaar card related services. Statistics show that of the 100 crore Aadhaar card enrolments done so far, CSCs accounted for at least 10%.
To start with, CSCs were started as a government instrument with the prime objective of offering e-governance services at low to medium prices in rural and remote areas. Today, they are working on the broader objective of financial inclusion. Receiving applications for the pension schemes offered by state governments is one such service provided by the CSCs. In the months to come, the CSCs will expand the ambit of their offerings to banking services, involving major public sector banks.
Collecting insurance premium
Another e-governance service offered by CSCs relates to collection of insurance premium as agencies for the insurers. Though private sector players have been allowed to enter the insurance market, and numerous insurance service offering entities have come into existence, people find it cumbersome to pay the renewal premium for insurance.
With CSCs taking on the collection task, the number of policyholders renewing their policies in the villages has increased. Also, this has led to more income for the CSC owners in terms of earning commission.
How people use CSCs
Rural folk are happy to use the CSCs to pay their user charges (electricity bills), file applications for voter identity cards and income certificates for state governments, obtain physical copies of applications for various government schemes, and apply for jobs.
From their humble beginnings, CSCs across the country are fast evolving into an important pillar of rural development. Proliferation of e-governance and expansion of advanced Internet technology, coupled with the growing popularity of a variety of mobile devices in villages, have led to this transformation. CSCs are thus now helping take the government virtually to the doorsteps of the villagers.
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