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GYANDOOT  

                A COMMUNITY-OWNED,  SELF SUSTAINABLE AND  LOW COST

 RURAL INTRANET PROJECT

 INTRODUCTION

 On January 1, 2000, Dhar district began the new millennium with installation of low cost, self-sustainable and community owned rural Intranet project. Dhar district is located on the south western corner of the central India and has a population of 1.7 million, with 54% population being tribal ( Bhils, Bhilalas, patleiyas) and 60% population living below poverty line.  Computers in 20 village centres in ten Blocks of the district were wired through an Intranet network (presently there are 34 such wired village centres). Local rural youth act as entrepreneurs for running cybercafes-cum-cyberoffices on commercial lines without salary or stipend.  The computers in the network have been established in Gram Panchayats (Village Committee). They have been called Soochanalayas (Information Kiosks).  The Soochanalayas provide user-charge-based services  to the rural people. This Intranet system has been named Gyandoot  (Messenger of Informat  )            

SOOCHAK ( Manager/owner  of the kiosk)

 The person operating the Soochanalaya is a local matriculate operator and is called Soochak. A soochak is not an employee but an entrepreneur. Soochak only needs maintenance and numeric data entry skills. He needs very limited typing skills since most of the Intranet software is menu-driven .

The Soochaks for originally started 21 centres were selected interactively by village committees and the local community. Three member panels were selected by the community who received training at their own cost at the District Council. At the end of the training, the best trainees were selected out of a panel of three as Soochaks. He / she runs the Soochanalaya on commercial lines. He has an initial one year agreement with the village committee. He does not receive any salary. He bears the cost of stationery, maintenance and electric and telephone bills. He pays 10% of income as commission to the Zila Panchayat  (District Council) for maintaining the net.

The 13 centres started as private enterprise, the Soochak is the owner of the establishment who pays Rs. 5,000 as a license fee for one year to district council. Each Soochak is expected to earn a net income of at least Rs. 36,000 per annum at conservative projections.

  SERVICES AND FACILITIES :

 During the formation of the project proposal a detailed RRA/PRA exercise was taken up involving the villagers and the community. The selection of the services was a result of this interactive exercise and was based upon the advice and the felt needs of the villagers.  In these meetings, it was learnt that due to lack of information regarding the current and prevailing mandi (agriculture produce auction centres) rates, the farmers were unable to get the best price for their agricultural produce.  Villagers also informed that copies of land records were difficult to obtain.  The villager who requires a copy of the land record had to go out in search of the patwari  (village functionary who maintains all land records) who may or may not be available on that particular day at his headquarters.  For small complaints or for giving applications, people had to go to district headquarter which resulted in waste of time, money and potential livelihood earnings. The services offered on the Gyandoot network are:

Agriculture Produce Auction Centres   Rates:

The variety-wise current and prevailing rates of prominent cereal crops of the district like wheat, gram, soybean, etc. at local and other prominent auction centres of the country are available on-line. Other statistics of the auction centres e.g. the volume of incoming agricultural produce, previous rates etc.  are also  provided on demand. The facility is available at a nominal charge of Rs. 5. Horticulture crops like tomato, potato, peas, green chillies, guava etc. are also produced in substantial quantity in the district.  The rates of these commodities are also available.

On-line Registration of Applications:

So far, the villagers had to go to the local revenue court to file applications for obtaining income / caste / domicile certificates or for getting demarcation done or for obtaining landholder's loan passbook (rin pustika) etc.  For this, they would again made repeated visits to the court to enquire about the progress of the application as well as to finally collect the prepared document.  Now, through Soochanalayas they may send the application at a cost of only Rs. 10 and thereafter, in a maximum period of 10 days, preferably less, an intimation of the readiness of the certificate is sent back to them through e-mail at the concerned Soochanalaya.  Thereafter, they may go to the concerned court to collect the certificate.

      On-line Public Grievance Redressal:

Wherever there is some problem in the delivery of services, the villagers travel at the cost of time, money and livelihood to Block, tahsil or district headquarters without any certainty that they would even be able to meet the officer concerned.  Now through the Soochanalaya, a villager may send his / her complaint with assurance of reply within a maximum period of seven days, preferably lesser, at a charge of Rs. 10.  The reply to his complaint after redressal is sent back at the Soochanalaya through e-mail. Complaints available on the intranet include complaints regarding drinking water, scholarship sanction / disbursement, quality of seed / fertiliser, employee establishment matters (like leave or provident fund sanction) queries, functioning of school, public distribution system, beneficiary oriented schemes, functioning of village committee etc.

     Rural  e-mail facility:

A fee based e-mailing facility, which is provided in the intranet, and it has all the features and facilities of a state-of-the-art web based e-mail.

  Village auction site:

This facility is started since July 2000 where auction facilities are available to farmers and villagers for land, agricultural machinery, bullocks or equipment or other durable commodities. It opens a new horizon of e-transactions in the rural areas. The middlemen involved in the rural commodity transaction market are sought to be eliminated through this facility.  One can put one’s commodity on sale for charges of Rs. 25/- for three months. One can browse the list of salable commodities for Rs. 10/-.

   On line matrimonial site:

A fee based on-line matrimonial service for the villagers to choose the right match for a prospective bride/groom. Every entry from a Soochanalaya by a villager gets added on to a centralized database with search facility on various criteria. The user charges for service rendered is Rs. 25/- for three months. The program has been designed to suit the requirements of the villagers.

   Information regarding government programmes :

Detailed Information regarding over a hundred government programmes is now available on the Gyandoot Intranet. The villagers have an access to the information regarding all government programmes related to rural development.

  Sawaliram se puchiye:

This site provides opportunity to schoolchildren to ask inquisitive questions regarding career counseling or any other field from Sawaliram at no cost.  A team of experts at the district headquarter provide the answers within three days. The facility is created to promote inquisitiveness, ability to inquire and scrutinize among the school children.

Ask the expert:

This facility is aimed at farmers and villagers who can inquire about latest techniques, advice for their problems, new technologies etc. from a group of experts pertaining to fields of agriculture, animal husbandry, health, or related to legal opinion. The service is provided at Rs 5/- user charge.

Free E-mail facility on social issues:

Free of cost option are available to the villagers to inform regarding child labour, child marriage, illegal possession of land belonging to Scheduled Tribes etc. Besides they can send e-mails to others connected through the net with the help of this facility in Hindi.

Avedan Patra:

This facility provides on-line application formats required by local administration and departments of the state government. Thus, application forms are available at the doorsteps of the villagers and avoid their running from pillar to post for these application forms.

Transparency in government working:

Updated and latest information regarding public distribution system, list of below poverty line families, beneficiaries of social security pension, beneficiaries of rural development schemes, information regarding government grants given to village committees, etc. are available on the intranet which makes the government functioning transparent.

Gaon ka Akhabar (Village Newspaper):

A local web-based newspaper is available to cater to the rural people. The newspaper delivers micro-news about the happening around the villages where Soochaks act as correspondents.

    E-education (shiksha gyandoot):

This site contains reading material to supplement and help the students in understanding and learning their subjects in a better way. It contains things like syllabuses of various subjects taught in class X and XII, question banks developed by a team of experts to help in preparation of exams, chithi to help them keep in touch with other schools connected to the intranet etc.

    Employment News:

This site contains employment news for semi skilled employees.

   Below Poverty line list:

The site contains the whole list of below the poverty line families and anyone can check his her name in the list.

STRENGTHENING OF PROJECT:

In order to make Soochanalayas economically viable entities and to improve the functioning of the project following steps are being taken :

Additional facilities at Soochanalayas :

To make Soochanalayas economically viable soochaks are given licenses to vendor government judicial stamps and powers of petition writer are also delegated to them. Due to the delegation of above mentioned powers additional incomes are possible and the Soochanalayas are becoming virtual cyber offices. .

On-line linking of all departments with gyandoot server :

 A local Area Network (LAN) linking all the major district offices has been installed. As a result, the district heads of various government departments like health, education, tribal development, revenue, food, agriculture, public health engineering, District Council and District Magistrate etc. are connected directly to gyandoot network. This provides backup support and logistics to gyandoot network.

 E-education initiatives:

The Gyandoot Samiti, with the help from Member of Parliament, has established 32 kiosks  at the high schools and higher secondary schools. We are providing them local educational contents through the server. They are also accessing internet for other educational contents. Each school is having Computer Club to promote activities related to IT among rural students.

EXPANSION OF THE PROJECT:

Some fundamental guidelines were framed for future expansion. They were:

1). Centers to be opened only in the villages where local telephone exchange is having OFC and fair connectivity,

2). New centers to be created through private investment.

3). New services and facilities to be introduced in phased manner.

  ACTION PLAN FOR INCREASING USAGE OF THE NETWORK

A comprehensive and integrated multi-media mass campaign concentrating on IEC activities has been launched in the district. The campaign focuses on penetration and propagation of the project in the hinterland of the district. Indian Institute of Management, Indore is collaborating to provide structured inputs for the IEC activities. The steps taken include:

Gyandoot medhavi chhatra (talented students) scholarship:

 From the funds available with gyandoot, two scholarships each of Rs. 1,000/- per month for 5 years have been announced. For the scholarship, only those students of the district would be eligible who motivate 10 or more villagers to use gyandoot facilities between the period 1st September to 31st December 2000. The scholarships will be finalised through an on-line test of the eligible students and the result of the test would be declared on 26th January 2001. This scheme uses the services of the students to propagate new technology and its power among the rural masses.

Visit of school children to nearest Soochnalaya :

 Students of class IX, X, XI, XII are taken to the nearest Soochanalaya on study tour. These students are given elaborate demonstration on the gyandoot  Intranet system and the facilities available at the centre.

Gramsabha in the villages in the project  area :

Special gramsabhas (Meeting of all villagers) in each village in the project area have been started which will be completed by January, 2001. These specially convened village meetings will deliberate on gyandoot and its services, which are available there at nominal cost.

.Audio-Visual campaign :

Posters and pamphlets have been distributed to all the concerned village committees. TV cable network and cinema halls are being used to popularise gyandoot services. Audiocassettes carrying gyandoot messages are being used  in weekly haat bazaars (market places).

Use of ISRO-DECU communication project :

 A communication project has been established by ISRO (Indian Space Research Organisation) which is already functional in 200 villages of the district. The said project carries message on the gyandoot project.

Gyandoot Computer Clubs :

Gyandoot Computer Clubs are being established in major high schools and higher secondary schools of the district.

Incentives:

Incentive in the form of cash awards (Rs.5,000/-, Rs.3,000/-, Rs. 2,000/-) along with certificate of excellence were given to three best performing Soochaks and certificate of appreciation were given to the village head of the concerned village committee on 15th August,2000. These incentives are being offered twice a year.

Sir Ratan Tata Trust Healthy Child Competition:

Sir Ratan Tata Trust has granted Rs. three lakhs to organise healthy child competition based on Soochnalayas. The scheme has dual objective of promoting good practices of child rearing among rural masses and at the same time let them know about IT and its usages. The competition is organised with Soochanalayas as nodal points. It will motivate villagers to come to the kiosks. This competition was recently organised (between 9th to 19th April 2001) and was a huge success with 29140 children (12113 boys and 16027 girls) participating in it. All the people coming to the soochanalaya for this purpose were explained the utility of the Gyandoot network. It is expected that this will popularise the use of the network for various purposes.

PROJECT PARTNERS :

No

Organisation name

Role in the project

1

District Council (Zila panchayat)

Conceptualisation of the project, bringing together the financial resources, management of the server room

2

District Administration

Conceptualisation of the project, co-ordination, Commanding the back-end human system, Liasing with the State Government

3

State Government of Madhya Pradesh

Providing vision to use IT for rural masses

4

District planning Committee

Monitoring and evaluation

5

National Informatics Center

Software Maintenance & all required Technical Support.

6

Gyandoot Society

Enrichment and expansion of the project, IEC, software development, induction of new technology, capacity building

 STOCKHOLM CHALLENGE AWARD  2000:

Gyandoot project of Dhar District has been awarded Stockholm Challenge IT Award 2000 at a glittering function in Town Hall, Stockholm on 6th June 2000.  In the words of the organisers, Stockholm City Economic Development Agency in partnership with the European Commission :

 "The Stockholm Challenge Award is a challenge between pioneering IT projects world wide ... The Stockholm Challenge award focuses on the benefit that information technology can bring people and society. The technology itself is not the issue. ... The single most important criterion is the benefit the project can bring to individuals, society and the environment by using inspirational approaches within the local context."

 Gyandoot was declared winner in "Public Service and Democracy" category out of 109 IT projects from all over the world. The gyandoot project is the only Indian project to receive the award in any category in last four years.

The 29 member international Jury has stated its motivation in identifying Gyandoot Project as a winner as follows:

"Project "Gyandoot" is a unique government to citizen Intranet project implemented in a tribal district (Dhar) in Central India, with numerous benefits to the region, including a people-based self-reliant sustainable strategy. "Gyandoot" is recognised as a breakthrough in e-government, demonstrating a paradigm shift which gives marginalised tribal citizens their first ever chance to access knowledge, with minimum investment." 

 

CSI-TCS NATIONAL IT AWARD:

The project is awarded  CSI-TCS  National IT Award for best IT usage, instituted by the Computer Society of India, for the year 2000. The final contestants for the award were ICICI Bank, Global Trust Bank, SAIL and National Crime Record Bureau, along with the Gyandoot project.

 

 



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