Sunday, August 1, 2010

Village Telecentre program in Karnataka

Nemmadi program in Karnataka
1.    Shri Rajeev Chawla IAS Secretary e-Governance Government of Karnataka,
2.    Anirban Mukerji – e-Governance Consultant
Published “A journey through three states Common Service Centres Programme (CSC) Review, NeGP, India” for i4D Magazine August 2007
Nemmadi in Kannada means peace of mind. The Vision of the Nemmadi project is to empower rural citizens, provide direct access of government services to the citizens and bring government services to the doorstep of the citizen.

1. Introduction

Government of Karnataka (GoK) has been a pioneer in leveraging Information technology in easing the lives of both urban and rural citizens. One of the most path breaking of these e-governance applications is Bhoomi that enables “over the counter” delivery of computerized land records to farmers from the 203 taluka (Tehsil) offices of the State
While the Bhoomi program tremendously benefited the farmers there was a demand for establishing of delivery centres for land records at the village level itself. The need for decentralization of Bhoomi catalyzed the development of the “Nemmadi program” program of the Government of Karnataka.
The State Government understood that it could not establish and operate computer centres at every village and hence decided to establish these centres in the villages under a Public Private Partnership model. It was also apparent that these village telecentres would not be viable if only land records were delivered from these centres and for viability, other e-governance services also needed to be delivered through these village telecentres.

2. Developing a suitable service model

The Revenue department at the taluka level delivers about 35 citizen centric services to the rural citizens. These includes registration of births and deaths for rural citizens, issue of caste and income certificates, and selection of beneficiaries for old age pensions and other social security schemes etc. On an average about 30,000 of such services are delivered annually to the citizens from each of the talukas across the state. Since there was a critical mass of such services, hence implementation of an e-governance program for the citizen centric services delivered from taluka office of the revenue department would create an impact for the citizens also
It was not possible to create a citizens database for delivery of the above described services like issue of caste certificates hence a blended approach was adopted. This led to development of the software in a manner that mimic the existing manual work flow at the taluka office. The first time issue of service to the citizen like a caste certificate would be through the digitized workflow process but the next time the caste certificate can also be issued from the database and in this way a citizen’s database would be created in an incremental fashion.

3. Creating a robust e-governance infrastructure

The e-Governance service delivery infrastructure for delivery of services under Nemmadi comprises of the following components – a) State Data Centre, b) Wide Area Network c) Delivery Channels d) Departmental servers at the Taluka office

3.1.               Village Telecentres 

Village telecentres are the channel for delivery of various e-Governance services to the rural citizens of the state.

3.2.               State Data Centre (SDC)

Karnataka has been one of the first states to create a State Data Centre for hosting all e-governance applications of the state. The Village telecentres access the consolidated database of land records of the entire state for delivery of the same from the centres. Further the requests for the Nemmadi services are transferred to the Taluka servers through the SDC.

3.3.               Wide Area Network

For the current delivery of Nemmadi services and Bhoomi services, the State government has set up a network of VSATS linking each of the taluka servers to the State Data Centre. Later once the Karnataka State wide Area Network (KSWAN) is set up, these taluka servers will connect to SDC through the KSWAN.

3.4.               Taluka Servers

The Taluka servers are the local repository of data and the data updation due the work flow processes for Nemmadi services takes place at the Taluka server.

4. Software for Nemmadi services

The Software for delivery of Nemmadi services has been developed by National Informatics Centre. It has several innovative features like
3.    Multiple modes of delivery of services - As mentioned earlier, services through the Nemmadi software can be delivered in three ways
    1. Work flow - following the existing workflow process followed by the taluka officials.
    2. Reissue of previously issued certificates. The Nemmadi software can track if a certificate has been issued earlier to the citizen and thereafter reissue the same from the database of previously issued certificates.
    3. In case a validated citizen’s database is created the Nemmadi software has a capability to use the same for delivery of Nemmadi services also.
4.    Reports – Use of Nemmadi software allows one to track the delivery of certificates and also to monitor and thereafter rectify the delays in processing of the citizen service requests.
5.    Offline functionality – The Nemmadi software has been built on a rich client model with the master data being stored in the local village telecentre machine also. This allows the application to deliver both online and offline functionality, i.e. service requests of the citizens at the village telecentre can be saved in the local telecentre machine even when connectivity to the State Data Centre is not available and transferred to the SDC once connectivity is established.
6.    Use of Digital Signature – The Nemmadi software has a feature of digital signature by the issuing authority. The Nemmadi software generates an XML of this digitally signed certificate and displays it as a 2 D bar code. This feature helps both in checking the authenticity of the certificate and in dispensing with the physical signature of the official on the certificate. This enables the certificate to be electronically delivered to the village telecentre and thereafter printed and delivered to the citizen.
7.    Biometric authentication - Finger print authentication for login and updation is used for non-repudiation by the government officials.
8.    Unicode - Unicode is being used to store data in the local language. The software can be customized to allow multi-language user interfaces. Currently “Kannada” and “English” languages are supported

5. Nemmadi Deployment Experience

Nemmadi Services were started in Mandya Taluka office in May 2004 initially with only 5 services but over the next 12 months the portfolio was expanded to 37 services.  These services can be categorized in 4 major categories
1.    Various types of Caste and Income related certificates
2.    Registration of births and deaths and issue of birth and death certificates
3.    Application for social security schemes like Old Age Pension, Widow pension, Physically handicapped pension
4.    Other certificates requires by the citizens from the taluka office like Residence certificate, Domicile certificate, Agri-labour certificate, Agriculturist certificate, Small and Marginal farmer certificate.
In the period from May 2004 to September 2006 the Nemmadi model was piloted in 13 talukas of 4 districts of the state and services were delivered to the citizens through about 70 village telecentres. The experience of the pilot helped in understanding the various issues that would be faced during scaling the program in the entire state. The State government decided to go in for a phased rollout and initially wanted to start 800 telecentres at hobli (sub taluka) level and later expand the number of telecentres to 5000.
The Request for Proposal for selection of the private partner for establishing these 800 village telecentres was prepared after incorporating the learnings from the pilot program. The RFP specified detailed configuration of the equipment to be installed in the telecentre. Setting up and operating the back office at the taluka for delivery of Nemmadi services was also included in the scope of work of the vendor. Detailed service level agreements (SLA’s) were incorporated for ensuring both timely roll out of village telecentres and taluka offices and so that the services are delivered from the village telecentres as per the agreement.
In September 2006, the project was awarded to the private partner through a transparent tendering process and by April 2007 about 750 telecentres were established in entire state.

6. Delivery of Services through the Village telecentre

The objective of establishing these village telecentres has clearly succeeded and in June 2007, about 4 Lakh land records were distributed through these village telecentres. The process of starting Nemmadi services from the taluka office is more difficult as unlike Bhoomi, Nemmadi is a new program and requires efforts in change management and training of the taluka staff.  However as of June 2007 these services have been started from 52 taluka offices and over 2 Lakh services are being delivered every month to the citizens in June. The success of deployment of Nemmadi Services in these 52 taluka offices has convinced the department officials of other talukas that Nemmadi not only improves the service delivers to the citizens but also improves administrative functioning and now there is a demand for rolling out Nemmadi all the remaining taluka offices of the State.
These village telecentres will also shortly deliver various Business to Consumer (B2C) services like sale of insurance, agricultural service, photography rural BPO to the rural citizens.

7. Conclusion

The Nemmadi program has succeeded in Karnataka because of the innovative launch-learn-innovate methodology of the State Government. Each of the components for delivery of Nemmadi services has been thoroughly tested through pilot deployments and the learnings from the pilots have been incorporated in the solution.  With the commencement of Nemmadi services in the entire state and delivery of services through the 800 village telecentres, the state government is confident that its vision of empowering the society by providing direct access to government services at the door step of the citizen will be realized.
Conceptualization of e-Governance programs sometimes restrict the discussions to technology, and technical terms like products to be deployed, server specifications etc. While technology choices can influence the success of e-Governance programs but they are only enabling factors. The most important process of e-Governance however involves transformation of governance and the softer issues concerning training, hand holding and change management. It is designing of these softer issues that determine the success or failure of e-governance programs and it is these difficult issues that have been successfully managed in the Nemmadi program in Karnataka.

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