eGovernance in India

Improving eGovernance in INDIA

A Primer on CIC Project North East INDIA

Posted by egovindia on June 18, 2006

On 6/14/06, nomita das <> wrote:

This brief report is in two parts.

Part 1

My trip to Assam in May was interesting and useful. Prior to my visit I had been independently studying the CIC (Community Information Centre) project established by the National Informatics Centre (NIC). There are 487 of such centres in the North East and 219 in Assam. My research included information collection from field CIC staff or CIC Operators as they are called. They are responsible for the everyday running of the CICs. Others who helped me with my research were District Informatic Officers who are employees of the NIC. My primary modes of data collection were emails, a dedicated yahoo group and an online survey that I conducted. Over a period of four months I familiarised myself with the various facets of the CIC project in Assam, trying to understand the real problems and issues around this much lauded but neglected unique infrastructure enjoyed by only two regions of the country- J&K and the North East.

There is only so much one can learn remotely. So I decided to pay my 'informers' a visit in early May. My agenda was phased into two parts. Firstly, to meet with CIC/NIC staff who I had been corresponding with,and secondly,to meet with State level officials responsible for the planning, implementation and administration of the project. I called a meeting in Guwahati, Assam. The timing was problematic, Assam was gripped in the fervour of State elections and CIC staff were caught up in them working round the clock in the electronic collection, feeding and dissemination of results from the various polling stations around the state. Another example of the utility value of the CICs. Therefore, I was appreciative of the number of people who turned up for the meeting. It was nice to put faces to names including new names, more CIC Operators and technical staff from NIC, including the President of the All Assam CIC Employees Association. I was also glad that special invitee Bano Haralu, Senior Special Correspondent NDTV, was also present. My premise for inviting Bano was to get a major national TV channel interested in a unique developmental issue in the otherwise mainstream media shunned NE.

The meeting lasted for a good three hours and involved an indepth, open discussion on various facets of the CIC project in Assam:

1. Current CIC status- Perceived usefullness
2. Problems/Issues- CIC staff issues,communication problems with concerned authorities, running costs of CICs,disparities in service levels,infrastructure and technical problems, sustainability of project beyond 2007
3. Proper utilisation of CICs- current service offerings, suggestions on new and improved services, potential to emerge as both knowledge and service hubs
3. Future of CICs- short-term and long-term goals.

All in all, the discussions revealed two important themes around the CIC project. There exists a sense of helplessness and isolation among advocates of the project in the face of the response or lack thereof from the state gvernment. This is a result of a complete absence of communication between the government and personnel on the ground. In the last five years since the inception of the project, the government had not shown an iota of interest in establishing a formal system of studying, monitoring and improving the project. This may be due to two reasons. With a fledgling IT department, it may be safe to assume that there were problems in understanding the concept behind the CICs or ICTs for development on the whole. There is no doubt that a project of this scale and magnitude will have to have government backing. Most times, this boils down to the interest of one individual, agency, body or organisation. Personally, I do not think there was anybody internally or from the outside who had the interest or the knowledge to make the government sit up and take notice of the CIC project. The sustainability of the CIC project come February 2007 and the subsequent regularisation of CIC staff jobs is the foremost issue needing attention. CIC personnel made desperate attempts to be heard by writing to local MLAs, MPs, Disctrict Commissioners, all the way up to the President of India. They also posted their grievances on various online chat groups. At best they found a sympathetic ear, and a whole lot of opinions.
For the full report click here

Nomita Das
Guest book-


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