Spring-Summer 2005

eSeva E-services in Southeast India

Andhra Pradesh, India
Andhra Pradesh, India

Democracy, as we all learned in high school, has been defined as government of the people, for the people and by the people. While the first two goals have been to an extent met, the true test of democracy lies in it transitioning to being administered by the people themselves. Being the head of the district administration of the eSeva (e-services) project in the West Godavari District in the province of Andhra Pradesh in India, I had the opportunity of conceptualizing, implementing and sustaining an initiative wherein information and communications technology have acted as an agent in enabling such a change. We have helped to replace the traditional form of governance and its accompanying deficiencies with a modern, more open, transparent and responsive service delivery system.

The project is the prime tool to bridge the digital divide in the rural areas and has used Information Technology for providing access to various citizen-to-government and citizen-to-citizen services through web enabled rural kiosks established in the villages throughout the district. These centers are managed by women's self-help groups, and have been able to position the women as information leaders to help bridge the gender divide.

These centers provide access to the WestGodavari.org district portal which has services ranging from the issuance of certificates required for getting various social benefits to government, education, employment, medical and health program information to utility bill and tax payment capabilities.

The computers in the village information kiosks are on a district wide network (a hybrid of dial up, 802.11 and WLL) helping kiosks interact with the district server hosting the local portal. To save on the networking costs, the project has developed a unique synchronization tool that allows the kiosks to work offline and the databases to be periodically synchronized in minimal time.

A view of an e-Seva centre
A view of an e-Seva centre
Views of e-Seva centres

The project has been developed using local knowledge and local content by local professionals. There are citizen forums and online auctions and biddings for rural marketing. The project has developed a citizen-centric land records system resulting in evolution of a transparent and effective land record delivery system designed to address the insecurities of the farmers. Although the roman alphabet is being used currently, the content on the citizen petitions is in local language. 14,000 citizen grievances have been redressed in this way—see the success stories listing of 30 Long Pending Grievances Settled. Steps are underway to switch over to the local language fonts.

With over 200 kiosks in the district the project has completed more than two million transactions so far. Centers are doing good business and becoming self-sustainable, earning $50-500 per month. The project has also opened the possibility for the self-help groups to market their products directly without the need for middlemen. The website has become a major dissemination and broadcasting tool and has helped in the creation of a knowledge and information economy.

The West Godavari eSeva project won the Outstanding Gender and ICT Project Award for Community/Individual Capacity Building at the World Summit on Information Society in Geneva in December 2003. The project has also won the first prize in the National Awards of the Computer Society of India that year. The project was nominated for the 2004 Stockholm Challenge Award in e-democracy category. In January 2005, the Project was conferred the National Award for Exemplary Implementation of eGovernance ("Gold Icon") by the Government of India.

Mr. Sanjay Jaju is Collector & District Magistrate, West Godavari, and Director of Disrict Administration of eSeva. Mr. Jaju is a mechanical engineer, has completed the Post Graduate Programme in Project Design & Management at the University of Manchester in the U.K., and previously served in the Indian Administrative Service.


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