New Delhi, Sep 21 (IANS) Over 100,000 common services centres (CSCs) covering over 600,000 villages are to be set up to bridge the digital divide and provide a range of government services on an 'anytime-anywhere' basis, it was announced here Thursday.
'The cabinet today gave its approval for the setting up of 100,000 rural CSCs across the country at a total cost of Rs.5,742 crore (Rs.57.42 billion)' government spokesperson Deepak Sandhu told reporters after a cabinet meeting presided over by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
Of this, the government would provide Rs.8.56 billion and the state governments Rs.7.93 billion. The balance of Rs.40.93 billion is expected to come from the private sector.
'The CSCs are expected to give a boost to development by helping to bridge the digital divide. The project is expected to substantially extend the reach of digital services and economic opportunities into the rural and remote areas of the country,' Sandhu said.
The CSCs will be rolled out by March 2008.
According to Sandhu, the CSC is the 'strategic cornerstone' of the National e-Governance Plan (NeGP) approved by the government in May 2006, as part of its commitment in the National Common Minimum Programme to introduce e-governance on a massive scale.
The scheme is aimed at making all government services accessible to citizens in their localities.
'The CSC is one of the three infrastructure pillars of e-governance which the government is committed to building, to ensure 'anytime-anywhere' Web-enabled delivery of government services,' the spokesperson said.
The other two pillars are the statewide area network connectivity (SWAN) that has already been approved by the government at a cost of Rs.33.34 billion and the data centres in the states.
The CSCs will be 256 kbps broadband Internet-enabled and will offer a basket of government-to-citizen (G2C) and business-to-customer (B2C) services. They will provide high quality and cost-effective video, voice and data content and services, in the areas of e-governance, education, health, telemedicine, entertainment as well as other private services.
'Other significant public and private services that can be accessed through these centres would be remote consulting for healthcare, e-enabled vocational training, market and supply chain linkages, rural BPO, agricultural price and weather information,' Sandhu said.
'The CSCs are thus envisaged to act as change agents in accelerating integration of the rural masses into the economic mainstream of the country.'
The CSCs are expected to create 100,000 direct jobs and 200,000-300,000 indirect jobs.
'The scheme, when fully operational, will help people enjoy higher disposable incomes achieved by reducing time and costs in obtaining the government and private services, and through enhanced employment opportunities available digitally,' Sandhu pointed out.
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