Chhattisgarh Heading Towards IT Revolution

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The state of Chhattisgarh has been pushing ahead with the agenda of establishing Naya Raipur as a model IT driven smart city which would also showcase the state’s vision to undertake e-governance at the broadest and highest levels. CHiPS is the nodal agency to realize this grand vision. To understand the contours of this grand project, Governance Today spoke to Saurabh Kumar, CEO, CHiPS. Edited excerpts:

Can you explain in brief about CHiPS?

CHiPS, Chhattisgarh Infotech and Biotech Promotion Society, was established in 2001 immediately after the state was formed in the year 2000. At that time, there was a large demand for e-governance projects and IT automation within the government department. For this reason the state government decided that the implementation responsibility should be shifted from the Department of Electronics and IT to a separate society and thus CHiPS was formed. The Department of Electronics and IT currently has the mandate of implementing e-governance projects along with investment promotion in IT and electronic fields.

What are the major projects that you are planning to undertake or are currently working on?

CHiPS is involved in implementation of some mega IT Projects like CHOiCE, e-Gram Suraj, e-Procurement, SWAN, e-Treasury, Bhuiyan and GIS. When it comes to e-governance, Government of Chhattisgarh has always been a pioneer state. All the e-governance projects have been running exceptionally well in the state. The state government has taken lot of initiatives to implement state wide projects that would include connecting all the villages via NOFN (National Optic Fiber Network) and extending this connectivity to all the schools and villages within the gram panchayats. Second focus will be to provide high-speed internet, wi-fi hotspots not only in Raipur but across the state.

Introducing unique project monitoring tools and unique decision support systems has been a key thrust area for the Honble CM for which we are working on CM dashboard which is a unique platform throughout India. So, there are lot of innovative things are come in for e-governance projects.

Even when it comes to Smart City solutions, Raipur would on the top as ours is the only city where all the technologies related to smart cities would be tested.

What are the plans regarding the development in Raipur as an IT based-city? And what kind of benefits would be provided to investors who would like to come to this city with their offerings and solutions?

Firstly, I believe that Raipur city is unique in terms of land use, industries and the educational institutions that would come up in the city. So, all these factors make Raipur a great place for investors to introduce their solutions.

Secondly, when it comes to helping our investors we already have dedicated sectors defined for IT investors and electronics investors. We have a special policy under which we are providing land at very competitive rates that cannot be found anywhere in India. In addition to this, we are already in talks with the three major realty developers in the country – DLF, Unitech and Ambience. One of them would take up the development of an integrated IT township in the city. We are also planning to have an IT tower for which we will collaborate with these three developers

In smart cities all the utilities have to be provisioned in smart ways. I believe that lot of solutions that have not been implemented in the world would end up being implemented in Raipur as this city serves as the only lab for investors to try new and innovative things. For this to happen, we are in contact with major OEM companies like Cisco and Intel.

How do you plan to usher e-Governance in Chhattisgarh?

We are currently working on few e-Governance projects like Digital Secretariat for which the Office Automation Application suite has been developed through using which files can be managed, moved and tracked. The project will reduce paper work in state secretariat and various departments. In the pilot phase the project is to be rolled out in the Mantralaya and later, in all State Government offices of Chhattisgarh. A support team has been placed inside Mantralaya to support the Departments for using the System.

Another project is e-District that focuses on enabling the delivery of a majority of citizen centric services, which are administered by the District Administration. The implementation of the e-District MMP (Mission Mode Project) starts by identifying the pilot district and then finalizing the list of services that are be taken up under the Project. It is proposed that a minimum of five services to a maximum of ten services can be undertaken. The services under these core services would be developed under the implementation of state portal, SSDG (State Service Delivery Gateway) and electronic form project.

One year down the line approximately 150-200 services would be available for citizens which they can avail through mobile phones. The Individual would not have to visit kiosk as they would be able to get their certificate from government’s online repository. We have already developed an android app for provision of 27 services.

Thus our aim for e-governance segment is to obtain basic minimum information collection from the system in order to provide whole bouquet of 300 services.

More than 50 percent of the state’s population lives in rural areas that may be unaware of all the services that you provide. How do you plan to reach out to other part of the state?

Approximately 70 percent of our state’s population lives in rural areas and when it comes to literacy rate it is 74 percent. But educated people do not necessarily mean that they are digitally educated as well. We admit that there are short comings when it comes to taking digital education directly to the field.

In present scenario we have placed our bets on mobile devices because we believe that mobile devices will eventually replace tablets and laptops. But it is possible that people may not be much aware about our services and how to make use of them through mobile devices; that is why we need to simplify our approach to reach out to all the citizens.

Please elaborate about your current projects.

Over the next one year we aim to reach one thousand gram panchayats in terms of connectivity. By 15th May, 2015 we will have reached 90 gram panchayats via RF (Radio Frequency) connectivity. These are the gram panchayats that have been taken up by MPs and MLAs. We have also come up with a Digital India app in which we are trying to put in all the services at one platform so that people do not get confused and get every service at one place.

We have reached 700 villages via bi-optical fiber in terms of NOFN rollout but it has not been leveraged. The fiber has been laid till gram panchayats but they have not set up a CSC (Common Service Center), and do not have a data plan. So yes, it has not been put to optimal use yet. As for the active functioning of CSCs we are targeting not only these 700 villages but also 1000 gram panchayats.

What is government doing to promote the education of IT?

When it comes to education sector we deal with only IT literacy. There is a separate technical education department that takes care of IIIT and other. Within IT education, CHiPS deals with projects like achieving the target of training 2 lakh people in basic IT literacy over the period of one year. There is another project of virtual spacing in which we are reaching out to 1600 schools, 18 ITIs and approximately 2000 CSCs.

Also, we have planned finishing school for government engineering colleges in which we will have approximately three and half thousand students annually and it will be followed by campus placement.

How long do you think it would take to complete your vision that you have set up for Chhattisgarh?

When we became a state in the year 2000 we had no source of revenue generation. At that time we took a call for the next five years to make good use of our natural resources. This call was made during the Hon’ble CMs first tenure. Right now, we are in a stage where Chhattisgarh has the best industrial climate in India. We set out this journey to establish best infrastructure and best industry and we have attained our first phase objectives.

In second term, we aimed at putting in place the best new capital city. We are working on it right now and it may take another three years. State has taken the call that IT and ESDM will be the focal points of this project. For that, we have come with the best policy in the country and we are introducing a separate framework that would guide this policy. We also understand that our vision would not accelerate to another level by mere setting up of policies; we need intervention at different levels which will be taken care of by the government.

As far as Smart city vision is concerned, it is a very exhaustive project but as far as Naya Raipur is concerned people will be able to see few highlights of smart city may be within a year. However, some part of this dream project may get completed in 2030. We are hopeful that we would continue to deliver our best to our citizens.