To realise this vision at the ground level – to ensure that panchayats are successfully able to leverage broadband’s benefits – government and community agencies will need to find ways of driving and adopting ICT-enabled applications, processes, and programs at panachayats, in such core areas as government, education, and healthcare, among others. The E-Panchayat Experimental Sites (EPES) initiative seeks to provide government decision-makers with just this: a practical, informed foundation of experience, knowledge, and strategy with which to do so.
A Government of Rajasthan initiative with support from the Office of the Adviser to the Prime Minister, EPES will help create a knowledge base on how rural broadband can be leveraged effectively, to strengthen rural panchayats. Under EPES, broadband connectivity, technical infrastructure, and IT manpower is being provided to to 10 panchayats in Srinagar block, Ajmer district, on a pilot basis – building on the prior accomplishments of Rajasthan agencies (including the National Informatics Centre) in this area. These 10 panchayats will consequently offer test and demonstration sites, where applications and approaches in broadband-enabled governance and development can be assessed and show-cased. EPES focuses on two key success factors:
- Design and development of practical, workable, robust ideas and strategies for ICT integration with governance and developmental programmes;
- Demonstration, sharing, and dissemination of these ideas and strategies among panchayat and other government agencies – aiding their efforts to adopt, customise, and deploy these programmes; this would include a focus on demand motivation among rural citizens and officials for ICT-enabled services and capacity.
EPES will result in a set of approaches and assessments for broadband-enabled governance, education, and healthcare projects. These will be disseminated in various forms to officials, decision-makers, and citizens offering them input in adopting, customising, and implementing broadband application projects at rural panchayats.
A State-level EPES Project Guidance and Review Group, with representatives from various key departments from the Rajasthan government, has been formed. In its deliberations, the Group (with its Executive Committee) has identified and approved proposals for technical infrastructure and equipment, manpower, and content resources. The 10 pilot sites are currently being equipped with these resources.
Activity in government and panchayat-level education has already been kick-started: panchayat schools are being provided with ICT-enabled content, and feedback from teachers and headmasters on ICT is currently being gathered. Other areas of endeavour (particularly in government, digital literacy, and healthcare) are currently being brought online.