Government eyes to empower Digital Seva Kendras

The NDA government is working towards strengthening the Common Service Centres, now renamed to Digital Seva Kendras to act as Internet Service Providers in India’s rural and remote areas.

“We are making them (sevakendras) eligible as an extension of ISP (Internet Service Provider) so that they can further take an ISP license and go deep into rural hinterland as a service provider,” Communications and IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad told reporters Wednesday.

This, he said, is possible over the massive national fibre network BharatNet which aims to connect 2.5 lakh gram panchayats across India.

The telecom department has also directed BharatNet, an SPV implementing the National Optic Fibre Network (NOFN) project to connect all Digital Seva Kendras on a priority basis with fibre-based telecom network.

In the last two years, the number of such service centers has more than doubled to 199,325 currently, from 83,000 in 2014. The government, according to Prasad, aims to take this count to 250,000 by December 2016.

With the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) granting in-principle approval for CSCs to function as a Bharat Bill Payment Unit (BBPU), the government expects the centers to act as tax and collection points besides bill payments in future.

With RBI’s license, various utility bills can be deposited at a Seva Kendra and subsequently post-paid bills of mobile phones, insurance and tax collection will be done as per consumers’ convenience, he added.

Prasad also said that the Digital Seva Kendras have a potential to generate at least 2 lakh new job opportunities if it employs one individual at every such centre.

The service centres, according to him, are doing a good job in the areas of delivering Aadhaar cards and passports, and e-ticketing, in addition to digital literacy, and feels that banking and insurance business is vibrant.

Ten percent, or 10.79 crore, Aadhaar cards have been delivered through Digital Seva Kendra till date.

Prasad also added that the department is reviewing the telecom regulator Trai’s request for penal powers and a structured response would be provided.

After the Supreme Court verdict quashing the Trai’s notification mandating compensation to consumers in the event of call drops in May this year, the regulator sought appropriate amendment in the Trai Act to include penal powers.