Updated: July 9, 2021 7:22:08 am
The Common Service Centres (CSCs) — a special purpose vehicle of the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology — has carved out a niche for itself in facilitating ease of access to government services in nearly all the gram panchayats across the country. That said, the CSCs are yet to catch up with registrations for vaccinations compared to the overall beneficiaries registered on the CoWIN platform.
In an interview to AASHISH ARYAN, CSC Managing Director Dinesh Kumar Tyagi, said the numbers will catch up once there is ample availability of vaccines, and that incentivising village level entrepreneurs (VLEs) for the work would further boost the registration numbers. Edited excerpts:
CoWIN registrations that were to happen with the CSC portal are yet to catch up in rural areas. What could be holding them back?
Ours is an enterprise model, an entrepreneurship model. The VLE has to spend his time, resources, competing infrastructure for this and he or she is not paid for it. We are not charging anything from the citizens for registration for obvious reasons. It is a very sensitive matter and suddenly if you start charging there will be different implications.
So the reasons for slow registrations can be that there is no incentive built for the entrepreneur and therefore he or she is not aggressive as they can be in many other cases. They are accessible but the incentive has to be there for them. Incentivisation would have definitely helped and there is no question about it. These guys (VLE) are definitely capable and they know how to mobilise the community and use their credibility in that sense.
Should states put in more efforts to make use of the CSC infrastructure?
The government advocacy for CSC has been done state-wise also. I have not come across any case where a person has gone to the CSC to get themselves registered for the vaccinations and the CSC refused. That said, wherever, the state has come forward and supported and taken the initiative, it has been possible to not only register but also vaccinate people. So, if the VLE can go and bring the people around, do the required advocacy, people are registered and vaccinated simultaneously.
Other states cannot only use the infrastructure for advocacy but combine it with vaccinations or rapid-antigen tests. Then it makes significant value. If you are only registering, it has its limitations. But if you combine the efforts, it can be far more aggressively done, compared to leaving (CSC) on its own. We (CSC) do not have the wherewithal to do the rapid-antigen tests, vaccinations, so that has to be supported by the states.
Do you think overall CSCs could have achieved a second or third-level growth had there been less of a resistance?
There has been significant government support, and I do not see how else it could have been done. It is the enterprising ability of people to try and scale and business. Certain people have done phenomenally well and certain others who on an evolutionary cycle of growth have not taken that risk. You will find variations, but the variations are inherent in the system, in the people.
Will the PPP mode give a fillip to the work CSC is doing on BharatNet?
In BharatNet phase one, CSCs have so far been handling last-mile operations, maintenance and support for the customers who take the internet connection.
That was assigned to us for phase one (of BharatNet). One cannot be very sure of the PPP mode right now. There are a host of factors, such as what will be the framework, which will be the partners coming, what values they add, and what vision they have for rural India or how will they manage the last mile. Will the CSC be able to build a relationship with these vendors for the last mile? That will depend on who is the partner and if they would be willing to work with CSC. Hopefully, we should be able to persuade partners and associate with them on mutually agreeable terms and conditions.
The VLE should benefit significantly, both in terms of work done and compensation for business they generate for vendors.
Do you see a clash of ideas and ideals between private vendors and VLEs as far as working styles are concerned?
No private player has the bandwidth which CSC has. It will be very difficult for them to find a new relationship or structure format to get into rural India. There will be a need for VLE-like entities to sell internet or recharge coupons after the fibre is laid.
So it will be either the CSC VLE, which is an existing person or they can put in place a new person. We will leave it to their judgment. But I think that it is best to use an existing person who can deliver fast and generate new orders. The CSC VLE can use the internet connection providing as one of the avenues for their revenue generation since they have other areas to work on as well.
Can you generate and make providing internet in rural areas sustainable? I am not very sure. If you want to achieve the target in 1,000 days and expedite the process, CSC is a very good alternative to do that.
There have been allegations that the VLE who does last-mile repair maintenance work is not a trained professional and therefore the work is patchy. Your thoughts?
The argument that they are not technically qualified will be very unfair to their skill set. We are giving them machines for repair, and they have been trained by us. The private players also use the same VLE in these areas for repair and maintenance. We keep on skilling them and training them.
Are you looking to list CSC on the markets or go for an IPO sometime in the future?
That is the vision. The wealth has to be created for the VLE. Everybody is creating wealth, why not create wealth for the VLE? We would love to go for an IPO.
Going ahead, what is in the pipeline of CSC to get to the next phase of growth?
If we have 600,000 villages, we must have an access point in all the villages. We have covered only panchayats. Our visions should be that we should be in every village so that the village feel that there is a CSC owned, operated and managed by them. Then, of course, all the 6 lakh villages should also become accessible for financial inclusion services. That framework we have to design. With the RBI now talking about Neo banking as a concept, it will be possible for us to design something of nature where all the 6 lakh of these access points can do basic banking.
Would CSC go for neo-banking?
Technology-wise, neo-banking looks very attractive to us. Maybe we will find some partners. The objective remains the same. Unless each village does not have an access point, the dream of financial inclusion will still be very patchy.
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