Gyandoot

A mass based information technology revolution.

Introduction

On January 1, 2000, Dhar district began the new millennium with a mass-based information revolution. Computers in 21 major centres in five Blocks of the district were connected through an Inranet network. These computers have been established in Gram Panchayats. They have been called Soochanalayas. From the Soochanalaya, user-charge based services are given to the masses and at the same time the information technology related developmental needs of government departments and Panchayats are met free of cost. This Inranet has been named Gyandoot

The entire expenditure for the Gyandoot network has been borne by Panchayats. The network has been set up at a total cost of Rs. 25 lacs. The system is very cost-effective. In the Gyandoot scheme of things, the twenty-one centres where Soochanalayas have been established cater not only to the twenty-one villages proper but also to surrounding 25-30 villages. Soochanalayas have been established in the buildings of such Gram Panchayats which are located either at block headquarters or at prominent haat bazaar places or are prominent villages on major roads which are important from the point of the catching bus etc. Thus, each Soochanalaya caters to approximately15 Gram Panchayats and about 25 to 30 villages. The benefits cover wide-ranging information needs of all villagers, not merely those belonging to co-operatives. Thus, the Gyandoot network benfits over half a million villagers living in 311 Gram Panchayats and over 600 villages.

All this has been completed in a short span of less than 2 months. The trial run of the system began on January 1, 2000 and the system was dedicated to the public by the Hon'ble Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh, Shri Digvijay Singh at the Deharisarai Soochanalaya on January 12, 2000.

Concept Development and Implementation

In the month of November, 1999 Secretary, Information Technology, M.P. wrote a letter to all the District Collectors in which he asked them to prepare a project for establishing a computer network connecting villages, on the line of "wired villages" project of Warna in Kolhapur district of Maharashtra. After receiving the letter a meeting was called by the District Collector in which C.E.O (ZP), District Information Officer (DIO) and other senior officers were present. In the meeting it was decided that a network based system would be evolved which would connect villages with the district headquarter and initially 15-20 villages would be connected on a pilot basis. A core team consisting of the C.E.O (ZP) & Others were given responsibility to actually implement this system. Thereafter, 3 meetings were conducted in different villages in which villagers were asked, what services they would like to have through such a network system. The villagers demanded information on Mandi rates, copies of land records and system of lodging complaints. After these meetings, C.E.O (ZP) and other senior officers held a meeting in which we chalked out the basic design of the system and also about the services which would be provided. This was decided that the services would be provided on payment so that system can be viable and sustainable. Thereafter, Addl. Collector & DIO a visit of Warna to learn from "wired villages" project. Learning from Warna were primarily on what should not be done rather than what should be done.

After returning form Warna, team listed out all the activities and probable number of days in which they would be completed. Most crucial among them were Hardware procurement, Software procurement, Land records data entry and operator (Soochak) selection. We also formed a basic team (Annex-I) consisting of C.E.O (ZP), Addl. Collector, DIO, Data entry operators (DEO) of DRDA, programmer and such persons which were needed in various activities we listed out earlier. It was decided to conduct a daily meeting of the basic team to monitor the programme of project implementation and to assign tasks on a daily basis. We fixed time limits for completion of each activities and the person responsible for ensuring completion. Data entry of land records, map digitization and Software development were the activities which had the potential to delay the project. Gyandoot is covering 3 tehsils initially which have a total of around 4 lacs 78 thousand khasara entries. It was a massive data entry job. First we assigned the work to a data entry firm which developed the software for data entry and also entered the land record data for the villages where Soochanalayas are located and nearby 3-4 villages, so that project could be launch in time. The balance data entry work is now divided among the data entry firm and Soochaks. It is additional source of income for the Soochaks. For software development we decided on two firms. We provided them with all our requirements and formats for various software modules like complaint module, HMIS, PMIS, EMIS, Mandi rate module etc. The software development work was finished in time. We launched the Gyandoot project on the beginning of the new millennium according to the schedule. So the project was completed in less than two months.

Soochanalayas

Soochanalayas are 21 client sites / nodes working as rural cybercafe-cum-cyberoffices. Each Soochanalaya provides services to about 15 Gram Panchayats, 25 to 30 villages, 20,000 to 30,000 population. The intranet will cover 5 out of 13 Blocks in the district and 3 out of 7 Tahsils in the district in the initial phase. The Soochanalayas are located on the roadside and are central villages where people normally travel. These Soochanalayas cater to over half a million villagers in 311 Gram Panchayats and about 600 revenue villages.

Soochanalayas have telephone line connectivity to begin with. The hardware is procured and given to the Gram Panchayat under agreement with the Zila Panchayat. The Gram Panchayat in turn gives it for operation to the Soochak under agreement. The Gram Panchayat provides, readies and maintains the building where the Soochanalaya is housed. It also provides the telephone and electric connection as well as the furniture.

Soochana Kosh

Server/hub is a Remote Access Server (RAS) housed in the computer room in Zila Panchayat to be called Soochana Kosh.

Soochak

An important aspect of the scheme is that the person selected to operate the Soochanalaya is a local youth from the same village who was trained to run the Soochanalaya. These operators, called Soochaks have not been given any employment. Instead, they will run the Soochanalaya on commercial lines and generate income and livelihood for themselves. Soochak is not an employee but an entrepreneur. Soochak only needs maintenance and numeric data entry skills. He needs very limited typing skills since most of the intranet software is menu-driven. He is similar to an STD booth operator. Most of the youth selected for Soochanalayas had never seen a computer. They were all trained at the Zila Panchayat.They were given 7 days training in three stages at their own expenses by computer operators of DRDA. The Soochaks were selected interactively by Gram Panchayat along with representatives from the Zila Panchayat. Three member panels were selected who received training at their own cost at the Zila Panchayat. At the end of the training, the best trainees were selected as Soochaks. He/she will run the Soochanalaya at his own cost. He will be working according to an initial one year agreement with the Gram Panchayat. He will not receive any salary. He will bear the cost of stationery, maintenance and electric and telephone bills. He will pay 10% of income as commission to the Zila Panchayat for maintaining the net. Each Soochak is expected to earn a net income of at least Rs24,000 per annum at conservative projections.

The relevant village level workers of various concerned departments, Gram Panchayat secretaries etc. have also been given computer training. Meetings of Panchayat representatives of all their tiers have been organised and they have been briefed about the facilities available. Various concerned district, tahsil and Block level officers have also been given extensive training.

Services

In all the Soochanalaya villages, three meetings each were organised with the villagers where in-depth participatory appraisal was done. The design of the services provided was a result of this interactive exercise and was based upon the advice and the felt needs of the villagers. In these meetings, it was learned that due to lack of information regarding the proper mandi rates not only in the local mandis but in the benchmark mandis (where the local mandi trader sells his own purchases), the farmers are unable to get the best price for their agricultural produce. Villagers also informed that copies of land records are difficult to obtain since the patwari is often on tour and one patwari is responsible for several villages. The villager needing a copy of the land records has to go out in search of the patwari who may or may not be available on that particular day at his headquarters. For small complaints or for giving applications, people had to go to Block, tahsil or district headquarters which resulted in waste of time, money and potential livelihood earnings.

From the Soochanalayas, rates of grains and vegetables of nearly a dozen mandis, copies of revenue maps or khasras or B1 may be obtained. In addition, income certificates, caste certificates, domicile certificates, demarcation applications, applications for obtaining landholder's loan passbook (rin pustika) etc. may be sent on-line. On the preparation of the desired certificate/rin-pustika, the information will be sent through email to the concerned Soochanalaya. These will be prepared in a maximum period of 10 days although the attempt will be to provide them much earlier. Complaints regarding Government schemes / programmes / institutions / employees may also be sent through the net and in a maximum period of seven days, preferably less, reply regarding their disposal will be sent back to the concerned Soochanalaya.

Information of mandi prices

The variety-wise rates of 15 prominent cereal crops of the district like wheat, gram, soyabean, etc. and today's rates of local Dhar, Badnawar and Indore mandis as well as the volumes of incoming agricultural produce are provided to the villagers from Soochanalayas at a charge of Rs. 5. These rates are quoted for nearby Dahod as well as distant Mumbai and Delhi mandis. The previous two days' rates are also given.

Horticulture crops like tomato, potato, peas, green chillies and guava are also produced in substantial quantity in the district. The rates of these commodities are provided in case of Ratlam, Indore, Chennai, Ahmedabad, Mumbai, Delhi and Hyderabad mandis. These rates are also given at a charge of Rs. 5.

Copies of Khasra, B1/Khatauni and Map

Documents relating to farmer's land including map, khasra and B1 are given on the spot at a charge of Rs. 15 per extract. All the banks in the district have agreed to accept extracts issued from Soochanalayas for the purposes of banking transactions. Farmers need these extracts every kharif and rabi season to obtain crop loans from banks for purchasing seeds and fertilisers.

On-line registration of applications

So far, the villagers had to go to the tahsil court to file applications for obtaining income/caste/ domicile certificates or for getting demarcation done or for obtaining landholder's loan passbook (rin pustika). For this, they would again made repeated visits to the court to enquire about the progress of the application as well as to finally collect the prepared document. Now, through Soochanalayas they may send the application at a cost of only Rs. 10 and thereafter, in a maximum period of 10 days, preferably less, an intimation of the readiness of the certificate would be sent back to them through e-mail at the concerned Soochanalaya. Thereafter, they may go to the concerned court to collect the certificate.

Public Grievance Redressal

Wherever there is some problem in the delivery of services, the villagers travel at the cost of time, money and livelihood to Block, tahsil or district headquarters without any certainty that they would even be able to meet the officer concerned. Now through the Soochanalaya, the villager may send his/her complaint with assurance of reply within a maximum period of seven days, preferably lesser, at a charge of Rs. 10. The reply of the disposal of his complaint may be received back at the Soochanalaya through email.

Complaints include handpump disorder, teacher absence, mid day meal, scholarship sanction/ disbursement, poor seed / fertiliser, employee establishment (matters like leave or provident fund sanction) queries, etc.

Hindi Email

The district and Block levels may communicate through e-mail amongst themselves.

MIS

Through Soochanalayas, a Management Information System relating to health, education and Gram Panchayats is also being introduced in Dhar block. Through this MIS, the village level worker may directly send necessary information from nearby Soochanalayas to the Block and district level. The compilation and analysis of these data will enable better management of the activities of health and education departments as well as of Gram Panchayats. The three MIS will be entered directly by the concerned departmental functionary at the Soochanalaya. There will be a roster of duty for this.

Hardware

A Pentium III Random Access Server (RAS) has been set up in the computer room of the Zila Panchayat. The 21 Soochanalayas have been equipped with Pentium multimedia colour computer along with dot matrix printers. The entire intranet has a three-year guarantee period during which any complaints would be attended within 24 hours by the system engineer and if the problem cannot be solved the computer will be replaced with another standby computer. Full specifications are as follows:

  • Server: RAS P III 450 MHz CPU, 128 MB ECC RAM, 2 X 9 Ultra SCSI HDD, 2 MB Graphic Controller , Card 15" colour monitor, 48 X CD-ROM Drive, 4 Port Serial Card, Keyboard, Mouse.
  • Clients: 19 Pentium Celeron 433 MHz CPU, 32 MB RAM, 4.3 GB HDD, 1.44 MB FDD, 4 MB AGP card,14" Colour monitor, 48 X CD-ROM With Multimedia kit, Keyboard, Mouse.
  • Modems: 19 + 5 (at server end) = 24 external modems 56.6 KBPS.
  • Printers: 19 132 column, 240 CPS, 9 pin DMPs
  • UPS: 19 off-line UPS with 24 Volt Exide battery built-in 160 Volt AVR 120 Ampere Hour capacity sufficient for 5 hour back-up with printer 8 hour charging time
  • CD Writer: HP 4X CD Writer / Rewriter

Software

Aside from the software which has been designed for the intranet and the internet, the following the pre-manufactured software have also been used.

  • Microsoft Windows NT Server
  • Microsoft Windows 98 Operating System
  • Microsoft SQL Server
  • Visual Basic
  • Java Develoliment Kit
  • Microsoft Access
  • C-DAC's ISM fonts

General Problems

Power BackUp

Keeping in view the widespread power cuts in rural areas, the Soochanalayas have been equipped with UPS systems. The UPS system is sufficient to run the computer as well as the printer at for five hours at a stretch from an Exide battery. These UPS may be charged on single-phase electricity in only 8 hours. Thus, the system is largely proof from rural power cuts.

Reliability of telephone connectivty

Out of 21 Soochanalayas, 7 Soochanalayas already have Optical Fibre Connectivity (OFC). By end of Jully 2000, 10 out of the remaining 14 was also be connected through optical fibre lines. Thus, the telephone network is technically quite suitable for supporting the proper performance of the intranet.

Finance

The funds for the Gyandoot network have come from existing untied funds available with the Panchayats. The sources of the funding are as follows:

  • The revenues of Gram Panchayats deposited in Zila Panchayat Raj Nidhi
  • Annual State Finance Commission share of revenues of Gram Panchayats
  • NSAP administrative allotment of Zila & Janpada Panchayats
  • Advertisements on pre-printed stationery and website (Rs. 78,000)

Since the entire expenditure has come from Panchayats, the system has been set up at no cost to the government exchequer. The cost of each additional centre is merely Rs. 75,000. More Soochanalayas may be established through funds mobilised from Panchayats, private investors or people availing bank loans. Seeing the inherent profit potential of Soochanalayas, the District Level Co-ordination Committee of bankers has approved a loan unit for setting of Soochanalayas / cybercafe-cum-cyberoffices under the Swarnajayanti Gram Swarozgar Yojana. The services given to the public from the Soochanalayas will be based upon user charge and through this the local matriculate trained village youth will earn his livelihood and will also generate the small amount needed to maintain and run the system. In future, through private investment, bank loan or Panchayats, entrepreneurs may purchase computers etc. and set-up more Soochanalayas / cybercafe-cum-cyberoffices. Thus, the entire scheme is independent of the government from an economic point of view and is financially self-sustainable and viable. Through this strategy, without any additional burden on the government, a mass-based and public-oriented autonomous and independent information technology system may be established in the rural areas in a short time.

Expansion of services

Brief profile of the recent additions to the Gyandoot Intranet.

Gram Daak: An emailing software which is all set to become the Hotmail for villagers. Working in their local language, it has all the features and facilities of a state of the art web based email. In addition to this, Gram Daak also has a client version which works locally at the Gyandoot Soochanalayas end has message queuing facility. On getting connected it transfers all the mails in the out-box to the Gyandoot server and receives the incoming ones stored therein. This reduces the burden on the perennially disturbed telephone connectivity.

Expansion in availability of rates for more mandis and more crops: State Mandi Board has begin supplying rates of wheat on the Gyandoot intranet for another 23 mandis over and above the initial 13 mandis whose rates were provided earlier for varieties and crops. The Board will be adding information of rates of other varieties/crops also soon for the new 23 mandis. Rates of 9 more varieties /crops have been added over and above the initial 15. Thus, rates of 24 crops/varieties from 13 mandis and rates of wheat from 36 mandis are now available.

Government sponsored loan project preparation and submission: Villagers who seek government sponsored loans may get a project report prepared for occupations in the approved shelf of loan projects at the nearyby Soochanalaya as and submit them their itself with necessary supporting documents for forwarding to banks/lending agency in case of the Swarnjayanti Gram Swarojgar Yojana (SGSY-the recast IRDP). The citizen need not hunt professionals for project preparation or chase files from extension workers to desks, offices and sponsoring committees. The correct project may be prepared, approved and forwarded to the banks/lending agencies with reply assured within two week by visiting a Soochanalays for a modest for a modest fixed fee of Rs. 25. It is planned to cover all other government loan schemes too. Shelf of 96 projects is already available on the intranet.

Information regarding government programmes: Detailed Information regarding over a hundred government programmes is now available on the Gyandoot intranet.

Mandi Information Centre: From 22nd June Dhamnod mandi has been linked with gyandoot. Besides hourly only mandi rates it will provide local weather report and information/documentaries of new techniques and technologies in agriculture / horticulture or allied activity will be available. The farmers can see them from a 29" television put up in the centre of mandi. It is estimated that around 800-1000 farmers will be benefited from this facility every day. The project will eventually link and create similar facility in Dhar, Badnawar and Rajgarh mandi as well.

Vaivahika: An online matrimonial application for the villagers to choose the right match for a prospective bride/groom. Every entry from a Soochanalaya by a villager gets added on to a centralised Dhar database which when searched would provide accurate results. The program has been generated by keeping the parametres of the villagers in mind. The Patidar and Jain samaj have already agreed to place their matrimonial here.

Brief profile of the proposed additions to the Gyandoot Intranet.

District Weather Report for farmers: The daily weather forecast of Dhar district by the Meteorology Department, GoI, Bhopal office will me made available to farmers through Gyandoot Soochanalayas before the end of July. The State Agriculture Department will also be providing agro-meteorological advice to farmers based on the weather report.

Avedan: Forms of everything ranging from taxes to government schemes and offices will be available within a week through the gyandoot Intranet. The villagers will have access to all application forms required and necessary for Panchayat to Central government ranging from application for mutation of land to form for arms license.

Gram-Haat: This facility would be started within a month where auction facility for farmers and villagers are available for land, agricultural machinary, bullocks or equipment or other durables. It will open new horizon of e-transactions in the rural areas.

Supporting the Soochanalaya: Seven Soochanalaya are given powers of petition writing and stamp vendor. To achieve the aim of developing Soochanalaya as INFORMATION CENTRE the applications for starting STD PCO, acquiring fax/photocopier etc. have been invited which will eventually be financed through banks.

After initial 21 soochanalaya started in january, five new soochanalaya has been started in private sector in pithampur, gandhwani, dharampuri, dhamnod and manawar. the future strategy is to enrich facilities in the project followed by expansion later on.

Initial Experiences

During the trial run of the network since January 1, 2000, several examples of public benefit have come up --

Farmers in Bagadi village were getting rate of Rs. 300 per quintal from local traders for their potato crop. On taking the rate slip from the Soochanalaya, the farmers could not believe that the current rate in Indore mandi was Rs. 400 per quintal. They decided that they would take their produce to Indore mandi.

The release of State Finance Commission grants to Gram Panchayats was intimated to them on the same day through e-mail. Ordinarily, the money transferred by the Zila Panchayat into the accounts of the Gram Panchayats was intimated either through post or in the monthly meeting of Gram Panchayat secretaries at the Block level weeks after the transfer of funds actually took place. In the meantime, the Gram Panchayat did not even know that the money had reached its account. Besides resulting in delay of works, non-utilisation of funds in time, it also resulted in the Sarpanch and the Gram Panchayat secretary unnecessarily doing rounds of offices of Zila Panchayat or the Block in the earlier system.

In the interior remote hamlets of Anandkhedi and Umrela, the local guruji / teacher of Education Guarantee Scheme centres had not received their honorarium for the period between March 1999 to July 1999. Upon receipt of this complaint through the Soochanalaya, it was learned that the problem had occurred due to a mistake in preparation of pay data. The problem was promptly solved.

Shankarlal son of Ambaram Malviya resident of Deharisarai village gave an application for scheduled caste certificate. The enclosures submitted by him along with the certificate at the Soochanalaya were sufficient in themselves. As a result, immediately upon receipt of his e-mail his caste certificate could be prepared and intimation of preparation of caste certificate could be sent back promptly through e-mail.

Similarly, different kinds of experiences and demands have come up at different Soochanalayas. At Gunawad, private school operators approached the Soochak for training school children on computers and desk-top composing of question papers and report cards. The Soochak in Bagadi being trained earlier in computers, he started training of 6 rural youth. At several other places also youth and schools have approached Soochanalayas for availing computer training. Training of government teachers using computers has begun. Students of class 11th are being given a brief visit to the Soochanalaya so that in the summer vacation after the examinations they may take up computer training on their own. At some Soochanalayas, Soochaks are earning more than Rs. 2,000/- per month. This is not so with some others. There are some problems regarding connectivity at few centres. The system is expected to be stabilised in a couple of months and from the initial experiences it can be reasonably hoped that it has and it will fulfil the aspirations associated with it data entry of land records has now become a major source of additional income for soochanalayas. The government of Madhya Pradesh has decided to distribute copies of land records to each land holders for five rupees each for the three tehsils covered by Gyandoot network. These copies will be provided through Gyandoot soochanalayas and it will further add to their incomes.

Location & Distance of Suchanalaya From Dhar

Location of Soochanalayas Owned by Distance from DHAR (In KM) F
Nagda Gram Panchayat 21 72313
Bidwal Gram Panchayat 45 73853
Badnawar Gram Panchayat 50 32247
Barmandal Gram Panchayat 75 67113
Labriya Gram Panchayat 80 67688
Rajod Gram Panchayat 90 64451
Aahu Gram Panchayat 12 65343
Tirla Gram Panchayat 8 68807
Digthan Gram Panchayat 35 65957
Bagdi Gram Panchayat 25 63387
Nalchha Gram Panchayat 30 69215
Gunavad Gram Panchayat 15 64665
Kesur Gram Panchayat 50 64292
DehriSaray Gram Panchayat 28 77239
Tisgaon Gram Panchayat 20 66556
Nawasa Gram Panchayat 8 62887
Dasai Gram Panchayat 40 61322
Mangod Gram Panchayat 20 68506
Sardarpur Gram Panchayat 40 32466
Dhar(Nirmiti Kendra) Semi Govt. 5 36250
Mandav (Rupayan) Semi Govt. 40 63277
Pithampur Private 45 53863
Dhamnod Private 60 33430
Manawar Private 70 -
Dharampuri Private 72 -
Gandhwani Private 65 61231
Dhamnod Mandi Mandi 60 33043