Monday, May 19, 2008

How IBM and Microsoft in Karnataka created the first e-governed panchayat

In a record of its own kind, Belandur, a village - 25 km from Bangalore city actually had become the first fully e-governed Gram Panchayat. While Burdwan (WB) has all its gram panchayats e-governed, Belandur is only one village (Gram Panchayat).

This story is old, but brings new renewed hope to every Indian that e-governance can tackle corruption very effectively. Belandur has been a striking example.

In 1998, Compusol - whose partners are IBM and Microsoft gave a computer and replaced the existing typewriters. Belandur with a literacy rate of 95% was able to quickly grasp the usage of a computer.

Jagannath, the village President worked in tandem with Compusol and Compusol developed a software in Kannada in partnership with Microsoft and IBM that completely automated all government activities. The software is a success story and today, corruption is negligible here.

This story was first highlighted in BBC News and later in all Indian journals like Frontline.

Just to give an example, as of now, villagers don't have to pay bribes to get their birth, death certificates, property details and records or even tax related information. Everything is available online and they can get it by clicking a mouse button. Jagannath also hired computer trainees to train villagers how to use. Because of high literacy people could grasp easily.
Following the computerisation of tax collection, the panchayat has
recovered huge out standings. In comparison to the old manual
system, the current system has aided in limiting corruption, and
generated a 100-fold increase in revenue for the Panchayat. In
the year 2002-03 a collection of Rs.62,89,600/- was made by way of
taxes. Before computerisation of the gram panchayat, Rs 17 lakhs
was the approximate annual revenue collection of the panchayat.
Enhanced tax collections have already been put into good use in
development initiatives. What makes this project unique is that
it is an independent initiative funded by the village development
committee (VDC).
Bellandur can boast of being the first gram panchayat that airs its committee meetings over cable television, in 20 neighbouring villages. The committee meetings have gone on air for over a year now. The former Chairman and now member, the 38-year-old dynamic Shri Jagannath Reddy, who has served nearly two terms as Chairman says that the airing of the meetings has certainly brought about more transparency and accountability into the functioning of the panchayat. Awareness building about Public Health Centre(PHCs), watershed development etc., using cable TV is envisaged by the panchayat. Finances for the entire initiative has come from within the panchayat itself.

Looking at the power of computers, children in these villages want to learn and so in schools computer training and simple usage of Microsoft Office is being taught.

See the power of transparency !! The Panchayat need not depend upon government and now with their own funds can bring in changes. This is exactly what once Mahatma Gandhi told -"The development of India must begin with Gram Swaraj".


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