Digital PanchayatSoochna seva

Enabling village councilors across panchayats of India through ICT and digital content for promotion of transparency and empowerment in governance

In India, there are more than 6,35,000 villages, which are represented by 2,50,000 panchayats (local councils) and more than 3,00,000 panchayat functionaries (councilors), which is an enormous number to represent over 70 per cent of population of India that lives in rural parts of the country. There is practically no such governance system in these constituencies for development and information sharing platform to reach out to its maximum citizens whom the panchayats are accountable to. However, more than 99 per cent of these panchayats are devoid of ICT connected world of knowledge and information.

In order to address these issues, Digital Empowerment Foundation (DEF), which is actively involved in disseminating information and empowering rural and grassroots level communities by utilising the power of ICT tools and digital media, found it necessary to tap panchayats and equip them with ICT and Internet tools to create a virtual presence and identity.

In 2008, DEF initiated the ‘Digital Panchayat’ project in Maharashtra, covering 100 panchayats in various parts of Maharashtra. The objective of the project was to set an example to the government and other stakeholders about how web-presence of panchayats can create enormous enthusiasm for ICT & Internet and break the barriers of digital divide. In 2010, the National Internet Exchange of India joined the initiative and the programme was extended to 500 gram panchayats in 10 states.

With the aim of empower panchayats digitally, the Digital Panchayat project covers the following objectives:

  • To empower citizens of every panchayat with bottom up and top down information and content
  • To improve development, governance and public service delivery at panchayat level through information on policy programmes and implementation
  • To improve development, governance and public service delivery at panchayat level through information on policy programmes and implementation
  • To facilitate growth of panchayat economy through promotion of panchayat tourism and e-commerce of local produce
  • To put every panchayat on the global digital map
  • To generate an ICT environment in every panchayat
  • To give fillip to the Right to Information campaign

Today, the Digital Panchayat platform facilitates and improves day-to-day functioning of panchayats through two-way flow of information and content. Moreover, information on decisions taken at gram sabha meetings get recorded and shared through panchayat websites. This enhances transparency as higher level officials, and bureaucrats cannot change decisions at will.

Digital Panchayat also hosts the Digital Panchayat Fellowship, for a minimum 90 days. Under this initiative, fellows travel and work with a cluster of panchayats at the district level in an effort to make elected members digitally literate, collect content from the panchayats for the website, and post it online.

Under the Digital Panchayat project, 500 panchayats have been digitally enabled with dedicated online presence; over 50 Digital Panchayat Centres in 10 states help panchayats to go online; all Digital Panchayat centres have NIELIT affiliation for providing training to panchayat members; all Digital Panchayats Centres are Wi-Fi enabled; 50 Digital Panchayat workshops and training have been organised in 10 states; over 5,000 gram panchayat members have been made digitally literate; and 100 Digital Fellows have been deployed at 500 panchayats to work with panchayat functionaries and help them use ICT and digital tools.

Website:  epanchayat.in/

Governance & Services on Demand

One of the major goals that flows from DEF’s Vision and Mission statements is to ensure that digital interventions strengthen grassroots democracy, improve governance, bring efficiency in delivery of government services and give voice to the people. This programmatic area addresses this goal and all projects in this area are aimed at empowering people with regard to participatory democracy, governance and full and comprehensive realisation of their rights and entitlements.


Contact Details


Devendra Singh Bhadauria
devendra@defindia.net

Facilitating information flow and management of public schemes for citizen empowerment and good governance in backward districts of India

Digital Empowerment Foundation launched Soochna Seva in collaboration with the European Union in January 2014 with an aim to spread awareness about existing public schemes, using ICT/non-ICT tools, among the deprived sections and enable them to derive benefits from the same. In addition to empowering the masses with information, Soochna Seva has set its focus on capacity building of the local communities, groups and citizens and advance cooperation between the stakeholders and local administration to develop an operative framework for public scheme information dissemination and entitlement.

As a part of this project, Soochna Seva Kendras have been set up as sustainable access points and one-stop shop for information empowerment, and tools have been introduced based on ICT-enabled service delivery, access and entitlement model. The approach taken by Soochna Seva focuses on generating demand for the public schemes on the beneficiaries’ side.

Soochna Seva was founded with an intention of strengthening the RTI act and to address larger issues of poverty, rural development, social exclusion and inequity of marginalised groups through information empowerment. The action-plan of Soochna Seva also aims to help India meet its Millennium Development Goals such as eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, achieving universal primary education, promoting gender equality and empowering women, reducing child mortality rates, and improving maternal health.

Soochna Seva kendras run an integrated information services delivery and citizen entitlement framework in five backward districts in India — Tehri Garhwal (Uttarakhand), West Champaran (Bihar), Ranchi (Jharkhand), Guna (Madhya Pradesh) and Barmer (Rajasthan). This initiative is further expected to strengthen the governance structure at district administration level and below where — due to difficult social, economic, geographical, geo-physical, poor development and weak infrastructures — it has become extremely difficult for the public authorities and agencies to reach out to the maximum (deserving) beneficiaries.

The various objectives of Soochna Sevan include:

  • Addressing the larger issues of poverty, social exclusion and inequity of marginalised groups through information on public schemes and entitlement
  • Promoting and strengthening good governance practice by local administration
  • Providing enhanced channels and points for information services delivery to target groups at their doorsteps towards informed choices, decisions and entitlement benefits
  • Facilitating an integrated district-level public scheme information management framework
  • Developing a citizen engagement and entitlement mechanism in public scheme administering process to bridge administration-citizen network deficits

So far, more than 60 thousand individuals have already benefited from the project, and an estimated 4,00,000 individual are further expected to benefit during the project period.

Website: www.soochnaseva.org

Governance & Services on Demand

One of the major goals that flows from DEF’s Vision and Mission statements is to ensure that digital interventions strengthen grassroots democracy, improve governance, bring efficiency in delivery of government services and give voice to the people. This programmatic area addresses this goal and all projects in this area are aimed at empowering people with regard to participatory democracy, governance and full and comprehensive realisation of their rights and entitlements.


Contact Details


Soochna Sevak
Soochnaseva@defindia.net