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GUIDELINES FOR IMPLEMENTATION OF THE COMMON SERVICES CENTERS (CSC) SCHEME IN STATES DEPARTMENT OF INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY GOVERNMENT OF INDIA
DEPARTMENT OF INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY GOVERNMENT OF INDIA
 
The Common Services Centers Scheme: Background
The Government of India has formulated the National E-Governance Plan with the vision of providing all government services in an integrated manner at the doorstep of the citizen, at an affordable cost. The NeGP initiatives consist of 26 Central, State and Integrated Mission Mode Projects (MMPs) along with 8 other support components for rapid introduction of e-governance in the country. The NeGP envisions a three pillar model for delivery of "web-enabled Anytime, Anywhere access" to information and services in rural India. These are:
 
a) Connectivity: State Wide Area Networks (SWANs) / NICNET
b) National Data Bank / State Data Centres (SDCs)
c) Common Services Centers (CSCs)
 
The CSC Scheme , as approved by the Government of India, envisions CSCs as the front-end delivery points for Government, private and social sector services to rural citizens of India, in an integrated manner. The objective is to develop a platform that can enable Government, private and social sector organizations to align their social and commercial goals for the benefit of the rural population in the remotest corners of the country through a combination of IT-based as well as non-IT-based services.

Thus, the CSCs cannot be seen as mere service delivery points in rural India. The CSC is positioned as a Change Agent - that would promote rural entrepreneurship, build rural capacities and livelihoods, enable community participation and collective action for social change - through a bottom-up model with focus on the rural citizen.

Undertaking such a mammoth task calls for active participation and close interaction amongst various stakeholders such as State Governments, local bodies, opinion makers and agencies / institutions involved or having interest, commercial or otherwise, in rural areas / markets. Under the CSC Scheme, a Public Private Partnership (PPP) model has been proposed for undertaking this challenging task and addressing the related issues in the most effective way.
 
The Implementation Framework
The CSC Scheme has a 3-tier implementation framework:
a) At the first (CSC) level would be the local Village Level Entrepreneur (VLE- loosely analogous to a franchisee), to service the rural consumer in a cluster of 5-6 villages.
b) At the second/middle level would be an entity termed the Service Centre Agency (SCA ­ loosely analogous to a franchiser) to operate, manage and build the VLE network and business. An SCA would be identified for one or more districts (one district would cover 100-200 CSCs).
c)
At the third level would be the agency designated by the State- the State Designated Agency (SDA) - to facilitate implementation of the Scheme within the State and to provide requisite policy, content and other support to the SCAs.
 
Other Agencies
The National Level Service Agency (NLSA): There are significant challenges in exploiting opportunities to achieve economies of scale in the identification, customization and implementation of the physical and digital infrastructure required for the project. Further, many of the potential citizen-centric services would lend themselves to aggregation at the national level. To enable the State-specific implementation plans to benefit from such economies of scale, aggregation of best practices, content providers, etc., the DIT would be appointing a National Level Service Agency (NLSA).

The Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV): In addition to the NLSA, an SPV has been proposed for the day-to-day monitoring of the CSC Scheme, in terms of channeling Government support, content aggregation, etc. While the SPV is proposed to be set up during the initial implementation phase of the Scheme, it is essentially an entity created to be an integral part of the CSC

 
Role of various Agencies
Service Centre Agency (SCA): The Prime Driver
The SCA would be the prime driver of the whole CSC eco-system. The SCA would be supported by the NLSA and the respective State Designated Agency (SDA) to implement he CSC Scheme in their specified areas of operations. This could include activities such as identifying the required applications and services, harnessing the State Wide Area Network, identifying, selecting and training the VLE, establishing the CSC (either directly or through the VLE), supplying, aggregating and updating content.

The success or failure of the CSC Scheme hinges to a large extent on the business and financial capabilities of the SCA, as the Scheme is not about rolling out IT hardware in rural areas, but building 100,000 rural businesses in hitherto untapped and unchartered areas of the country, besides promoting rural entrepreneurship and involving community participation.

The existing kiosks models are on a small scale. The CSC Scheme at the scale it is proposed to be implemented may pose a variety of complex new issues in terms of financing, channel management, technology, integration with local community, etc. that may put the CSC network at risk, if not supported by a committed and financially strong SCA with adequate experience of working with rural communities. Consequently, the selection of the right SCA assumes significant importance for the State. It is therefore recommended that the selection of the SCAs should be undertaken with adequate care and
caution, with appropriate support from the NLSA and DIT, as
 
The Village Level Entrepreneur
The VLE is the key to the success of the CSC operations. While content and services are important, it is the VLE's entrepreneurial ability that would ensure CSC sustainability. A good VLE is expected to have some financial strength, entrepreneurial ability, strong social
commitment as well as respect within the community. The quality of service at the CSCs would depend a great deal on the quality of VLEs. Selection and proper training of the VLE, therefore would play a vital role in making the CSC Scheme a success.
 
The State Government
The major roles envisaged for the State Government are as follows:
A)
Setting up of a High Level Committee for overseeing the implementation of the CSC Scheme
B)
The HLC would oversee the functioning of the SDA with reference to the CSC Scheme, including the process of selection of the SCAs. The functions of the HLC could also be performed by the Apex Committee proposed vide the Capacity Building guidelines issued by the DIT vide letter no 1(2) / 05-EGD dated 22nd March 2005. The NLSA should be associated with the HLC / Apex Committee on issues relating to the CSC Scheme.
C)
Driver for policy, regulatory and other relevant changes
D)
Providing Financial Support
E)
Designating an Agency of the Government to receive the financial support from the State government & the Government of India
F)
Service provider for e-Government services
G)
Infrastructure and other support to the State Designated Agency (SDA) / SCA
H)
Take an appropriate decision on the mode and degree of integration with the CSC Scheme of the existing physical, digital and institutional infrastructure of various Government Agencies / Departments in the State, such as Schools, Gram Panchayats, Public Health Centres (PHC), Community Information Centres (CICs) etc and Post Offices (in consultation with GOI). Decide on the extent and modalities of integration with the CSC Scheme of existing Government schemes particularly development programmes in areas like Education, Health, Agriculture, Employment, etc.
   
State Designated Agency
Each State Government is requested to identify a State Designated Agency (SDA) and a Nodal Officer to represent the State and provide all State level support for smooth implementation of the CSC Scheme. The SDA should be a PSU / Society or any other agency controlled by the State Government. The State Government should preferably appoint the same agency as the one appointed as State Level Agency for SWAN as SDA in order to ensure proper and effective integration between the two schemes. As the representative of the State Government, the SDA is expected to provide the necessary policy level support to the CSC Scheme. Such support can come in the form of appropriate policies to develop a sustainable framework for regulation, promotion and ramp up of e-Government and private sector services.
Essentially, the role of the SDA would primarily be to :
A)
Facilitate e-readiness of the State
B)
Provide policy, regulatory and other support at State level
C)
Coordinate, manage & monitor the receipt & utilization of financial support received from the State Government / Government of India
D)
Facilitate integration of the existing ICT enabled and other Government Schemes into the CSC Scheme.
E)
Help identify CSC locations
F)
Coordinate and facilitate interactions between the SCA and State Government Departments, District Administration for enabling delivery of Government services through CSCs, in an integrated manner.
G)
Coordinate and network with other concerned state level entities
H)
Select Service Centre Agencies (SCA) under the guidance of the High Level Committee / Apex Committee
I) Facilitate training and capacity building
J) Facilitate awareness campaigns
K) Facilitate the SWAN interface
   
The National Level Service Agency (NLSA)
The National Level Service Agency would provide program management support to the DIT for rolling out the CSC Scheme. This support would continue during implementation and initial operation phase.

Program Management: For a project of this size, it is essential to have an Agency that can undertake visioning and planning at a macro level while providing the right strategy, framework and guidance to all stakeholders for effectively managing the implementation of the CSC Scheme across the country.

Monitoring of the Program: NLSA would monitor the implementation of the CSC Scheme to enable DIT to review its progress from time to time and to take appropriate timely corrective measures.

Assistance to States: NLSA would assist the State Government / SDA in various aspects relating to implementation of the CSC Scheme such as development of RFP, managing the bid process, finalizing the Service Level Agreement (SLA), etc.
 
The Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV)
A number of activities such as channeling Government support, national level content aggregation, monitoring of operations, etc. would need to be undertaken beyond the period of existence of the NLSA. Some of these activities may need to continue in perpetuity, even after expiry of the period of guaranteed government support. Hence, in addition to the NLSA, a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) is intended to be established to perform these roles/ tasks. The SPV would be set up during the initial implementation phase of the Scheme and would be an integral part of the CSC framework in perpetuity.
The SPV would perform the following key roles:
A)
Lay down operating and financial disciplines within the CSC
system
B)
Provide a framework for collaborative decision making
C)
Catalyze content aggregation on an on-going basis
D)
Build a common "Identity" like a common logo, etc.
   
Concept of Government Support
No Capital Subsidy is envisaged under the CSC Scheme

However, the track record of rural projects, underscores the need for financial support to achieve sustainability. The challenge here is to develop a framework for ascertaining the `optimum level' of Government support - such that the SCA / VLE is neither discouraged nor `over-incentivized', both leading to under-performance. For the Government, the bigger challenge is therefore to cover the revenue gaps and associated risks, which arise in rural markets.

Keeping the above in view, it may be appreciated that if Government services can cover a part of the CSC cash flow requirements, a viable business model could be built around private services. However, since G2C services may take longer to be operational, the CSCs need to be de-risked from the associated threats to their sustainability, due to non-
availability of adequate G2C services.

To overcome this problem, it is proposed that the CSCs would be provided support in the form of a "Guaranteed Provision of Revenue from Governmental Services". The exact amount of support would be arrived at through a price discovery mechanism, arrived at through a competitive bid and selection process. This support would be shared between Central Government (planned funding through DIT) and State Government in equal ratio. The State Government could meet their share of the revenue support by either making a provision in their budget or by using the Additional Central Assistance for NeGP, provided by the Planning Commission.

To ensure a reasonable assessment of G2C Services revenues, it would be pertinent to review the State e-Readiness Report prepared by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) and Market Survey Analysis undertaken by ACNielsen-ORG as a part of the CSC Scheme's Project Development Phase. The same should be distributed to the potential SCAs before the price discovery process.

 
Determining the CSC locations
The aim of the CSC Scheme is to establish 100,000 rural kiosks across the country with an equitable spread at the rate of, one (1) CSC for every six (6) census villages. State Governments would have to work out the number of CSCs that would be established in each block across the State, based on the above parameter.

The SCA may be given the discretion to locate the CSCs anywhere within a Block within the overall ceiling arrived at, based on the criterion mentioned in para 6.1. The SCA however, would need to ensure that, not more than one (1) CSC is established in one Gram Panchayat, unless the number of Gram Panchayats in a Block is less than the number worked out, based on the criteria mentioned in para Wherever the State Government proposes to set up a larger number of CSCs than those prescribed as per criteria mentioned in para 6.1 for certain specific reasons, prior approval of DIT, GOI, would need to be taken by the concerned State Government.
 
Connectivity
The CSCs wherever feasible, would ride on the connectivity provided by the SWAN. To that effect, it is suggested that the State Government should formalize the SWAN implementation plan along with the CSC related activities in the State. The States are required to ensure that either the SWAN RFP (in case of PPP model) or Bill of Materials (in
case of NIC model), as duly approved by DIT, are issued prior to the issuance of the CSC RFP.

The DIT is currently holding discussions with the Department of Telecom for enabling broadband connectivity for the CSCs . Details of the arrangements agreed upon would be made available to the States through the NLSA. However, if the State considers that an alternative to the SWAN connectivity model , or the arrangement finalised by the DIT referred to above, would be more appropriate for the CSC Scheme, the State may examine such alternative options for connectivity and formalize the same, before launching the CSC Scheme.

All CSCs would have to have Broadband Internet enabled connectivity. Consequently, each State, in conjunction with the DIT, GOI would need to formalize a plan for last mile connectivity to the CSCs as a prerequisite to the final selection of the SCAs.
 
The SCA Selection Process
The SCA would be selected through a transparent bid process.
State Governments would have to prepare a State- specific Request for Proposal (RFP) for selection of the SCAs. The NLSA would provide the necessary support to the State Government for managing the bid process.

The State Government would need to provide all required support to the NLSA in collecting information about the existing physical, infrastructure and telecom network, the IT policy, the current process of government service delivery, the e-readiness of the State, existing kiosks and their operations, rates to be charged from citizen for delivery of identified e-governance services and revenue sharing mechanism, etc. A template for the RFP has been developed in four parts:
Volume 1
Project Information Memorandum: To provide information about the CSC Scheme to the bidder
Volume 2
Instructions to Bidders: To provide the necessary instructions to the bidder for participating in the bid process
Volume 3
Draft Master Service Level Agreement
Volume 4
Supplementary Information: This would include any reports, surveys, etc. which would enable better understanding of the current status of e-governance projects in the State, rural business potential, technology options etc.
A copy of the generic RFP containing certain mandatory clauses is enclosed herewith. Any changes/ modifications in the mandatory clauses would require prior approval of DIT, GOI.
Approvals and Modifications
The Draft RFP would be reviewed by the SDA appointed by the State for the CSC Scheme and the requisite approval would be taken from appropriate authorities for issuance of the RFP.
In order to facilitate implementation of the CSC Scheme, appropriate policy and regulatory amendments, if required, could be made by the State Government. Before formalising the RFP, it is recommended that specific approvals should be sought by the SDA from the State Government authorities, on the following issues:
A)
Integration Plan for existing kiosks
B)
Number of CSC locations
C)
Branding of CSCs
D)
Pricing of Government Services and revenue sharing arrangement for such services
E) Number of SCAs to be selected for the Scheme
F) Pre-qualification criteria for SCAs Support to be provided to SCAs in terms of use of State infrastructure as indicated at para 4.3.1, and specific charges thereof, if any.
   
Creating Awareness among the Government Departments
The SDA / Nodal Department for implementing the scheme in the State needs to take appropriate steps to ensure all the State Departments are cognizant about the CSC scheme, its implementing structure and the support required from each department for delivery of Government Services in an integrated manner. Accordingly the Nodal department may organize seminars for the concerned State and District Administration officials.

The SDA / Nodal Department may also consider signing Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with concerned Departments to enable a timely and structured delivery of Government services through the CSCs in an integrated manner.
 
Monitoring
The State Government would need to set up a Monitoring Committee at the State level to coordinate with functionaries of various concerned Government Departments as well as district level officers for ensuring smooth implementation of the CSC Scheme.

It is expected that the Monitoring Committee would meet on a regular basis to review the implementation progress of the CSCs.

DIT will stipulate and put in place a mechanism for on-line monitoring of all CSCs on a continuous basis. All States and SCAs would be required to comply with such stipulation in order to receive funds under the scheme.
 
Integration of Existing Kiosks
The State Governments should make every effort to subsume existing kiosks within the ambit of the CSC Scheme either in the form of SCAs or VLEs, as applicable.

Existing kiosk operators may also be given an opportunity to participate in the bid process of the CSC Scheme as SCAs subject to their meeting the stipulated eligibility criteria. Where they do not qualify as SCAs, the successful SCAs should be encouraged to accommodate the existing kiosk operators as VLEs or group of VLEs subject to the existing operators agreeing to assume the contractual liabilities of a VLE in terms of service delivery and the two parties arriving at an appropriate legal and commercial arrangement in this
regard.

Wherever some of the existing kiosk operators despite the efforts made by the State Government, are unable to participate in the bid process on account of not fulfilling the eligibility criteria, the State Government may consider providing G2C services, SWAN connectivity to such existing kiosk operators on similar terms and conditions as made available to an identified SCA.

The State Government may also review the terms and conditions of any subsisting contracts with agencies for establishing / running similar centers with a view to integrating them into the CSC Scheme to the extent legally, commercially and procedurally feasible. 12.5 The State Government shall indicate in the RFP, the terms on which any existing kiosk / center, set up or largely controlled by the Government (for example CICs in the NE), shall be made available to an SCA so that the latter may factor this element into its bid.

The State may not restrict the use of web-enabled Government services by any future CSCs like entities, likely to be set-up or established without any guaranteed revenue support from the State.

The State Governments may also like to leverage existing Self Help Groups / NGOs and other well-established and reputed citizen-centric organisations / groups and encourage them to participate in the CSC Scheme, including as SCAs / VLEs or by supporting them in their activities, in areas such as content localisation and human resource mobilization.
 
Revenue Support
Revenue Support would be provided to the SCA based on price discovery determined through the bidding process over a period of four years.

The SCA would not be eligible for revenue support unless all the CSCs within the SCA's jurisdiction (district / division / part of a State, as per bid package) have been rolled out, within the specified time frame and are certified as operational by the SDA.

The revenue generated from delivery of e-government services would be offset from the revenue support bid by the SCA and accepted by the State Government. The savings accrued to the State on account of this offset to the extent of GOI support can be used for back-end computerisation by the State, with the prior approval of the DIT, GOI. The State Governments are encouraged to consider the SCA's administrative costs to deliver government services and the incentives required by the SCA/VLE while deciding on the extent of offset.
A)
For each State, there would be an allocation of revenue support to the extent of 33.33% of the normative value1 (computed per CSC per month) based on the 1:6 villages criterion mentioned in para

1 Normative Value has been worked out as a minimum operating expenditure including servicing of CAPEX per CSC per month on an average basis over a four-year period. The amount of Government support ( State + Central) , based on 33.3% of the normative value works out to Rs 3304 / CSC / Month.

of these guidelines. In case, the total bid amount for the State works out to be lower than the total allocation for the State, the State may increase the number of CSCs without exceeding the prescribed allocation. However, the actual amount of revenue
support will be based on the actual bid amount, subject to the conditions mentioned in para 13.
B)
As far as the actual bid for an individual SCA, the revenue support shall not exceed 50% (75% in the case of North Eastern States, J&K, Andaman & Nicobar Islands & Lakshwadweep) of the normative value (computed per CSC per month). If the SCA bid exceeds this value, the State may adopt any of the following courses of action.
 
i)
It may negotiate with the bidder to bring down the bid to within 50% (75% in the case of North Eastern States, J&K, Andaman & Nicobar Islands & Lakshwadweep) of the normative value
ii)
It may agree to meet the additional cost from the State's own resources (ACA will not be available for this purpose)
iii)
It may reduce the number of CSCs to bring down the bid amount within 50% (75% in the case of North Eastern States, J&K, Andaman & Nicobar Islands & Lakshwadweep) of the normative value.
C)
In order to ensure that the revenue support for an SCA does not exceed the limit prescribed above, the State Government may take steps to formulate appropriate bid packages (districts / divisions / regions having a lower revenue potential may be clubbed with districts / divisions / regions having a higher revenue potential).
D)
In special case, if the bid amount for a particular SCA exceeds 50% of the normative value, instead of resorting to the procedure mentioned in para 12.4 b) above, the State Government may approach GOI for special approval to award the bid at a higher rate. This facility would be available to States, provided that:
 
i)
The State Government is satisfied that, this increase is due to special conditions prevailing in the area / SCA unit, and,
ii)
The State Govt is also satisfied that while the bid amount has exceeded 50% of the normative value, it is still within 50% of the actual operating cost of CSCs in that SCA area.
iii)
It may reduce the number of CSCs to bring down the bid amount within 50% (75% in the case of North Eastern States, J&K, Andaman & Nicobar Islands & Lakshwadweep) of the normative value.
In case the State Government decides to invite bids for a larger number of CSCs than it is eligible for as per criterion mentioned in para 6.1, the total amount of revenue support available to it, either as Government support, or as ACA would be restricted to the number
arrived at as per norm indicated in para 13.4 a).

All funds under the CSC Scheme would be released to an Agency designated to receive such funds under the Scheme, by the State Government / Government of India, as grant-in-aid. The Designated Agency would be required to submit a proposal as per para 13.4 a) of these guidelines ( based on 33.3 % of the normative value per CSC and the number of CSCs which a State is eligible to set up as per para 6.1 of these guidelines). The funds would be released in four annual installments.

The first installment would be released upon receipt of the said proposal by the Government of India, based on confirmation by the NLSA that the State Government has complied with the minimum preparatory steps required for implementation of the CSC Scheme, as prescribed by the Department of Information Technology, Government of India. All subsequent releases would be subject to submission of utilisation certificate by the Designated Agency & release of State Government Share & utilisation of the same by the Designated Agency. In case the actual bid amount works out to be different from the amount sanctioned by the DIT for the said Scheme for a State, the Designated Agency would be required to submit a revised sanction proposal for the Schme , prior to release of 2nd installment.
 
Enablement Plan for G2C Services
Since the revenue support would be based on the availability of G2C services, it is recommended that the State should develop appropriate G2C service enablement plans, at least for key government services. The technology architecture for the same, including connectivity plans should also, as far as possible, be formalized to enable the SCAs to take a holistic view of the business environment.
 
Issuance of RFP
As stated earlier, it is recommended that the State Government should not issue RFP for CSC Scheme unless the State has issued an RFP for the SWAN implementation or taken appropriate action for ensuring last mile connectivity for CSCs, as elaborated in para 7 of these guidelines.

Once the appropriate approvals are in place, the State should issue advertisements in all major newspapers in the State and at least in one National Newspaper inviting bids through the Request for Proposal. The advertisement should clearly mention the minimum pre- qualification criteria and the date for submission of the prospective bidder's pre-qualification credentials. The RFP, along with necessary support documentation and addendums, if any, should be hosted on the State Government / nodal agency's website for downloading by the prospective bidders.

The RFP should clearly mention that the SCA should be an entity (Company, society, trust, etc.) with financial and technical capabilities for undertaking such projects. The State may prescribe the pre- qualification criterion for SCA keeping in view local requirements. 15.4 The minimum unit for inviting bids shall be one district. The State should also ensure that a minimum of two SCAs are selected for the State. The selection of SCAs should be in the following steps:
a) A Pre-qualification Stage or EoI
b) Evaluation of Technical & Financial Bids
 
Pre-Bid Conference
A pre-bid conference of the prospective bidders should be held after the issuance of RFP.

The Minutes of the pre-bid conference should be prepared and uploaded on the State website along with any amendments to the RFP document that may arise from discussions at the pre-bid conference.
 
Technical Bid Evaluation
The State / SDA should set up an Evaluation Committee for the bids submitted. Such a committee should include suitable representatives from the State Government, expert members and also a nominee from the NLSA and the DIT, GOI.

The technical bids (only of the pre-qualified bidders) should be evaluated by reviewing the proposals as well as by evaluating individual presentations from bidders on their proposed business and implementation plan, as would be called for after the bid opening.
 
Financial Bid Opening
The financial bids shall be opened only for those bidders meeting the minimum prescribed technical score.
 
Service Level Agreements
Upon selection of the bidder, the State Government would need to enter into the Service Level Agreement (SLA) with the SCA. A Draft SLA would be a part of the RFP. The NLSA would liaison with the State Government and SCAs to ensure that best practices are incorporated in the SLAs.
 
Timelines
As the CSC roll-out in all States is to be completed within the specified timeframe, each State may draw up a schedule for implementation and roll out. Suggested timelines for the identified activities are attached at Annexure A.
 
Modifications / Addendum
DIT, Government of India may issue any future instruction / clarification from time to time regarding implementation of the CSC Scheme. Such instruction / clarification / modification would form the Addendum for the instant Guidelines and shall be binding on all concerned.
 
Annexure A: Time Lines
Activities Timelines
Submission of Draft RFP to State T = 0
Circulation of Draft RFP among stakeholder Departments and revert with comments
T + 1 month
Incorporation of comments and final approval of RFP T + 1.5 months
Issuance of RFP T + 2 months
Pre-Bid Meeting T + 2.5 months
Issuance of Amendments & Minutes of Pre-Bid Meeting T + 2.75 months
Submission of Bids & Opening of Bid covers T+ 3.75 months
Technical Presentations T + 4.25 months
Submission of Evaluation Report by Evaluation Committee T + 4.5 months
Approval of Evaluation Report by State T + 4.75 months
Opening of Financial Bids T + 5.0 months
Finalization of Service Level Agreements with preferred bidder T + 5.75 months
Issuance of Letter of Intent T + 6.0 months
Commencement of Roll –out of CSCs T + 7.0 months
Completion of roll-out of CSCs & Operationalizing of 100% CSCs T + 19.0 months
 
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