Rajasthan's VAN project in doldrums

CIOL Bureau
New Update

JAIPUR: The Rajasthan government's much talked about value added network (VAN) project is yet to see light of the day. The project, which was conceived around four years ago, has remained in the pipeline since then. "The project has been facing problems right from the day it was conceived. ", a source in the Rajasthan information technology department said.

Blame it on the government apathy or delay by PDCOR Ltd. in preparing a detailed bankable report, the state has lost one of its most prestigious projects. It is understood that the biggest problem the project faced was because of the Rajasthan government's hesitancy in entering into a buy-back agreement with a private party.

The state initially had approved the idea of VAN and asked PDCOR to make a feasibility report for it. PDCOR after much exercise of 13 months (as it involved a tedious task of collection of data from the state government departments), prepared the report under which government's support in terms of guaranteed business was necessary for the project to become viable. However, the state government refused a firm commitment in spite of spending over Rs 35 lakh on developing the feasibility report.

Finding the project failing to take off, the state government tried to woo entrepreneurs on its own. However, even repeated requests by the state government to some of the leading information technology companies and basic telephone providers have fallen on deaf ears as none of the private parties seem interested in the project. "With the entry of the private sector in laying of bandwidth the project has become unviable", an official of a private telecom company said. It is learnt that the government now with certain modifications plans to go alone with the project.

However, tech gurus are skeptical of the government's idea as they feel that the government has neither the funds nor the technology to implement the project on its own. The VAN project is estimated to cost Rs 150 crore - Rs 200 crore. It may be recalled that the project was highlighted in the state government's IT policy for speedy implementation. The proposed communication network was supposed to cater to the needs of data and voice communication of the various state government departments and public sector undertakings (PSUs) with their district and remote offices.

The network was to be further extended to provide other value-added services like electronic data interchange, video conferencing, etc. This was supposed to be used by private sector as well as the several PSUs of the state. The proposed VAN was expected to address government-government interface; data warehouse and information kiosks, government-public interface and private-private interface. The VAN was to be a private sector led initiative that was to put in place a high speed IT backbone that was to cater to the current and future bandwidth requirements of the state.

In the dynamic telecom-deregulating scenario, execution of large projects has become highly complex as they involve high capital and technology inputs. Therefore, the state government had recommended the development of the network on BOO basis, which involves least investment but at the same time would facilitate the best possible technology. The PDCOR was asked to prepare a feasibility report for the project.