Statewide cyber kiosks may come a cropper in MP

CIOL Bureau
New Update

BHOPAL: Whatever happened to the information kiosks that were supposed to

have come up in Madhya Pradesh? Things have really failed to take off after the

government announced the signing of a MoU between Reliance Industries and the

Madhya Pradesh State Industrial Development Corporation (MPSIDC) in June with

great fanfare. The MoU envisages the setting up of a statewide network of cyber



It is said that even the agreement for promoting a joint venture (JV) between

Reliance and MPSIDC is yet to be finalized by the state government. In such a

scenario, there is every possibility that the targeted 500 kiosks by March this

year may never materialize. Under the project, 7,800 kiosks were to be set up by

March 2002. In that eventuality, the government's plan to replicate the highly

acclaimed Gyandoot e-governance model of Dhar district throughout the state may

come undone.

However, MPSIDC managing director S R Mohanty allays fears saying, "The

project might be held up for a couple of months. We're just being

thorough." Others, however, are not so sure.

According to sources, the Industries, Law and Finance departments are

scrutinizing the joint venture agreement. While it seems the state government is

deliberately going slow, many industry watchers say the caution is misplaced.

Critics say the state government should act proactively after pioneering the

concept of e-governance with Gyandoot. The MoU provides for five per cent equity

to MPSIDC in the JV. The corporation will not invest but secure clearances for

Reliance to lay a 4,500-km optical fiber cable (OFC) network that would connect

the cyber kiosks.


The network will be a part of the nation-wide OFC backbone of Reliance

Telecom's national long-distance (NLD) mesh that would eventually cater to its

convergence plans. Company sources say 400 km of cable has been laid since its

NLD project was given the go-ahead in October last.

Shekhar Singh, the Reliance man in Bhopal, refused comment. The central

location of Madhya Pradesh makes it crucial to the NLD plans of any telecom

company. Besides, Reliance is expected to make a near-sure foray into basic

telecom services in the MP Telecom Circle when the Center allows a free run. The

same network could service those operations as well. "Kiosks on the network

would have been a mere-add-on," says a Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd. official.

Officials say it was a cozy tie-up. The cash-strapped state government got

Reliance to invest in its e-governance plans. With a near-empty treasury and a

can-do gambit, Reliance had a government agency getting the notoriously thorny

right-of-way clearances to lay the cables. It would eventually give Reliance a

head start over other telecom operators in NLD and basic telephony operations in

the state. While Reliance's priorities have shifted to NLD, the state government

is left completely unprepared for e-governance.

No exercise is currently underway to identify which citizen services would go

online through the statewide Intranet of the Reliance network. The exercise, it

seems, has lost its way ever since some key IT-savvy bureaucrats were shifted to

the newly carved state of Chhattisgarh.