The State of Orissa, situated on the eastern coast of India, was hit by an unprecedented super cyclone on October 29th, 1999. The cyclone caused massive damage to houses, vegetation, livelihood and the environment.
The relief and rehabilitation work that ensued involved several UN agencies and government and non-governmental organizations.
United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) – Orissa Hub supported the Government focal points to coordinate with various agencies working during this period to appropriately target the resources flowing in by building and facilitating the use of databases on disaster damages, needs and gap analysis through the United Nations Information Technology Services (UNITeS).
In the reconstruction phase, these ‘setups’ were handed over to the Block and Gram Panchayats – the lowest level of administrative units in the State – to function as Block Disaster Management Information Centres and Gram Panchayat Disaster Management Information Centres, respectively. These were then thrown open to the public to access rehabilitation and reconstruction related information in respective areas. This unique effort of the UNITeS was acknowledged by the program being chosen as one of the finalists of the Stockholm Challenge awards in the year 2001.
This was the beginning of the telecenter movement in Orissa.
While Orissa was yet to recover from the shock of the unprecedented natural disaster, the State was face to face with yet another natural calamity of vast magnitude, that is, the floods of July 2001.
Following the floods in 2001, the UK’s Department for International Development’s Conflict and Humanitarian Affairs Department (DFID-CHAD) supported the project, ‘restoration of agriculture-based livelihoods’, successfully implemented in 7 affected coastal districts. During the exit phase of this project, the used computers were mobilized and provided to village farmers committees, implementing partners and the district agriculture offices to expand the scope of the Agriculture Service Centres to Agriculture Information Centres and connect them to the coordinating agencies and the line department.
This was again a unique case of extending the ICTs to the masses through the organic growth of institutions.
Likewise, in partnership with different departments of the Government of Orissa, 73 ICT kiosks/telecenters in 12 districts have been established, which are currently being hosted by Women Self Help Groups/ Panchayats (Local Government)/ NGOs/ CBOs/ Youth Clubs. These centres are managed by the Community IT Volunteers paid through user charges collected and managed by local hosts. ICT Facilitators posted at the district level supervise the Community IT Volunteers and provide a link between the communities and the various district line departments for content and services.
Consolidation of such a diverse set of ICT kiosks/telecenters was imminent given the constraints of ending original projects and expansion of scope. Subsequently, these telecenters were brought under one brand umbrella of ‘Aamagaon Soochna Kendra (ASK)’ [My villages’ information centre] to deliver equitable information and services to rural masses.
The ICT kiosk model developed has been adopted and adapted by the State government to set up around 4000 ICT kiosks across the State under a self-employment scheme.