The State of Orissa, situated on the eastern cost 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 along with 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 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 where then thrown open to public to access rehabilitation and reconstruction related information in respective areas. This unique effort of the UNITeS was acknowledged with the program being chosen as one of the finalists of the Stockholm Challenge awards in the year 2001.
This was the beginning of 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 project, ‘restoration of agriculture based livelihoods’ was successfully implemented in 7 affected coastal districts. During the exit phase of this project, used computers were mobilized and provided to village farmers committees, implementing partners and to the district agriculture offices, in order to expand the scope of the Agriculture Service Centres to Agriculture Information Centres and networking them to the coordinating agencies and the line department.
This was again a unique case of extending the ICTs to the masses through organic growth of institutions.
Likewise, in partnership with different departments of the Government of Orissa, in total, 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 being managed by the Community IT Volunteers paid through user charges collected and managed by local hosts. ICT Facilitators posted at 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 center] for delivery of equitable information and services to rural masses.
ICT kiosk model developed has been adapted by the State government in setting up 4000 ICT kiosks across the State under self employment scheme.