Championing Change: E-Governance and Rural Empowerment Through IT

Championing Change: E-Governance and Rural Empowerment Through IT

Sriram Raghavan and Ravi Rangan of Comat Technologies believe that willingness to adopt IT and a sense of ownership are crucial for e-governance initiatives.

More than a decade ago, India-based Comat Technologies entered the e-governance space. It implemented the first-ever Election Photo Identity Cards project in Karnataka in 1995. Its success paved the way for other governance initiatives that Comat has enabled. Today, Comat has e-governance projects based on public-private partnership (PPP) running in 14 Indian states. Its current projects include Nemmadi, the telecenters project of the Karnataka government.

In this interview, Ravi Rangan, CEO and co-founder of Comat Technologies, and Sriram Raghavan, its president and co-founder, share their views on e-governance and rural empowerment through IT.

Being in a PPP with state governments for e-governance projects, what kind of support do you get from governance agencies while implementing solutions? Is the support enough?

Sriram Raghavan: Both state and central governments have been consistently plagued by manual systems for many years. So e-governance was a big opportunity and a challenge for us, especially because e-governance systems were significantly left behind in this large space. We felt that we can pick citizen-centric projects and bring a technology focus to make the departments more efficient. There have been various ways of doing this, one of which is to go for projects that the government is giving out. With PPP, the government and we evolve a business model that involves a share of risk and revenue.

We get good support because the government is the largest NGO in India.

What projects are you currently running, apart from Nemmadi?

Ravi Rangan: In Karnataka, apart from Nemmadi, we have another project for food and civil supplies. In the PPP model, we have telecenters projects in Haryana, Tripura, Uttaranchal and Sikkim.

In addition to telecenters, what other kinds of projects does Comat work on?

RR: The ration cards project aims to computerize civil supplies records - from issue of ration cards to the way food supply is monitored. There are three areas. First, there is a beneficiary database. All official databases are outdated. The project's first objective was to clean that database, clean up the historical baggage and ghost cards - for which we are adopting technology such as biometrics. We collected data from every village and details of each citizen to look for repeats and found almost 4 per cent of people had duplicate cards.

SR: The most important part is that we are able to reach the rural citizens who have, over the years, been oblivious (of access to essential services). We are fortunate to have the opportunity of delivering essential services to them.

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