Government yet to hurdle over basic logistics before e-district launch

The ABCs of a gadget era are missing in most village offices but the government is on a path to turn Ernakulam into an e-district by February.

In a wannabe electronically governed district, only 41 of the 124 village offices have live land phones. And most of the desktop computers in the offices are dead or antique pieces.

The government plans to turn Ernakulam into an e-governed district in the second half of February. The first phase in early February will cover 54 village offices in Kochi, Aluva and Kunnathunadu taluks.

If the e-governance project takes off, people can skip the queues in front of village offices and walk to the nearest Akshaya centre to get the 23 essential documents, including caste and community certificates, life and solvency certificates and domicile and income certificates.

The project is being piloted by Kerala IT Mission and Akshaya in tie-up with the National Informatics Centre.

Obsolete desktops would soon be replaced with laptops, sources said. 19 laptops were available with the district administration for distribution among village officers, who are being trained under NIC supervision.

But the ground situation is gloomier. Sources said that most of the computers at village offices were more than six years old, with expired annual maintenance contracts. Many of them have been unused for long.

A village officer said the desktop at the office has been dead for over a year. Attempts to get it repaired had failed.

The lack of land phone connections too is a hurdle though BSNL is racing against time to provide connections to 54 village offices, which do not have cable link so far.

But the district administration and the implementing agency Akshaya is optimistic. They believe all the village offices can be telephonically linked in time for the e-district launch because most of them have connections that were temporarily unplugged for reasons, including non-payment of bills.

While trying to ring up village offices, the response varied from the automated to the snappy tones.

Vazhakkala and Kakkanadu village offices, on the outskirts of Kochi, have phones that have been temporarily disconnected. Varappuzha number “does not exist”, said the automated voice response service. The phone numbers of Vengoor and Mookkannur village offices had changed, an indication that the numbers could have been in disuse for long.

The landline at Kadungalloor office works while the number for Kumbalanghi office, listed in the directory published by the District Information Office in 2010, is of a private home. The lady who took the call said the number was allotted by the service provider a few months ago when her son applied for internet. When Kunnathunadu office was dialled, the man who picked up the call curtly said it was not an office.

martin.ka@thehindu.co.in

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