Villages Now Under MSWAN Radar

by Sonal Desai    Oct 18, 2006

Nearly ten enterprises have shown a keen interest in the state’s call to implement the Maharashtra State Wide Area Network project (MSWAN). Directorate of Information Technology in July 2006 invited tenders for the ambitious Rs 180 crore project.

It aims to connect government bodies from approximately 30,000 villages across 36 districts to the state headquarters at Mantralaya, Mumbai. Price Water Coopers is lead consultant to the state government on the project. MSWAN was conceived by the Center, and is a part of its NeGP (National e-governance Plan).

According to state IT secretary Arvind Kumar, the project will work on a Build-Own-Operate-Transfer (BOOT) basis. He however, refused to name the companies that have placed bids.

He says that the enterprise will develop data centers, network operating centers and other infrastructure for the project. It will provide a connectivity of 2MBPS per district.

Experts feel a connectivity of 2MBPs will be inadequate to network all the villages in a district. They note that each district will require a minimum of 16MBPS connectivity for smooth functioning. The state government will have to shell out the cost for the additional MBPs.

Says Kumar, “BSNL will give us a discount upto 90 per cent for the initial 2 MBPS and a further discount of 60 per cent for subsequent demands.”

Adds Sivarama Krishnan, executive director, PWC, “We have designed the network and developed the tender. We will assist the state in technical evaluation of the tenders as also project manage its implementation.”

Analysts however, are skeptical about the acceptance of the project at the administration and the grassroots level. Even if information kiosks in the villages or talukas are set up, the respective state departments will have to uploaded sites in a timely manner. Lots of data is being entered into the computers everyday, but not even a fraction of it reaches the desired destination.

A case in point is the digitalization of the land records initiated by the National Informatics Center (NIC), over a decade ago. Though the data has been fed into the computers, villagers are not being able to access it. The reason- no connectivity and reluctance on part of administrators and the people to go on line.

People and administrators will have to learn to trust the system. Data manipulation is a cause for concern. On a query, Kumar admits that the state will work on a hybrid system initially, where papers/documents will be archived. Stressing on the seriousness of the state to implement the project in a hassle free manner, he states that the enterprises will have to follow the guidelines framed by Computer Emergency Response Team - India (CERT In). Security lapses will also not be tolerated, and the service provider will be fined upto Rs ten lakh.

Priya Rohira, Head analyst, IT services at Enam Securities Pvt. Ltd avers that implementing MSWAN is feasible. The state bureaucracy should be committed. It has to continuously invest in computers and software. “However, the completion of the project may take more time than anticipated. A commitment towards proper implementation strategy, resources and money is required.”

In India, companies such as TCS, CMC, GTL, AT&T, CISCO, Intel, Polycon.Inc among others offer SWAN services.