Socio-economic indicators paint an abysmal picture of the condition of women, Schedule Castes and Tribes, minorities and other marginalized groups. The process of empowerment of these sections has not sufficiently contributed to India’s internationally-lauded development rate. The problem does not necessarily lie with the policy framework of the country or government initiatives aimed at improving their condition, but with the lack of awareness about the public schemes amongst the poorest strata and inept and corrupt implementation machinery. In addition to being deprived of other basic amenities, the poorer sections of the society also suffer from a severe dearth of information.

Accessibility to information is restricted primarily by the lack of effective and public-centric governance structures and limited portals for its dissemination. The first step towards active removal of barriers to the flow of information is systematic capacity building of all the stakeholders. These capacity building initiatives will also play a key role in promoting accountable and responsive panchayats and other government bodies. All of these levels of governance need to work in close coordination for improving accessibility of information about public schemes and successfully delivering their benefits to those who are most deserving.

Schemes like Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (Universal Education Mission) and Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act 2009 make education a constitutional right for all citizens of India, yet India has the largest population of illiterate adults in the world . Poverty alleviation schemes such as National Rural Livelihoods Mission and Acts like NREGA have not been making a major difference because of mismanagement of funds and lack of awareness amongst the expected beneficiaries. Therefore, there is a dire need for a program that can bridge the information gap by integrating multiple modes of communications. Digital Empowerment Foundation initiated the SOOCHNA SEVA project with an aim to facilitate dissemination of information of public schemes and services and enable the deserving groups to derive benefits from them. In order to ascertain the exact conditions that we have to work with and establish a baseline, we have conducted surveys in our target locations


Good governance is vital to viable and sustained socio-economic development. Keeping up the spirit of a social democratic country, Indian policymakers have designed several policies and programs to make its governance more accountable, inclusive and responsive to the needs of its citizens. Free flow and accessibility of information is one of the main factors that foster transparency of the governing structures. Right to Information Act was based on the premise that citizens have a sovereign authority on the government. Section 4 of the same act calls upon all governance bodies (state and central) to provide information to the public at regular intervals through various means of communication. In addition to planning and budgeting social welfare schemes, different sections of the government are also responsible for actively promoting these schemes. Unfortunately, the current state of affairs indicates that mere lip service has been rendered to the provisions of RTI.

Indian government, at both Central and State levels, acts as the largest service delivery provider in India with multitude of schemes, benefits, plans and services. However, India’s massive population size and chronic socio-demographic disparity make service delivery process like maintaining a free flow of information regarding available public schemes, extremely perplexing. Implementation of these schemes, especially from user citizen’s perspective (distributing entitlements) presents an even bigger challenge. Shortage and mismanagements of funds have stunted the benefit from even some of the best laid development plans. For instance, more than two crore families (out of 10.6 crore applicants) have been denied work in the last 8 months under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme because of shrinking funds .

DEF launched ‘SOOCHNA SEVA’ program in collaboration with European Union in January 2014 with an aim to spread awareness, using ICT/non-ICT tools, about existing public schemes amongst the deprived sections and enable them to derive benefits from the same. In addition to empowering the masses with information, SOOCHNA SEVA has set its focus on capacity building of the local communities, groups and citizens and advance cooperation between the stakeholders and local administration to develop an operative framework for public scheme information dissemination and entitlement.

As a part of this program, SOOCHNA SEVA Kendras would be set up as sustainable access points and as one-stop shop for information empowerment. The program will introduce tools based on ICT-enabled service delivery, access and entitlement model. The approach taken by SOOCHNA SEVA focuses on generating demand for the public schemes on the beneficiaries’ side. The level of operation for the program would be at the district administration level and below (blocks and Panchayats).

SOOCHNA SEVA was founded with an intention of strengthening the RTI act and to address larger issues of poverty, rural development, social exclusion and inequity of marginalized groups through information empowerment. The action-plan of this program also aims to help India meet its Millennium Development Goals such as eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, achieving universal primary education, promoting gender equality and empowering women, reducing child mortality rates, and improving maternal health. The program will deploy and run an integrated information services delivery and citizen entitlement framework in 5 backward districts in India in 6 key areas of - education, health, livelihood, employment, financial inclusion and social security. This initiative is further expected to strengthen the governance structure at district administration level and below. The relevance of the program shall looked at:

• Due to the difficult social, economic, geographical, geo-physical and poor development and weak infrastructures, it has become extremely difficult for the public authorities and agencies to reach out to the maximum beneficiaries (correct and deserving ones) to avail public schemes and entitlements.
• Due to archaic administrative rules and procedures, deserving beneficiaries (mostly poor and marginal) are left out of social welfare programmes and benefits of government entitlements.
• The role of middlemen and undeserving elements has created an unseen and hidden nexus in obfuscating the real beneficiaries take benefits of public schemes. Manipulation of information process is an unsaid norm in most cases.
• It shall help to create a sizeable amount of information change agents in communities who shall be empowered to benefit themselves, their families and their communities from government entitlement programmes through reliable and timely information networks and services.

‘SOOCHNA SEVA’ is a platform to disseminate information about public services /schemes via ICT and non ICT tools. This has been done by creating sustainable access points and these points will act as service delivery channels. Therefore to evolve a proper framework for the intervention, the flow of information has to reach the end user through these delivery channels. < img src="http://soochnaseva.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/ss-e1436166260946.png";> SOOCHNA SEVA MODEL>
The programme seeks to adopt a multi-dimensional approach in information services delivery and access using ICT and non-ICT tools. This involves setting up 1200 public scheme information delivery and access points. This is important in terms of engaging the local citizens and the groups in a sense of ownership and participation in the process. The SOOCHNA SEVA Model has 3 main channels:
I. Soochna Seva Kendra (SSK) serve as the public access points/offices, equipped with ICT and non-ICT tools including PCs, Laptops, Internet, Mobile phone, call center service (toll free number) at selected 125 Panchayats and 25 blocks in all five districts. These access points cater to the targeted 10,000 households directly and indirectly. There are 5 Kendra’s in each targeted district; having one office in one block. The main office/Kendra in the district is called ‘Hub Office’ and other four are called ‘Block Office’. The Hub office will be equipped with a call center facility. Moreover, there are mobile offices at Panchayat level, which will run by a fellow.
< img src="http://soochnaseva.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/img-123.png";>
Leave Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

clear formSubmit