BSNL to convert Karnataka public call offices into info kiosks

August 18th, 2008 - 4:52 pm ICT by IANS  

Bangalore, Aug 18 (IANS) State-run Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) will convert its public call offices (PCOs) in Karnataka into electronic information and transaction kiosks with free broadband connectivity (ePCOs). “The ePCOs will have a full-fledged information system with a PC, a webcam, a broadband link and a printer to provide a host of online services in English and Indian languages,” BSNL Karnataka circle chief general manager T.S. Kuppuswamy told reporters at the e-initiative launch by state IT minister Katta Subarmanya Naidu here Monday.

In collaboration with the world’s largest chip-maker Intel, multipurpose pre-paid card firm ItzCash Card Ltd and Karnataka PCO Owners Association, the ePCOs will provide voice, data and video-conferencing facilities to the common man in semi-urban and rural areas.

In addition to a landline with STD/ISD facility for voice calls, the ePCO will enable customers to access information through Internet, browse the web, chat, e-mail and conduct video-conferencing.

“With a multiple pre-paid card from ItzCash, even customers who are not computer-literate can buy bus, railway and airline tickets at a nominal service fee from any ePCO, with the help of its owner/franchise who will be trained by Intel to operate the system,” Kuppuswamy said.

In the first phase on pilot basis, one ePCO will be set up in each of the 29 districts across the state. Existing PCO operators having BSNL connection will be given a rental-free broadband link to convert their booths into e-kiosks.

Intel and ItzCash personnel will train them to install the IT systems and operate the ePCO.

“For every e-transaction, the operator will get a commission. The operator can generate additional revenue by charging for accessing any information through Internet, browsing, chatting and e-mailing on minutes/hourly basis. He will also be able to levy a nominal charge for print-outs,” Kuppuswamy pointed out.

Going forward, ePCOs will be permitted to transact utility payments for water, electricity and telephone. They will also be equipped to re-charge mobiles, sell insurance and banking products and offer online transactions for cinema tickets, cable subscriptions and video communication.

As part of its corporate social responsibility and commitment to usher in low-cost technology solutions to the masses, Intel India will structure the rollout of ePCOs and provide course material to train PCO owners free of cost.

“India has the opportunity to use low-cost technology solutions for the masses. The e-initiative is in line with our objective to extend industry support to accelerating broadband connectivity in rural India as an economic growth driver,” Intel South Asia sales director R. Ravichandran said.

Lauding the public-private initiative, Naidu said ePCOs will not only bridge the digital divide with the latest technologies, but also generate self-employment to thousands of educated youth in semi-urban and rural areas of Karnataka with increasing IT adoption.

Karnataka PCO Owners Association president S.V. Rajendra said the e-initiative would prevent the closure of PCOs, whose numbers have been dwindling over the years due to the rapid penetration of mobile connectivity in the state.

As against one million PCOs with BSNL phones across the state a decade ago, only about 400,000 are operating currently as revenues have come down sharply, he said.

With Rs.10,000 upfront investment in hardware and software and about Rs.35,000 for setting up a new ePCO or scaling up the present one, PCO owners can revive their fortunes and play a vital role in bridging the digital divide.

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Posted in Business |