The IT policy of the Government besides providing for specific initiatives for ICT industry within the State laid emphasis on using ICT in all walks of life to improve living standards. One area identified was government itself. The Task Force on IT implementation in government also recommended to adopt a strategy of administrative reforms-based computerisation simultaneously with highly visible and immediately penetrable citizen-centric projects. The approach to citizen interface was based on the assumption that all direct Government – citizen interactions can be IT-enabled and can be categorised as making payments, getting entitlements, getting providing information and grievance redressal, etc. The implementation of State e-governance projects such as FRIENDS and Information Kerala Mission are examples. In spite of the good social and digital infrastructure ICT and internet penetration in Kerala was comparatively low. Some early attempts for grass root level ICT application did not make much headway.
During this period lots of programmes were initiated worldwide to address digital divide and to familiarise the tools of Information and Communication Technologies to the common man, which were also discussed in Kerala but limited to academic circles. Computer literacy was becoming the buzzword and many local bodies, NGOs and private computer institutes started offering courses and programmes in computer software like Microsoft, DOS Word and Excel. But the IT policy of the government required that the government should intervene to take the benefits of IT to the grass roots level.
Now, some of the local bodies in the three tier Panchayat system came forward with valuable project proposals for computer education at the grass root level. The proposal submitted by Malappuram District Panchayat had many notable features. Even from an international perspective such a massive computer education programme as was suggested in the proposal had not been attempted till then. Many international projects were limited to village level. The details of the project proposal had to be thrashed out for clarity. After a few round of discussions, a small team consisting of six members were formed in KSITM to study various ICT modules for development projects, implementation plans, business model etc for the initiative.
Discussions about the project led to the important finding that e-literacy was one of the most important components of any such project. A two-pronged approach was needed. While providing computer facilities in the rural areas focus must be given to impart education to the citizens to make use of those facilities. On the basis of further deliberations it was decided to provide a user-friendly content/courseware to the citizens to educate them on the uses of ICT. Creation of functional e-literacy was thus found to be a pre requisite.
As a preparatory measure for the implementation of the project several meetings with the participation of District Panchayat, Block Panchayats, Grama Panchayats, Municipalities and organisation like C-DIT were held. A survey in Malapuram district was held to assess the requirements. 6.5 lakh houses were visited as part of the survey. Spatial mapping was done with the help of Town and Country Planning Department to identify locations to establish the centre of the project.
Establishment of Akshaya-e-Kendra as an ICT access point, one for every 1000 families living in two/three municipal or Panchayat wards was the most important strategic decision. Other details chalked out for implementation were: