Innovative Use of Public Private Partnership to Fund Bottom Up Projects: The Case of Sanchar Shakti – Indian Universal Service Obligation Fund’s Scheme for Mobile Value Added Services for Rural Women
Selected for 2013 Innovation in Public Finance (IPF) International Conference, Milan, June 17-19, 2013
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In this paper Sanchar Shakti as a case study is presented as an example of a flexible and highly innovative approach to use of public funds to finance need based, inverse PPP projects. Unlike the case of EU, the Universal Service Fund of India combines many objectives of structural funds for rural ICT development (state aided projects) rather than restricting itself to a minimalist safety net approach. This allows wider scope for funding of rural ICT projects of various types through Universal Service funds. Sanchar Shakti is a unique programme of women’s empowerment where rural women’s Self Help Groups across India are being provided useful information, knowledge and skills specially customised to their cultural context and vocations through the mobile phone. This is a project where the needs of the women dictated the project’s scope and contours, allowing sufficient flexibility in design, while adhering to the rigour and requirements of a public private partnerships.