Prime Minister Narendra Modi dedicated Akodara in Sabarkantha district of north Gujarat as the digital village to the nation on January 2, 2015. Under the project, ‘Digital Village,’ the ICICI Bank developed Akodara as the digital village. The dedication was done online at a function held in Mumbai. The Digital Village project was announced by the bank to mark its 60th anniversary. The best part of the inauguration was that only a few villagers of Akodara were present at the Mumbai function, while most of the villagers were in Akodara itself watching the function through video conference.
About Akodara village: Akodara village in Sabarkantha district lies in north Gujarat. A small village with a population of 1,145, there are altogether 220 families residing here. Most of the families here are involved in cattle rearing and farming. The main crops grown here are cotton, castor and wheat. This village first came into prominence when the country’s first animal hostel was opened here by Narendra Modi in 2011, when he was the Chief Minister of the State.
Akodara village, India’s first animal hostel: The animal hostel concept was conceived by Narendra Modi. Animal hostel is considered as a place where the cattle of the village are kept together. Here, the cattle are maintained and taken care of together. The hostel has all the necessary facilities and infrastructure to take care of the cattle. Animal hostel in Akodara village has been conceptualized as a sustainable management model. The village is in close proximity to the village-based milk co-operative, Sabarkantha District Milk Co-operative Union, with a good road connectivity.
One reason why Akodara was chosen as an animal hostel was because of the 220 families staying here, 205 are animal owners. The hostel has facilities like fodder production in the nearby land, electricity generation through biogas plants, fodder storage, compost production, milk collection room, veterinary centre, including a water storage tank. There are 22 sheds in the hostel which has a capacity of keeping 24 cattle each. All owners who keep their cattle in the hostel have to keep their allotted area neat and clean. This concept of animal hostel in a village is indeed a very unique concept and the key stake-holders in development of the hostel are the village milk co-operative society and Akodara gram panchayat. Also, this is a good example of people’s participation in managing personal and community resources with the help of the Government.
Akodara village: India’s first digital village: The pilot project of digital village has been started by the ICICI bank in collaboration with the district administration. This is a part of the programme Digital India launched by the Government of India, in which ICICI bank has adopted the Akodara village to make it a digital village. ICICI Chairman and Managing Director Chanda Kochar said that considering the fact that there are over 6 lakh villages in the country, the bank has taken the first step to convert one village to digital. The concept of digital Akodara is based on three “Cs”: Cashless, Connected and Comprehensive.
- Cashless: The bank has created a fully cashless eco-system in the village where the shops, mandi, co-operative society, milk producers in the village can opt for cashless transactions using cards. There are ATM booths if people need cash during emergency. The villagers don’t need to keep cash at home.
- Connected: The bank has provided high speed broadband connectivity through the construction of a wi-fi tower. The villagers can also do transactions using mobile phones. Terminals have been installed to show the prices of agriculture produce. An website and a Facebook page of the village have also been created.
- Comprehensive: The village has become comprehensive because digitized school curriculum is introduced, school management software and smart devices have been installed. There are audio-video content, digital boards in the aanganwadis. Also skill development programmes and training for girls where they learn office administration and vocational skills have also been initiated.
Chanda Kochar said that technology can remove all the barriers between rural and urban areas. It is through rural development that a boost can be given to Indian GDP. She also said that other entities, either alone or in partnerships, should come forward and join this initiative so that more and more villages are adopted.
The Prime Minister said that this digital village initiative will become the role model for other villages. He recalled how Akodara by starting its first animal hostel led to 20% production increase. With the launching the Digital Village programme, he said, more and more villages should adopt this model soon so that rural India growth could lead to further economic development for the country.
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