Any kind of transformation in society can be brought with the help of knowledge and that too if provided at the root level and relevant to the situation. Urban and rural communities have a different level of access to information. Though this access is very limited in rural areas because of some hurdles, some villages are lucky enough as they are getting access to information through certain initiatives taken by the government and NGOs.
Among all, one very good project that has been developed to provide the latest information to the farmers about agriculture covering topics from crop production to marketing is the formation of Village Knowledge Center (VKC). Apart from agriculture, VKCs also provide training and hold workshops for rural communities. Information regarding how to start a small business and ways to increase household income is also imparted to the farmers through VKCs.
There is no doubt that India is heading on the path of economic development and growth, but there are many challenges on the way to development and one of the biggest challenges is how to make the right use of a growing economy to benefit society as a whole. At present, a major share of economic growth is utilized for urban development ignoring much on the rural front. So the actual benefit that can be provided to each and every segment of the society needs to be found out.
IT is the major sector that is contributing to the economic development of the country. This is happening because India has an immense availability of well-educated, skilled and English-speaking workforce, but only in urban India. With the liberalization of policies in 1984, there was a gradual increase in Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) that assisted the development. The result of all these efforts can be seen in the cities in terms of expanding commerce, jobs and increasing wages. Due to economic development, shopping malls, entertainment places, restaurants are coming up in every city of India.
But amidst of all these developments rural India is still underdeveloped. Big MNCs are of no use to rural people as they are not educated enough to get jobs. So the quality of life in rural areas is almost the same and they are still fighting for daily income. Because of this, India still lags far behind in the list of human development. In Human Development Index (HDI), our nation stands at 128th position among 177 countries. Many experts emphasized that access to knowledge is a measure of human development. But a majority of Indians who are living in rural areas are the least benefited communities as they lack knowledge.
What point is there to talk about development in technology when villages do not even have the basic facilities of water, proper sanitation, education, and electricity. With economic development, quality of life as well as equal access to all the facilities in both urban as well as rural areas must come. Also these areas are not well connected with telecommunications. Remote areas in India are still not connected to the rest of the country as there are no roads. Moreover, the cost of developing infrastructure is huge in rural area but rural areas do not have funds to support this. Then the social and cultural difference is also creating a trouble in the development of rural India. Caste system still persists in rural areas leading to great disparity among its people.
Village Knowledge Centers (VKC)
One who wants to do well can find a way among all hurdles. So there are several projects that are now underway in rural India for development. Governmental agencies and NGOs are involved in these development projects. Few are focused on technological development and few on the dissemination and access to information. One such project is the VKCs through which the latest information is provided to the villagers so that they can earn, live a better life and be a part of the development.
Most of the VKCs have volunteer operators from the village itself who are trained in basic computer skills. VKCs are connected to Village Resource Centers (VRC). There are 20-30 VKCs to every VRC. Infrastructure and electricity bill of VKCs is maintained by the village, so only those villages are selected which can bear the expenditure.
Through the VKCs, different types of information such as new government schemes, prices of the commodities, examination results, importance of hygiene and its correlation with health, loan schemes by the government, certificates issued by the government, etc are provided. VKCs work with the main aim of improving agriculture by imparting knowledge regarding new developments, techniques of agriculture, improved varieties of seeds, methods of cultivation, etc. Also weather information, latest market price and information regarding diversification of crops is also shared with the farmers.
VKCs also work towards the development of the rural community. So, in addition to information, training in things such as dairy improvement, clean milk production, etc is given to the farmers. Special help to heavily indebted farmers is provided so that they enjoy financial freedom.
Village Knowledge Centers are quite successful as a project. Villagers also consider this as a symbol of status and utilize the knowledge provided through VKCs. Village women who work for VKCs also feel more confident and empowered.