Rural India is a real and core of India. As per the Census Data 2011 there are more than 600,000 villages in India. Hence development of villages can actually bring the overall development of our nation and that is why rural development is an integral part of government policies. It includes improvement in infrastructure, access to education, improvement in the living standard, rural economic growth and provision of basic amenities. For all such kinds of progress it is essential that latest means of communication and up-to-date information on agriculture, new innovations, health and hygiene should reach to villages. Therefore role of communication and information technology is tremendous. But it has to be made according to the need and understanding of villagers. Good thing is that this sector is not untouched as both government as well as non government organizations are taking steps to incorporate information technology in rural life for its betterment. Few of the initiatives are:
Panchayats were an essential part of rural life. The Constitution (73rd Amendment) Act, 1992 has introduced the Panchayati Raj at the Village, Intermediate and the District levels, as the third tier of governance. Information technology has further helped the government to meet the challenge in this sector. Rural India has been given access to the basic services and the first-level of government interaction through e-Panchayat. It deals with issue of trade license and NoC, house related services, issue of birth and death certificates, copy of proceedings of Gram Sabha and Action Taken Report, dissemination of BPL data etc.
ESeva – It was initiated with an aim of “one-stop non-stop service” by Andhra Pradesh government. The Government of AP uses the technology and followed an integrated approach by combining departments of the state and central governments. ESeva is a transparent, efficient, flexible and reliable service. There are 51 eSeva centres with 400 service counters across the Twin cities and Ranga Reddy district. User can take benefit from the services like eForms, eFiling and ePayments. User can make the payment of utility bills, can get certificates, check the Transport Department Services, does reservation along with many more services.
Delivery and management of land record has become very easy with an online project Bhoomi which was initiated by the Karnataka government. It handles 20 million rural land records owned by 6.7 million farmers with full transparency leaving no space for corruption. The project is operational throughout the state. The project offers two important services to the landowner – one is the procurement of land records and second one is requesting changes to land title. A Biometric Finger Authentication system ensures the authenticity of the data. As the project is self sustainable so it levies charges.
Puducherry got the project Information Village in 1998 with the help of the MS Swaminathan Research Foundation. The project also won the Stockholm Challenge award for extending the benefits of information technology to rural villages. Empoweringeveryone with knowledge and new opportunities is the aim of Information Village. Ten villages have been connected near Pondicherry through advance technology of this project. Illiterate users are facilitated as the local language has been used in Information Village. Locale specific information is provided such as price of agricultural inputs and outputs, entitlement, health care, availability of doctors, cattle diseases, weather reports etc. Village volunteers are selected with minimum educational qualification of a pass in Standard VIII. They are then given computer training for three months for the success of Information Village project.
Rural farmers across India are benefitted to a great extent with the e-Choupal, an initiative of ITC Limited. Problems related to weak infrastructure, fragmented farms and presence of many intermediaries have been tackled by e-Choupal. Farmers known as sanchalaks manage the village internet kiosks of e-Choupal. It helps the farmers by providing information related to weather, market price, risk management, information on scientific farm practices. Also real-time information and customized knowledge help farmers to take decision. In Phase I of the development physical infrastructure at village level and sanchalaks were created. In Phase II, registration of farmers was done. E-Choupal integrates near about 9000 villages.
Tarahaat got its name after haat or bazaar where one can find everything or it is just like the all purpose market. Relevant information on products and services is brought to unserved rural market of India through Tarahaat. The project is an initiative of NGO, Development Alternatives (DA) and its partnership with its rural marketing arm Technology and Action for Rural Advancement (TARA). Along with Tarahaat there are other subsidiary units such as TARAdhaba, TARAbazaar, TARAvan, TARAdak, TARAguru, TARAscouts and TARAcard.
State-of-the-art software has been used to create Drishtee. It helps the farmers by providing information and access to government programs and benefits, latest information on market, private information exchanges and transactions.
With such e initiatives challenges are not hard anymore. Rural development can be enhanced to manifold with the correct use of Information Technology. In future it can also be used in rural healthcare, in rural governance, education etc. Urban and rural India will have to become one in terms of development for the overall progress of India.