Skip to main content

Addressing challenges of digital divide, public awareness, inclusive development

How is digital awareness propelling rural development in India? A note by S M Sehgal Foundation:
***
John Rawls in his path-breaking book titled, A Theory of Justice, proposed the two following principles that can easily be extended to empowerment and development of all citizens of a country, and in this context, the diverse population of India.
(1) Every citizen is entitled to equal rights along with basic liberties
(2) Social and economic inequalities are to be balanced in a way such as to:
(a) Provide the greatest benefit to the least advantaged,
(b) Provide equality of opportunity for all offices and positions.
Inclusive growth is a relevant policy goal for the people of India that will result in both growth and inclusion, and follow the Rawlsian “maximin” principle. The target should be to maximize the welfare of the poorest.
As we complete 75 years of independence, the diversity and divide in India is still stark and negatively skewed. With a large population still dependent on agriculture, underemployment is rampant; and a substantial part of the population is still afflicted with poverty.
Recent changes in Indian policy have undoubtedly delivered growth and inclusion; however, a sizable population in India is still below the poverty line, and a large marginal population is vulnerable to shocks like the COVID pandemic and droughts/ floods driven by climate change.
After all these years, we still await the catharsis of poverty and inequality. What has led to this situation? The crux of the problem has been political will. Someone aptly put it “Those who have (political) power do not have hunger; and those who have hunger, do not have power.”
Power is a multidimensional word. In this context, power is to have an effective say within forums. Thus empowerment and poverty eradication, to be successful, requires inclusive, small-sized, rural, disadvantaged forums to be in place. Empowering itself relates to providing education to people and creating conditions that would provide awareness, job creation, chances to learn from others, and an environment that allows them to earn a decent living to help them live a better life.
The way this positive change can be achieved is through empowerment. Empowerment can be achieved through education, information, and counseling. Access to information and communications technology has the potential to be a game changer to help rural and disadvantaged communities in India overcome poverty and lead to sustainable development.

Digital India and its impact on rural development

Digital India was launched in 2015 as a dream project of the Indian government. The vision was to transform rural India into a knowledge and digitally empowered society through dissemination of information and digital access to government services. The visionary step of the government was aimed at motivating and connecting rural India to a knowledge world through a backbone of a high-speed internet network.
The vision of digital India was threefold:
The Digital India Program was conceptualized on nine pillars and, in the rural context, besides creation of manufacturing infrastructure and manufacturing, the key areas were:
E-governance: Access to database, use of online repositories, integrate platforms through Aadhaar, public grievance redressal, etc.
E-Kranti: Electronic delivery of services like e-education, e-healthcare, information to farmers, financial inclusion, and justice, etc.
Impact for rural India has been slow but sure. In a large and diverse country, some impact areas have been:
Financial Inclusion: With the help of Digital India, financial inclusion has been accelerated through schemes such as Digital India, Direct benefit transfer, Rupay, UPI payments etc. The Jan Dhan–Aadhaar–Mobile has created a positive impact on the banking sector in the country. The benefits have percolated to the rural areas, and financial literacy has improved as the rural population gets integrated in the system. Direct benefit transfer (DBT) has created a major positive financial impact for rural communities by plugging leakages and speeding up distribution of subsidies, pensions, and other benefits under various schemes. All this has created a positive economic outlook in rural India.
E Governance: Projects such as Kisan Call Centres, Jagriti E-Sewa, e-District, Common Services Centres (CSCs), Mobile Seva, etc., have led to better service delivery, transparency and accountability, and improvement in government efficiency. The empowerment of people through information is slowly but surely spearheading rural India to contribute to the next phase of growth in the economy.
Education: Initiatives such as Pradhan Mantri Gramin Digital Saksharta Abhiyaan PMGDISHA have been started with the target of making six crore people in rural India digitally literate. Reaching rural education in India is crucial for the next phase of growth, and projects like SWAYAM are spearheading e-education through an offering of Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCs) for leveraging e-Education. Swayam provides a platform that facilitates hosting of all courses taught in classrooms from Class 9 till post-graduation with open access.

Helping inclusive development

While the government has been spearheading the inclusive development of rural areas with a slew of schemes, issues remain that need to be addressed. Areas such as lack of infrastructure, financial resources, public awareness, and most-importantly, the Digital Divide are challenges, need to be addressed. That is where a hybrid approach that builds public-private partnerships comes in to fill the gap.
S M Sehgal Foundation, a sustainable rural development NGO in India, has been working since 1999 to improve the quality of life of the rural communities. One of the main program areas of Sehgal Foundation is Transform Lives, which provides schoolchildren with access to a learning-conducive school environment and digital and life skills awareness. The foundation team under the Transform Lives program advocates Digital and Life Skills Awareness Trainings for schoolchildren and youth in alignment with the vision of National Digital Literacy Mission “to empower at least one person per household with crucial digital literacy skills by 2020.” This focus on bridging the divide between rural and urban children helps to develop their social and emotional skills and increases children’s knowledge of good governance and their own role in the development of their village.
Citizen Service Centers: Trained by S M Sehgal Foundation in digital and life skills awareness in 2017, Inaam and Masnun from village Nawli decided to study further in this area and enrolled in a computer course in a nearby Industrial Training Institute. They each hoped that after learning the skill, they would be able to contribute to their family income, which was solely dependent on agriculture. The Citizen Service Centers (CSC) opened by Inaam and Masnun in their village are one-stop shops promoted under Digital India Mission for people to apply for government programs, seek redressal, and enable better access to the programs. Their initiative is much talked about in their village, and local youth consider them as role models. They now are acting as a link between villagers and government programs.

E-labour cards for family members

In the village of Barota, thirty-two students enrolled in the digital awareness center facilitated by S M Sehgal Foundation. Students learned about computers, life skills, government programs, and internet use. After learning about government programs, especially about labor cards, many students applied for e-labor cards for their family members at the Citizen Service Center.

Digital health resource centre

As part of the project “Swastha Aahaar–Swastha Parivar” supported by a CSR partner, which is implemented by S M Sehgal Foundation, a Digital Health Resource Centre (DHRC) has been established in the gram panchayat building of Kalyanpur block, Bihar. This center is the hub of information and training on health and nutrition for villagers. It has IEC materials such as informative posters, leaflets, booklets, and a computer system, which are the sources for generating awareness on particular subjects like health, hygiene and sanitation, nutrition, government schemes related to maternal and child healthcare, and scholarship opportunities for adolescent girls.

Conclusion

In the past few years, digital awareness has become vital to India’s economic growth and the promoting of social and economic equity among the diverse demographic landscape. It is fostering empowerment in rural India by enhancing inclusion and access to information and public services and overcoming the country’s infrastructure deficit. Digital awareness is the way forward to empower and help India realize the ambition of creating a just and equitable society. Leveraging the untapped strengths of the rural population, it has the potential to propel India to the next stage of inclusive development and growth. The vision of a new India can be realized through the “maximin” principle in letter and spirit.

Comments

TRENDING

This activist played a monumental role in cases related to environmental issues

By Ekansh Agarwal, Pooja Agarwal, Shubham Tripathi, Sachin Uttarwar, Himani Rathod*  Rohit Prajapati is an environmentalist and has set up a voluntary organization named Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti, which is a voluntary organization. Rohit calls his organization a people's movement that constantly raises voices against different environmental issues. Rohit believes that environmental problems are not only constrained to preventing pollution and proper disposal of wastes but should be seen holistically. He believes that social activists can never work in isolation and must work with the community to pressure the authorities to take corrective actions, and the only way to work with the community is to raise the issues that benefit the community at large. Hence, he also tries to raise the issue of social importance along with environmental issues. When asked what he thinks about the current norms and regulations of CPCB and SPCB, he said that the existing standards and regulations are

Complaints of adverse impacts due to COVID vaccine should be settled efficiently

By Bharat Dogra  In recent weeks it has been proved beyond doubt that mass COVID vaccination among women and girls has led to a massive disruption of menstrual cycle and more particularly to excess bleeding among them. A scientific paper that has been widely cited in this context is titled ‘Invesigating trends in those who experience menstrual bleeding changes after SARS-CoV-2 vaccination’. This paper authored by Katherine M.N.Lee et al was published in ‘Science Advances’ dated 15 July, 2022. According to this survey, as many as 42% of those with regular menstrual cycle bled more heavily than usual. Earlier in March another paper in the International journal of Women’s Health written by Nadia Muhaidat had reportd tht 66 per cent of women had experienced menstrual abnormalities after vaccination. In September 2021 the British Medical Journal had proposed that a link between excessive bleeding and COVID vaccination was plausible, adding that such complaints are being increasingly receive

Endless wait for pension for India's 60 million unorganized sector senior citizens

By Bharat Dogra  The most important support needed by elderly persons is for regular and adequate pensions. Only about 10 per cent of senior citizens in India have access to regular and reasonable pensions. They are mostly those who have served in the civil government, armed forces and related parts of the formal sector. For the remaining over 90 per cent of senior citizens, pensions either do not exist, or else are irregular, uncertain or extremely inadequate. The pensions for this unorganized sector are provided mainly by the National Social Assistance Program or NSAP (and to a lesser extent by some other programs). Out of the nearly 82 million elderly citizens in this informal sector, this scheme of the Union Government manages to reach just about 22 million people. Many eligible and selected persons have been denied pension due to insistence on Aadhar and biometric recognition, various irregularities and other factors. Thus around 60 million elderly people are still waiting to ge

World appreciates Bangladesh’s relative stability amidst global inflation, Ukraine war

By Samina Akhter*  Due to the Ukraine-Russia war after the corona epidemic, the whole world is suffering from economic recession. In various countries of the world, the value of currency is falling, inflation is increasing. One country after another is going bankrupt. At that time, Bangladesh is slowly taking steps to understand the situation. After overcoming the crisis, Sheikh Hasina's country is running on a positive trend of economy. And the media of different countries of the world are praising this. World media is talking about Sheikh Hasina and her country. According to a report of Thailand's Bangkok Post, Bangladesh will not have a crisis like Sri Lanka. According to a report of the Financial Times of India, the economy of Bangladesh is stable even in the global recession. On the other hand, the report of The Express Tribune of Pakistan said to Pakistanis, learn from Sheikh Hasina. He is the pride of Bangladesh. The highlights of these reports are as follows: The crisis

Do or die? August revolution and India's ruling class: hard facts as seen by Dr Lohia

By Prem Singh  "Here is a mantra, a short one, that I give you. You may imprint it on your hearts and let every breath of yours give expression to it. The mantra is: 'Do or Die'. We shall either free India or die in the attempt; we shall not live to see the perpetuation of our slavery. Every true Congressman or woman will join the struggle with an inflexible determination not to remain alive to see the country in bondage and slavery. Let that be your pledge." (Excerpt from Gandhiji's speech at the All-India Congress Committee meeting) Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia wrote a long letter to the Viceroy of India, Lord Linlithgow, on March 2, 1946. That letter is important and was appreciated by Gandhiji. The letter brings out the brutal and conspiratorial character of British imperialism. Lohia wrote that letter from jail. After playing an underground role for 21 months in the Quit India Movement, Lohia was arrested in Bombay on 10 May 1944. He was imprisoned first in Lahore F

Steve Otto strived to unite different trends of Communist camp, confronted dogmatism

By Harsh Thakor  One of my closest comrades Steve Otto, expired last week while sitting on the porch of his house. Some months ago, he lost his wife Cammy. He ran blogs ‘Ottos War Room’ and ‘Idiot Factor.’ I may not have personally met him but I don't have words to express my sense of loss at his demise and my gratitude for his support to my work. A writer who dipped his pen for service of the oppressed peoples. Few have ever been so supportive to me, giving such a platform to project my view. Such figures create avenues for young writers to blossom in the revolutionary movement. In hardest times, he helped me stand afloat. I deeply admire how he supported my writings on struggles in Punjab, Naxalbari, Maoism and progressive cultural activists, Hindi film actresses and actors, philosophers and swimming. Overall he was manifestation of the Marxist revolutionary as a spiritual being, revealing a subtle human touch. Steve portrayed why a Marxist or Maoist was creative. I recommend eve

GN Saibaba's book portrays how neo-fascism is penetrating India's parliamentary system

By Harsh Thakor  “Why Do You Fear Me So Much: Poems and Letters from Prison” by Professor G.N.Saibaba portrays the sheer inhumanity prevailing within prison walls in India, illustrating the barbaric jail practices. It is the best illustration of how genuine activists are falsely fabricated in India today ,with the judiciary virtually a tool or completely subservient to the ruling classes. The book portrays how neo-fascism is penetrating the parliamentary system at height unscaled, laws passed similar to colonial times. We get an insight into how spiritually the resolve of a political prisoner to combat fascism is further intensified within the confines of prison walls. The book illustrates the death defying courage of Professor Saibaba and his wife Vasantha Kumari in bearing the situation. It is the voice of all the oppressed people of India. A mascot for all revolutionary democrats confronting proto-fascism. Introduction In the Introduction Vasantha’s letter to Sai is published. H

Wickremesinghe should know: Sri Lanka has nothing to gain by declaring support to China

By NS Venkataraman*  There appears to be a unanimous view in Sri Lanka and other countries that appointment of Ranil Wickremesinghe as President of Sri Lanka is the best decision that has happened in the present turbulent time in Sri Lanka. Ranil Wickremesinghe has served as Prime Minister of Sri Lanka six times and he has not completed full term even once and is not generally recognised as an exceptional administrator. However, he has been recognised as a reliable and decent and least controversial person by popular view and that is perhaps why governance of Sri Lanka has been handed over to him. Except a few professional demonstrators in Sri Lanka, the country is, by and large, willing to support him if he would take appropriate policy decisions and implement them in a pragmatic way. This is a good situation as far as it goes. Obviously, the priority for Ranil Wickremesinghe is to retrieve Sri Lankan economy from the present mess, which implies that he should ensure tha

Presence of supremos in political parties does not allow young leaders to grow

By Sudhansu R Das  Democracy in India is not serving people well due to the absence of morally and intellectually strong leaders who can highlight the basic problems of the people with elaborate details. The majority of the opposition leaders as well as those who are ruling are too much obsessed with narrow caste, language, region, religion, ideology and turncoat politics to gain power; they spend less time to collect authentic information about issues like water scarcity, poor education, unemployment, price rise, food adulteration, corruption and lack of affordable quality health care facility etc which adversely affect human development in their own districts. Though the opposition leaders can’t make laws, they can contribute to formulate sound policies through powerful debates and public contact. First, the leaders should take up Padyatra to know people closely. The more they walk and live with people the more they will learn about people’s real problems. “Gandhi and Health @ 150&qu

Role of indigenous women in preservation and transmission of traditional knowledge

A report on a webinar on the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples on “Tribal Development: Policies and Challenges” organised by In-Minds Society and Anthro International: *** International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples was observed in Srinagar on August 9. The theme for this year’s World Tribal Day was “The Role of Indigenous Women in the preservation and transmission of traditional knowledge”. On the occasion, In-Minds Society and Anthro International organised a webinar entitled “Tribal Development: Policies and Challenges” in which Research Scholars, Professors, subject experts, students, civil society and indigenous people from different parts of the country participated. Speakers in the panel included Irfan Ali Banka, Dr. Abdul Khabir, Dr. Raja Muzaffar Bhat, Dr. Javaid Rahi and CEO Anthro International. The role of indigenous women in preserving tribal culture, developing and promoting uses of natural products, integration of traditional knowledge and pra