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Guest column: The time is ripe to fortify rural India's connect with digital: Sunil Munshi, CEO-India, Denave India

13-May-2017
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Guest column: The time is ripe to fortify rural India's connect with digital: Sunil Munshi, CEO-India, Denave India

The information and technology industry has been fuelling Indian economic growth since the IT revolution of late 90s. Whether it is about mitigating diversity challenges or dealing with employment issues or even an outreach challenge, IT has always aided the nation in multifaceted parameters. In fact, as per India Brand Equity Foundation report (IBEF), India is the world's largest sourcing destination for the IT industry, accounting for approximately 67% of the USD 124-130 billion (INR 12,400 cr – 13,000 cr) market. Based on that, it employs close to a 10 million workforce, and playsa significant role in the economic transformation of the country,on the global economic platform.

Moreover, being a significant IT player, India’s internet economy is touted to reach INR 10 trillion (USD 146.72 billion) by 2018. On the same lines, India is also gaining prominence in terms of intellectual capital with several IT firms setting up their innovation centres here. However, accounting for around 5% of the country’s GDP, the Indian IT Industry although creating a big impact in the world, is still trying to make in-roads back home—the rural demography specifically. There is a challenge on this front and the urban-industrial India recognises and understands this existing gap, which lies ahead in terms of IT policies and programmes being formulated or executed for the rural populace.

For the past few years, the rural region, which is home to more than 6,00,000 villages with 70% of the nation’s population, has seen a certain amount of internet penetration but it is yet to embrace digital and IT wholeheartedly. The statistics present a huge opportunity, be it as a potential pool of customers or even as a skilled workforce contributing in the economic growth of the nation. Lately, with the centralised push towards digital literacy and several other conjoined initiatives, we have at least started the transformation engine aimed at bettering the rural socio-economic scenario.  

Government’s move towards digital India

The Digital India programme has been a smart move aimed at converting the entire country into a digitally empowered society. In a bid to create opportunities at the grassroots level, the programmemakes government services electronically available for all the citizens, thereby encouraging internet connectivity and online infrastructure. In fact, post the roll-out, the number of internet users in both urban and rural regions has increased tremendously.

Through the national budget, the government has also announced the launch of DIGIGAON initiative and an additional allocation of 10,000 crore towards the BharatNet project that focuses further to enhance delivery of skills, education, etc. through digital mechanisms. Given the huge divide between rural and urban India and digital haves and have-nots, such initiatives are a master stroke in using technology as a great leveller for citizens of India, successfully creating the roadmap towards a digital nation whereby somewhat-technically literate population can leverage technology for endless possibilities.

Impact of digitisation on the rural brigade

With the pace of digitisation picking up in the last few years, there have been some major breakthroughs in the rural landscape. Today, several e-knowledge centres have been opened and rural youths are being imparted training in basic computer and English communication skills via physical and digital mediums, ultimately broadening the employment turf. As more jobs are being created, salaried employees are automatically coming under the tax bracket contributing towards the nation’s growth.

Looking atthe past few years, government’s investments in ICT have aided in the development of multiple digitisation-based projects and programmes such as Village Public Telephones (VPTs), Bhoomi project in Karnataka, Gyan Ganga in Gujarat, etc. Various schemes by different state governments have focused on the online distribution of wide-ranging developmental information for both villagers and panchayats. These days, farmers and fishermen enjoy the information of advanced weather reports and updates related to agriculture and pisciculture through online information channels. All these efforts have led to the emergence of development ripples, which will certainly be multiplying manifold:

  • With the establishment of internet services and other facilities in areas of agriculture, health, education, etc., there has been a significant improvement in the living standards of rural citizens.
  • Learning applications have helped in the extensive proliferation of education. With the advancement in speech technology and localized language recognition, learning has become easier than ever for people with no experience of English language. Even learning the business language, i.e. English, has now become possible for the aspiring rural population. Thus, there is an increase in the employability levels as well.
  • The rural community has now witnessed the smartphone revolution, which aids them in times of emergency, be it fishermen checking weather conditions or contacting the relevant authorities in times of crisis, risk factors have been considerably minimized.
  • With the help access granted by technology and the increased know-how of digital, rural people can now access various development schemes, amenity programmes provisioned for BPL or rural masses, without haggling with the middlemen like earlier times.

From a macroscopic point-of-view, internet services in mobile devices have helped to root out the non-uniformity of information that used to prevail in the rural sector earlier.

Pandora’s box of opportunities for the enterprises

With the kind of population pool we have as a nation, the opportunities are immense, not just for the people but even for enterprises and marketers, who are in full mode of leveraging the same. One can say that with all the development happening on this front, the time is ripe to fortify rural India’s connection with the idea of digitisation. Apart from getting an extended talent pool, the new market that has opened up is the most alluring aspect for organisations. Owing to the increase in smartphone penetration, basic knowledge of internet, etc., we have at the helm an entire creed of consumers who were earlier not there in the list. Due to this increase in consumption patterns, the trickle-down effect is aiding the overall GDP of the country. Thus, the impact is indeed rippling in nature. It’s not just the enterprise segment that will have all the benefit, even small-scale cottage industries and small and mid-level setups are now getting complete industry exposure, eliminating the middlemen’s malpractices, which limited their opportunities in the rural-private sector.

The acceleration pace we are on can be termed as apt if all the policies and programmes, be they government borne or private sector implementations, are accepted and executed as planned. There are no two thoughts about the fact that digitisation will soon become a necessity than a mere may-have and this transition will certainly be for good.

(The author is CEO-India, Denave India)

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not in any way representthe views of exchange4media.com

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