ICT for Rural Empowerment

ICT as an enabler:
ICT can be a powerful enabler of developmental goals as its use can dramatically improve communications and exchange of information for strengthening and creating new economic and social networks. ICT is pervasive and can be applied to the full range of human activity-from personal use to business and government. ICT is multifunctional and flexible, allowing for tailored solutions to meet diverse needs of the population. ICT facilitates disintermediation, as it makes it possible for users to acquire products and services directly from the original provider, reducing the need for intermediaries. ICT is fair, equal and transparent as it does not differentiate on the basis economic status, religion or castes of its users.
The development challenge:
About two-thirds of India's predominantly rural population having agriculture as its primary occupation, accounts for less than one-third of the National Income leading to disparity in incomes in rural and urban India. Government agencies, domestic and international institutions associated with development, and NGOs have been engaged in addressing this persistent development problem, each in their own space and time, armed with their respective development ideologies and tools. Traditional rural development interventions have been centered round the following parameters:

• Rural development programmes and schemes launched either at central, state or local government level;
• Decentralization of planning;
• Better enforcement of land reforms and;
• Greater access to credit;

The strategy has been evolving with time, and taking into its fold new approaches such as participatory local governance, community development, technology diffusion and rural entrepreneurship. While the participatory local governance and community development approaches have been well absorbed and adopted by the Government agencies; the induction of ICT and 'rural entrepreneurship' into the rural development domain by NGOs at the grass root level, has been more or less unorganized (despite the promising growth in ICT infrastructure and information system in urban areas).

The work on ambitious CSC project is in progress and currently implementation is going on in 35 States and UTs. The CSCs are being set up by private franchisees called the Service Center Agencies (SCA) – have already been appointed in most of the States. The SCAs further appoint Village Level Entrepreneurs (VLE) to run and manage the CSCs in pre-defined locations. The Scheme is being implemented in a Public Private Partnership (PPP) framework with a focus on rural entrepreneurship & market mechanisms.

The CSCs focus on content customization and multi- lingual delivery of end-to- end services for income enhancement in the rural areas.