By Sonia Chopra
Technology is ever-changing. Digital communication technologies connecting people across the globe have become easier and faster. Platforms such as Zoom, Room, Google hangouts, Microsoft teams, WebEx, and many others are buzzing virtual world spaces to connect and share. Social media platforms such as Twitter, WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, FaceTime, and all other high-end applications on smartphones have also shown us how technology has changed the world.
With technological advancements, internet connectivity and bandwidth have also improved. From a time when people faced problems in sending and receiving messages via mobile phones due to internet speed, even internet technology has come of age. Even people in rural areas are now connected with the world through smartphones. When the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown halted work and life, technology served as a significant relief as people were in a position to do many things virtually. Official and business meetings were held using various online platforms, education happened online, and so did other utility services.
THE IMPACT OF DIGITAL INDIA ON RURAL DEVELOPMENT
Launched in 2015, a dream project of the Indian government, Digital India was to transform rural India into a digitally empowered society by gaining digital access to government services, and dissemination of information. The visionary step of the government was to motivate and connect rural India to a knowledgeable world through a backbone of a high-speed internet.
The vision of digital India was threefold –
- Deliver governance and services on demand
- Enable the digital empowerment of all citizens
- Create an infrastructure as a utility for every citizen
Besides the creation of manufacturing infrastructure, the Digital India Program was conceptualized on nine pillars and in the rural context. The key areas were:
- E-governance. Access to the database, use of Aadhaar, online repositories, integration platforms through public grievance redressal, etc.
- E-Kranti. Electronic delivery of services like e-healthcare, financial inclusion, e-education, information to farmers, justice, etc.
The impact on rural India has been slow, yet steady. In such a large and diverse country, some impact areas have been:
E-Governance. Projects such as e-District, Common Services Centers (CSCs), Kisan Call Centres, Jagriti E-Sewa, Mobile Seva, etc., have led to better service delivery, transparency and accountability, and improvement in government efficiency. The empowerment of people through information, although slow, is definitely 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 begun with the target of making six crore people digitally literate in rural India. Rural education in India is crucial for the next phase of growth, and projects like SWAYAM are spearheading e-education by offering Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCs). Swayam provides a platform that facilitates hosting all courses taught in classrooms, starting from the 9th standard, till post-graduation, with an open access.
Financial Inclusion. Financial inclusion with the help of Digital India, has been accelerated through schemes such as Digital India, UPI payments, direct benefit transfer, Rupay, etc. The Jan Dhan–Aadhaar–Mobile has positively affected the banking sector in the country. The benefits have percolated to the rural areas, and the financial literacy has significantly improved since the rural population got integrated into the system. Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) has created a major financial impact for the rural communities by plugging leakages and accelerating the distribution of pensions, subsidies, and other benefits under various schemes. All this has led to a positive economic outlook in rural India.
Adverse situations reshape the world and cause turning points that bring about vital new lessons. The social sector welcomed and adopted virtual and remote working models to an extent, and, as the lockdown relaxed, face-to-face conversations and on-ground activities resumed on a smaller scale.
As the pandemic accelerated, India witnessed one of the highest adoptions of digital technologies and solutions by health and human services (HHS) organizations among the countries surveyed, according to a new survey from EY and Imperial College London’s Institute for Global Health Innovation. Fifty-one percent of respondents in India had increased their use of digital technologies and data solutions since the outbreak of the pandemic. (Mint Newspaper, March 18, 2021).
Virtual platforms for facilitating webinars, conferences, training, and workshops are likely here to stay. Information technology solutions help send bulk invites to webinars and ensure the emails reach the right people at the right time. Robust contacts/customer database software has replaced spreadsheets to maintain data. Organizations are switching to customer relationship management software for efficient record management and to nurture relationships with the customers/stakeholders. Some popular software includes ZOHO CRM, Vtiger CRM, Hubspot CRM, and many more.
S M Sehgal Foundation has been using Zoho CRM for four years. In the pandemic, the software helped to send mass emails to database contacts. Its built-in email templates are convenient for sending out event schedules. An important outcome is that CRM technology provides the analytics that helps to constantly refine email communication with organization contacts. CRM software provides a complete picture of how email communications fare and also integrates social media platforms, which can be linked to CRM to generate leads for the organization.
The Digital India Program was conceptualized on nine pillars and, in the rural context, the key areas include e-governance and e-Kranti etc. Read more
Education is one of the key contributors in social development and keeping pace with technological advancements can go a long way in bridging the urban-rural divide. Rural education has placed emphasis on enrolments, reducing dropout rates in school, and adequacy of physical infrastructure and tends to ignore the other soft aspects of digital awareness and skill development.
Digital communication technologies refer to communication that makes use of technology such as email, phone, video conferencing, chats and messaging, and others.