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Scale up IT initiatives to reach rural poor: Indian minister


21 September 2012

Ashok Kumar/OneWorld South Asia

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Stressing on the need to take digital technology to as many people as possible in the rural areas of India, Minister of State for Communications and Information Technology Sachin Pilot said innovations in the field of technology can only be fruitful if they are scaled up to serve in the remotest areas and made to work for the masses.

“We need to take these innovations from metropolitan areas to the tier-2 and tier-3 cities and tell the people how technology can transform their lives. Unless we can make the technology innovations useful and accessible to end-users, initiatives like e-healthcare, e-education and e-agriculture will not be of much consequence for the poor in rural areas,” Pilot said.

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“Innovations should be guided to benefit the 800 million people who still live in the rural areas of the country. If an innovation is good unto itself as an idea and is not able to reach out to the target population, then it makes all the efforts in that direction futile,” Pilot added.  Pilot was speaking at a conference on ‘Digital Inclusion in Rural India: Key to Socio-Economic Changes’ in New Delhi.

M Moni, Deputy Director General-Agricultural Informatics, National Informatics Centre (NIC), said it is high time agricultural polytechnics and Industrial Training Institutes (ITIs) are introduced in the rural areas. “Agricultural polytechnics and ITIs should be established across the country at block levels as there is a huge demand for skilled manpower in the agricultural sector. Not just that, ten per cent of the existing schools should be converted to agricultural schools with students working with farmers on the co-operative pattern,” Moni said.

“It is surprising that while we have invested so much in higher agricultural education, we have nothing to offer in the field of agriculture at the grassroots level. Look at our neighbour China, which has established agricultural polytechnics and ITIs,” Moni added.

Dr Arokiaswamy Thangaprabhu, Clinical Director, GE healthcare, said the use of information technology (IT) in the healthcare sector can bridge the huge gap which exists between rural and urban India. “The innovative use of IT in healthcare can be instrumental in bringing the limited skill expertise available in the metros to a larger section of population in the rural areas which would otherwise be deprived of the same,” Thangaprabhu said.

Siddhartha Shankar, President and Executive Director, Drishtee Organisation, impressed upon the requirement of understanding the actual need of the end-user in rural areas before drawing out schemes for them. ”With so many schemes targeted at them, people in the villages have a trust deficit. It shall, therefore, be in the best interests of the people if we design the schemes in such a way that maximum benefit can be passed on to them. Instead of thrusting the applications of newer technologies on them, we should try to understand the actual implications of the same on the ground level,” Shankar said.

The conference was organised by Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry (ASSOCHAM), one of the many chambers of commerce in India.

 
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