(The Gist of Kurukshetra) Role Of ICTs In Rural Development [MAY-2018]


(The Gist of Kurukshetra) Role Of ICTs In Rural Development

[MAY-2018]


Role Of ICTs In Rural Development

Rural areas in India still face challenges like sustainable employment in agriculture] allied sectors; quality education; marketing infrastructure, over exploitation of natural resources; inadequate electricity, transport, communication, health, food and storage facilities etc. It has however been recognized that Information and Communication Technology (ICT) can play a vital role in management of rural development programmes to ensure that benefits reach to actual beneficiaries in time. ICT has the potential to capture real-time status & progress of programmes/ schemes, fund utilization/parking. Timely disbursement of wages/subsidies, awareness & capacity building, geo-tagging of house/ toilet/infrastructure constructed under various schemes etc. The integration of ICT and welfare schemes has resulted into latest buzz word called as "New India” or”Digital India”.

Integration of Communication and Information Technologies as ICTs:

Information Technology and Communication Technology are two different streams, but integrated together as ICT (Information and Communication Technology) in order to achieve desired solutions of real life problems. ICTs mean a whole range of technologies (hardware and software) concerned with management and exchange of information. The integration of communication and information technology enables us to share the knowledge/ information effectively. The effectiveness of ICTs has increased phenomenally due to advancements in the fields of information technology. Use of ICT in real time is attributed to the emergence of advance processors, memory devices, internet, multimedia and information highways (e.g. fiber optics/wireless). Latest technologies like Remote Sensing (RS), Geographic Information System (GIS), and Global Positioning System (GPS) strengthen the software applications to capture and manage massive Geospatial/Geographical data.

Digital Divide:

It is a known fact that ICTs is making a considerable impact on the rural and urban communities due to its universal applications and great appeal. Now, it is possible to communicate with greater ease and speed in this new era of-The information Age. While sample in urban areas have seen positive contributions of ICT‘s in their lives but same is not the case in rural areas. There is a Digital Divide between the have's (Urban) and have-nots (Rural). The existing marked differences in the access and ownership of various ICT aids/facilities between urban and rural areas indicate towards the Digital-Divide. The penetration of ICT software’s and devices in rural areas is still limited but shows an upward trend. In this era of digitization, cashless economy, web/mobile applications etc., we have to bridge the gap of digital divide and need to place ICTs infrastructure in rural areas.

Digital India:

Digital India is ICTs based initiative of the Government to integrate the government departments and the people of India. It aims to ensure that government services are made available to citizens electronically thereby reducing paperwork. It includes planning to connect rural areas with high-speed internet. Digital India mainly has three core components, a) creation of digital infrastructure; b) delivering services digitally and c) digital literacy Under Digital India and National e-Governance Plan, central and state governments are undertaking various Mission Mode Projects (MMPs) on cashless economy, agriculture, e-district, land records, gram panchayats, health, education etc.

ICTs for Rural Development:

Through use of ICTs, Government can disseminate welfare policies fast and also reach target beneficiaries quickly. It has become possible due to penetration of computers and mobile devices in rural areas. Also, now a day’s telephone, broadband, internet Service Providers (ISPs) companies are expanding their network in rural areas .Due to emergence of smart phones, Wi-Fi, broadband, ICTs gadgets (e.g. PoS, Micro ATM etc,) and mobile/web applications, nowadays, villages or Panchayats are transforming to Digital-Villages or e Panchayatas. Not limited to SMS, rural people are becoming more familiar with social media like WhatsApp, Facebook etc. They are also downloading and playing Audio/Video clips for entertainment ‘as well as educational purposes. These things are becoming possible due to creasing availability and accessibility of ICTs infrastructure in rural areas. Moreover, ICTs hold tremendous potential to be used as a tool by the Government for reaching out to the rural masses and provide benefits of rural development schemes and other basic GZC services to the rural people. Some of the potential roles and applications of ICTs for rural development are listed below:

ICTs for Management of Rural Development Programmes

ICTs can play vital role in Management of rural development programmes/schemes. Availability of the real time information of various projects help the central/state government agencies to effectively plan, implement and monitor execution of their schemes at ground level. Web/mobile based applications can be deployed to keep track on fund flow, disbursement of benefits/wages to beneficiaries, to mobilize/aware rural masses, to keep track on physical/financial progress etc. Further, Geographic Information System (GIS) should be used to manage and analyze geographic data of the underline project including natural resource ,maps, planning maps, satellite images etc.

ICTs for e-Governance (including Services Delivery System)

ICTs can transform Governance into e-Governance. Through ICTs, all Government services can be accessible to common man in his locality, through common service delivery outlets. By using web/mobile applications along with latest communication devices, Government can ensure efficiency, transparency and reliability of such services at affordable costs. Various services under 628, 626, GZC models of e-governance can be delivered effectively as compared to the physical application/file/noting system. ICTs can help to provide common services like land registration, birth/death/caste certificates, pension & insurance, ration card, railway ticketing, utility bill payments, election (services, grievance trays Ding, Aadhar enrollment etc. under one roof.

ICTs for Agricultural Extension Services and Marketing

ICTs can help in extending research from lab to the field. Especially, FM, Community radio, mobile telephony, soil sensors and testing devices are most compelling for making Smart Farmers. Various ICTs based systems including touch screen kiosks, online agri-clinics, mass/social media, Kisan Call Centers, TV channels etc. can deliver useful information to farmers regarding crop care and animal husbandry, fertilizer and feedstock, drought mitigation, pest control, irrigation, weather forecasting, seed sources and market prices. ICTs based applications can also facilitate electronic trading like where-to-buy/sell, when-to-buy/sell and how-to-buy/sell etc.

ICTs for Climate Change and Natural Resources Management

Using ICTs, climatology and agronomics, latest information on weather/climate change can be given to farmers. ICTs can handle massive data produced at different spatio-temporal scales by various sensors observing earth/environment in order to extract useful climate change information and patterns. Further, for natural resources, ICTs like RS, GIS etc. can be applied for scientific planning, management and monitoring.

ICTs for Rural Health Care Services

ICTs can contribute to improve the coverage of national health services in rural areas. ICTs can offer specialized applications for rural areas including doctor database, visualization of medical reports, geographical disease pattern, hospital ms and disease data analysis etc. Telemedicine services can enable access to professional doctors (through web camera, VSAT etc.) irrespective of geographical location. Further, mobile/web applications on health care can help health workers to maintain mother/child database, communicate easily with district/regional health centers for prompt delivery of health services in rural areas. Moreover, mobile/web applications can help to broadcast health messages on hand. Washing prenatal and delivery care, immunization and nutrition, family planning etc.

ICTs for Disaster Management in Rural Areas

The advent of high resolution geographical data, RS, and GIS can offer greater capabilities for ICTs based disaster management applications during earthquakes, floods, oil spills, landslides. fires. tsunami like situations etc. in rural areas especially for remote locations.

ICTs for Rural Connectivity

Development of rural roads requires appropriate planning, identification and prioritization. ICTs especially, Geographical Information Systems (GIS) is useful tool for processing spatial and non-spatial data of routes/links as well as village boundaries. ICTs based system help to maintain database of rural road network, project proposals, sanctioned projects, contractor’s details, physical and financial progress, quality monitoring etc.

ICTs for Education

ICT is an effective mechanism to make tremendous change and advancement in traditional education scenario. Now days, students are attracted more towards e-contents in the form of multimedia presentations and animations. With the launch of online courses and availability on e-study material of most of the education boards and universities, rural people can also have opportunity to avail best educational facilities regardless of geographical distance and limited financial resources.

ICTs for social Justice and Empowerment

Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) (with or without Aadhar) should be implemented in all the schemes/ programmes in order to ensure transparency, reduce the duplicate/fake beneficiaries and eliminate leakages. Through ICTs, Government agencies can transfer the pension (old aged, widows, handicapped etc.), subsidy, scholarship and wages directly in the bank account of the beneficiary/citizen to fulfill the mandate of social justice and empowerment. ICTs based system help in fund tracking and also result in saving of Government fund.

MIS for Pradhan mantra Awaas Yojana (PMAY)-Gramin:

AWAAS Soft is an ICT based solution for PMAY-G. AWAAS Soft has different modules mainly for target setting, beneficiary management, inspection/verification of houses, fund management, preparation of audit reports, utilization certificates, staff management, progress monitoring, grievance redressal system etc. This empowered the masses checking the beneficiary selection, transfer of fund to beneficiary bank account, complaint lodging etc. Further, AWAAS Mobile App provides basic modules for logging inspection process, beneficiary information, FTO tracking, uploading of geo-tagged photographs of completion status of houses constructed under PMAY-G.

MIS for Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana (PMKSY) erstwhile IWMP:

IWMP- MIS is web based system which can be accessed by all stake holders to enter the data related to IWMP projects. Projects Implementing Agency (PIA) feeds the data related to Gram Panchayat and Watershed Committee. All the reports related to IWMP projects are in the public domain and can be accessed by anyone.

Panchayat Enterprise Suite (PES)

The Ministry of Panchayat Raj (MoPR) has undertaken e-Panchayat, a Mission Mode Projects (MMP) under Digital India Programmed that seeks to completely transform the functioning of Panchayat Raj Institution (PRIs), making them more transparent, accountable and effective. PES based solution to the Panchayats for planning, budgeting, implementation, accounting, monitoring, social audit and delivery of citizen services, etc. Some core applications under PES are:

Challenges of ICTs in Rural Development:

Rural areas are still underserved in terms of ICTs infrastructure and capacity building. As a result, ICTs have not been able to play their expected role in the development of rural areas. Some of the challenges are:

Continuous Supply of Electricity: The limited supply of electricity restrains rural areas to fully utilize ICTs applications especially at village level. Further, unavailability of quality UPS and Generator Set as well as their maintenance at village level is also a major issue.

Low level of Digital Literacy: Literacy rate is considerably low in rural areas as compare to urban areas. The condition is more unsatisfactory when we talk about the Digital Literacy.

Shortage of ICTs Personnel: At village level, few digitally literate professional are available. If villagers (especially farmers, youth, and beneficiaries) are willing to utilize ICTs based applications then who will regularly train them to acquire the desired knowledge and skills is a major concern.

Lack of Access of Telecommunications and Internet Services: The ICTs based applications need uninterrupted services of telecommunication and internet. Presently, there are some patches in rural areas where reach of mobile telephony along with internet is still not up to the mark.

Unavailability of Web Content in Local Language: The content part plays a dominant role as far as rural area is concerned especially rural farmers, artisans and poor beneficiaries. The content creation (In local language) needs to be addressed altogether in different manner to have the balance between rural and urban context.

Acceptance in Rural People: Apart from other factors, user acceptance for the iCTs applications in the rural areas is a major challenge. it is often taken for granted that any technology transfer to the rural areas would be accepted but we have to consider their own established cultural and traditional ways of doing things.

Unethical Use of ICTs: In the era of digital world, personal privacy, data security, copyright infringement, computer crimes, cyber crime etc are also coming in front as major concerns. Further, unethical use of social media is also posing problems.

Conclusion

The country should recognize the potential ICT has for their communities residing in rural areas. The policies, schemes etc. should be equipped with the ICTs enabled plan to avail the benefits of latest technologies. To formulize the concept of Digital India for rural sector, we should have a clear cut e-plan or e-policy that guides the government priorities to adopt ICTs for rural development. it demands proper understanding of the social and development priorities of the rural areas. it also requires a vision and leadership of highest levels of the government along with political will. it requires rationalizing how every ICT objective needs to be carried out both in terms of responsibilities assigned to government agencies as well as the continuous financial support. Today, Societies are transforming to information-societies by adopting cashless economy, social network and other communication mechanism. Recognizing the present needs of promoting ICTs applications and cashless economy, rural people should be empowered by capacity building programmes.

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