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Credit: Wi-Fi Choupal

Credit: Wi-Fi Choupal

India to set up about 700 digital villages by end of 2018

On 20 May 2018, a press statement was released regarding the digital advancements being made in the village of Dhanauri Kalan in Gautam Budh Nagar district, in Uttar Pradesh; one of the villages that are a part of the DigiGaon Project that involve establishing  Common Service Centres (CSCs) that are set up to increase the general standard of living for the villagers. "The network of CSCs, which acts as access points for delivery of digital services, is set to be expanded to 2.50 lakh (250 thousand) gram panchayats by the year-end", the Union Minister for Electronics and Information Technology, Ravi Shankar Prasad, said.

Due to the lack of facilities and resources in remote villages like Dhanauri Kalan, villagers are forced to go into town for even basic necessities like food and healthcare. Through CSCs, the government aims to aid village development to make these facilities more readily available and to provide a number of services including, banking, health, education, and financial services to the villagers.  Prasad stated that the CSC programme has transformed into a movement of change bringing services to rural and remote villages through electronic infrastructure.

In the village, the local CSC established a WiFi choupal which will give people access to the internet at IN₹25 (about US$ 0.37) with 2GB data for 15 days. In addition to affordable internet access, through other initiatives made available by the CSCs like a sanitary pad unit run by the women of the village, digital literacy, and a LED bulb factory, the village has been able to create jobs and generate employment. “It was heartening to interact with the village women who have set up a sanitary pad manufacturing unit in Digi Gaon Dhanauri Kalan. This has not only created a source of livelihood but also promoted awareness about menstrual hygiene,” Prasad tweeted.

These projects are the steps that the Ministry has taken to accomplish the objectives of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Digital India scheme. Union Minister of Culture, Mahesh Sharma, who was with Ravi Parsad in the village, said, “The CSC project is providing sustainable digital access to rural communities and are giving the necessary impetus for upliftment of the rural community”.

"CSCs are working in 1.8 lakh (180 thousand) gram panchayats and very soon it will reach 2.5 lakh (250 thousand) gram panchayats by end of the year,” Prasad said. Positioned as strategic cornerstones of the Digital India programme, the CSC programme model has adopted six villages in the country as a part of the pilot phase. "About 700 digital villages will be established by the year-end," Prasad noted.

The press statement describes the DigiGaon or Digital Village programme as “a conceptualised as a connected village where citizens can avail various e-Services of the Central Government, State Governments and private players in a rural and remote village in the country.” The DigiGaon project, which was launched last year, involved an initial expenditure budget of about IN₹423 crore (about US$ 62.1 million) over three years, which included 6 months of an implementation period and 2.5 years of an operation, a maintenance service and a delivery phase. 

CSCs are an integral part of the government's Digital India initiative and function as a single access point for the delivery of services electronically, including passport and Aadhaar enrolment. CSCS will also provide access to online government services such as booking train tickets, submission of various forms and bills.

“These DigiGaons are projected to be change agents, promoting rural entrepreneurship and building rural capacities and livelihoods through community participation and collective action. The digital villages have been equipped with solar lighting facility in their community centre, LED assembly unit, sanitary napkin unit (with active participation on Asha and Anganwadi workers) and Wi-fi choupal (rural Wi-Fi infrastructure and a slew of suitable applications)”, the press release stated.

The villages of Piyala and Dayalpur (in Haryana), Chandankiyari East and Shivbabudih (in Jharkhand) and Dhanauri Kalan and Sultanpur (in Uttar Pradesh) have been selected to be a part of the initial pilot project.

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