Powering Opportunity through Digital Inclusion – A case study of Rural Development
“The soul of India lives in her villages“, as propounded by India’s farther of the nation Mahatma Gandhi, holds true for the sustainable growth and inclusive development for India. Inclusive development is not possible without the growth of citizens at the last mile and bottom of the pyramid esp in rural India. Technology is an enabler for socio-economic development particularly for the bottom of pyramid, citizens living in rural and remote areas. This philosophy is not just manifested in our mission, “Powering Opportunity through Digital Inclusion”, but and reflected in our rural development initiative at Sekar Block in Bhartpur district in Rajasthan. We have traversed the journey of 3+ year since our first intervention in Pipla and Malah villages in Bharatpur district. Our learning & experience is incredible and outcome & impact are fostering of socio-economic development
Community Participation and Local Government Engagement is essential
This step is the key and most significant for the effective programme delivery and achieving the time bound outcome. Our team spends significant and meaningful time with community leaders, Gram Panchayats (Village Councils), Mahila Mandals (Women’s Group) and Youth Groups in the villages. In 2017, we initiated the project in 4 Gram Panchayats [30 villages] and by 2019 we have interventions in 236 villages. We have built solid partnerships with local citizens. The programmes objectives have been identified based on local community’s participation. Our team establishes formal relations with local district collectorate to state government especially with department of Education.
Acceptance of technology in terms of starting from Digital Literacy to Aspiration is widespread
- Technology or Digital is no longer a word known only in urban centers or cities. From youth to children, Gram Sarpanch (Village Heads) to Women, all acknowledge that technology is playing an important role in life especially in education. SAP team has also been striving to crate awareness about the same. One of our priorities is to take the digital literacy to the last mile, through provision of laptops and internet connectivity.
- In 3 years, we have experienced that the women find the digital literacy an amazing opportunity for economic development. The Youth Training centers specifically focuses on building key digital skills along with several 21st century skills. This also resulted in creation of local employment opportunities. When we initiated our intervention, we built the hypothesis that the technology penetration and acceptance will be a hurdle or challenges, however, on the contrary, digital or technology receives highest acceptance and built strong aspiration quotient among the youth.
- Our training package on 21st century skills viz., empathetic leadership, English communication, problem solving, working in a team-leading a team, social engineering, social media savviness, etc. are a few competencies besides core technical skills have played the significant role in catapulting career opportunities and aspirations among the youth. Further, we connect the students with prospective employment opportunities through job-fairs.
During our interaction with group of women at villages, our team was asked questions by the women on how to get the job in software industry. A few women were interacting with Managing Director of SAP Labs India, and were enquiring that what should they learn to reach to such post or higher designation in the industry? Women realize that with computer and technology they can study or build their competencies and can do any kind of meaningful job.
Our focus is “last mile connectivity”, “accessibility”, “affordability” and “quality”
- Core of our intervention is the last mile connectivity, accessible and affordable (free) high quality education. Our intervention is deploying 6 Digital Literacy mobile vans, which reach out to farthest of villages, and equip the women with digital literacy & courses esp. required to apply for government jobs. The mobile van model is effective and enable us to reach out to 230 villages in a structured manner, without having to invest heavily on capital- & infrastructure expenditure.
- For us quality of teachers is of utmost important. We organize the teachers’ training on a quarterly basis. This is primarily to ensure that we maintain the uniformity in the standard of teachers learning level. Further, all the teachers who are a part of the programme are from these villages, and have gone through our own training.
- We understand that mere educational or skilling interventions will not work for the holistic development. We will have to look at holistic approach. We work with the schools to also create awareness about public health & health seeking behavior among the students.
Rapid Scale is the key
For the massive unmet socio-economic development needs in India, the scale and rapid expansion is the key. We have devised the Logical Framework (Log-Frame) model for the massive expansion and effective execution of the initiative, for first 3 year of the initiative. We are massively building the local capacities of local population, school teachers, etc. Further, we train the local youth to become the teachers especially in the ares of computer skills. Rapid expansion & massive scale without disproportionate spend of funding is the critical success factor, and we have been achieving the same, now with IRIS model of Project Planning & Execution
We firmly believe that we should adequately build communities skills and enabled them with sufficient awareness & capabilities, so that we can gradually move to other communities, without any knee-jerk reactions. Next 2 year in this initiative will be crucial towards the self-sufficiency of the community and the project