The Vision of Smart Village- An Opinion

                The idea of making a village ‘smart’ was relevant even years back. However, the country like India may definitely tolerate such delay where I have myself watched the duggi system (beating drum in the streets to inform people). This delay  was rather unimaginable in any western or developed country. Any technology may be called useful only if it contributes to the larger section of the society and percolates down to the lowest of its strata. The village has now become the ultimate unit of development in the country as a lot of funding of the government is now directly being made to the gram panchayats. In this perspective, unless information is also made to flow between district, state or central head offices to the village and vice versa smoothly and speedily, we can not expect a full growth of the panchayati raj system.

 

                India being an agrarian country, about eighty percent of its population either lives in villages or is somehow related with the people living in those areas. This causes a pressure on the transport sector on the one hand and the communication on the other. If prompt, exact and reliable information flow is ensured, there would definitely be a reduction in run to city or towns by needy people. This reduction if translated in the financial savings will   turn out to be substantial.

 

                The major section of these rural inhabitants is poverty stricken and Central government in coordination with states has launched various schemes for their benefit. The poor must have the information regarding these schemes if he is to enjoy maximum benefits out of these. As they have no means to communicate satisfactorily with the concerned officers who sits away from the village, he is totally dependent upon the people who have their vested interests also involved. Here illiteracy is not the hindrance for the removal of his deprived state but it is the lack of information to him. Almost all the families of rural India now have at least one family member who has got primary education at least.

 

                  Now government should move in this direction and bring advancement by use of  IT  despite the fact that the benefits reaped would be intangible in the earlier stages. Moreover, the success of the project would depend on the will power of administration, spirit of IT professionals to help implement the task as they would have to coordinate the work in a remote and dusty environment of the village and the self confidence of the person involved at local level. It is further necessary to have most of the information of district level available in local language and in standard format. There should not be any prerequirement attached for utilizing the services of cyber-hut to avoid adverse propaganda from the vested interests. Standardization of the format of the information would play a great role in future for planning and nation building.  The server established at the district head quarter must have the information rapidly replenished by concerned officials. This server may also provide access to cyber-huts by remote login using dial-up connectivity as well as to other institutions who wish to publicize their content locally. Any query made from any village or responded to by related ministry or office must have provision for automatically be routed to all the relevant and concerned officers or persons respectively in their own local languages, if required. In such cases where the matter is of sensitive nature, the technologies of authentication or digital signature may be incorporated to bind the parties legally. This may be required in cases of transactions where banks or financial institutions or the departments to whom payments are being made digitally or agree to receive payments in similar fashion are involved. The benefits of IT by smart villages may be reaped in cases related to health, education, marketing, litigation etc. also as almost all the sectors have already been linked to NIC.

 

                The same infrastructure may further be used for catering other IT related needs such as computer education, desktop publishing, instant photo preparation, and horoscope generation etc. of the interested persons of the village. IP telephony being cheaper in comparison to POTS, may also be utilized by local villagers. In future other value added services like desktop video conferencing may also be established.

 

                Each smart village must have cyber huts depending upon the needs of the population. Any NGO or local educated youth willing to provide logistic facilities and contribute financially on the pattern of PCOs may be assigned the job.  NIC may provide hardware, software or other technical support to the pilot villages for a fixed duration and that also on nominal charge basis. Hopefully this will work and pave the way for further expansion.

 

Somesh Kumar.

DIO, NIC Sultanpur

Oct.10, 2003