In recent years, India has witnessed exponential economic growth. However, this growth hasn’t been inclusive enough to reduce the number of people living under poverty in the rural areas. According to the World Bank, India has around 270 million poor people, the largest number in the world. Serious employment growth is required in low-productivity agriculture, which makes up nearly three-quarters of the poor population. However, rising automation hints at more unemployment. Therefore, we need a targeted and well-planned public policy that can leverage technologies to increase the productivity of the rural workforce.
Information and Communications Technology (ICTs) can make significant contributions to employment and poverty reduction. It can create employment opportunities by improving process efficiency and enabling participation of people and enterprises in expanded economic networks.
Steps Taken by the Government
The Indian Government, through its Digital India Programme, has been working to improve the country’s rural economy and create more skilled jobs in the rural parts. This requires investment in transportation, internet access and power so that the youth and women in the rural households can find meaningful employment for themselves, as the majority of these are living under poverty.
The Ministry of Communication and Information Technology, in tandem with other ministries, has been working to overhaul states' service delivery, through the GST system. This will help create a uniform interface for taxpayers powered by a common IT infrastructure, shared amongst the central government and the states. Common Services Centres, which are Digital India’s touchstones, have been designed to provide multitude of benefits. They serve as access points for delivering a variety of electronic services to villages, to encourage digital and financial inclusivity, promote rural entrepreneurship and build rural livelihoods. New and improved technologies help farmers shift from input-intensive agriculture to knowledge-intensive agriculture.
How Technology Can Lead the Way
Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) play a central role in the development and economic growth of rural India. A lot depends on the ability to access, collect, analyze and use the information and knowledge. ICT acts as the conduit for this purpose so that the appropriate information can be transmitted to individuals in the rural areas. A successful and detailed ICT application in e-Governance that provides aggregated solutions for the rural community is the need of the hour. And ICT has been crafted to enable electronic governance through wireless communication.
Agriculture is rightfully considered the backbone of Indian rural economy. To improve and sustain the overall prosperity, National e-Governance Plan (NGEP) has been given effect to lay the foundation for various projects at the grass-roots level that would provide impetus for long-term e-governance in the country. And to achieve this, there needs to be a proper framework.
ICTs can play a decisive role in bringing about economic development across different geographic locations in India. They can enhance rural productivity by enabling solution-sharing between the local people and communities. ICTs can help provide access to practical information on small business bookkeeping, weather forecast, and best practices in farming. Properly developed communications networks can help farmers and agriculturists gain timely access to market information so that they can make appropriate decisions about the crops to be planted, where to sell the produce and buy the required inputs.
ICTs also make rural finance service easily accessible. Such financial and information service networks can offer microfinance opportunities to local people, communities and small enterprises that could not access flexible financing earlier because of rigid banking rules, information monopolisation by the government and large-sized businesses.
ICTs help improve business process efficiency and raise productivity. Using this technology, businesses can effectively cut down on the operational costs by reducing material, procurement and transaction costs, that lead to lesser prices for intermediate and finished goods as well as use better information to improve the value of their output. For instance, ICTs provide an e-trading platform to utilities companies that simplifies the procurement processes for both sellers and buyers, thus lowering the costs for them.
Communications technology can facilitate global connectivity. This will help design novel ways of creating and delivering products on a global scale. ICT-created business models and market configurations such as value chain integration, disintermediation and business process outsourcing enable developing countries to access new markets and gain competitive edge to drive income growth.
Information and communications technology can contribute to better job opportunities in villages and rural areas both through improved labour market and direct employment. Electronic job marketplaces can help employers and employees match labour skills and availability so as to fill in the demand gap. An example is TARA haat, a portal that has been designed to cater to villages in rural India and provides job vacancy information on the local websites in regional languages. In addition, telecentres function as a job portal to provide direct employment to local women and men.
The rural ICT applications offer services of central agencies like cooperative unions and district administration to the village people at their doorsteps. The improved and affordable connectivity via these apps can further be leveraged to create appropriate job opportunities in rural areas to lead them on the path to economic progress.
Summing It Up
In current times, technological advancements are shaping various aspects of human life. The changes in ICTs have had a positive impact on delivering public service and improving the socio-economic structure of village communities. However, still a lot needs to be done.