By Nishant Arora
New Delhi, (IANS) At a time when global technology giants are making a beeline to contribute towards the Digital India initiative, Intel India is already on the job. As part of its plan to create a blueprint for the digitisation of non-urban India, Intel has so far inaugurated 40 Unnati Kendras at the government’s Common Service Centres (CSCs) across the country.
Currently operational in Telangana, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat, Intel India will open up 60 more Unnati Kendras in Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Assam, Chhattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh over the next month.
“Approximately 60,000 local citizens have visited Unnati Kendras in less than two months since their inauguration and computer education has been one of the most popular talking point,” said Sandeep Aurora, Director, Marketing and Market Development, Intel, South Asia.
“The computer will be a life-changing experience for people in the rural areas, helping students, housewives and budding entrepreneurs in fields like education and health care,” Aurora told IANS.
At CSCs which are the information and communication technology (ICT) access points, each Unnati Kendra is being equipped with Intel-powered devices, local language content and relevant training modules for non-urban citizens, thus creating opportunities for skill development and digital empowerment.
According to Debjani Ghosh, Managing Director for South Asia at Intel, they set up the first Unnati Kendra at Nadimpalli village, south of Hyderabad, with a population of approximately 1,000 people.
“This village is on its way to becoming a digital village, and hope to replicate the same success story across the country,” she had said earlier.
Trained personnel at these centres are conducting in-depth sessions on digital literacy, computer skills and internet facilities, along with dedicated guidance sessions in entrepreneurship, language and vocational training to improve citizen education and employability.
“Our aim is to equip CSCs with all the technical know-how that Intel has. The idea is to provide relevant curated content so that the rural citizens can use it and better their lives,” Aurora said.
For Ravi Kumar, a village-level entrepreneur from Waddepally Mandal in Mahabubnagar district, Telangana, the Intel initative came at the right time.
“After finishing my education in Hyderabad, I wanted to start something which could help people — largely farmers — in my society. I opened the CSC thinking that my people will not need to travel all the way to Mahabubnagar city to avail of CSC services,” he told IANS.
Intel India empowered him with digital literacy. “Now I can help farmers on how technology can improve their lives. I train them on how they can predict weather trends and learn more about new techniques in farming. This is making a big difference,” Kumar stressed.
Unnati Kendra started at his CSC in April and so far, over 2,500 people have been trained at the centre.
In India, tier II and tier III cities and villages have a huge potential for PC penetration and related benefits.
“The most important thing is the lack of innovation or the lack of culture of innovation in India. If India has to progress and if ‘digital India’ has to become successful, innovation has to begin from the grassroot level. Innovation cant be superficial or can’t be imported,” emphasised Aurora.
As you create the culture of innovation and as you create a large market everything else will follow. So if we start the culture of innovation, this whole “digital India’ initiative can take a very different form.
Intel India has collaborated with Acer, Asus, Dell, Hewlett-Packard and Lenovo and with leading content providers including Dailyhunt, Dgflick and Skilltrain for the Unnati Kendra programme.
As for the Village Level Entrepreneurs (VLEs) running these Unnati Kendras, there is also a strong desire to own devices (including computers) once the usage and benefits are clear. This has helped create more income generation opportunities for the VLEs.
According to Ghosh, we are off to a great start and making steady progress.
“However, we still have a long journey ahead of us and must provide access to last mile connectivity and infrastructure. There is also a need to inculcate a temperament of innovation in our education system to ensure sustainable technology development to solve local problems,” she had told IANS.
A strong public-private partnership will be critical for bridging the digital divide and taking technology to non-urban areas in a better, faster way, added Aurora.
(Nishant Arora can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)