India will soon launch a Rs. 1800 crore Digital Literacy Mission for over 60 million people in rural areas, as an another initiative to bridge the gulf between those who have access to and can use computers and the Internet and those who do not have. A key component of the Digital India initiative, common services centres are access points for the delivery of various electronic services to villages, thereby contributing to a digitally and financially inclusive society.
“The government will spend Rs. 300 each on training 60 million people, which would total around Rs 1,800 crore,” said Dinesh Kumar Tyagi, the chief executive officer, of CSC e-Governance Service India, a holding company to fund and monitor India’s common services centres scheme. CSC e-Governance Service India has been promoted by the Department of Electronics and Information Technology to also implement the National Digital Literacy Mission, that is tasked with IT training for 52.5 million people, or one person in every family.
“These 60 million people form almost 40% of our rural population. The government’s target is to make each of these 60 million rural people digitally literate in three years. An approval from the cabinet is expected by end-July,” Tyagi commented. “We need to derive greater benefit from our demographic advantage. We need to spread digital literacy in rural India. Out of 168 million rural households, as many as 120 million households do not have computers and are unlikely to have digitally literate persons,” finance minister Arun Jaitley had said.
The National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) found in 2014 that 94% of the people in rural India do not own a computer. Accordingly, Jaitley had proposed steps to address the issue once again during his budget speech in February this year. Tyagi said that the new scheme will be separate from the National Digital Literacy Mission, towards which the CSC e-Governance Service India has already trained three million people across the country till date.
“This year, with the help of village level entrepreneurs, another 2.25 million people will get training. These common services centres are delivering government-to-citizen and business-to-citizen services to the semi-urban and rural people,” he said. “The objective of these centres is to provide non-discriminatory access to e-services for rural citizens, utilising the backend infrastructure already created in terms of other mission mode projects,” Tyagi further said.
“Till June, we have already set up 170,000 centres across the country. The target is to reach out to 250,000 gram panchayats by the end of this year,” Tyagi added. “Every gram panchayat gets one centre.” Explaining some other projects, Tyagi said some centres are already providing tele-medicines. “In about a month’s time, we are thinking of digital ayurvedic and homeopathic treatments wherever there is demand. It is better than going to quacks.”
He said the reach of the Digital India mission has seen 30,000 banking correspondents working under the business-to-citizens initiative, going a long way in facilitating financial inclusion. “In fact, they have also collected Rs. 200 crore worth of insurance premia so far.” This apart, these centres generated over a tenth of the one billion Aadhaar enrollments.