By Anonna Dutt:
Internet — It has become like an addiction for us. We cannot imagine a life without it. It is innately involved in every sphere of our lives, be it education, banking or even our social interaction. We feel that without internet we are not even connected to the world. In a way we are actually dependent on it.
Well, this same internet distracts us so much that we fail to actually see the world as it is. There is a delusion in the minds of most of the urban dwellers that the internet is meant only for them and not for their rural counterpart. There is a general perception that the people in the villages are poor and cannot even afford their meals what use would the internet be to them. Above all, there is no electricity reaching the villages which essentially means that no computer can function. But this perception is a bit skewed.
The villages in India are no longer as poor as people perceive them to be and even if they are — there is no reason for them to remain so forever. Yes, Facebook is not a need for the villagers like it is for many of us but internet is not all about Facebooking. Internet is just a source of information and it depends on the user on the kind of information he chooses.
Here are some astonishing facts and figures which might stun many of us. According to a report by Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI), the user base of Internet in rural India is about to rise by a whopping 98%, from 24 million in 2011 as compared to 12.1 million in 2010. It also predicts a growth of 96% in the number of claimed internet users i.e., from 15.2 million to 29.9 million.
This might seem unrealistic to many but it has the potential to become a reality with the help of the various government and private institutions. Public sector initiatives under the National e- Governance Plan (NeGP) such as State Wide Area Network (SWAN) and Common Service centres (CSC) are gaining pace. These help in setting up the core infrastructure for the access of internet.
There have been many private ventures too. Organisations like Microsoft, ITC, HUL and Google have made numerous initiatives to increase PC literacy and internet awareness. There have been programmes like e-Choupal (ITC), Project Shakti (HUL), Project Shiksha (Microsoft) and Google’s Internet Bus. A brilliant initiative in this direction is the Digital Empowerment Foundation.
The potential for rural internet growth is immense and it is a pristine market, yet there are just a handful companies which are even trying to reach there, one might wonder why. This is because in case of services such as mobiles, a company can recoup its costs easily but the cost of setting up the basic infrastructure for internet cannot be effectively regained by the company. This is where the government has to step in and fund the initial infrastructural development; this would ensure a better penetration of the rural internet market which in turn would help the villagers.
With NeGP and other likes coming up, the rural population has actually become aware of the new technology and realised its benefits. With the majority of population residing in villages being dependent on agriculture the internet has variety of information to provide. It can disseminate information regarding the various farming products that are there in the market and also their availability and price. Also, weather information is crucial to the farmers, this too can be found on the internet. This helps the farmers to prepare better. They can inquire about the rates of not only the farming products but also the price of the final goods that they can sell. This would help in reducing the exploitation of the farmers by the middlemen.
Apart from this they can be familiarized with the local activities happening in the form of local news. It might also give them a better insight into various problems and address the very important issue of education too. Basically, internet would empower rural India with knowledge.
This could all beÂ summarizedÂ in just three words – “Knowledge is Power”. Thus with the penetration of Internet in rural India, we would witness a complete revolution. A few decades down the line, there would be a ‘Shining India’ with its well-informed Netizens. The next 5 years will be crucial. Are you a part of this digital information revolution?