Mahatma Gandhi once said “The future of India lies in its villages” – a statement that is widely debated in the India of today. Though we may rely on cities for development, can we ignore the need to empower our roots? Is development only restricted to constructing towering buildings and skyscrapers? What about incorporating the ignored into the mainstream?
Working in the direction to empower rural India through digital technology is the well-renowned chip-maker company Intel.
Spearheading the company’s flagship programs like National Digital Literacy Mission (NDLM) and ‘Ek Kadam Unnati Ki Aur’ is Intel Vice President-Sales and Marketing Group and Managing Director-South Asia Debjani Ghosh. With the focus on market development, the tech giant has trained over 5 million citizens under these programs.
Identifying the Need
Intel began the National Digital Literacy Mission (NDLM) in 2012 after realizing the need to empower rural India through technology. The literacy program helps the government in its efforts to enable the rural population to benefit from technology and help them become a part of the mainstream.
“Digital literacy, in India, is the biggest need. We started with the National Digital Literacy Mission (NDLM) in India three years back with support from the industry, Nasscom and government. India has a pathetic technology adoption rate.
The total technology adoption –PCs, tablets, smartphones, everything is 20 per cent of the population. What we found was that people were not adopting technology, not because they didn’t want to but because they just didn’t know how to and they didn’t know how it is relevant for them, especially as you moved outside urban India.”
Working Wonders with PPP
Shedding inhibitions, Debjani says the PPP (public-private partnership) model has worked well for them. She adds that it is a myth that organizations cannot partner with the government. “Your intentions have to be very clear, you cannot have hidden agendas. PPP is working even better for us now because the government has too much focus on education.
All our programs follow the PPP model because you cannot develop a market or get technology adoption if you are not working with the government. It is not possible.”
She also says that the focus is to take e-literacy to rural India as early as possible. “Our IT minister, Ravi Shankar Prasad is a champion and he keeps pushing us to do more. When we started with ‘Ek kadam Unnati Ki Aur’, he motivated us to do 10 states in place of 10 centres.”
Making of an Entrepreneur
The programs initiated with the processor giant enables young children to think laterally and independently – both qualities intrinsic to becoming an entrepreneur.
“We track progress. Hopefully, these kids that we train are going to become entrepreneurs. The training teaches them to think, solve problems. Our focus is to get the future generation thinking for them.”
In 2015, Intel rolled out its ‘Ek Kadam Unnati Ki Aur’ programme towards rural digitization in 10 states from Nadimpalle villlage in Telangana in a bid to create an eco-system of digital literacy awareness, education and training. “We are taking technology to remote villages. We are talking about training, technology, hardware, solutions and eco-system. We will also train villagers on digital literacy usage and then see how they use it.”
Outside the US, India is Intel’s largest nonmanufacturing site. Having invested $2 billion in the country, the digital literacy program also is crucial for the company’s future partnerships.
This article first appeared in the Indian edition of Entrepreneur magazine (June 2016 Issue).