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Digital literacy scheme launched in India to cover 60 million rural households by March 2019

Taking forward the Digital India agenda, the Indian national government approved an ambitious digital literacy scheme on 8th February. This follows a host of measures announced in the national budget for FY 2016-17 (April 2016-March 2017) to supporting the development of a digital economy.

INR 23.5 billion (~USD 352 million) has been allocated for the scheme. The 'Pradhan Mantri Gramin Digital Saksharta Abhiyan' or the Prime Minister’s Rural Digital Literacy Campaign (PMGDISHA) aims to bring digital literacy to 60 million rural households by March 2019. The plan is to implement the programme in phases, with 2.5 million candidates trained during FY 2016-17, increasing steeply to 27.5 million during the next year, FY 2017-18 and 30 million during FY 2018-19.

Each of the around 250,000 Gram Panchayats (rural administration councils) around the country would be expected to register an average of 200-300 candidates in order to ensure equitable geographical reach of the programme.

Digital literacy and reliable access to internet are the two sides of the Digital India coin. Achieving both would be essential for success. The press release states that only 6% of rural households had a computer, as per the 71st NSSO (National Sample Survey Office) Survey on Education 2014. More than 150 million rural households, constituting 94% of the 168.5 million rural households did not have computers. A significant number of these households could be assumed to be digitally illiterate.

In line with the the Government push on cashless transactions through mobile phones, the course content would have an emphasis on using Digital Wallets, Mobile Banking, Unified Payments Interface (UPI), Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) and Aadhaar Enabled Payment System (AEPS) and other digital payment platforms.

After the training, candidates are expected to have the ability to operate computers and other digital access devices, such as tablets and smartphones, send and receive emails, browse the Internet, access online government Services, search for information and undertake cashless transactions.

The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY), the ministry in charge of ‘e-Development of India’ will supervise the implementation of the Scheme, working in collaboration with the designated State Implementing Agencies, District e-Governance Society (DeGS), etc.in the States and Union Territories.

In August 2014, the Indian government had launched the National Digital Literacy Mission (NDLM), under the Department of Electronics and Information Technology, which was moved from Ministry of Communications and Information Technology in 2016 and converted to a new ministry, MeitY. The implementation is through partners such as National Association of Software and Services Companies (NASSCOM), Intel and HP. Training is provided free of charge to individuals below the poverty line, scheduled castes and scheduled tribes, while a nominal fee is charged for the rest.

The objective is to make one person from every family digitally literate. It had an initial target of providing digital literacy to 5.25 million people, with focus on grassroots level government employees, such as Anganwadi workers (community health workers focusing on mother and child care) and authorised ration dealers (subsidised public distribution system of staple foodgrains).The initial target has already been achieved according to the NDLM website. Currently, the numbers displayed are 10 million enrollments, 8.27 million trained candidates and 5.4 million certified candidates.This new scheme, PMGDISHA, appears to the next stage in improving digital literacy. 

Read the press release here

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