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Government plans $2 billion investment for digital villages in India

The government plans to set up 100,000 digital villages as early as next month. A proposal for IN ₹15,000 crores (about US $2.1 billion) has been prepared by CSC eGovernance Services India, which will be the nodal point for the digital villages project.

CSCs are a part of the government’s Digital India initiative. They function as single access points for the delivery of services electronically, including passport and Aadhaar enrolment. CSCs also provide access to online government services like booking train tickets and submitting various forms and bills.

According to news reports, the project will involve over ten central ministries to make the digital villages successful and connect them with the rest of India. Ministries of communications, electronics and IT, Jal Shakti, agriculture, health, and others will be involved in the development of the project.

The Digi Gaon or Digital Village programme is conceptualised as a connected village where citizens get access to several e-services provided by state governments and private players.

Through ICT, a digital village will offer a one-stop service solution to people in remote villages, through CSCs, which will be run a by a village level entrepreneur, for services such as tele-education, telemedicine, financial services, internet connectivity, and other G2C/B2C services.

Once the proposal is approved by the Ministry of Electronics and IT, it will be sent to the Cabinet for a final approval, a senior ministry official said.

As a proof of concept model, so far, the Digital Village project has been implemented in six villages where WiFi hotspots, small manufacturing units, solar lighting facilities, LED assembling units, and sanitary napkin dispensers are being set up to generate employment.

Earlier this year, OpenGov reported that the Minister of Finance said that over the next five years, the government plans to turn 100,000 villages into digital villages. This will be achieved by expanding CSCs. The government will focus on artificial intelligence and transform the country into a hub for smartphone and electric vehicle manufacturing.

The Make in India programme has made India a new destination for the mobile phone manufacturing industry. The programme was launched in September 2014 to encourage companies to domestically manufacture their products and increase their investment in the country.

Mobile and parts manufacturing companies have increased from two to more than 268, which have created job opportunities.

Out of the 380,000 CSCs operating across the country, about 240,000 are in the rural areas. Digi Gaon was formulated to improve health and education services in rural areas, provision of community access to IT-enabled resource centre, Wifi and LED street lighting at a commonplace in the village to create a conducive environment for digital literacy, financial inclusion and digital access to knowledge and services.

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