Interview

Innovations – The Starting Point for Change : Prof M S Swaminathan, Chairman, MSS Research Foundation

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What are the objectives for Grameen Gyan Abhiyaan and what are the important media to provide knowledge connectivity in India, according to you?
Grameen Gyan Abhiyaan is considered as the national movement, with the aim that every village becomes a Knowledge Center. This is the Mission 2007. The strategy is to  take technology and knowledge/ digital revolution to the entire India. It is a large task and cannot be done by one company or institution. It has to be done only by a confederation of institutions, a coalition of partners such as the private sector, public sector, academic sector, commercial sector, financial sector, banks and so on. So the Grameen Gyan Abhiyaan  provides a platform for partnership. Wide range of institutions and  individuals are all concerned with one common goal namely to bridge the digital divide and take the best in modern/ digital technology to solve the chronic problems of hunger, malnutrition, ill health and also the inability to use knowledge effectively. There are today unlimited potential made and how to take those opportunities to rural India, is the major aim of Grameen Gyan Abhiyaan.

How do you envisage the role of rural innovation in complimenting the goals of GGA in benefiting the rural masses and what are the monitoring and evaluation activities that the committee will be adopting to understand if the proposed benefits are being delivered?
Well I feel innovations are the starting point of any change. So an innovative mind is the one which sees day to day problems and find solutions for them. What we need is much more innovation in software development which is locale specific, demand driven and so on. I visualise an India in the next 5-10 years where there will be a lot of outsourcing work which will be done from urban  India because then only one can attract and retain young people in villages. Today, you do not find it  intellectually stimulating apart from economically rewarding. Both are important. I think  we shall enter a phase when a lot of jobs are outsourced from urban to rural India for which we have to create skills in people and new innovations have to be formed. So I feel that this is a very timely initiative to recognise and reward innovative minds, who are bringing the renovation to the service of  rural women and men.

How are we going to realise locally relevant content across this vast country with multiple languages?
Language problem is now being solved technologically. It is not a barrier. The major barrier will be the relevance of information which will be given to them. This is why we feel there shall be a content consortium in each area/ block and sector viz. the health sector, agriculture sector and education sector more so because 2/3rd of the rural Indian  population live on agriculture, fishing and forest. So the content consortium should be demand driven rather than purely supply driven information. This can be done. These are simple management tools, procedures and once we have the alliance partners of the Grameen Gyan Abhiyaan, they have to have a decentralised approach. Its important to have a decentralised approach.

There is a fear that ICT has caused further divide rather than bridging it. What is your take on the same?
The purpose of Grameen Gyan Abhiyaan is to ensure that there is no such divide in both urban and rural India. Its a rural urban continuum. What is needed is what Mahatma Gandhi said long ago. He said that the greatest form of brain-drain in India is the drain of brains from rural to urban India. It is not that in villages people need only brawn and no brain. By bridging the digital divide you can make a major dent on this problem. You can combine brain and brawn for accelerated rural progress.

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