Discussion to develop sustainable economy

A one day seminar, ‘Spreading the ICT Revolution to Rural India’, was held at Gulmohar Hall of India Habitat Centre in  New Delhi on 13th June 2007.  Organised by Rural Marketing Agencies Association of India (RMAAI) in coordination with NASSCOM Foundation (NF), the seminar spearheaded a discussion that has to undertake a long journey in innovating and tapping ICT enabled solutions for the upgradation of rural market and agriculture in India.

Welcome session

Saurabh Srivastava, Chairman of NF welcomed the gathering. He urged corporates to empathise with the scenario and be at the service of rural economy by means of exploring innovative approaches to reach the market. He also asked to develop the capacity of people not only in terms of ability of payment but also help them to emerge as producers and thereby bring the full value chain to the whole transaction. The opening remarks were given by R.V. Rajan, President of RMAAI. He said that “Launched on March 2005, RMAAI is conducting the seminar that is third in its series and is dedicated to work on the ideas that promotes rural marketing”. Keynote address was delivered by Ashis Sanyal, Senior Director, eGovernance Programme Management Unit, Ministry of Communications and Informations Technology. He gave an overview of IT scenario in India.

Forenoon session

The session ‘ICT as Process Enabler’ was moderated by R.V. Rajan, President of RMAAI. Jacob Verghese, Lead Partner of  Byrraju Foundation, quoting the success story of GramIT in the state of Andhra Pradesh, in his presentation ‘Rural BPOs: Opening New Markets’ emphasised on a transformation model that is owned, managed and led by communities and remains sustainable. Rajdeep Sahrawat, Vice President of NASSCOM gave his presentation on ‘Industry Perspective on Rural ICT: Opportunities’. He said that “business exists for stakeholders and they have to develop knowledge on rural wants”. He added that IT intervention into rural India should tap agriculture, health care and such other welfare activities fundamentally. Thus requirements have to be decided by rural people and not as imposed by the city dwellers.

It is indeed a challenge to build a need based delivery system and rural India has all the potential to be an innovation lab for world. The following session  ‘ICT as Catalyst for Development’ was moderated by Rufina Fernandes, CEO, (NF). Rajen Varada, Director of Technology for the People made his presentation on ‘Sustainability of ICT Interventions’. He spoke on Industry and NGO participation to achieve sustainability. He talked on identifying interventions that would facilitate a quatum jump in economic opportunity for the poor, strategically linking those skills and opportunities to the industries. Dr. R.Thulasiraj, Executive Director, LAICO, Aravind Eye Hospital made a presentation on ‘Telemedicine Initiatives’ on how his institute is ‘exploiting IT for creating an access high quality eye care’. Shadiduddin Akbar from Katylst, Bangladesh, presented video clippings based on MART studies.

Afternoon session

The session started with ‘ICT- Key Challenges’ and was moderated by R.V Rajan of RMAAI. Col. K.J.Singh, Director, Designmate, has come up with IT based animation content in teaching maths and science. Named as Eureka concept, the subjects are taught as they have universal appeal with no constrains of language. The content’s suitability for rural schools was demonstrated, that comes with a nominal fee. Dr. Victor Paul, Director, EDC spoke on content development of T4 project  in India (Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh, Karntaka, Jharkhand), implemented with support of USAID.

It seeks to assist quality teaching and learning for the primary education sector and to increase equity and access across 200,000 primary schools. Amit Mehra, Managing Director, Reuters Market Light, gave its overview as a content provider to the related services through mobile phones to rural and agricultural markets among the communities.

Way forward

It was collectively told to steer clear a national driven goal under the moderation of Pradeep Kashyap, MD, MART. All the policies, regulations initiatives should pull towards the set goal and the corporates should also consider the fact as part of their social responsibility. It was also told that India should follow what the rest of the world is doing in accelerating their productivity, out reach to markets, and over all well being of its citizens.