SHYAM

Digital Villages

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What exactly is a Digital Village? How does it benefit the villagers and the country? How can it be setup in a cost-effective manner, in a short time frame?

A Digital Village is often seen as an idea that can help remove the Digital Divide, enabling development to reach underdeveloped regions, and the country to leapfrog. In physical terms, a ‘Digital Village’ generally refers to a village that is connected to the Internet. Though not specified, the assumption is that connectivity is broadband quality, providing sufficiently high bandwidth for most commonly used Internet applications to work on computers, tablets and mobile phones.

What does a Digital Village enable?

Once a village is connected in such a manner, it becomes fertile ground for inhabitants to achieve better productivity in all aspects of life, as well as enabling the government to reach the last mile and further its development agenda.

Agriculture

Because agriculture is the mainstay of most villages, the effects that digital connectivity can have on the farmers’ lives are tremendous. Information about weather, agricultural inputs, sowing and harvesting methods is vital, but far more important is the ability to find access to finance and markets, and the facility to bank online.

Education

The most obvious benefits are digitization of records, attendance and examination papers. But the gains are much more far-reaching in the area of e-Education. Students can not only get access to instant information about anything, but learn much better when digital classrooms open up the possibility of live and experiential education. A digital classroom is often no more than a connected computer attached to a projector, but it opens up new magical worlds to students. On the other hand teachers can prepare better lesson plans and engage in participative teaching a lot easier. Learning becomes much more fun, and enrollment increases dramatically. What’s more, the fun can multiply many times over when tablets are distributed, or when students use smartphones even when classes are over!

Health

Connectivity ensures that lives are not put at risk because of lack of contact. Ambulances are now within reach, and lives can be saved through speedy action. Villagers are able to call doctors, make appointments and discuss their cases. Records can be digitized and shared. Basic consultation can be delivered online. Plus villagers can watch video content about various illnesses and conditions and take first-level action themselves (eg in pregnancies). What’s more, Blood Pressure measurements and even ECGs can be conducted at connected terminals with basic help and guidance.

Governance

Citizens’ connectivity with governments facilitates a number of things. They not only get to know of policies, rules and procedures, but can transact to get things accomplished more conveniently. Filling forms, registering vehicles, obtaining identification cards, passports and even paying taxes are now much easier and obviate the need for travel and queuing up. What’s more, local politicians and officials now become more accessible and answerable. Corruption potential is reduced, and governments can be held accountable. Governments find they can conduct a virtual dialogue with citizens, as communication and feedback become instantaneous and interactive on digital media.

How can a Digital Village be set up?

Devices including computers, tablets and smartphones that are capable of connecting to the Internet are fast penetrating into the deepest interiors of the world today. So the issue with turning a village digital is less to do with devices but more to do with connectivity. Digital connectivity often stops well short of rural and remote areas not because of technical infeasibility, but because of business reasons. Telecom operators, both fixed and mobile find the business case of providing connectivity in such areas unprofitable because of large Capital Expenditure (CAPEX) for laying fibre, erecting towers and installing expensive base-stations and high recurrent Operational Expenditure (OPEX) for fuel for generators, security etc.

In such a scenario, alternative solutions must be employed to make the business case viable for extremely sparsely distributed and small populations. Solutions such as VNL’s WorldGSM™, for example, make this not only feasible but profitable for subscriber populations as low as 300 (which means that villages with a total population of less than 1000 now become viable for setting up mobile and broadband networks). The hallmarks of such a solution are

  • Wireless technology instead of fibre
  • Easily transportable and erectable towers
  • Solar panels with battery backup for ensuring always-on, low powered base stations
  • Remote controlled configuration and monitoring
  • Broadband through Wi-Fi
  • Surveillance and Public Address (PA) System
  • Interconnect arrangements with incumbent state order

  • Wireless technology instead of fibre
  • Easily transportable and erectable towers
  • Solar panels with battery backup for ensuring always-on, low powered base stations
  • Remote controlled configuration and monitoring
  • Broadband through Wi-Fi
  • Surveillance and Public Address (PA) System
  • Interconnect arrangements with incumbent state order

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