IT benefits aren't reaching rural Indians

Monday, 18 August 2003, 07:00 Hrs
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LUCKNOW: Although IT has enormous potential to spur development in a country like India, it is still not reaching the vast rural hinterland where 70 percent of the people live, experts have pointed out.

Computer Society of India (CSI) national vice-president M.L. Ravi noted that so far IT has left "untouched or bypassed" India's rural masses.

The Bangalore-based Ravi was speaking at a conference organised by the CSI on computer applications for rural development in Lucknow. CSI is a national body of IT professionals that has been networking specialists working in computers.

Ravi felt interactive sessions, videoconferencing and the Internet could better educate rural students, leading to economic benefits.

Experts said rural and developing societies need a model that provides access to emerging technology, but at affordable rates.

CSI said the meet was aimed to "serve as a forum for industry, government bodies, academia, professionals, Panchayati Raj (grassroots administration) institutions and students to share, interact and exchange their knowledge and experience on how computer and IT applications can be used for rural development".

Among issues looked at were communication and universal access information management; e-governance applications and services through IT; Indian regional language solutions; and GIS (geographical information service) applications in land, crop, water and soil management.

Technical experts, bureaucrats and public representatives of village bodies in Uttar Pradesh were among the participants.

Various practical models were showcased at the conference to underline the potential of IT to uplift village life and spur rural development.

Experts explained how IT could help increase crop yield and fertility of soil, optimise land use, better market agriculture produce, reduce transportation cost and time, update knowledge of latest seeds and fertilizer and increase awareness on crop diseases, their prevention and cure.

Experts said overcoming the digital divide -- the gap between those with access to the benefits of IT and those excluded -- would remain a key concern in India for years to come.

Currently, between six and 10 million Indians access the Internet compared to only 1.4 million in 1999. But most Internet users are from urban areas. Only eight percent of those who access the information superhighway live in villages.

Source: IANS
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