The rural market is undergoing transformation with better access to information and changing patterns in demand structure and lifestyle. According to ruralmarketing.org, India has 6.27 lakh villages and business in rural India grew at about 11% annually over the last decade. FMCG sales are expected to grow to $33 billion by 2015, of which $22.1 billion will be contributed by rural areas. Poverty levels have dropped to 22% in 2011-12 from 37.2% in 2004-05 as per the reports of the Planning Commission.
While this is a very positive development, the challenge going forward would be not only to reduce the level further but is also to ensure the people who have moved up,remain there and become part of the growth story. This would require focus among others things on education and skill development leading to better livelihood options.
It is a widely acknowledged fact that digital technologies hold a great promise for rural development and transformation. Although the government has been keen on bridging the digital divide and has initiated several projects towards this objective, there is a huge requirement for building more IT products and solutions leading to noticeable change in the rural economy.
Let us take a look at a few examples of IT implementation that have had a direct impact on the rural economy. e-Chaupal with over 6,500 kiosks in 40,000 villages in 10 states covering 4 million people is an oft quoted example of efficient supply chain system empowering the farmers with timely and relevant information and enabling them to get better returns for their produce. Because of the community centric approach it adopts, the system has managed to create opportunities for providing other offerings as well to the farmersó insurance and farm management practices to name a few.
The e-governance system is the other instance that is cited as a good example with immense potential to create transparency and good governance through IT. The successful implementation of this system in areas such as land records in the states of Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and others is indeed a great step in removing the malpractices and creating assurance of rightful ownership with the citizens. In recent times Aadhaar has been seen as yet another tool to empower the masses by confirming their identities. Despite the recent judgement of the Supreme Court and the opposition to this scheme on the grounds of politicisation, security and privacy, Aadhaar is a good example of