Smart village

Updated: Aug 31 2006, 05:30am hrs
Hansdehar, a small Haryana village with a population of about 2,000 people, is now part of the worldwide web. Or, to put it more precisely, Hansdehar has a website (www.smartvillages.com) of its own that serves as a window to the village and its activities. But going beyond the bucolic, the website really marks a significant step in what it is probably the first village among the 6.38 lakh villages in India (2001 Census) to have a website of its own. Importantly, the initiative to build such a website came neither from the state government, nor from the private sector. Rather, its the brain-child of Kanwal Singh, the village boy who went on to work for the e-governance division of the Haryana Electronics Corporation.

Singh says the website is part of his plans to bring about development in Hansdehar. He would like to concentrate on education and employment, with the website listing illiteracy and unemployment as two problems dogging Hansdehar. Having collated basic statistical detailsits area, number of voters, crops cultivated, etcSingh hopes his fledgling project, launched just about a month ago, will encompass other villages too as he plans to put them as well on the worldwide web. But for now, it is Hansdehars website thats drawing e-mails from across the globe. Theres one from South America offering assistance in rain-water harvesting, another one from New Zealand offering to start an English literacy project, while a third wants recipes for the local cuisine.

Much as the government cries itself hoarse about the importance of e-governance and the need to make the life of citizens easier through it, Hansdehars example shows that it can begin at a basic level, like having a website. Or, at least providing internet connectivity to more and more areas, particularly in the rural belt. Take Hansdehar. It has a website but ironically no net connectivity! Again, taking a cue from Hansdehar, where four or five of its educated youth are in charge of the website, let this example be followed in other villages too. While governments do have a role to play, citizens initiatives can take over when the government fails them.