How technology is connecting people across rural India

For years, change was slow to come to Indian villages. Tradition ruled and lack of infrastructure dictated the pace of development. A small gadget, however, has been revolutionising swathes of rural India in the last few years. The smartphone, powered by leapfrogging mobile technology, is slowly but surely bridging the gap between urban and rural India. Villages are no longer the simple, rustic countryside; they are fast becoming a digitally empowered powerhouse of potential. Here's how.
Digital connectivity is coming at a fast pace to the country's 2,23,000 villages.
LED street lighting, Wi-Fi hotspots, skill development - all enabled through the internet - are changing the face of the rustic Indian village. Rural electrification programmes have been the backbone of internet penetration, and electricity has made the use of mobile phones easier. Other things that are changing how farmers work their farms include drones, smart tractors, Internet of Things (IoT) and data-powered farming, which uses information on weather and yields. In addition to this, 500,000 Wi-Fi hotspots are expected to provide broadband Internet access to 50 million people in rural parts of the country soon. This means children with limited access to education can access online courses, harvest knowledge and search for opportunities undreamt of so far, with the help of a data-powered smartphone.
With telecom providers reaching the country's interiors rapidly, the smartphone is now more than an accessory; it's an essential business partner. To boost e-commerce startups in rural areas, the government has begun laying down optical fibre cable networks and setting up Wi-Fi hotspots to provide broadband connectivity across villages. Several startups are already developing hardware and software to assist rural farming, and many innovative e-commerce companies are being set up.
Programs like Internet Saathi, promoted by Google and Tata Trusts, are training women in the use of the internet and helping them launch their own enterprises.
The small screen has revolutionised entertainment in villages. Entire libraries of movies, music and infotainment are a click away for the discerning villager. High-speed data networks like Airtel ensure that the latest in entertainment and news, from any corner of the globe, reach villages at the same time as it does the urban centres. Opportunities for expressing talent and being able to choose from a vast palate of social media networks have truly democratised the way entertainment is consumed in rural India.
The internet and the penetration of mobile technology have literally been a lifesaver in Indian villages. Today, doctors can use long-distance Wi-Fi networks to diagnose rural patients, and healthcare workers in villages are equipped with mobile applications like mSakhi, which help them educate expectant mothers about maternal and neonatal danger signs. Gathering information about alternative courses of treatment and knowledge about advances in medicine are just a click away for villages that had limited access to information systems until a few years ago.
The internet has truly made the world a global village, and the Indian village is all set to make its own mark in the global arena!

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