By Elton Gomes
Although most Indian cities have seen rapid development in recent years, development eludes Indian villages. As per a 2015 government study, approximately 31.2% of India’s rural population could barely manage to buy basic essentials to survive. Sure, in April 2018 it was claimed that all of India had been electrified, but villages continue to suffer from a lack of modern amenities and infrastructure. Now, two enterprising Indians seem to have a solution to these problems.
Inspired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s speech at the SAP center in San Jose, Rajnish Bajpai and Yogesh Sahu came up with an mobile app called SmartGaon to improve the lives of villagers.
What is SmarGaon and how does it help villagers?
Speaking to Qrius, Sahu said, “The SmartGaon app is a mobile-based platform that not only connects an entire village population internally and with the developed world, but also serves as a knowledge and information center, a market place, a helpline and a holistic development tool to make their ‘gaon’ a ‘SmartGaon’. We define SMART as: S: Social security schemes, M: Modern urban amenities, A: Adoption of smart agriculture practices, R: Roads infrastructure & transportation, T: Tech-savvy for the all-round development of rural India.”
The initiative helps in “building toilets, and setting up CCTV cameras, public address systems, dustbins and street lights at various junctions. Apart from basic facilities and infrastructure the villagers are also able to set up primary schools, conduct regular health checkup events in the schools and at community health centers, and ensure a 18-20 hour power supply,” Sahu said.
Hailing from Taudhakpur, a small village in Raebareli, UP, Bajpai was familiar with the problems there, and hence chose the village for a pilot. The SmartGaon team had to battle many problems as Taudhakpur lacked “amenities like electricity, RO Systems, no schools, basic cleanliness, no proper communication medium and many such on-ground facilities,” Sahu said.
How has SmartGaon helped Taudhakpur?
Sahu certainly seemed thrilled about successfully completing the pilot project in Taudhakpur. “Within a span of 48 hours, the village has built a record number of 242 toilets (As part of Swachh Bharat Mission). We have set-up CCTV cameras at various crucial places in the village,” Sahu says.
Sahu adds, “Apart from this, we have made the village smart by setting up Public Address System, Dustbins, and also street lights. After providing the village with this basic infrastructural facility, the village has been able to set-up Adarsh primary school, conduct regular health check-up events in primary schools for students and farmers.”
Sahu then mentioned that the village now receives roughly 18 to 20 hours of power supply: “Taudhakpur now receives 18-20 hours of power supply and is also equipped with a wifi zone. With the help of SmartGaon all such initiatives were updated, recorded, tracked and monitored, ensuring a free flow of information and bringing about community well-being,” Sahu said.
However, India seems to have a problem with disseminating connectivity across villages. Poor infrastructure and exorbitant prices can be blamed for why several Indians cannot seem to get online. But Bajpai and Sahu plan to maneuver through this problem with the help of the government. “We have tied up with Bharat Net Free WIFI Zone at SmartGaon. It is a government initiative to provide internet in the rural areas of India,” Sahu says when asked how does he plan to tackle connectivity issues in villages.
IoT’s role in improving villages in India
Sahu then spoke about the futuristic technology of Internet of Things (IoT) and how technology can help in improving villages in India. Sahu said, “Mobile Technology and IoT (Internet of Things) are the future of growth and development. From our learning and experience of visiting various villages, what we have realised now is that there is clearly a gap between the villages and the outer world.” To address this gap, Sahu said that SmartGaon will leverage IoT: “We are implementing IoT for an energy saving project at the block level and for the automation of irrigation equipment and other farming equipment for weather monitoring.”
SmartGaon’s expansion plans
Sahu finally elaborated on SmartGaon’s expansion plans, and said that the next step will be to spread awareness: “The next step is to spread awareness amongst urban citizens, NRIs and corporates to come forward and support this cause. We have taken the first step towards the transformation of rural India. In the next two years itself, we are aiming at making over many more villages under this initiative.”
Citizens who would want their own villages to be developed under SmartGaon can also enlist their villages, Sahu said, adding that development works will be taken up later, on the basis of a feasibility check by the team.
Elton Gomes is a staff writer at Qrius