The gap between those who have ready access to computers and the internet, and those who do not, such is the definition of the great Digital Divide. In a world where development is being increasingly linked to technological advancements, communities without proper access to tech tools and resources often find themselves at odds with the rest of the world. It is a gap that the team at ICICI Bank is trying to address.
In an effort to empower rural India with tech intervention, ICICI Bank has digitised 100 villages in 100 days, and dedicated this achievement to the nation.
Arun Jaitley, Hon’ble Minister of Finance, Defence & Corporate Affairs with Ms. Chanda Kochhar, MD & CEO, ICICI Bank during the inauguration of ‘100 ICICI Digital Villages’ in New Delhi
The ICICI Digital Villages is the culmination of a pledge made by the banking team in November 2016 to complete the digitisation of 100 villages in 100 days. The villages are spread in 17 states across the country.
The announcement of the ICICI Digital Villages was made by Chanda Kochhar, Managing Director & CEO, ICICI Bank, at the Rural Summit – ‘Sashakt Gaon, Samriddh Bharat’, an event inaugurated by Arun Jaitley, Union Minister of Finance, Defence & Corporate Affairs.
“We have transformed 100 villages across the country in 100 days,” she said. We have created a less cash ecosystem at these villages, provided vocational training to over 11,300 villagers, including more than 7,500 women, and offered them credit linkages.”
The first digital village was established in Akodara, located in the Sabarkantha district of Gujarat. During its dedication in January 2015, PM Narendra Modi had expressed his hope of scaling up the initiative, which inspired the ICICI team to expand on this ambitious project.
With branches in all 100 villages, the ICICI Digital Villages initiatives take a three-pronged approach to implementation of digitisation in rural India.
In the first phase, the bank eases access to online banking. An Aadhaar-based e-KYC method is implemented to help villagers open accounts without any physical documents. The accounts are enabled to receive direct transfer of government benefits and SMS-based mobile service is available in 10 languages—Assamese, Bengali, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Marathi, Odia, Punjabi, Tamil and Telugu.
POS machines set up by the bank enable village retailers, including merchants, ration shops and dairy cooperatives, to accept digital payments. Business Correspondents (BC) equipped with GPRS-enabled micro-ATMs helps villagers deposit and withdraw cash by authenticating themselves with their Rupay debit card or through Aadhaar-based biometric authentication.
Aiming to enhance livelihood training for villagers, the second phase comprises vocational training under its ‘ICICI Academy for Skills – Rural Initiative’ programme. The training is offered free-of-cost and is conventionally held over 15-30 days.
Keeping the needs of the local economy in mind, the courses are designed to skill the workers in practical skills. Lessons include comprehensive agriculture, dairy and vermicomposting, agriculture equipment repair, dress designing, sandstone cutting and mobile phone and home appliance servicing.
The third phase involves providing credit linkages to enhance livelihood opportunities. The bank encourages villagers to form self-help groups and joint liability groups, and then offers loans to the members. The facilities are also extended in the form of Kisan credit cards, gold and farm equipment loans. The loans are sanctioned on tablet devices at the homes of villagers, so they don’t have to travel to nodal branches to avail the offers.
Emphasising on the promotion of rural entrepreneurship and women empowerment through its digitising mission, the programme has impacted close to 2.5 lakh lives.
Following on the success of their 100-day project, the ICICI team is gearing up for bigger challenges. Their next step is to launch an expansion for the project—by December 2017, they hope to add another 500 villages to the digital network. With similar banking and skill-enhancement projects in the works, they are aiming to train up to 50,000 villagers and benefit around 12.5 lakh people living in villages around India, in the next step of the programme.
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In this age, technology is considered a boon by many and bane by some. A huge pool of resources lies untapped in rural India, seemingly unaware of technological intervention and its potential for the future. In using digital tools to improve their lives and enhance their skills, the ICICI Bank team is also highlighting the effective use of technology for the nation’s development.
This article is brought to you by ICICI Bank.