Technology is fascinating in more ways than the mind can comprehend or the eye can perceive. Behind the flashy, new-age appeal of and social media buzz around consumer technology is real change being led by digital technology that’s uplifting the lives of people on the ground.
Rajasthan, a state with a population close to 69 Mn (6.89 cr), is one of the leading agents of this digital change in India. Rajasthan was once synonymous with heritage and royalty, conjuring up images of majestic forts amid deserts and pink and blue cities dotted with temples and havelis.
Today, the state is taking incredible strides towards digital transformation across sectors and cross-sections of society. While, on one hand, it has emerged as a leading hub for startups in the country with its iStart programme, on the other, it is driving e-governance at various levels, bringing digital where it really matters — to empower its women through Bhamashah Yojana and e-Sakhi, to help employ local youth through e-Mitra, etc.
Smartphones and Internet have become a part of the daily lives of the people residing in the state, as was evident from the high number of requests for mobile number portability (MNP) in Rajasthan. The number stood at 26.24 Mn — the highest in the Northern and Western zones of India — and that too for the second year in a row, according to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India.
And at the base of these initiatives is the state government’s Rajnet — a network that is set to cover all 9,894 gram panchayats and 183 municipal areas along with all district and block headquarters in the state. The number of Internet users in Rajasthan was the highest among rural areas in India at 7.3 Mn as at January 31, 2016 (6.47% share in all India) and second only to West Bengal, according to the government data.
In our last (and first) Digital Rajasthan Yatra, we discovered evidence of the real digital change happening on the ground in the state. We met 58-year-old Gayatri Soni of Tonk, an ANM (auxiliary nurse and midwife) worker in the Chironj village, whose primary job is to spread awareness on health-related government services and policies to women in her village. We also met health workers who use phones to click pictures of their registers and paperwork and send them to the PHC office, making functioning smoother and more transparent.