Bridging the technology gap: how Udaan is helping digitise India, one village at a timeR Saritha
With a potential to change rural classrooms and communities. Udaan is creating and empowering entrepreneurs of rural india.
When the youth are exposed to the right environment, they have the potential of becoming catalysts for change. One such example is the students of Shaheed Sukhdev College of Business Studies (SSCBS), who are helping digitise Indian villages through their initiative “Project Udaan”.
Harshin Bhambhani is a second year BBA student and a Project Manager of Udaan. He starts off his day planning and proposing the concepts that he learns in the classroom to put into action. He has to plan his day ahead on various ideas to discuss with his fellow students and team of volunteers of the project.
Project Udaan is a social initiative under Enactus, which aims to bridge the gap between rural and urban India by providing digital services, quality computer education, and vocational training to the rural population through Information and Computer Technologies (ICT) centres. These centres, which are operated by rural women, serve as an educational opportunity for many and an entrepreneurial opportunity for women.
An opportunity and the right environment through Enactus
Enactus is an international NGO that helps university students to apply their business concepts and entrepreneurial skills for creating social change. Udaan is one of their initiatives, which was started in 2015.
We are a part of the digital era and our interdependence on technology cannot be undermined. As Stephen Hawking, a theoretical physicist and author, rightly said, “We are all now connected by the internet, like neurons in a giant brain”. Yet, there exists a divide between the have and have-nots. Millions of people in rural India are deprived of the benefits of modern technology which cuts them off from the fast-paced development. The worse affected are the students who are losing out on the benefits of computer education, a vital skill required in the modern world. There exists a grave need to make people of rural India computer enabled and digitally empowered. Through the project, they are helping villages go digital one at a time.
The initial steps to a giant leap
“The first pilot centre was started in village Kaloi in the Jhajjar district of Haryana. The area was selected for the pilot phase of the project since the district has the lowest sex ratio in the country and it was geographically accessible to the team. The initial set up had only five computers, printer, and an inverter to its name as the team was unsure of the reception of the project by the village members. Over time, the centre grew both in terms of the capital employed and the number of people availing the services,” says Harshin.
With 25 dedicated individuals, the team of Udaan is divided into different functions, namely finance, content, business development, and expansion, with first and second-year students working actively and third-year students in an advisory capacity. It is enabling the students to put their classroom learning to good use.
After a successful pilot phase, the project currently has three similar centres in Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, rendering a plethora of citizen-based services and educational courses to over five villages. Udaan is expanding and raising money through crowdfunding in the process.
With almost 750 students made digitally literate till date and about 5,000 individuals impacted through their centres, Udaan has facilitated digital penetration in the villages.
Furthermore, three enterprising women earn a stable income of Rs 7,000–8,000 per month, while enjoying a high degree of financial independence and increased social status.
“The children have improved their academic performances and the village elders are now availing governmental benefits online. Seeing your beneficiaries being impacted directly entails a different and indescribable feeling altogether. This really motivates us to keep striving on the road ahead to digitalise India. I have grown both personally and professionally by leaps and bound, learning what it is like to run an enterprise – fully functional and alive with aspects that theory and books can’t explain,” concludes Harshin.