The organization has trained over two million people through a host of skill enhancement programmes and has generated over 15,000 rural entrepreneurs in the country.
By 2020, India is set to become the youngest country. Yet, 30 percent of India’s youth are neither employed nor in education or training, states a Bloomberg report. However, the government’s goal of skilling 400 million people under the National Skills Development Programme 2015 has been too large and unattainable.
A social enterprise, AISECT in Bhopal has been instrumental in providing skill in semi-urban and rural area since 1985. Started by Santosh Kumar Choubey, AISECT has been providing skills, information and communications technology (ICT) based education and services, financial inclusion and e-governance.
Today, the organisation is run by Santosh’s son Siddharth Chaturvedi and daughter-in-law Pallavi Rao.
Since the beginning, the organisation has spread out to each and every state of the country with a strong presence in 388 districts, 1,070 blocks and 6,000 panchayats. It has trained over two million people through a host of skill enhancement programmes, and has generated over 15,000 rural entrepreneurs in the country, created employment avenues within the AISECT network for more than 75,000 people. Additionally, it has empowered the lives of over three million people through innovative services.
How did it all start
“It was in the year of 1985,” says Siddharth, “when a few engineers and academicians from Bhopal came together to form a group to undertake computer literacy and electronics awareness programmes in schools in Madhya Pradesh.”
Santosh says, “The computer technology was proliferating in the metros, but 80 percent population of the country was still unaware about the ICT-based advancements taking place in the country and the rest of the world. With an aim of bridging the ICT literacy gap between urban and rural India and providing equal accessibility of ICT and ICT-based education, products and services to people residing at district, block and panchayat level areas led to the formation of AISECT.”
The stepping stone
In 2009, Siddharth and Pallavi joined the organisation. Siddharth has closely watched AISECT’s journey of formation, expansion and transformation right in front of his eyes. After completing his MBA from SPJIMR, he landed up working for ITC and IBM for the initial six years only to realise that his heart was back home in AISECT.
While Pallavi spent her early life in Bengaluru and also pursued her MBA at SPJIMR. She worked at Nestle and Britannia for the first six years of her career.
Before the duo joined, Siddharth says, “We had 6,000 centres then, in limited state. Today, we have over 20,000 centres at the small town, district and block level areas across 29 States and three Union Territories, offering a host of university certified courses and skill development programmes.”
Skills-based courses are also offered at a number of centres in partnership with the National Skill Development Corporation. They have also established around 6,000 Common Service Centres in three States through which e-governance services are offered.
While India is one of the world’s fastest-growing economies, employment creation in eight sectors, including textiles and automobiles, was the slowest in seven years, according to a 2016 Ministry of Labour report. More than 12 million Indians enter the workforce every year, government data show.
Between 2011 and 2015, the number of agricultural jobs reduced by 26 million while non-farm ones rose 33 million, according to McKinsey Global Institute.
The grassroot gambit
The role of AISECT is to bridge the gap between the rural and urban in areas of skill education. There were many challenges the organisation faced in its initial phase in rural and semi-urban areas. Siddharth highlights, “Availability of infrastructure for ICT centres was in a deplorable state. There were towns with little electricity supplies and null computer education. People were initially skeptical about joining any skill development or education programme other than their formal degree courses. We also pioneered IT content creation in Hindi and other regional languages in order to make IT education accessible to people in the remotest corners of the country. Efforts were made to partner with the government and industry for various skill development, capacity building and e-governance projects.”
Moreover, AISECT works as ‘Multipurpose IT Centre’ model that addresses the multifaceted education & ICT services requirements of rural India. Various products and services, including skill development programmes, placement assistance, banking facilities, mobile recharge, internet access and G2C services were also mounted over the years to the AISECT centre’s offerings.
It is also a part of the Financial Inclusion Scheme.Pallavi claims, “Over 85 lakh bank accounts have been opened so far in 4,000 banking kiosks in 13 states. Wherein, they currently work as a business correspondent for three nationalised banks as well as two Regional Rural Banks.
There is still a long way to go before completely successful in bridging the ICT and skills education and services gap between urban and rural India. However, the efforts AISECT that has been made have yielded results while moving in the right direction.