SEATTLE — The transformation of poor villages in India is crucial to its development. Like many developing countries, India faces a huge rural-urban divide that is a major cause of poverty. While progress can be seen in many cities like Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore and Kolkata, the rural areas and districts remain untouched by the light of development. One of the major reasons for this divide is technological backwardness, also known as the “digital divide”. While cities in India gain access to technology, poor villages still remain without basic internet facilities.
To bridge this gap, two IT professionals from Uttar Pradesh have come up with an innovative tool. They have devised a mobile app called SmartGaon, which not only connects poor villages in India with the urban world, but also provides the villagers with an opportunity to grow professionally.
The Origins of SmartGaon
SmartGaon is the collaborative effort of two young minds: Yogesh Sahu and Rajnish Bajpai. Inspired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision of converting the “brain drain” in India into “brain gain”, these young professionals were determined to design something innovate to transform their nation. They decided to put their creative energies into developing something that would benefit poor villages in India, leading to the birth of SmartGaon.
Sahu and Bajpai started their experimental project in the small village of Taudhakpur, located in the Raeberali district of Uttar Pradesh. As with any new venture, their path was not free of challenges. In order to make an app that would cater to the needs of the villagers, they first conducted a survey of the village. They then discussed their plans with the village council, district magistrate and other ministers to gain their permission and eventually built the app.
The SmartGaon app is designed in such a way that people can track the progress being made in the village and find immediate solutions to their problems. It has various features to allow the villagers easy access to the nearest healthcare centers, information centers, village administrators and helpline numbers, while also keeping them updated about the latest news and events.
The Immediate Impact
The impact created by the app was immediate, as major changes to Taudhakpur, became visible within a short span of time:
• Village authorities built 242 toilets
• CCTV cameras have been set up at specific locations
• Streetlights have now lit up the dark corners of the villages
• Schools have started functioning more effectively
• Roads now have dustbins for proper waste disposal
• Wi-Fi zones have been created and the power supply now lasts 18-20 hours a day
GramMart: An Online Marketplace for Poor Villages in India
In order to help farmers gain more profits, Sahu and Bajpai came up with the feature of GramMart. GramMart is an online village market which allows farmers to list their products for sale, including vegetables, fruits, seeds, spices and dairy products. These products will be visible to customers, who can directly contact the farmers to place an order. The purpose of this feature is to eliminate the presence of middlemen and wholesalers, who tend to negate the farmers’ profits by demanding high commissions.
The feature functions like a B2C business model wherein the products directly reach the consumers. The feature is also a solution to the problem of food waste. Regularly updating the amount of unused grains online provides the farmers with more options for the possible places where they can sell their products.
The Meaning Behind the Name SmartGaon
The name of the app has been very creatively chosen by Sahu and Bajpai. SmartGaon, which when translated into English means “Smart Village”, stands for:
S: Social Security Schemes
M: Modern Urban Facilities
A: Adopting Smart Agricultural Practices
R: Road, Infrastructure and Transportation Facilities
T: Tech Savvy
Thus, the name clearly highlights the purpose of the app. It is an attempt to provide the villagers with everything they need to lead a proper, healthy and democratic life.
SmartGaon is a nonprofit app that has been created to effectively address the various problems faced by poor villages in India, including scarcity of clean drinking water, poor production of crops, unhygienic living conditions, poor transportation and inadequate educational facilities. It is also a practical way of educating the villagers on the use of mobile technology and thereby helping them be on par with the modern world. Yogesh Sahu and Rajnish Bajpai are now planning to provide such beneficial services to many other poor villages in India.
– Shruthi Nair