When the world was changing from mechanical and analogue technology to digital electronics, Chhattisgarh’s Jainagar panchayat was nowhere on the scene. The Jainagar village panchayat sits along a dusty road in the Surajpur district of Chhattisgarh. It’s home to less than 1,200 families and is so remote no one ever bothered to set up an internet connection. Until one year ago. Last year, woman VLE Hushne Aara established FTTH connection through CSC WiFi Choupal. It created a half-mile-wide hot spot with download speeds up to 10 Mbps—fast enough for Netflix. And just like that, life began to change.
Some 500 villagers are using the Internet through CSC WiFi Choupal in Jainagar, from a tailor who began using WhatsApp to communicate with clients, saving him countless trips to the city, to a teacher who started relying on YouTube to check his English pronunciation.
New technology spreading throughout the district Surajpur allows villagers to buy groceries, clothing, and other goods online. CSC eStore app helps villagers to buy groceries. “You can see that something happened with the internet,” says woman VLE Hushne Aara. “The world sort of opened up.” The challenges were enormous before the arrival of CSC WiFi Choupal. Villagers tend to live in rural areas without existing fiber-optic lines, cell towers, or routers. Telecoms don’t invest because of the high capital expenditure and low potential revenue.
Woman VLE Hushne Aara’s fate took a turn 6 years back, when she joined CSC as VLE in year 2014. Before joining CSC, she was a teacher in a private school. The financial condition of her family was poor. Luckily, she came to know about CSC at the same time and joined CSC as a Bank Mitra. Since then she never looked back. VLE Hushne Aara is delivering services on banking, Aadhaar, Voter Id card, PAN card, Caste certificate, Stree Swabhimaan, education courses like BCC, CCC, tally, telemedicine. Her CSC has employed 12 villagers including 8 women and 4 men.
In Jaipur village panchayat, farmers are always in search of information related to farming techniques, access to resources and costs. They also face multiple challenges as most of them are poor and illiterates. With the proliferation of CSC Wifi Choupal, farmers have started using the Internet for agricultural-related aspects for knowing more about latest farming techniques and to find more about fertilisers and pesticides at CSCs. It also proves that if there are Internet-related initiatives with farming as the primary focus, it could undoubtedly trigger Internet literacy to rise faster in rural areas.
WiFi Choupal for Educational Development
Due to the advantages of using the Internet for education, e-learning is reaching at any time, any place or anybody. While the affluent urban population can easily access private resources for development or education, the Internet is perceived to be a significant communication medium in rural India that provides individual need-based information in broad development areas. The WiFi Choupal enabled Internet also holds many benefits for those who face linguistic and literacy barriers. This also fosters employment developments among rural youth in Jainagar and nearby village panchayats like Alipur, Devipur who lack access to basic resources.
The WiFi Choupal in Surajpur has been a space for entrepreneurs and self-help groups for self-expression, training and for building connections. It also allows the aged and the disabled to communicate, to network and to express their ideas freely. Women entrepreneurs and women in different professions get the support for skill enhancement, career growth, opportunity and higher work efficiency by the use of the Internet. It also creates the opportunity for business leads out of their geographical location which would otherwise be impossible and expensive when personally sought.
The remote villages in Chhattisgarh have largely been able to catch up with other states in mobile phone use and Internet access, successfully sidestepping the era of desktop computers and landlines. The key to the state’s achieving its own digital revolution has been innovation by CSC WiFi Choupal at every step, with villagers adapting technology to suit the specific needs and dynamics of the state instead of the other way around.
VLE Hushne Aara says, “WiFi Choupal connectivity removes the need for proximity to customers, allowing businesses to market their products outside of their local community and consequently have access to a broader pool of clients and consumers. It has lowered communication and transaction costs and improved the availability and the exchange of information, reducing information asymmetries and enabling sellers and buyers to access markets at a cheaper cost.” She adds, “It has also provided an improved and cheaper platform for marketing and advertising, the effectiveness of which has been recently boosted by the exponential increase in social networking, where customers can share their experience with other online users.”
Finally, another potential positive impact of WiFi Choupal on the small scale entrepreneurs relates to business creation. By enabling innovation, quicker diffusion of ideas and knowledge, and greater networking, the WiFi Choupal enabled digital economy allowed access to new markets.
CSC WiFi Choupal is the key to enabling technology-based change in Jainagar panchayat, Chhattisgarh. The Internet has grown at a faster pace and has brought drastic changes along with it. The changes meant more income, higher aspirations, and changing lifestyles in Surajpur. These changes have also cut across the region, caste and religious differences.