Rural development and IT access
Issued: Fri, 08 Jun 2012 09:40:00 BST
The teeming city of Bangalore in the southwest Indian state of Karnataka is a hub for India’s thriving IT sector. However, the rest of the state is predominantly rural and people have little or no access to ICT (information and communications technology). There is growing concern in India that poor people, especially in rural areas, have benefited very little from the country's rapid economic growth.
Dr Arjunan Subramanian, an economist in the University’s Business School, is conducting a three-year study to look at the role ICT could play in improving rural welfare in India. The study has been funded with £433,00 from the Economic & Social Research Council and the Department for International Development.
Working with Professor Gopal Naik from the Indian Institute of Management in Bangalore, Dr Subramanian plans to set up televisions and computers with broadband access in a number of villages across the state, to provide information that should have an impact on agricultural practices. The information will include weather reports, the type of crop and seeds that would be beneficial to grow, and when and how much fertiliser or pesticide to use.
Dr Subramanian states: 'Our aims are to unravel the linkage between information and agricultural growth, rural development, reduction of poverty, and income and social inequality; and to identify the role of ICT as a potential instrument of rural information and empowerment for inclusive growth.’
Dr Subramanian intends to involve the farmers in the design of the study by holding discussions with them to find out what information will best suit their needs. He also plans to engage women in this discussion. ‘Society structure says that women have no say in the decision making in the households. But, if you look at the monetary distribution within the household it is clear that the say of women is really important. There are several research pieces that show that if more money within the household is allocated to women then the health and educational outcomes of children in those households are better. This is because women take better care in spending the money on children, while men spend on themselves in alcohol and tobacco consumption. So, we want to hear women’s voices.’
Equally, the caste system continues to play a significant role in Indian culture but specifically in facilitating economic activity. Dr Subramanian thinks that economic inequalities between castes may also be notable in their access to information: 'Our aims are to unravel the linkage between information access and agricultural growth, rural development, reduction of poverty, and income and social inequality; and to identify the role of ICT as a potential instrument of rural information and empowerment for inclusive growth.’
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