Case Study VI. Rural Knowledge Centers in India

Rural Knowledge Centers (RKCs) are designed to use the power of ICTs to build knowledge and skills and to empower rural families economically and socially. RKCs act as multi-purpose centers. They provide services in agriculture, procurement, animal service development, fisheries, citizens' information services, health services, women’s rights, land and property regulations, information on employment schemes, office skills, tourism, and consumer rights. In addition, RKCs provide ICT software and hardware training.

These services are delivered through a variety of approaches, using ICT media such as the Internet, cable TV, video conferencing, notice boards, and community radio. Non-ICT approaches such as village meetings, and newspapers are also used.

Inputs

  • MS Swaminathan Research Foundation, with Tata Trust, initiated the project of creating rural centers. Among other things, they established Jamsetji Tata Virtual Academy for Prosperity.
  • The Indian Space Research Organization and the TSC Group (Total Sanitation Campaign program) helped in providing IT infrastructure for the establishment of the RKCs.
  • The RKCs are located in public spaces to ensure social inclusion.
  • Content was created in local languages and regularly updated to meet local needs.
  • Content fell into three categories: generic (such as health information), dynamic (such as market prices) and timely (such as weather forecasts).
  • Content was delivered electronically, using websites, radio and via conventional media such as newspapers.

Process

  • At least one woman and one man were selected from each village. They were trained as information village managers and become fellows of the National Virtual Academy.
  • The implementing team determined the needs of the community and their familiarity with different forms of ICT.
  • Information was collected concerning the poor and landless.
  • Information was also collected on issues relevant to health, education, governmental institutions and libraries.
  • Villagers’ needs were classified on the basis of gender, age and poverty criteria.
  • Users were involved in assessing their own needs, so that the programme was broad and representative and allowed all women and men to take part.
  • The community as whole endorsed the programme before it began operation
  • The principles of social inclusion, gender equity, and a bias toward remote communities were built into the design of the RKCs.

Outcomes

  • The RKCs achieved sustainability through selling ICT services such as connectivity, local content, and SMS services, etc.
  • Semi-literate women were given priority to access training, since this is an effective method of enhancing the self-esteem and social prestige of women living in poverty.
  • The centers have trained young women and men to become ICT experts in various domains.

Additional Resources