In recent news, the Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology (MEitY) has collaborated with IBM to upskill members of the Common Services Centre (CSC) ecosystem in artificial intelligence and cloud.
With an aim to integrate it into the 6000 academy centres under the CSC scheme, this initiative will be impacting 500,000 learners across 26 different states. IBM will curate and provide content from some of its key skilling programmes to offer courses and project-based learning in technologies like cloud and AI for CSC to improve its services across sectors in rural India.
The CSC e-Governance Services India Limited is a special purpose vehicle that was set up by MeitY to oversee implementation of CSC schemes that provides various e-governance services.
As we observe a massive adoption of AI in India, this article tries to analyse why it is important to include rural India and upskill them with these technologies.
Inclusive representation in the development and deployment of AI
While AI gets adopted in rural India, it is mostly developed in urban India since there is a huge urban-rural divide of digital literacy in the country. This results in a lack of rural representation in the development or deployment of AI and other advanced technologies.
Such a lack of representation in technologies that will impact these communities has shown to have negative effects in its deployment. This may also result in the lack of a complete understanding of the problems statement that the application is meant to solve, which can lead to inefficiency in the AI’s deployment.
Since the CSC scheme decided to use AI and data science for the deployment of its services, it is crucial that it upskills the members of the CSC Academy in rural India to ensure holistic participation.
This initiative by IBM and MeitY plans to be more inclusive by making the learning experiential and focus on getting the learners involved in training, workshops, train-the-trainer programs, and co-create training materials.
Equitable benefits in Public-Private Partnerships
In the past several PPPs have shown to benefit the rural communities as it can supplement the infrastructure deficit as well as help in the sustainable development of rural areas. For instance, a report by the Confederation of Indian Industry showed that PPPs could help improve the healthcare delivery system.
However, one of the major challenges in implementing the PPPs in rural areas is that they are not rural-centred and lack a significant involvement of people at the grass-root level in the decision-making process. If the CSCs or other PPP AI-related initiatives deployed in rural India are to truly benefit everyone, then the local communities need to be equally involved.
The CSCs are a form of PPPs and depend a lot on entrepreneurial initiatives from rural India for deploying the services. As AI becomes more and more relevant, people in rural communities also need to be accustomed to these technologies, which will ensure more on-ground participation and ensure equitable benefits to both the partners.
Towards an inclusive and sustainable Digital India
The National Education Program calls for bridging the skills gap for India’s workforce through the introduction of contemporary subjects like AI with a focus on experiential learning. IBM’s initiative aligns with the NEP’s focus on developing 21st-century skills to ensure the future readiness of India’s workforce.
This skill development is crucial as it forms an important part of several initiatives taken by the Government. Rural India cannot be left behind in such upskilling initiatives as AI becomes ever so relevant.
Rural India makes up two-thirds of India’s population, and thus it is important to ensure that the various technological initiatives provide equitable benefit to the rural communities and include them in progress.
In order to ensure sustainability for this, it is necessary to involve the rural community through upskilling initiatives that are more experiential and that include them in the process.