Digital Trends in Rural (Greater) India - Hardware perspective - Village 2.0

The rural India or the Greater India, is yet to get on the Digital Highway, the people in the villages get really amused when they read (newspaper/other local media) about Smart Cities and the Digital initiatives….. For over 60% of world largest population “Cloud Solutions still mean Rain and nothing more”

To understand the current status and effects and affects of digital trends in rural India from a hardware perspective it is essential that we go there first.

Let me take you there… So lets go to a small town called Bundi in Rajasthan and into the home of Rajveer Singh… He has 2 beautiful kids and a small farm that he runs growing paddy… He has a yearly income of 3 lacs ….By the way he also represents 34 million households in the same income bracket…

What does digitalization mean to him?  This is the core question I will try and address through this interaction…

The only exposure to digitalization for Rajveer so far has been the mobile, which today has a +80% rural penetration. During one of his several visit to the city of Kotah he is intrigued by the educational culture and thinks maybe he should also get a computer for his children, with little / no direct experience of the PC he relies on unsolicited information from his relatives in the city to finally know that the PC costs over 30K and thus out of his reach, additionally with no service and support in this village he decide to give it a pass. This is the story of several million Rajveer’s across the country. This also explain why only 9 million out of such 34 million have PC…

Now if we take a broader look at the digital space, there are various initiatives that many of us here are part of….. We need to understand what we really want from Digital empowerment.

Lets break the eco-system into two key segments, the users / benefiters and the contributors. The older generations of people like Raj veer can be segmented in the first category of users. People who look forward to communications, business information, entertainment, service and utilities. Mobility devices can cater them.

BUT Is it fair to call this the complete ecosystem, I think we need to look beyond, we need to look at the aspirations of his children, who look forward to working in the city / getting jobs and for which they need to be contributors to the ecosystem.  

Although with the media and marketing campaign in the user device segment, the smart phone is now making some great strides, India has over 900 million mobile users and within that the smartphone category is one of the fastest growing subscriber base.   This category is growing fast and penetrating deep as well BUT contributor eco-system is abysmal representing the PC and allied devices.

What is required, is an ecosystem, that empowers people to write programs, develop apps be able to create new and wonderful things for the digital highway.

I am no advocate of the One PC per Child concept but a sub 9% National and sub 6% Rural pc penetrations is No good either. The Smart phone in a short period has crossed over 10% reach against the PC and if we are to look at its key contributors:

Affordability / Adaptability and App Store…. Today apple iOS has over 15 hundred thousand apps and Google play has over 1700 thousand apps.

You have apps that provide weather information to the ones telling you about your sleep patterns… the eco system built up is great and we need to have the same for rural India as well with people engaged all platforms – information seekers to builders.

There are places like Kuchaman where over 55,000 students come in to study every day from the neighboring 132 villages, towns and Dhanis. Many of you would be surprised to know that till date, the Pentium machines are what over 90% percent of the schools and institutes in kuchaman use - these machines are among the only things that fall into their budget. The requirements and the realities are very different in the rural.

Additional to the cost, there lies a fear of the technology that has kept a lot of rural away from accepting / adopting IT. The fear stems from lack of service and support system. The OEMs have also not made direct reach beyond top 200-250 cities of the country.

In todays time, No technology conversation can be concluded without understand of the environmental impact. India with a sub 1 device per person is already competing with the top nations in terms of ewaste production, if we are to reach 3 devices per person (developed cities across the globe average 4-5 devices) we are looking towards a much greater calamity. From a hardware perspective we need to consider and relook at technology from a long terms sustainable view…. 3G in India has not even witnessed 3 Glorious years and it is already being talked about as dead with the 4G coming in… Can anyone guess the life-cycle of 4G and more importantly what happens to the devices!    

About the Author:

Anand Tater is the founder “Reboot” - a PC Refurbisher, working towards inclusive digitalization – trying to make technology available to one and all. Reboot is a Microsoft Registered Refurbisher, and has partnership with a large silicon valley based company, which is one of the leading Stress-test (Refurbishing) technology developer in the world, providing refurbishing assistance through soft-test. 

The Reboot Model of Refurbishing and Re-marketing, in fact, has been covered by few Academia’s  in Hyderabad and world over as it had won the coveted ISB-Ivey Global Case Study Award - for its “Frugal Innovation” concept.

He can be reached at

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