“India lives in its seven hundred thousand villages.” - Mahatma GandhiMost of us hail from places that’s not Chennai; some visit their native once in a while, some once in a lifetime and some, maybe never. Most of us will never know what life is like in villages, what life is like away from the chaos of the cities, what life is like to live among the grass fields and flowing rivers, among rich culture and heritage. Villages define the Indian society; the alluring temples, the folklore, the culture, the agriculture and much more. It’s only a matter of time when all this information would no longer be available with most of the villagers opting to move out into the cities and towns for better prospects and livelihood.
Recognising this, IIT-Madras Rural Technology and Business Incubator (RTBI) joined hands with The National International Exchange of India to bring about an ingenious idea. Their initiative was to create a global web identity for our Indian villages by empowering rural youth to create a website for their villages. What started out as an exploratory venture, led to an overwhelming response from students.They started by approaching students of colleges from the Sivaganga district. Participants were enrolled into groups of three and were trained on website development via workshops and regular reviews.
The competition had a preliminary round where 11 websites out of 50 were selected and the finalists were invited to IIT-Madras for the grand finale. The criteria of selection was not how the website looked or appealed but the content. Information such as panchayat decisions, tourist spots, and environmental issues became the highlight of many websites. “RTBI is about leveraging Information communication and technology to the rural areas. We were looking to involve students studying in colleges in rural areas in our programmes and website was the first thing that came to our mind. The whole plan was decided at a meeting one afternoon and we had one year to execute it, from Nov 2010 to Nov 2011,” said Suma, Vice President of RTBI, when asked about how the idea was formulated.
She also added, “From our end the commitment was impeccable, it was not something we wanted to just achieve on papers, and we really felt that this project was going to be useful for the students and the society and the students caught on to this self-belief. The students also knew that we were serious and there would be tangible outcomes for all their efforts”.
The winners were students from ACT College in Karaikudi. Madhumita was one of the winners and with excitement she said, “Pudhuvayal is a village close to Karaikudi and has more than 100 rice mills. We had to visit the village more than 10 times and we gained a lot of knowledge through this experience. The prize money was a huge surprise and we gave back part of the money to our village.” The participants showed exceptional enthusiasm and fervour; they felt empowered and this project helped them to gain an identity. RTBI’s initial effort is commendable and the outcome will help society in many ways.
Vanessa is a B.E. C.Sc student at College of Engineering-Guindy, Anna University.
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