The upcoming event, 4th International Conference on Life Skills & Livelihood Skills (LSISI) is focused on Leveraging Digital India for Rural Empowerment. The conference will be held from 16-17 November 2017, at Dr. MCR HRD Institute of Telangana, Hyderabad. We caught up with Dr Ravi Kumar Reddy, Organizer and Secretary Rural Economic and Educational Development Society (REEDS), to know more about the themes and key takeaways for the delegates.
Evolution of the Conference on Life Skills and Livelihood Skills
Life Skills and Livelihood Skills International (LSLSI) Conference Series were initiated in 2010 with prime objective to improve the skill levels of rural Indians through raising the awareness of the need and importance of developing life and livelihood skills through exchange of best-practice research, experience and innovative policy proposals in the area of skills development towards socio-economic rural empowerment.
The LSLSI Conference series addresses issues specific to the massive challenge in the area of skills development in India for meaningful utilization of its significant demographic dividend with international cooperation as a key ingredient and has become an international platform to consolidate a professional and practicing community interested in Life and Livelihood dimensions of skills. So far, we have focused on different themes relevant to rural education and empowerment:
- SKILLS2010: Life Skills and Livelihood Skills- Challenges for Institutional Development
- SKILLS2013: Life Skills and Livelihood Skills- Challenges for International Cooperation
- SKILLS2015: Life Skills and Livelihood Skills – Realizing and Sustaining Clean India
All the LSLSI conferences have been a success for discussing and promoting the ideas to build, sustain and scale initiatives in skill development among relevant stakeholders for an empowered rural India. In addition to sharing of a wealth of knowledge from the participants and speakers, some of the recommendations are being furthered for realizing the objectives of the initiative. LSLSI’s first conference, held in 2010, was honoured to have an inaugural address by Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam, the former President of India.
Focus on leveraging Digital India Mission for rural empowerment
The theme of the current conference, Leveraging Digital India for Rural Empowerment, was chosen to provide impetus to the ongoing Digital India programme that has potential to transform rural agricultural economies. Digital India is, by far, the most potent opportunity for the transformation of India by empowering nearly one billion rural Indians with advanced skills and the latest digital tools, enabling them to “leapfrog” into the Digital Age.
SKILLS 2017 will explore the challenges and create the solutions necessary to leverage Digital India for rural empowerment while bringing together opinion leaders from across nations under the following focus themes
- Digital Infrastructure: Foundation for Success
- Financial Inclusion or Illusion: Critical Challenge
- Digital Education: Delivering the Demographic Dividend
- Digital Rx for Rural Health
- Digital Agriculture: Plows to Profits
Digital Infrastructure: Foundation for Success
Currently, India is far from a leader in three critical areas related to digital infrastructure for rural empowerment: the provisioning of high speed and high capacity broadband; mobile and related wireless technologies; and data governance and security issues. For example India ranks 131 in the ICT Development Index in 2015. India holds 105th place in the world and lowest in the Asia Pacific region in average Internet speed. And, over 55,000 villages have no mobile connectivity.
Financial Inclusion or Illusion: Critical Challenge
India set a Guinness World Record for the achievement of the most new bank accounts, with over 200 million bank accounts opened as part of the Pradhan Mantri Jan-Dhan Yojana [PMJSY]. However, according to numerous reports, financial literacy, a necessary condition of financial inclusion, has become a major impediment to inclusiveness, resulting in high bank account dormancy: 28 percent of the total; and at lower income levels, only an average of 10 digital transactions, compared to 163 in Brazil, 420 in South Korea and 429 in Sweden in 2015. Clearly, much concerted effort needs to be undertaken to turn financial illusion to financial inclusion.
Digital Education: Delivering the Demographic Dividend
New digital tools offer the best opportunity for rural economic empowerment by transforming India’s more than 1.4 million schools and 36,000 higher education institutes to advanced learning centers using the latest technologies to improve the speed and efficacy of learning. India has increased basic literacy rates from 12% at the time of independence to 74% (as per 2011 census). Despite this impressive improvement, the “digital divide” – lack of access to digital products and services – as well as “digital literacy,” are critical impediments for the development of livelihood and life skills.
Digital Rx for Rural Health
Fundamental to empowering a growing rural economy is providing accessible and affordable healthcare. India can ill afford to neglect this critical component of economic success, as the World Economic Forum, for example, predicts that the economic burden of non-communicable diseases in India is likely to be $5 trillion between 2012-30.
Digital Agriculture: Plows to Profits
India’s agriculture sector is the mainstay of Indian economy, generating 17 % of its GDP and employing almost half of its workforce. The digital transformation of agriculture is not only critical for rural India, but is a critical imperative for the nation’s food security and economic growth. Eighty-five percent of Indian agriculture is held by small farmers who are handicapped by lack of information on climatic conditions, new agricultural knowledge and technologies and access to logistics and market information, resulting in low yields and incomes. Digital tools and knowledge in rural hands offers the potential to outpace any other agricultural improvements and will dramatically energize the Indian economy. The proposed goal of doubling rural farm incomes (Rs 3,844 in 2013) by 2022, requires a 15% compounded income growth rate over the achieved increase from 2003 to 2013. Digitalizing rural India is the single most important strategy in making that goal a reality
- Identify and debate the opportunities and challenges associated with leveraging Digital India for creating life and livelihood skills that accelerate rural incomes
- Propose initiatives for Central, State and Local government policies and programs to enhance sustainable economic growth for rural India;
- Stimulate corporations, NGOs and social and business entrepreneurs to create long term demonstration projects, commercial models, products, programs and services necessary to accelerate Digital India for sustainable rural economies.
SKILLS 2017 will provide set of specific, constructive proposals to help achieve the Digital India program objective – an incremental 20-30% increase in India’s GDP by 2025 — by bringing together a diverse group of knowledgeable and committed stakeholders to propose supportive solutions for enhancing India’s digital infrastructure, financial inclusiveness, agricultural productivity, and accessible rural health, and education, through the use of new digital technologies and tools.
Follow-up and sustainable activities
Following the conference, REEDS & LSLSI will publish and promote the conference recommendations with appropriate change agents. Further, they will develop and promote demonstration projects to support the achievement of the Digital India mission. In addition, we expect the conference to inspire social and business entrepreneurs to engage in developing innovative products and services to achieve the goals of Digital India.